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Remote Collaboration and Networks – Expert panel shares practices for future of work

Following work-from-home mandates issued in response to COVID-19, companies rushed to find ways to enable remote collaboration. Some businesses smoothly transitioned into this new normal, while others struggled to adapt.

To examine the best practices for remote team collaboration, CBTS recently hosted a panel discussion about the challenges facing companies during this period of instability.

Greg Samuels, senior director of the communications practice at CBTS, moderated the panel, which included Steve Harris, senior director of service delivery for OnX Enterprise Solutions; David Absalom, director of enterprise solution design for CBTS; Jon Lloyd, director of cloud networking for CBTS; and Christopher Pope, director of solution design for CBTS.

To highlight the most effective strategies for remote collaboration and communication, the panel experts shared the tools and technologies and best practices that companies have been used to keep employees connected while quickly transitioning.

Enabling existing technology

While no one could have predicted the rippling effects that COVID-19 have had on day-to-day business operations, many companies already had tools in place to support remote workers—but they weren’t leveraging them until now.

“For some companies, it really wasn’t until recently that they discovered the full potential of hosting their voice in the cloud and coupling that with a mobile phone,” Pope said. “It’s been our duty to inform customers of the work-from-home capabilities that they have…and get them using the tools that they didn’t know they already had.”

Pope said many companies were sitting on legacy private branch exchange (PBX) systems or hosted voice solutions, but not utilizing collaboration tools to integrate their system with their employees’ mobile phones. By enabling soft client capabilities and meeting tools, companies are leaving the comfort zone of traditional voice calls to facilitate work-from-home mobility. For those with legacy PBX systems, CBTS was able to enable features on the network to quickly support those temporary changes to their configuration.

Redefining contact centers

The contact centers of large enterprises—especially those in government and healthcare sectors—are pushed past capacity with increasing call volumes related to the pandemic. By rethinking traditional processes and channels, contact centers are developing more sustainable service models that equip remote agents to serve customers efficiently, Absalom said.

Setting up remote phone access for employees working at home is easy enough, “but then you also need to somehow give them their contact center agent desktop, and that requires a VPN infrastructure,” Absalom said. While some companies already had this infrastructure in place, others needed to build internet gateways to enable remote agents.

“Then, because of the massive growth in contact center use, we had to take a look at some other technologies, because the queues and IVRs [Interactive voice Responses] were getting hit so hard we had to find alternate ways to get those calls answered or redirected,” Absalom said, like courtesy call-back capabilities that allow customers to request a call back rather than waiting in queue.

CBTS quickly analyzed how customers wanted and expected their calls to be routed and used that data to find the most efficient way to handle customer calls. To handle the influx of service calls efficiently, contact centers should similarly examine their current workflows and streamline business processes. Absalom encouraged call centers to think beyond the phone and explore the potential of omni-channel contact centers, where agents can also leverage e-mail, chat, and text to provide comprehensive service.

Protecting the perimeter

To keep the remote workforce connected to the enterprise, companies are relying on VPNs to extend their network—which comes with certain limitations, Lloyd said.

“When we start looking at a client-based VPN, all of that traffic comes back to the data center, even if the application doesn’t live there,” Lloyd explained. “That is crippling customers’ bandwidth. It’s crippling data centers.”

Split tunneling can be one solution for alleviating some stress to the data center, “but it’s a pretty complex routing configuration,” Lloyd said. Instead, companies should focus on flexible connectivity to extend their networks. “Utilizing technology that is cloud-connected or software-defined is allowing us to build auto-networks and auto-scale very quickly,” he added.

With software-defined perimeters, security is a fabric that lives in the cloud, rather than a firewall that just lives in the data center. “We used to think we were protecting the network,” Lloyd said. “But now, we realize the network is all around us. It doesn’t matter what the device is or where the employee is working from.”

This software-defined model is what separates the companies that are excelling in this remote environment from those that are struggling. “The customers who have looked forward and leaned toward this software-defined world have had a much, much easier time adapting,” Harris said. “Customers who have struggled tend to be ones who have a very traditional network and infrastructure.” Follow this link to view the full webinar. Learn more about collaboration solutions from CBTS.

Contact the experts at CBTS

CBTS and state administrators collaborate to prepare for overwhelming call volume

While the health impact of COVID-19 on the world has been devastating and tragic, the economic impact in the United States has also been profound. As businesses shuttered to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, revenues dropped and jobs were lost, leading to record high unemployment figures across the country.

