Posted: 22 Jan 2019 12:00 AM PST
Tackling the jungle of VoIP phone system vendors and UC providers out there can be a daunting task, so I thought I'd put together of a list our most popular reviews, tips and other guidance to help.
Notwithstanding there are lots more brands to mention, however, these are vendors that UC Today has seen notable investment in their platforms in recent times. It's also worth stating that the list below is a combination of vendors and service providers (but not resellers).
Recently there have been many measurable changes to the world of phone systems and unified communications systems. Today, more companies than ever before are making the move into cloud, and that means that enterprises from almost every vertical are beginning to assess precisely what technology they need to support their teams and maintain strong customer service experiences in the year ahead.
If you're beginning to reassess your phone system for the new year, or you simply want to explore some of the options available for a fresh upgrade, we've got a selection of fantastic, in-depth reviews for you to search through, to help you make a more informed decision.
Current Trends in UCaaS and CPaaS
The development of new technologies and ways of working has led to an evolution the way that people access modern communication technology. Currently, the "as a service" deployment strategy is growing increasingly popular, providing companies with a low-cost and high-flexibility method of unlocking the latest technology. The communications platform as a service or "CPaaS" market is currently expected to grow to a value of $10.9 billion by 2022. On the other hand, VoIP providers and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) are seeing a similarly impressive annual growth rate of 29%.
So, what are the trends driving the continued development of these two areas? Well, some of the ones we've noticed include:
Compare the Market
If you want the best communication strategy, you'll need to make sure that you're choosing the best platform and vendor. Remember, the market for UC is set to reach $143.5 billion by the end of 2024, and the growing potential of the space means that new brands are arriving in the sector all the time.
Narrow your search by comparing brands, features, and benefits. Most unified comms capabilities nowadays are primarily software controlled and therefore scalability over the years has dramatically increased due to improvements in the hardware they reside on. For example, you can now buy a phone system the size of a shoe box that will easily support 100 users or more.
If you have a virtualised server environment (e.g., Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware) a single host can support potentially hundreds if not thousands of users. You may even choose a cloud-based platform for your business; this is a very popular option due to the scalability and low upfront costs.
Some other points to keep in mind when comparing UC and phone system platforms include:
The best communication solutions are the ones that give you the features you need, for a price you can afford. You'll be searching for the perfect balance between secure and reliable services, and cost-efficiency.
Remember to take your time when browsing through communication platforms; although it might be tempting to choose the cheapest options at first, it's crucial to ensure that you're getting all the features you need, from call recording to video conferencing.
Always look for a Unified Communications platform that goes beyond the standard VoIP and telephony platform. In today's complex business climate, it's not enough to rely on a solution that's built on voice alone. You'll be better served by a platform that can seamlessly integrate a wide range of applications into a single, easy-to-use system.
Ideally, your provider should allow you to build the strategy that you want out of the available features so that you're only paying for the things that you'll use. That way, you can scale your communications platform as your company grows.
Communication is constantly changing. In recent years, we've seen the introduction of countless disruptive new technologies, including artificial intelligence, sentiment analysis, and more. With that in mind, it's essential to choose a platform that's flexible enough to allow access to the services you want.
You'll also need to think about how you plan on deploying your communication strategy so that you can ensure ease-of-use. Do you want something that's entirely on-premise or something that combines on-premise and cloud solutions? Perhaps you want the freedom of a technology stack wholly built on the cloud.
Finally, make sure that whatever communication strategy you choose, it's something that's easy for your employees to adopt and take advantage of. You want something that combines simple installation and set-up with the features that your employees genuinely need to be more productive and efficient at work.
Speak to your staff members about what they need from their communication solutions, then check through our unified communication system reviews to find the tool that's best suited to your needs. Remember to verify that the vendor you want to work with will provide any support or additional training your team might need too!
Our Most Popular Reviews
Listed in alphabetical order, click through and take a read.
