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Is a hosted phone collaboration system right for you?

How this phone system can transform your office.

Your employees use phones — and sure, they might be old, but they still work. So why would you want to consider a hosted phone system, one that another company manages for you?

In part, because a phone isn’t just a phone anymore. A phone is a mini-computer that employees use for everything from IM to video chats. And they need to be reachable anywhere, anytime. Playing voicemail tag isn’t just annoying; it’s highly unproductive.

This is where unified communications can help. UC isn’t a new concept — it’s been around for a while. But it’s evolving.

How your office communications systems are changing

Back in the early 2000s, phone manufacturers started harnessing IP technology, adding new functionality to premises-based phone systems such as video calling. These days, IP is simply a given.

“Now we can do multiple media types with the same system — voice, video, IM, mobile integration, so transferring a call from your desk phone to your cell phone with the click of a button,” said Christopher Raposo, Senior Market Manager with MTS.

Users can manage their calls from a web-based portal, with click-to-call functionality. “I can set up the way I receive phone calls, so if I’m in the office today, I can log in on my computer or phone, set it up to ring on my desk phone first, then my cell, or so they both ring at the same time,” he said.

“The idea is that UC lets you communicate anywhere you are, at any time, on any device. And you can use any form of communications, whether it’s voice or video or IM.” Presence is another handy tool as it allows you to see if a colleague is online, in a meeting or on vacation, so you know if it’s a good time to call.

With UC, the various communication methods including voice, video, messaging and presence are in the same place and for the same price, allowing users to be productive on any device, whether that’s a desk phone, laptop or smartphone. Newer solutions offer even more robust video endpoints, such as big-screen TVs with high-def and built-in cameras — ideal for board rooms.

Does your company need a hosted solution?

It all sounds good — but why consider a hosted version? The reality is that most IT departments these days have limited resources — not to mention limited expertise in communications. And most can’t afford to hire someone just to look after their phone system.

A hosted version offers the same functionality of an on-premises solution, without having to purchase (or maintain and upgrade) the equipment. A hosted provider supplies the equipment, hosted in their data centre, and every call, video or IM goes through them.

“The customer doesn’t have to worry about setting up, running or maintaining the solution for their users,” said Raposo. “You get the same functionality as if you purchased the equipment and installed it in your office — you just need a connection to the provider’s equipment.”

It also means you don’t require multiple networks for voice and data. In other words, one pipe delivers it all.

It’s an ideal solution for public sector, health and education — any organization with multiple locations and a need to conduct meetings between those locations (particularly if their travel budget is tight or non-existent).

For example, with Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) — which MTS provides as a fully hosted solution — organizations can use WebEx, an add-on module, for online meetings, video chats, sharing desktops and whiteboarding.

Budget savings and controlling your monthly costs

A hosted solution allows organizations to control the savings — it’s all one price, with a predictable monthly cost. Plus, IT staff can work on IT stuff, rather than communications.

For organizations using an outdated premises-based phone system, the cost of an upgrade could be upwards of $50,000 or more, said Raposo. A hosted system eliminates that capital expenditure. “It’s not always about savings,” he added, “but it’s certainly about having a more predictable cost.”

Because all traffic runs on one network, organizations don’t require the redundancy of two networks — another potential cost savings. Plus, IT pros don’t need to be phone and communications experts, and can focus on their area of expertise: IT.

Saving money is a big draw. But hosted phone systems can also help users collaborate and become more productive — and that can provide soft benefits such as improved employee morale and higher customer satisfaction.

“It’s a replacement for that old phone you’ve been using forever,” said Raposo, “but now you have added functionality on all sorts of devices that makes you more productive.”

Learn more about the MTS Hosted Collaboration Solution and the benefits for your business.

Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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