In this particular state, layoffs and furloughs were occurring at staggeringly rapid rates over a matter of weeks. As a result, calls for assistance and applications for benefits began to flood and overwhelm the state’s Department of Jobs and Family Services (JFS). The JFS office’s contact center normally handles an average of 12,000 calls per day, but that number spiked to more than 1 million calls in a day and eventually settled on approximately 800,000 calls per day.

Additional issues included busy signals and dropped calls that callers often received when trying to contact the JFS office. End users were also not confident that their claims were being processed even in the event they managed to speak with a JFS agent, due to the lack of benefit status updates.

Fortunately, JFS personnel had anticipated the need to keep up with the drastically increased call volume. The JFS office engaged CBTS to help them manage the overwhelming number of calls to address the various service issues that constituents were facing. CBTS was able to design and implement a solution within a week’s time. The solution included scaling existing call paths, organizing remote call center operations, and designing and configuring a new IVR solution.

Sorting out the chaos

CBTS stepped in with a customized suite of telecommunications solutions to enable JFS agents to cope with the massive call volume they were facing while also improving the user experience for constituents seeking assistance during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the solutions implemented was a self-service system designed to allow JFS applicants to manually check the status of their claims. All of the JFS Unemployment directory numbers were sequestered into separate carrier trunks to increase available bandwidth and reduce strain on the rest of the state agencies. Additionally, the contact center capacity was optimized by 400% to allow for all callers to be answered by automation or an agent.

Remote access licenses for Jabber softphones were also increased and extended to hundreds of additional users, boosting the number of available call center agents. Cisco’s Unified IP Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was deployed at a large scale specifically to answer mass layoffs by major companies.

Another improvement implemented was the redirection of calls away from busy signals to holding messages, which engaged constituents and informed them that their calls would be answered momentarily or offer self-service options to every caller.

Lastly, an extensive effort was made to design and deploy an optimized IVR system to generate responses to benefit inquiry, simplify call tree structures, and create more efficient queue management programs. Moving forward, CBTS will be partnering with the state’s JFS to introduce new functionality that will provide tier one agents with basic caller benefits status info that will assist them in answering initial questions. Callback scheduling will also be used to address more advanced questions that can’t be answered by tier one agents at the time.

CBTS and the state’s JFS planned ahead and collaborated closely to prepare for a pressing issue that would prevent vulnerable citizens from accessing the assistance they needed. The standard reporting and dashboard programs built for this client are part of an ongoing process to optimize solutions in accordance to customer experiences.

Contact a CBTS specialist today for more information on what a customized Cisco collaboration solution can do for your enterprise or government organization

Businesses rely on mass-notification technology for crisis management

When a crisis strikes with little notice, business leaders and dedicated staff members must be ready to deliver vital information about the threats to keep people safe. Mass-notification technology gives staff the ability to broadcast information across networked devices and to interpret data coming in from sensors, locks, cameras, and other smart devices.  

More and more organizations rely on mass-notification tools to coordinate communications during an emergency, and that’s why CBTS builds these capabilities into our cloud-based Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). By integrating InformaCast Fusion from Singlewire Software into UCaaS, CBTS delivers a portfolio of mass notification tools used for sending relevant and precise alerts to employees as a crisis unfolds.

How companies benefit from mass-alerting technologies 

Organizations have long relied on sophisticated messaging systems to conduct business, coordinate operations within and between departments, and communicate with clients and partners. Mass-alerting tools bring these capabilities up a level by unifying crisis communications under a single alerting platform during an emergency.

The advantages of mass-notification technology for crisis communications include:

  • Centralized dashboard. As a hosted cloud communications technology, gives users a standard communications interface across all of their devices: PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Managers send specific messages and alerts directly to phones, conference rooms, digital signage, IP speakers, and even road signs and billboards, along with any other connected devices.
  • Multiple media formats. Designated personnel can deliver live audio or recorded messages. Formats include e-mail, SMS text, VoIP and standard phone calls, push notifications, and updates via Facebook and Twitter.
  • Delivery, reading, and responses. Managers can confirm messages are delivered and read, and individuals can respond to determine availability or direct what to do next. If individuals need help, the application can send rescuers directly to the scene.
  • Escalation. First-round alerts often have low reading and response rates because the recipients aren’t aware of the severity of an emergency. In such cases, managers can escalate their alerts to clarify the level of the crisis. The escalation may include informing news media if necessary.
  • Geographic location. Smartphones with built-in GPS help emergency communications managers determine the location of individuals. Managers can target alerts to people within specific areas or create a virtual perimeter by directing people away from a dangerous area.
Do you have a clear communications plan for the next crisis?
Download our e-book for seven tips for providing clear communications during a crisis.
 