Notable UC Vendors
8×8 – In 2018 8×8 have made some significant hires and also acquired machine learning and AI tech startup MarianaIQ. The recent launch of their X series platform combines collaboration, conferencing and contact centre tech. More 8×8 News
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise – ALE continue to drive innovation into their portfolio centres around their flagship cloud collaboration platform Rainbow. Notably, they have some really good mashups using CPaaS, UCaaS, IoT and AI technology. More ALE News
Avaya – Out of chapter 11 in December, Avaya floated on the stock market, acquired a CCaaS company (Spoken Communications) and is now back in the driving seat delivering innovative solutions such as IoT, Blockchain and AI mashups. Avaya is leading with real customer use cases as opposed to features and salesly ROI statements. Refreshing! More Avaya News
Cisco – In February 2018 Cisco announced that they were buying BroadSoft for a cool $1.9 billion which fills a big void in their traditionally 'Enterprise focused' portfolio. Soon after they re-branded their flagship team collaboration platform Cisco Spark to Webex Teams. Cisco then acquired Accompany which is a social networking tool for business. The collaboration division is very different to what it was a few years ago; it will be interesting to see how they further develop these innovative companies! More Cisco News
Dialpad – The desk phone killers from San Fran continue to disrupt the market by offering a free cloud phone system to the masses. Recently Dialpad acquired TalkIQ an AI company to further enhance their collaboration and contact centre products. More Dialpad News
Ericsson LG – You have to hand it to ELG, their renowned iPECS platform continues to help customers move closer to the cloud. IPECS customers can now enjoy virtually any deployment model as they migrate to the cloud. A true hybrid, private or public cloud phone system guaranteeing feature consistency and user experience across the range. More ELG News
Fuze – I really like Fuze's marketing messages, they continue to lead with their future of work research and show customers the WHY before the WHAT and HOW. Fuze is growing fast in Enterprise popularity and continues to offer innovative features in their 5.0 release. More Fuze News
Microsoft – Unless you live under a rock you'll have noticed the significant growth over the past 12 months of Microsoft Teams. We're seeing monthly product updates from Microsoft as promised on their notably public R&D roadmap, and within 12 months of launch, they are now boasting 200,000 organisations on their flagship collaboration platform. So long Skype for Business, so long. More Microsoft News
Mitel – After getting bought by Rackspace investor Searchlight in April 2018, it will be interesting to see what Mitel do next. Some say the sale was a 'retrenching' exercise to allow the company to concentrate on their cloud transformation rather than be under the microscope of the stock market. Mitel has a wide portfolio of products after making several acquisitions in recent years. There's plenty of choice, but this isn't always a good thing. Overlapping products creates confusion and is a massive development overhead when trying to compete with the younger, more agile 'cloud only' UCaaS vendors. More Mitel News
RingCentral – One of the few 'true' global cloud communications players right now (just recently opened up in Australia). RingCentral continues to race on organically towards their billion dollar target 2020. Interestingly their growth strategy is an organic one which stands them out from the crowd. Whilst others are acquiring companies for new skills, products and customer base, Ring are eating everyone's lunch by keeping it simple. More RingCentral News
Vonage – Recently Vonage released Vee, their virtual assistant Chatbot for their business customers which is an exciting move. Since Vonage acquired CPaaS company Nexmo in 2016 they've continued to grow their revenues and customer base in the B2B marketplace. Late in 2018 Vonage acquired NewVoiceMedia the cloud contact centre company. I think they are one to watch as they continue to expand their small business focused market share. More Vonage News
UC Predictions for 2019
The world of communication is evolving at a rapid pace, and it shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. If you want to make sure that your communication strategy is future-proof and ready for anything, then it may help to make yourself aware of some of the predictions that experts have made about the year ahead. Here are some of the most common predictions surrounding the UC environment right now, and what they might mean to you.
1. Communication in the Workplace will Fundamentally Change
While traditional modes of communication like the desktop phone remain an essential part of the business environment, it's safe to say that there are plenty of alternative options to choose from in 2019. Video conferencing is quickly making its way into the spotlight as remote working grows more popular. With video, people on the go can continue to feel connected to their coworkers, wherever they are.
