Still Throwing Money at that Old PBX?

Nov 2017

We have all been there: your business phone system malfunctions, you need software updates, or you simply need to reprogram some extensions or move some phones around. And then you get hit with a bill for some service work that seems completely out of relation to the degree of difficulty. Didn’t Alexander Graham Bell invent the telephone in 1875? It’s been 142 years, things should be easier by now, right? Or at least less expensive…

How Much is Too Much?

For some people it’s as low as a couple hundred bucks, for others, maybe tens of thousands of dollars. It all depends on the situation, size of company, and resources at hand. For the three-site medical clinic I worked with last week, their number was $1,500. If they could nurse their PBX along for $1,500 or less than they were inclined to pay for the band-aid and kick the can down the road.

Throwing Money Away

Regardless, if you have an older on-premise phone system you need to determine at what point you stop replacing it piece by piece and focus instead on a complete re-haul. I speak with IT decision makers and business owners every day who recognize and understand that they need to refresh their communications. Some have already explored a cloud-based system and know what features these newer systems offer. What they don’t realize is that switching up phone systems today isn’t as painful as it was a few years ago.

Hosted VoIP: Why Wait?

What most of my clients are expecting is a lengthy discussion regarding swapping out their old PBX, pulling cables, replacing phones, and spending lots and lots of money up front. In the old world, dominated by on-premise phone systems, it was easy to rationalize throwing an $1,500 band-aid on an ailing system, knowing you could squeak out a few extra months or maybe even a year or two before biting the bullet the larger outlay. This type of thinking is outdated.

Depending on the size and complexity of your desired system, what you used to spend on a PBX band-aid could cover your entire upfront cost, or even a couple of months’ worth of service. I typically tell folks who are on the fence to consider what makes sense. When you realize that your system is going to need to be replaced, should you wait for it to completely break down and disrupt your business or take the responsible route and get in front of the problem. There is no longer a large outlay of cash required to get the latest and greatest in business communications.

And, beyond the dollars and cents, this is the larger point. Newer cloud based phone systems offer huge advantages in terms of features, mobility, redundancy, ease of administration, and connecting dispersed sites and workers. These advantages cannot be replicated by on premise PBXs. Why wait? Stop throwing money at that old PBX.

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily. Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs. Start communicating better with Altus. For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

Cisco Makes a Splash in UCaaS

Oct 2017

As everyone has likely heard by now, Cisco entered into an agreement to acquire BroadSoft for $1.9 billion.  The official announcement came earlier this week during BroadSoft’s annual Connections meeting.
Immediately following the announcement, service providers and customers alike began asking “Wat does this all mean?”.  A significant amount of our time this week has been dedicated to addressing this question with many of our enterprise customers and partners.  Let me share some thoughts.

Cisco Broadsoft

 

 

 

Why BroadSoft?

Broadsoft is the undisputed #1 global platform for cloud communications.  In fact, according to a recent report by the industry analysts at Synergy Research Group, BroadSoft not only retained its number-one position in the global Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) but expanded its leadership position, growing its market share of new line shipments from 42.6% to 49.4%.  Cisco’s acquisition of BroadSoft does NOT represent a life line or the fire sale of another distressed technology provider like we have seen so many times in recent years. Cisco is paying a premium (5x revenue) for several reasons.

UCaaS & CCaaS

Cisco has developed leading cloud delivered UC&C technologies primary aimed at the large business segment via their Hosted Computing Services (HCS) platform, Spark platform and WebEx platform. The Cisco HCS platform is also deployed with several major service providers who operate BroadSoft based software simultaneously.  Broadsoft, through its Broadworks and Broadcloud platforms is generally packaged, branded and sold by regional and global service providers. Most of these providers sell in the micro SMB ie less than 10 seats, with a few selling into the small to medium market defined as 10-1,000 seats. With the Broadsoft suite of UC One, CC One, and Team One, Cisco acquires a comprehensive suite of industry leading UC (UCaaS), Contact Center (CCaaS) and Workstream solutions; offers that compliment Cisco’s large business segment.  Once the acquisition is complete, Cisco will be positioned as the undisputed global leader for cloud delivered solutions across the entire market spectrum.

Near-Term

The acquisition is expected to be finalized in late Q1 2018.  Over the next few months, expect the most immediate impact to be the certification of new Cisco phones on BroadSoft’s BroadCloud platform.  Polycom has long been the SIP phone deployed by most BroadSoft-based cloud communication service providers.  Customers and service providers will now be able to take advantage of the full gamut of Cisco endpoints.