Common events for mass notifications

Organizations must clearly communicate with appropriate teams during an emergency and coordinate activities. Emergency communications managers are required to address threats such as:

  • Natural disasters. Any natural threat such as violent storms, tornados, earthquakes, sinkholes, or volcanic eruptions may require messaging or alerts with employees at all levels.
  • Traffic issues. Multi-car accidents on area highways can cause massive delays. A train derailment, toxic gas leak, chemical spill, or other emergencies can endanger individuals across an expansive geographic area.
  • Public unrest. Protests can turn violent. Scuffles can break out after a sporting event or music festival. Employees need to be informed about these issues so they can avoid specific areas and reduce their risk while in transit during work hours.

By integrating the right mass-messaging tools into your network, emergency communications managers can deliver the necessary information to protect employees when a crisis occurs.

Prioritizing safety

During uncertain times or when an unexpected crisis arises, it’s unfortunate some UCaaS providers don’t provide mass-notification technology as standard in their offering. Here at CBTS, we believe mass-notification capabilities are crucial to the security and safety of employees and critical to business resiliency. 

The mass-notification tools built into our UCaaS system ensure you can communicate effectively with team members throughout an emergency. Whether individuals use a PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or desktop phone, in a crisis—when seconds count—timely alerts can make all the difference.

To find out more about CBTS UCaaS and our mass notification capabilities, contact our experts.

Protect your SD-WAN network with cloud-enabled security

Business networks are getting smarter and more efficient every day. New transport methods, organizational strategies, and continually improving cloud computing capabilities are allowing modern enterprises to automate and optimize their processes like never before.

However, these modern network infrastructures, as powerful as they are, must still be protected from a wide range of external threats, from phishers and scammers to bots and viruses. Just as your organization’s networking environment is evolving, potential intruders are likewise developing new tools to take advantage of any opening in your network. Contemporary threats require a contemporary security solution.

Completing the package

Many organizations have embraced Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) to manage and improve connectivity from a single dashboard, while the adoption of Networking as a Service (NaaS) is also on the rise. These solutions are paving the way for future-focused enterprises to simplify their connections, shed unnecessary network upkeep functions, and concentrate on their bottom line.

Embracing SD-WAN and NaaS is only one piece of the puzzle—a robust, cloud-enabled security approach is needed to create a comprehensive and fully functional modern networking infrastructure. To be truly complementary to your SD-WAN and NaaS solutions, this security solution should meet a series of criteria:

  • Offer next-generation threat prevention as a cloud service.
  • Enable public cloud security and compliance measures.
  • Increase protection and threat assessment across all applicable virtual networks.

These features are broadly considered to be a bare minimum for any modern, cloud-capable security solution. Additionally, your organization may prioritize other functions you need from a managed threat assessment package that go beyond basic bot and virus protection.

What to look for in next-gen security

Threat emulation functionality is a cutting-edge feature that prevents infections from new malware and targeted attacks, delivering the best possible catch rate for threats to your network. With the right threat emulation program in place, attackers will have a much more difficult time navigating your defenses.

URL filtering is another valuable tool that maintains categorized lists of problematic URLs and automatically flags any attempts by end-users to access them. This can be used to prevent users from accessing inappropriate, unsafe, or irrelevant websites that you don’t want users to access.

Continuous intrusion protection, when properly automated, can form a nearly impenetrable barrier around your network environment that constantly monitors your network to identify, track, and shut down potential threats. As it stops external attacks, your intrusion protection program can also learn and compile actionable data and analytics about threats to your network.

Application controlis a crucial component of any full-spectrum security program that restricts unauthorized applications from executing in ways that put proprietary data at risk.

Why Check Point CloudGuard Connect and CloudGuard SaaS?

If harnessing the power of cloud computing to secure your SD-WAN environment and managed network is your goal, CloudGuard Connect and CloudGuard SaaS bring everything you need to the table.

“Given today’s advanced cyber threats, it is critical to protect enterprise branch offices connected to the cloud with SD-WAN. Check Point CloudGuard Connect is integrated with leading SD-WAN vendors in the cloud to secure branches in minutes,” says Erez Yarkoni, head of the Telco Division at Check Point Software Technologies. “We’re excited to partner with CBTS to help drive enterprise digital transformation, with a special emphasis on branch office SD-WAN security.”