Not only is video more popular than ever, but instant-messaging tools connected to collaboration services like Slack and Microsoft Teams are beginning to make more of an impact on the workplace too. Companies should expect communication in the workplace to go beyond voice in the years ahead.
2. Experience Will Be Everything
In recent years, we've been moving towards a world where customers differentiate between companies based on the experiences that they offer, rather than the services or prices that they can provide. This experience-first attitude will continue to pervade the communication atmosphere in the years ahead, changing the way that businesses connect with colleagues and consumers alike.
User experience, customer experience, and employee experience will all be critical concerns going forward. This means that organisations will need to think carefully about how the tools that they invest in will affect all of the components of experience that may impact their reputation.
3. Investment in APIs will Grow
As companies of all shapes and sizes continue to focus more heavily on customer experience, one-size-fits-all communication solutions will no longer be enough to appease everyone. Businesses that want to create their own custom solutions will begin to look more carefully at the possibilities of APIs and integrations for their UC solution.
This means that simultaneously, UC providers will need to ensure that their products and as-a-service offerings are capable of integrating with some of the most popular tools on the market, all the way from Salesforce, to Microsoft Office, and even collaboration tools like Slack.
4. Complete Collaboration Tools Will Take Over
In 2018, "Collaboration" became one of the biggest buzzwords in the communication industry. As we move into 2019, collaboration strategies won't be going anywhere. There's a good chance that they will begin to become more advanced, with additional features like virtual assistants imbedded into note-taking and chat tools, or artificial intelligence within your meetings.
Furthermore, as the modern meeting architecture continues to change, the solutions that we rely on for collaboration will begin to be more interactive and engaging too. Features designed to appeal to the remote workforce, like simplified transcription services and whiteboard support will appear almost everywhere.
5. Businesses will Invest More in Data Privacy and Security
Finally, with the introduction of GDPR in 2018, and countless security scandals bringing big-name businesses to ruin, modern companies in 2019 will need to invest more time and effort into their privacy and security strategies. We expect to see more companies taking advantage of solutions like phone printing to protect against toll-fraud, as well as UCaaS and CPaaS solutions that are GDPR ready.
To earn the trust and respect of their customers, today's companies will need to be particularly stringent about the way they collect, use and store data. This is sure to have an impact on the way that communication evolves. We're bound to see some exciting ideas as this year's UC events unfold.
Posted: 06 Dec 2018 12:00 AM PST
CS Technologies is an example of a company that provides services that weren't around 20 years ago. However, it owes its existence to its parent company that started more than a century ago.
Central Scott Telephone was founded in 1902 and started serving communities of Eldridge, Long Grove and McCausland. It provided phone service at a time when the main provider, AT&T, wasn't going into smaller communities.
"Ma Bell was not providing adequate service to many rural communities so small independent phone companies like Central Scott Telephone were established to serve these underserved communities," said Jim Neyen, director of sales with CS Technologies.
"These small phone companies sprang up all over the country. In Iowa today, there are still about 120 independent phone companies with Central Scott Telephone being one of the larger ones."
A lot has changed with Central Scott since it started. The company knew long ago that the times were changing.
"In 2002 we realized phone lines in the home were going to the wayside," Neyen said. "We started putting in DSL service, so people still had phone lines, but we now provided internet. For us to grow, however, we knew we needed to get beyond the four little towns we were taking care of. So that is how we came up with CS Technologies — to serve businesses in larger markets."
Central Scott Telephone reached an interconnect agreement with Qwest, now CenturyLink, to lease its copper facilities in the ground and build into central offices in Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa. This agreement allowed CS Technologies a way to provide competitive business phone and Internet services outside of the original service area.
Just as Central Scott Telephone filled a void, so does CS Technologies.
"We began offering business phone and internet service to Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa," Neyen said. "Then in the fall of 2009, we used this same interconnect agreement to begin providing business phone and Internet services to Dubuque and Peosta, Iowa."