Long-Term

The word long-term, is somewhat relative when it comes to technology especially rapidly evolving cloud delivered communications.  That said, it will be interesting to see how quickly Cisco integrates BroadSoft into their existing solutions.  We expect to see a marriage of Spark and BroadSoft’s collaboration application, My Room.  We may also see interesting offerings that incorporate BroadSoft and Cisco’s SD-WAN offerings, Viptela and Meraki.  Ultimately, this acquisition will only accelerate cloud adoption for large enterprises who have historically been heavily invested in Cisco hardware.  Gartner, another technology analyst, estimated that the shift away from on premise PBX phone systems to cloud based phone systems will continue to accelerate, with cloud line shipments increasing by 17.9% in 2017 while premise-based line shipments forecast to decline by 5.2%.  Furthermore, Gartner forecasts that cloud-based installations will surpass premise based shipments by 2020.

If nothing else, this acquisition demonstrates the continued market shift away from on-premise technology to cloud-based solutions. You may remember that Cisco disrupted the PBX market during the shift to IP based communication garnering global leadership in short order from the likes of Avaya, Nortel, and Siemens. Once the Broadsoft acquisition is complete, Cisco once again is in a disrupter position to be the market leader in cloud delivered communications technologies which is projected to grow to well over $20b during the next couple of years. Exciting times ahead!

Notes

Synergy Research Cloud & On-Premise IP PBX Market Share Report June 2017. New shipments share for CY16, market share as of 1Q17

 Gartner, Forecast: Unified Communications, Worldwide, 2014-2021, 2Q17, Meghan Fernandez, et al. 27 June 2017

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily.  Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs.  Start communicating better with Altus.  For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

If You Ain’t First, You’re Last

Oct 2017

Ricky BobbyAs Ricky Bobby once philosophized, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”  Nobody likes being second best.  At Altus, we take great pride in the fact that our VoIP solution is built on the #1 global platform for cloud communications, BroadSoft.  Beyond that, Altus offers white glove installation service and back end support for a fraction of the cost of many competing carriers.  Perhaps when it comes to cloud based phone systems, you can have your cake and eat it too.

 

49% Market Share, And Rising

According to a recent report by the industry analysts at Synergy Research Group, BroadSoft not only retained its number-one position in the global Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) but expanded its leadership position, growing its market share of new line shipments from 42.6% to 49.4%, more than doubling the 20% market share of the second largest provider, Cisco1.  As with many things, being large has its benefits, as scale has enabled leading BroadSoft-based service providers, like Altus, to offer world-leading communications technology at very competitive price points.

If You Ain’t First, You’re Last

A Rising Tide For Cloud

The Synergy Research report also estimated that the global installed base of cloud based VoIP lines is approximately 37 million subscribers, with almost 17 million of those subscribers residing on BroadSoft platforms.  Gartner, another technology analyst, estimated that the shift away from on premise PBX phone systems to cloud based phone systems will continue to accelerate, with cloud line shipments increasing by 17.9% in 2017 while premise-based line shipments forecast to decline by 5.2%.  Furthermore, Gartner forecasts that cloud-based installations will surpass premise based shipments by 20202.

Don’t Skimp on Service

 What makes our offering at Altus unique is our commitment to personalized service and support.  Our team of experienced professionals has decades of experience in designing, implementing, and supporting business phone systems of all shapes and sizes.  Unlike most cloud providers, we conduct 90% of our installs on-site, enabling our business customers to embrace the benefits of cloud technology without sacrificing personalized service.

Are you looking for the best cloud based phone system for your business?   Do you want your next communications platform to be based on industry-leading technology without spending a fortune?  Then look no further.  Experience the Altus difference today.  Be first, not last.

Notes

(1) Synergy Research Cloud & On-Premise IP PBX Market Share Report June 2017. New shipments share for CY16, market share as of 1Q17

(2) Gartner, Forecast: Unified Communications, Worldwide, 2014-2021, 2Q17, Meghan Fernandez, et al. 27 June 2017

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily.  Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs.  Start communicating better with Altus.  For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

Preventing Business Disruption When Disasters Occur

Oct 2017

In recent weeks hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have devastated the lives and homes of many people.  Many of those affected by these disasters are not only recovering from the personal impact on their homes and property, but also the impact on their businesses.  Recovering from any natural catastrophe would be difficult, but taking the proper precautions beforehand can certainly relieve some of the pressure.  Most people carry insurance policies to cover the loss of personal property, but what about the loss of revenue or the impact on a company’s reputation when your customers or employees can’t communicate effectively in the aftermath of a disruption?