“CBTS has leveraged SD-WAN technologies to help our customers along their journey to the cloud and their path to digital transformation,” Adds Jon Lloyd, director of cloud networking for CBTS. “Organizations are now facing the challenge of how to secure this new, flexible, always-on network where an application can live anywhere in the world, and employees can work from anywhere in the world. Check Point’s CloudGuard Connect and CloudGuard SaaS enable our customers to make the network decisions and application decisions that are best for their organization without the added difficulty of securing a malleable, distributed network. We are delivering peace of mind now, along with our flexibility and convenience.”

Contact the experts at CBTS for more information on how Check Point CloudGuard Connect can protect and enhance your cloud-enabled network environment.


Learn about Check Point CloudGuard Connect and CloudGuard SaaS from CBTS.

Read about CBTS launching Check Point CloudGuard Connect.

Four Considerations for Building a Remote Network with SD-WAN

Creating and enabling a versatile, remote workforce is a common goal for many modern organizations during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Others are seeking to modernize their networks, improve their digital employee experiences, and reshape their cloud strategies. Regardless of the factors driving your organization’s digital transformation agenda, choosing the right partner to leverage VMware solutions is the secret sauce to achieving success today while future-proofing your business. Tim Byers, Senior Sales Engineer at CBTS, highlights the top factors to consider when implementing SD-WAN.

1. Choosing an SD-WAN partner shouldn’t mean giving up control

Replacing legacy infrastructure can bring countless roadblocks when attempted without the right support. With increasing pressure on IT departments to enable business outcomes in real time, organizations often default to selecting an SD-WAN service provider who takes full control of the implementation and management of the project.

The result? Even while these clients may reap the benefits of reduced hardware-delivery expenditures, on a long-term basis these companies will face the frustrations of living with a ”black box” solution. In this scenario, there are few opportunities from which to learn and adapt your approach over time. The good news is that there is an option that marries both control and support. Choosing a managed service solution provider can help ease you into the new era of your business, while preserving your ability to optimize your own operations.

2. SD-WAN is the start of a larger innovation conversation

When it comes to networking, one of the most common use cases we see for adopting SD-WAN in Canada is in the retail environment, where organizations often depend on MPLS to manage network traffic flow between their retail locations and remote workers.

These clients are seeing their bandwidth costs rise higher and higher as employees and customers have become increasingly connected. Add the challenge of spanning Canada’s large geography, and the need for a solution that better connects teams and sites across the country at a lower cost becomes clear.

The potential to dramatically reduce bandwidth and transport costs can motivate the adoption of SD-WAN—but there’s more to the story. Switching from legacy infrastructure should be treated as an opportunity for innovating the business. For a retailer, that could mean simplifying the onboarding of a new location or offering on-site online ordering for customers who can’t find what they came in for. Bandwidth concerns have become more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more employees than ever connecting to their work networks from home. An SD-WAN solution can stabilize and increase bandwidth across an entire enterprise, enabling remote work activities, and reducing friction during these trying times. SD-WAN can also be easily scaled to meet the ever-changing bandwidth needs of modern organizations.

3. Securing your network during the “new-normal”

With large numbers of employees working from home, many enterprises are finding their network security unsuited for keeping networks secure across a high volume of remote connections. An SD-WAN cloud security solution can consistently deliver protection from external threats, even for users accessing the network from offsite. This reduces strain on your organization’s data center while providing peace of mind for remote employees.

4. C-suite buy-in is key to success

Success for an SD-WAN deployment can be measured for both IT and the wider business. It’s important to bring the leadership team into the conversation early, especially the CIO, to help them drive innovation from the top and ensure the value of the project is understood at the most senior levels within the business.

One of the top rationales for adopting a new technology that resonates with CIOs and line-of-business leaders is saving time and increasing productivity. When it comes to SD-WAN, VeloCloud SD-WAN as a Service enables organizations to shift their time investment to categories that are the most critical to the organization and the most difficult for the organization to achieve.

Expanding visibility into your network, driving innovation with greater agility, and gaining support from leadership are just three ingredients to a successful implementation of SD-WAN. Learn more about how CBTS and OnX Canada have partnered with VMware to offer the industry-leading VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud solution to clients.

To help you navigate your network in today’s uncertainty, discover more about business continuity by checking out resources posted on VMware’s Business Continuity Solutions page, or visit https://www.cbts.com/coronavirus/.

