You are responsible for your company’s contact center operations. At the top of your wish list is replacing the ACDs, IVRs and predictive dialers. These vital applications and boxes are several years old; the downturn had kiboshed earlier plans to kick them to the curb. Equally if not importantly they do not support vital new and cost-effective customer-popular channels such as chat, SMS/text and outbound notification.
Now finally your firm is loosening the tap on this and other long-delayed purchases but with a strict budget. Also in the works is changing from wholly or partial TDM to IP. The choice you are now facing is whether to buy new premise-licensed solutions or to have them hosted instead.
Hosting has emerged as a highly competitive option to acquiring, installing and integrating new products. Hosted delivery promises low or no capital expenses or CAPEX for them, which entails upfront costs and reduced flexibility via billable operating expenses or OPEX (News - Alert) on typically a pay-as-you-go basis. On the other hand buying your own set of solutions enables you to readily customize them and after three to five years can be cheaper than hosting: provided you do not change them out.
Ben Navon is president and CEO of Optimized Business, a leading voice/data communications firm. It provides hosted services as well as supports on-premise installations. His company has extensive experience in call/contact center management and telephony services integration. TMCnet recently interviewed him to get his take on the benefits and issues with hosting these vital contact center functions:
TMCnet: Outline and detail the benefits of having IVR, predictive dialing and routing hosted versus installing and maintaining these solutions on-premises?
BN: When you install equipment in your office, in addition to the equipment costs, you need to have enough bandwidth to support the concurrent calls. Installing your own equipment is more expensive with up front equipment costs and the necessity for more bandwidth. In comparison, hosted PBX (News - Alert) has a slightly higher monthly cost, but requires less bandwidth at the customer’s location. Either way a customer decides to pursue their connectivity, VoipDialing.com can provide an excellent, cost effective solution.TMCnet: What differences are there--if any--in these benefits between OEM-hosted i.e. the supplier versus a third-party that purchases, hosts and resells these solutions?
BN: The differences that you may want to look at when shopping for a hosted solution is their support and simplicity. Many providers have great solutions, but they are very complex to use. Other providers can nickel and dime you for every feature. Therefore, depending upon the business’s application, you should weigh these pros and cons to help you decide which benefits you more. VoIPDialing, Inc. has excellent support, features, cost and overall solution for most applications.
TMCnet: What growth have you seen in the demand in your hosted IVR/dialing/routing solutions? Provide a breakdown between organic i.e. market share, greenfield demand with customers/clients who are switching from on-premise solutions. What are the drivers?
BN: One of the major shifts in the market is going into the cloud. It initially started with small companies and their small budgets, that they jumped to hosted solutions and dialing in the cloud. Now medium and large sized companies are learning to trust the hosted solutions, which assists them in minimizing their IT efforts and they benefit from the features available on the cloud. Many companies still own their equipment on premises, yet they are largely integrating VoIP into their local application.TMCnet: What has been and is happening with hosted solutions overall with regards to pricing, deployment (including customization), reliability and security?
BN: The hosted solutions services are booming. More and more customers are joining the cloud. The numbers of hosted solution providers are growing bigger and their services are getting better. So far prices are staying pretty much the same, yet deployment and simplicity is much faster, easier and more readily available. Security has gone through major changes and has improved a lot. And the overall hosted solution has become more reliable and stable.TMCnet: Is there any reason why—and if so what are they—for firms to go with on-premises IVR, dialing and routing?
BN: On-premises systems are still good solutions for specific applications. This also gives a feeling of freedom and control to the customer, by having their systems on-site. It is a good solution for many companies which constantly change their call routing and telephony applications, yet it is costly to maintain from an IT and bandwidth aspect, but cheaper on the usage side.TMCnet: One question that has been raised with hosted as opposed to on-premises is whether the key value proposition i.e. replacing CAPEX with OPEX will lead to higher costs later on: just like leasing a car as compared with owning one. Please discuss
BN: Owning your own equipment is costly, and can get outdated over time. With a hosted solution, you will always have the most advanced technology as available by your provider. For unique customized applications, you need to host your own system, in order to attain the ultimate call routing, and customer experience. While initially expensive, a well planned and designed custom on-premises system can last for the foreseeable future.TMCnet: There have been issues with hosting that are calling into question the effectiveness, reliability and security of this deployment model for contact centers, among them,(a) The well-publicized Amazon cloud outage, leaving firms cut off(b) Application and data security concernsPlease respond and discuss
BN: These concerns are there, and will probably always be there. When you use a hosted solution, you are in the hands of your provider. Yes, with the proper fall back configuration in place, you should never be down. With VoIP there are many fall back and fail-over solutions that take over instantly, and are much better than TDM was ever able to provide.
The probability of hosted solutions going down versus on–premises systems and connections going down is much lower. Yet proper failover, as far as call routes, can be just as efficient on either solution.
There will always be a chance of hacking and breaking into security in a hosted solution, yet the security levels and advancements are much higher than with on-premises solutions. If you will, you can see it as Visa and MasterCard (News - Alert) security in their network versus security keeping your money in a home safety box.TMCnet: When in the solution lifecycle should firms consider switching to hosted for IVR, dialing and routing?
BN: A decision should happen when firms decide to optimize their efforts and modify their communication application. If the solution involves just simple call routing, queues, auto attendants, voicemails and possibly autodialing, then a hosted solution may be a great answer to those needs. But if the solution involves predictive dialing, complex IVR applications, automated charging of payment over the phone, then an on-premises solution may be the better fit the firm’s needs. On either solution, major advancements and optimizations are evolving, including VoIP applications, which alone is an enormous benefit versus TDM.TMCnet: What enhancements have you made or will be making to your hosted solutions to make them more functional, cost-effective, more reliable and more secure?
BN: At VoipDialing.com we make sure to provide a great and efficient hosted solutions and on-premises solutions. Our focus is keeping solutions simple, reliable, secure and cost efficient for our customers, without any ridiculous long term commitments. Our hosted solution can help most applications that don’t tend to need call routing changes made on a daily basis. It provides for the customer to configure the hosted solution, IVR, PBX or auto dialing and enjoy peace of mind.
For on-premises solutions, we provide simple integration to our SIP trunks, simple and painless billing, no hidden fees and overall great savings and reliability. For either solution, mostly for the ease of mind of the business owner, we provide a good redundant fall back system to either a different IP-PBX or to call forwarding to the PSTN simultaneously, to minimize downtime to practically nothing. Our customers love the solution and constantly provide us with positive feedback and satisfaction with our services.
Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Juliana Kenny