Preventing Business Disruption When Disasters Occur

Ultimately, it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause meaningful disruption in business communications. Every day, infrastructure mishaps, carrier outages, or building maintenance issues can also create downtime. What is the best way for your business to prepare for disaster recovery and business continuity?  When it comes to communications the answer is to choose a hosted VoIP provider.

 

 

Off-Site & Redundant Infrastructure

One of the major advantages of cloud-based VoIP is that it does not require the guts of your business phone system to reside in a single location as is typically the case with an on-premise PBX.  Instead, your business phone system sits in multiple carrier facilities across the country and is always available to handle calls coming into your business, even if your local site is without power or internet connectivity.  Your customers and employees will still be able to reach your phone system (and each other) which can direct calls to alternate offices or registered mobile users.

Business Continuity Planning

 Another benefit is that your company can create a continuity plan that automatically kicks into action the moment service to your place of business is hindered.  Since your customers can reach your phone system, this means all calls can automatically be forwarded to cell phones or another site without any break in the flow of business.  Another advantage to this is that the plan is fluid and can be changed on the fly in a matter of minutes. This gives your business the flexibility to improvise through unexpected changes or trouble.

No Extra Charges

Finally, all of these redundancy and business continuity benefits come without additional costs. With traditional systems this level of availability and continuity would cost a ton of money to purchase, implement and maintain. When it comes to disaster recovery and business continuity the best decision is to go hosted VoIP.

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily.  Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs.  Start communicating better with Altus.  For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

Don’t Buy Yesterday’s Technology

Sep 2017

According to a recently released survey of telecommunications service providers around the globe, more than half of all businesses are anticipated to adopt cloud based Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) by 2020, surpassing the traditional on-premise PBX systems championed by companies like Cisco, Avaya, Mitel, and ShoreTel for so long. There is a reason why Avaya is extending its stay in bankruptcy and ShoreTel just got eaten by Mitel … the old world providers are struggling to cope with the shift to cloud VoIP which is already well underway. As a business owner or IT manager you look seriously at hosted solutions or risk buying yesterday’s technology. You can read a lot of pieces about the benefits of UCaaS, but a couple of highlights are below.

Reduced Costs, Automatic Updates

Implementing cloud VoIP solutions greatly reduces upfront expenses – namely hardware purchases and installation labor – associated with upgrading a company’s communications infrastructure. The predictable monthly fees most VoIP providers charge, eliminate ongoing software upgrade fees as well as maintenance charges related to keeping your phone system operational. Because hosted VoIP solutions use an internet connection to make and receive calls, businesses are able to drop their local telephony carrier and redeploy that savings in a brand-new communications platform. Perhaps best of all, the cloud VoIP solutions are automatically updated without additional charges or the hassle of upgrades, so companies know that they will always be on the latest and best version of the application.

Moving Beyond Mere Telephony
Also important is the fact that hosted VoIP solutions can include a broad range of additional communications and collaboration capabilities beyond a mere voice phone call. These unified communications (UC) capabilities include video calling, chat, presence, web meetings, and persistent workspaces. And, as if this solution suite wasn’t enticing enough, these UC capabilities are available to both on premise and mobile workers, including employees using laptops, cell phones, or tablets. Any internet-connected device becomes a potential endpoint for business communications.

Business Continuity

Have you ever had problems with the PBX system that sits in the dark closet in your office? Everything seems fine with your business and then one day when you least expect it, your phone services go down and your customers can’t reach you. Circumstances like this occur every day and your risk for this type of event is probably much higher than you know. Common causes for these problems include:

• Carrier Network Outage – your telephone lines went downBusiness Continuity
• Equipment Failure – a critical component in your phone system has failed
• Inclement Weather – Thunderstorms, Snow, Ice, Hurricanes, etc.
• Power Outage – your power to your building was knocked out taking with it your phone service

Lost calls and service interruptions result in missed revenue opportunities, damaged customer relationships, and unforeseen expenses. With cloud based business phone systems, there is a better way to protect your business from these events. Cloud solutions offer inherent advantages over legacy premise based PBX systems in multiple ways:

• Cloud services are delivered from geographically diverse and redundant carrier data centers – as opposed to that dark closet in your office.
• Mobility applications that include full calling functionality on any registered mobile device, tablet, or laptop.
• In the event of a carrier or power outage where the cloud solution cannot connect to any registered device at all, whether on-prem or mobile worker, the business continuity services can still automatically direct calls to an alternate office, personal cell phone, or even a home phone number.