For further reading on ways to adapt your remote work strategies and cloud capabilities to the COVID-19 pandemic, check out these recent blogs:

Stepping up your UCaaS experience with SD-WAN

Simplifying the various communication tools available to their company is a challenge many business leaders are seeking answers for. As a result, enterprise-level organizations around the globe and across a variety of industries are catching on to the benefits of unified communications as a service (UCaaS), which streamlines collaboration capabilities by combining voice, video, and text communications into a single cloud-empowered platform.

As a managed service, UCaaS also simplifies operations and allows users to focus less on maintaining multiple communications platforms and more on their bottom lines. It can also be easily scaled for growth as businesses expand their footprints, facilities, and teams.

UCaaS has become a common solution for organizations that wish to utilize the ever-growing power of cloud computing while also managing their communications platforms with ease and reliability. These applications have become even more crucial and are now in high demand in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced many enterprises to adopt a more remote posture. However, these enterprises that have embraced UCaaS may be missing the full potential of their managed communications by not also taking advantage of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN).

The potential of SD-WAN

While the business world works to adapt to and harness the computing power of the cloud and the many remote storage and connection capabilities it brings, SD-WAN is a network architecture purpose-built to enable all modern cloud-based applications, delivering greater levels of efficiency, scalability, and flexibility.

By implementing an SD-WAN solution that fits their situation, enterprise leaders can automate their network traffic, speed up their application deployments, and improve user experiences, all while driving down operational costs. With SD-WAN, even large-scale global operations can be given easy and reliable access to powerful cloud applications, from retail storefronts and industrial facilities to distant office environments. However, it truly shines when layered onto an existing UCaaS framework.

A powerful combination

For users of UCaaS solutions, SD-WAN acts as a natural complement that boosts the power and effectiveness of managed unified communications. When combined, the UCaaS platform connects distant team members and empowers them to collaborate smoothly—meanwhile, an SD-WAN solution brings high processing power, bandwidth and network stability to the table, creating a potent one-two punch that any modern organization can benefit from.

SD-WAN also adds powerful cloud computing functionality to the UCaaS platform, boosting communication applications such as video conferencing with fast and reliable cloud connections. Voice services also benefit from increased redundancy and signal strength, meaning fewer dropped calls and better call quality. This is especially beneficial for enterprises that rely heavily on voice functionality, including retail, call centers, healthcare, and more.

Complete the package

If your company has taken the step to streamline its communication and collaboration applications with a UCaaS solution, consider SD-WAN as a direct upgrade that can improve network performance, make connections more reliable, leverage the considerable power of the cloud, keep costs low, and help future-proof your enterprise for what comes next. Review the CBTS resource page to learn more about how adding SD-WAN to your UCaaS infrastructure can deliver better communication outcomes for your organization.

Critical Capabilities for Meeting Solutions

There’s no denying that the world has changed. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of Americans indoors and changed the landscape of the economy and workforce, large and small businesses alike were actively exploring the technology and processes needed to empower their staff to do their jobs remotely.

This process was accelerated when multiple state governors gave shelter-in-place orders, and companies began shutting down offices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of infection for personnel. A robust and detailed strategy to enable remote meeting, collaboration, and productivity is now a requirement, not simply a bonus.

However, there exists a wide variety of teleconferencing solutions and platforms, each with their own interfaces, support structures, and proprietary features. Finding the right remote meeting solution for your business can be a daunting task. The decision can be made easier by clearly defining what your organization is looking for.

Requirements of the new digital workplace

When adopting a teleconferencing and remote meeting solution, enterprise leaders tend to seek a technology platform that satisfies both the needs of individual team members and the expectations of high-level stakeholders. This can apply to several use cases, including employees meeting in virtual conference rooms to share working materials, connect via audio and video, and collaborate closely.

Organizations with a concentration on sales and marketing also require simple and engaging methods for connecting with external clients, leads, and partners as they develop opportunities for new business. Meanwhile, trainers and mentors need tools that can reach and be accessible to a wide variety of audiences—after all, people learn better when they’re able to connect and engage on their own terms.

Additionally, many professionals in corporate communication spaces are seeking to make internal messaging more direct and captivating. They need a technology solution that allows them to build a CEO town hall or similar virtual event that can simultaneously be delivered to an entire corporate structure in real-time.

Organization leaders are facing the challenge of crafting a remote meeting solution that meets the needs of all of these use cases, as well as the challenge of making this solution operate reliably on any device—from smartphones to workstations. What they need is a persistent virtual meeting space that all members of the team can benefit from.