In 2015, it entered into an agreement with AT&T to provide business phone and Internet service to Moline and Rock Island, Ill. Then it purchased a phone company in Wisconsin.
"We bought Cuba City Belmont telephone company," Neyen said. "We wanted to get some leverage from them as far as our using their service techs and office personnel. And it was a way for them to also grow their footprint. To grow they have to go outside their territory."
Although CS Technologies provides phone and internet services to businesses, the technology is constantly evolving.
For example, the company offers analog phone service, but "customers are moving away from traditional analog phone lines and going to SIP Trunk or VoIP — Voice over Internet Protocol. With this trend occurring, having a reliable Internet provider that offers QOS — Quality of Service for voice, combined with a robust fiber network, is critical to running a business.
"As far as the internet we can do fiber to the business or ethernet over copper capabilities where fiber is not available," Neyen said. "This gives us a fiber-like product and we also do DSL. We have gigabyte e-transport for some local business or 8 mg or 5 meg."
There are many reasons businesses and organizations pick CS Technologies.
"Businesses choose us not only because of our robust data and voice services but because they appreciate our local easy-to-work-with customer service," Neyen said. "You work with a local sales consultant that helps you evaluate your current services and then customize a solution based on the future business needs."
"Customers call a local number and talk to a local customer service representative if a trouble or billing question should arise. Unlike calling a national carrier whom the person on the other may not live or be familiar with your city."
It serves more than 500 businesses in the Dubuque area and 1,000 in the Quad Cities. Customers include city and county governments, school districts, health care providers, insurance agents and restaurants. All Dubuque schools use its phone system.
Among the many businesses they serve is Kanndo Professional Services.
"We like that they are local," said Tom Kann, owner. "I try to buy local as much as I can, and they are just down the street. I can stop in if I have a problem. And if there is a problem, they are Johnny on the spot. They always take care of it right away. It's nice knowing who you're working with and can put a name to the face."
Another reason that businesses work with CS Technologies is the peace of mind. Most businesses can't afford to be without the internet.
"CS Technologies has a ringed fiber network and we have redundancy built into our network," Neyen said. "For example, if a fiber cut happens, our fiber network will automatically redirect the traffic and move it to the alternate route with minimal to no interruption of customer service. This is a huge benefit for many businesses because they can't afford to have their phone and Internet down."
Its service is an added layer of protection for some of the companies they work with.
"We are backup for many businesses for a monthly fee," said Neyen. "You're basically paying for an insurance policy or a backup plan. They like the price of some of the bigger companies because of the lower price, but not the reliability. Over time we might become their primary connection if they decide they like the security."
Fiber has changed the efficiency of their service.
"The advantage of fiber is its capability to transmit larger pools of data, offers lower latency and isn't distance sensitive like copper," said Neyen. "With copper loops, once you get so far from the main office you either need a booster or a remote to boost the signal strength. For this reason, CS Technologies has been adding miles and miles of fiber both in the Quad Cities and Dubuque to better serve their customers.
"Once you have that fiber backbone, you can start building to businesses. In Cuba City we put in a couple million dollars' worth of fiber in the homes up there."
Dubuque County is another customer that has benefited from the technology the company delivers.
"CS Technologies has been a good service provider to Dubuque County both technology wise and as a partner in helping solve our connectivity needs," said Nathan Gilmore, IT superintendent for the county. "Specifically, their ETS, Ethernet Transport Service, allows us to use Layer2 connectivity to simplify our network design versus having to implement yet another Layer3 hop."
Although they do a few homes in the area, it's not something the company actively pursues. It focuses on services to businesses.
Neyen compares the company to a utility service.
"CS Technologies operates as a utility that provides business phone and Internet service to the customers and from that point forward the customer or a third-party IT provider sets up their internal cabling and wiring, firewalls, WiFi and etc.
"I relate this to how Alliant Energy as an electrical utility provides electricity to a customer structure and then all internal wiring and electrical drops the customer would contact an electrician for outlets and things."
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