The traditional PBX that is tethered to land lines is simply not capable of offering this kind of redundancy and business continuity.

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily. Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs. Start communicating better with Altus. For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

 

The State of Enterprise Communications: 2017 Survey

Sep 2017

One of our favorite industry groups is the team of analysts over at nojitter.com.
Last week they published the results of their June 2017 Enterprise Communications Survey of nearly two hundred companies.  Some key takeaways below.

No Jitter

Rapid Adoption of Cloud Communications

The next three years will see a huge shift of enterprise communications from the premise to the cloud.  In response to the question “What is your organization’s attitude toward using Communications functions in the Cloud?” only 13% of survey respondents indicated that they would not consider it.  Another 34% indicated that they were considering it but haven’t done it yet.  38% of respondents said that they were moving some functions to the cloud, 11% indicated they had embarked on a strategy for full migration and only 4% said that they had already completed a full migration.   The obvious takeaway is that a huge majority of the marketplace (83%) is either considering cloud communications or already moving some functions to the cloud.

Team Collaboration Growing Importance

By now you have probably read all about Slack and how team collaboration is taking the enterprise marketplace by storm.  Here at Altus we have seen a number of customers indicate that they want persistent team collaboration capabilities, something we recently released as part of our solution suite.  One of the bigger surprises from the enterprise communications survey was that team collaboration has risen to the point where it is almost as important to companies as unified communications capabilities.

Cool Things On The Horizon?

The pace of change in technology can sometimes be breathtaking, and certainly we are living in an era of rapid innovation and excitement as sensors, wireless networks, and cloud infrastructure make possible things that were previously unthinkable.  While the excitement is justified over the long term, the survey did provide a much-needed dose of reality for today.  Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) all ranked as relatively unimportant technologies for the workplace today, but nearly a third of companies see these things as becoming critical in two years’ time.  You know what was listed as the most important business communications tool?  Email.  Yeah, email.

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily.  Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs.  Start communicating better with Altus.  For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

Altus Return Instructions

Aug 2017

Guidelines for Good Packaging

You can help to ensure that your package arrives safely and on time with these packaging guidelines and procedures developed from UPS research.
• Use a rigid box with flaps intact
• Remove any labels, hazardous materials indicators, and other previous shipment markings on the box that are no longer applicable
• Wrap all items separately
• Use adequate cushioning material
• Use strong tape designed for shipping
• Do not use string or paper over-wrap
• Use a single address label that has clear, complete delivery and return information
• Place a duplicate address label inside the package

Click here for a quick video for instructions on packing the phones.

Is Your IT Guy a VoIP Huckster?

Aug 2017

Over the past decade, the telephony market has been moving towards VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).  As the name suggests, this means that your business phone system is becoming just another piece to your growing network infrastructure. For most small businesses, this means that the IT vendor has become a trusted consultant when researching and choosing a new phone system. While this can bring a certain amount of continuity to the decision-making process, and makes sense in many cases, there are pitfalls.  How your IT vendor decides which VoIP solution to sell you may surprise you.

 

The Make-Believe Telephony Expert The Make Believe Telephony Expert

Most IT Vendors are great at what they do, but when it comes to business phone systems they aren’t nearly as informed and skilled as they would have you believe. Making a VoIP system work is relatively simple and the IT vendor should be able to accomplish this task. However, making a VoIP system work the way it is supposed to by building out QoS (Quality of Service), VLANs and proper call routing is not an easy task. The problem is that telephony has forced its way into the IT landscape and the IT vendor is forced to provide support for technology they haven’t properly prepared for.

 

 

 

The Middleman

When it comes to VoIP and business phone systems, the IT vendor is generally nothing more than a middleman. They do not provide their own VoIP solution and must rely on other vendors to supply their customers with the phone system. Historically this meant that your IT group resold either a premise-based PBX, or some kind of hosted VoIP offering. What this means is that your trusted IT vendor will not be responsible for the programming, deployment, or on-going support.

 

The Mercenary

Since IT Vendors do not supply and support their own VoIP platform, this means that they must choose from the dozens of VoIP providers competing in the market to bring to the customer. The nasty underbelly to this is that most IT groups select the VoIP provider that will pay them that largest commission, not the VoIP solution that is best for their business customers.  The IT vendors can sell many different types of VoIP solutions through Master Agent companies which provide hefty commissions and bonuses which can vary a lot through time.  When your business is negatively impacted by a substandard platform, the IT vendor places all of the blame on the VoIP provider, rather than the person who recommended the VoIP service in the first place, which of course is the IT vendor themselves.  The cruel irony is that your IT guy actually makes another commission selling you a second VoIP service, even if you had a bad experience with the first.  Human nature is difficult to curb, so be careful that your IT vendor selects the best platform for your business, rather than the best commission for himself.