Creating collaboration with the cloud

Many enterprise-level businesses already employ cloud office products with built-in conferencing functions throughout their organizations, but some find themselves requiring an internal collaboration solution that delivers a consistent experience across different platforms.

At the same time, professionals responsible for external presentations are in need of a high degree of control and flexibility in terms of transitioning, question and answer management, and more. They’re also seeking reliable security measures and reliable audio and video quality to make their presentations as functional and effective as possible.

Trainers, meanwhile, can also benefit from a simple meeting product that can enable testing and learning even in cases of limited budgets and smaller scales. Webinars and other larger-scale online events are also gaining relevance as scalability and audience engagement become more important in business environments.

These endpoints can all be served by a cloud-based meeting solution. 

“By 2023, 50% of meetings will be facilitated by virtual concierges and advanced analytics. Through 2023, the cloud conferencing market will be the fastest-growing segment (by spend) of the overall unified communications (UC) market, growing at a compound annual rate of 7%.”

Gartner, Critical Capabilites for Meeting Solutions, Tom Eagle, Adam Present, Mike Fasciani, 8 October 2019

Let the experts at CBTS help your organization prepare for the cloud conferencing future with our suite of Cisco remote meeting solutions. For more information on what CBTS and Cisco can do to modernize and empower your workforce.  Click here to learn more about the meeting solutions CBTS offers.


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VoIP vs UCaaS: What is right for your business?

It seems when it comes to technology, enterprise organizations and SMBs alike find themselves in the same situation as consumers: the moment you purchase a device or solution, newer technology comes along with advantages that nearly render the previous technology obsolete.

Take traditional landlines, for instance, also known as Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). Over the past decade, businesses of all sorts have made the transition from POTS to a newer, better alternative: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The decision to move to VoIP is an easy one since businesses realize significant cost savings and gain access to advanced calling features, such as a virtual assistant and call routing to different departments. With that process nearly complete, and with the Internet established as its base, businesses can begin to look at their communications more holistically. Companies looking for the next level of collaboration are turning to a technology that can handle a customized suite of applications and communications services delivered on a single platform: Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS.

But should you transition?

Think VoIP and UCaaS technologies are mutually exclusive?

The fact is, they are not, but to make the right decision, it helps to have a clear understanding of what each technology is, what role they play in a modern communications ecosystem, and the differences in managing and monitoring each.

VoIP

VoIP is pretty much exactly as it sounds: spoken words on a call transmitted as data over the Internet. This technology requires some changes in the way data is handled in transit. The blocky, bursty nature of text delivery, for one, is replaced with a smoother, more continuous data stream that reduces interruptions. VoIP also incorporates a more dynamic, two-way data connection to accommodate the conversational style of the speech better.

VoIP benefits

  • Centralized IP PBX architecture which reduces costs.
  • 99.9% guaranteed uptime.
  • Enhanced QoS & Core SLAs. 
  • E911, caller ID, and directory listings.
  • Automatic disaster recovery failover.
  • Unlimited expanded local calling—no per-minute charges. 
  • Web portal access and web-based administrative control available with bolt-ons.
  • U.S. and Canada voice network availability.
  • Reporting tools to manage network performance efficiently. 

One of the more compelling use-cases for VoIP is the cost-savings derived from switching voice communications from standard line service to more efficient digital communications. In most cases, this is done in conjunction with an existing Internet service provider and implemented with upgrades to an IP-PBX phone system. Most VoIP services provide call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, voicemail, and other functions. One of the most crucial aspects of VoIP, however, is that it places traditional desktop telephone service on the same digital foundation as data infrastructure, effectively reducing the recurring cost of separate voice and data circuits. These innovative voice services drive better collaboration and mobility for your business.

UCaaS

Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS, is a catchall term for bundling a wide range of communications services, including VoIP, under a common framework. In this way, organizations more closely integrate voice communications with file sharing, instant messaging, collaboration, phones, and other applications to streamline workflows and make better use of available information.

UCaaS benefits

  • Offers greater flexibility when integrating applications, such as messaging, video meetings, whiteboarding, IVR, call recording, reporting, and screen sharing.
  • Integrates with third-party solutions.
  • Tailors app consumption toward actual usage rather than as fixed overhead costs.
  • Provides exceptional ability to deliver a consistent experience across multiple devices.
  • Allows for personalized customization of user settings to enable workers to engage and interact with others on their teams.

Because of its broader scope, UCaaS is slightly more complex in its setup and management than VoIP. Both are very different in their implementation model, so having an experienced vendor is critical.

While UCaaS is a broader solution, depending on the business model, legacy architecture, internal processes, and many other factors, some organizations may determine that standalone VoIP meets all their needs. Others may conclude that partial or full UCaaS is the way to go, particularly those involved in highly-collaborative, security-focused organizations, such as banking and finance, healthcare and education, professional services, retail, and others.

Adopting UCaaS as a complete cloud solution

For the most part, organizations are adopting UCaaS as a complete cloud solution. Still, there are some cases where on-premises infrastructure is required, usually under the auspices of a private cloud. The reasons for this vary, but in general, it comes from a desire to maintain tighter control over the environment, albeit at the expense of higher maintenance and monitoring costs.

The good thing for enterprise organizations is that VoIP and UCaaS are not mutually exclusive. For businesses starting with a traditional voice infrastructure, a logical upgrade path is to implement VoIP first. As the need arises, launch into UCaaS functionality later depending on the age of your equipment and what other features and functionality you plan to need in the future. Once all forms of communication have been elevated to the cloud, selecting the right systems becomes a matter of what your business needs at any point in time, not what your internal infrastructure can support.

Know your options

Several different types of Hosted Unified Communications solutions are available:

  • Service Providers: Traditional telecom services that offer fully-featured Hosted UC as an integrated part of their offering to business customers.
  • IT-centric cloud app providers: Software vendors with a background in productivity applications and have incorporated communications functionality into their IT suites.
  • Over-the-top (OTT) service providers: Providers that offer communications solutions that operate over the Internet. 
  • Traditional network Centrex providers: First generation of hosted telephony service providers, delivering PBX-type functionality as a hosted service.

Making the best choice for your business

The industry has drastically changed, and the options of providers are endless. While all Hosted Communications solutions generally perform the same essential functions, they do vary significantly in their cost, functionality, flexibility, scalability, and support. No matter if you are looking for private or public deployment, it’s critical to land on a solution that ensures the quality of experience for your voice traffic and meets the future business needs. The success of the new technology is entirely dependent on choosing a partner who offers design, implementation, training, and support.

At CBTS, we are capable of accommodating any request. The roots of our organization are deep with a rich history of delivering on-premises, hybrid, and cloud private or public unified communications solutions.

Critical Steps to Starting your Communication Journey

From cloud discovery, assessment, strategy, and design, to migration, implementation, and monitoring your environments, discover how CBTS has you covered.

Speak to a Communications Expert today


Cloud Communication Solution: Donatos Pizza Case Study

This article is a brief summary of how migrating to a cloud-based communication architecture transformed the Donatos Pizza franchise’s customer service experience while reducing costs. To learn more about this real-world cloud communications solution, download the full case study.

For modern businesses, success is tied to network performance and the ability to adapt quickly. Seamless collaboration between employees, partners, and customers is more important than ever before, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic forces customers indoors, reduces commercial activity, and makes every call for service that much more valuable.

As businesses struggle to adapt to new demands for remote capability and migrate their communication services to the cloud, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) platforms are changing the digital landscape by combining voice, audio and video conferencing, instant messaging, screen sharing, and many other applications on one platform.

Organizations that still use legacy networks are feeling the pain handling increased call volumes, adjusting contact centers to work from home, and being able to make large scale changes to many locations. Customer patience is at all-time lows, and experience expectations are at all-time highs. In this environment, companies that don’t adjust suffer. Companies that stay ahead of the curve thrive. Donatos Pizza is a prime example. A franchise with more than 200 locations in nine states, it is considered to be one of the fastest-growing franchises in the U.S.

The Problem: Legacy network infrastructure was delivering a fragmented customer experience between mobile applications and brick-and-mortar locations.

Donatos’ legacy network infrastructure could not keep up with the rapidly expanding franchise and the company’s desire to offer a consistent and seamless customer experience across its 200-plus franchise locations.

The franchise was struggling with poor in-store Wi-Fi and control, reliability, redundancy, and continuity issues.

Coordinating with dozens of vendors in different regions was inefficient and costly and was stretching internal IT department resources.

Donatos Pizza wanted to build a future-proof franchise supported by a next-generation IT platform.

Solution: A single cloud-based platform to support unified commerce.

Donatos chose to partner with CBTS to implement a hosted UCaaS, Network as a Service, and Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) solution.

CBTS provided all required hardware and software for the transition, provides ongoing technical and customer service from one support center, and bills Donatos one monthly fee on a single invoice.