 

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily.  Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs.  Start communicating better with Altus.  For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

The Cloud Is Only As Good As Your Network

Aug 2017

The IT industry is undergoing a period of Cloud is as good as your networkdramatic change as organizations of all sizes look to the cloud to consume best of breed business applications at the click of a button across all kinds of devices and networks.  A recent BCG survey of 750 CIOs indicated that nearly 2/3rds of companies have plans to migrate a piece of their IT  stack to the cloud within the next 18 months.  It is undoubtedly trued that the cloud can make us work smarter, faster, and cheaper, but many companies aren’t getting all they should from their investment—because the cloud has an Achilles’ heel—a poorly optimized network.

The Cloud’s Achilles’ Heel

Unfortunately for many companies, they overlook the importance of the network in their rush to embrace cloud applications.  A poorly optimized network, whether on the LAN side or the carrier side, can easily destroy the anticipated value of cloud deployments and applications.  The network can become a bottleneck, with applications running much more slowly than they should, and user experience suffering as a result.  The inevitable consequence is outrage from the line of business at IT managers and cloud vendors, when the real problem all along has been a lack of focus on network capacity.

Invest In Your Network

CIOs and IT decision makers should take the time to evaluate their network requirements before rushing into cloud deployments.   On the carrier side, this means organizations should consider redundant circuits from separate carriers, dedicated connections for real-time applications like VoIP, and wireless backup to utilize in conjunction with standard best efforts broadband connections.  On the LAN side, companies should prioritize time-sensitive data traffic and invest in the modern network infrastructure (switches, routers, firewalls, access points, etc.) to ensure their users enjoy a good experience.  Do not let your next cloud deployment fail because of network issues.

About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily.  Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs.  Start communicating better with Altus.  For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.

Mitel To Buy ShoreTel

Jul 2017

Mitel just announced that they signed a definitive agreement to purchase all of ShoreTel’s outstanding shares at a price of $7.50 per share, which values ShoreTel at an enterprise value of $430m in an all cash deal. To accomplish the acquisition, Mitel announced they would be taking on over $300m in additional debt.  But this isn’t the first time these two have been linked.  In 2014, ShoreTel declined an offer from Mitel for $574m. And last year, Mitel dismissed rumors they were once again interested in ShoreTel saying the purchase didn’t make financial sense.

Shoretel under water

What Changed?

Over the last 12 months, Mitel attempted to purchase Polycom but was left at the alter in the 11th hour. During the same time, ShoreTel announced they were looking at strategic alternatives for the company including the option of selling the business. With the Polycom deal off the table, it appears Mitel changed course with a cloud-first strategy and took aim at a wounded competitor in ShoreTel.

Mitel Blue & Mitel Orange?

Now that the definitive agreement is signed, Mitel has the tall task to create the synergies that they envision for the combined business. Announcing that all branding will move to Mitel, it seems that the beloved ShoreTel orange will soon hit the scrap heap.  To achieve the hoped-for $60m in cost savings, significant layoffs from within the ShoreTel organization are almost certainly in the future.

More importantly, the rabid ShoreTel Partner community is presumably being left to sell Mitel, and possibly left without the aid of their legacy ShoreTel sales support organization.  With these and other challenges coming down the path, what should customers expect?  Certainly, support will be available for those on premise ShoreTel customers, but significant risk for end of life on those systems now exists. The existing ShoreTel cloud based customers will also have to entertain a new roadmap for platforms, billing, and support.

We all remember when the beloved Nortel was acquired by Avaya becoming Avaya Blue. The great synergies, customer base, technology, patents, and distribution channels – all the essential elements underpinning Avaya’s strategy – evaporated more quickly than any of us in the industry expected. Hopefully this time, ShoreTel doesn’t become Mitel Orange and Mitel doesn’t end up like Avaya.
 
About Altus

Altus is the premier choice for cloud-based business communications, providing companies with flexible and secure technologies that help employees and customers stay connected more easily.  Whether looking for basic voice service, comprehensive unified communications, or contact center, business executives trust Altus to deliver the latest features and functionality without costly capital spending programs.  As an FCC-registered service provider, Altus offers enterprise-grade performance across its secure, geo-redundant carrier platform. Start communicating better with Altus.  For more information, visit www.altusuc.com or call toll free 866.922.4001.