Consistent quality of experience

Continuous connectivity is mission-critical for this client. Every dropped or disconnected phone call equals lost revenue. Some companies use patchwork VoIP solutions that treat voice traffic the same as any other data coming over the internet. As a result, the end user can experience communication lags and the call can eventually get dropped.

After partnering with CBTS, Donatos is now able to provide clients with a reliable and consistent quality of experience through the public internet connections at the individual stores.

Major benefits of SD-WAN and UCaaS

Since 2012, SD-WAN technology has quickly become an indispensable technology for businesses migrating to cloud-based services. SD-WAN in combination with UCaaS has transformed network scalability, management, and budgets like nothing in the past.

  • Scalability – UCaaS easily scales up or down, making it a strong solution for enterprise-sized businesses operating in hundreds of locations.
  • Manageability – UCaaS moves control to the cloud, making upgrades easier to configure, and providing one window for complete network management.
  • Cost savings – When you consider the consolidation of multiple vendors and technologies, and factor in the ROI of freeing up your IT staff, UCaaS is the most cost-effective solution.

Conclusion

Working with an experienced and qualified SD-WAN and UCaaS provider is important. CBTS has helped numerous small businesses and franchises transform their networking and migrate to cloud architecture with great success and has also helped several entities adapt and expand their networks to meet the logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. CBTS and its 800 certified engineers can take on the burden of your IT management and maintenance by proactively managing and monitoring your network 24x7x365.

  • Get streamlined services through a single vendor.
  • Deliver exceptional voice/data service.
  • Experience cost savings and enhanced security and control.
  • Free your IT organization to focus on strategic initiatives.
  • Enhance your customer experience.

To learn more about how SD-WAN and UCaaS transformed Donatos Pizza’s customer service experience, download the full case study.


Read more about how SD-WAN can transform the restaurant business.

Leverage SD-WAN to get the most from your UCaaS platform

A master craftsman understands that each of his tools serves a specific purpose, and coaches know that their athletes achieve great things when working toward a common goal. Organizations that have adopted unified communications as a service (UCaaS) could benefit from this perspective by tapping into the synergy between UCaaS and software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN).

Small, medium, and enterprise-level businesses around the globe and across many industries now rely on managed UCaaS to deliver cloud-enabled communications and collaboration capabilities. Whether it’s a single office or a series of facilities scattered throughout the world, UCaaS enables voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), instant messaging, collaboration, phones, contact center, and other applications to streamline workflows.

UCaaS can also be easily scaled for growth, allowing firms to add branches and applications to their platforms as needed.

At the same time, other businesses are moving away from traditional multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) networks and toward more cloud-friendly SD-WAN solutions. With SD-WAN, routing distant remote locations to their central cloud solutions is simple and efficient, while presenting less of an outage risk than traditional MPLS networks. On their own, these technologies provide substantial benefits to retailers, manufacturers, and a wide variety of enterprises and verticals. However, finding synergy between the two solutions could be the secret to unlocking the full potential of both.

UCaaS powered by SD-WAN: A winning team

Like two critical components of a well-oiled machine, UCaaS and SD-WAN solutions are capable of working in tandem to bring out the best in any organization that deploys them together. While UCaaS platforms can tie together disparate members of a team and give them the tools to collaborate effectively, SD-WAN systems provide the bandwidth, processing power, and stability to keep the entire operation running smoothly.

One example of this is how SD-WAN, when used in conjunction with UCaaS, can greatly enhance the quality of any voice and video conferencing programs through the use of strong cloud connections. This process has the added benefit of combining voice, video, and text messaging applications into a single, dedicated platform.

For any business that views voice functionality as mission-critical, including but not limited to retailers and call centers, every call that drops or doesn’t connect means lost revenue. That means a reliable connection is a must-have in these cases. Hosted UCaaS gives these enterprises a redundant and robust connection that enables collaboration across locations and is also flexible enough to fill new roles as the business evolves. The addition of SD-WAN can enable unified communications to operate at peak performance.

With UCaaS and SD-WAN working together, businesses with global footprints benefit from the dependable communications they need, with the added benefits of faster speeds and increased bandwidth. Additionally, cloud-based UCaaS presents cost reductions over older on-site solutions. When SD-WAN is introduced to the landscape, the savings are amplified thanks to SD-WAN’s reliable connections minimizing costly downtime and dropped calls.

Contact CBTS for more information on how the dynamic duo of SD-WAN and UCaaS can take your enterprise to new heights of connectivity, collaboration, and efficiency.