The rise of cloud-PBX
There are many benefits of cloud-PBX for business customers. Benefits include flexibility and cost-savings. They also include a lack of hardware maintenance, and increased geographic reach. All things considered, it’s easy to see why many businesses were making the switch, even before the Covid-19 pandemic caused us all to reset our expectations of working life. But there are cloud-PBX challenges to consider.
Hybrid working models
Since the pandemic, many businesses, and their employees, are looking to remote and hybrid working as a long-term model. The recent Accenture Future of Work Study 2021 found that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid part-remote-part-office model. Markedly, of high-growth companies, 63% have already adopted a “productivity anywhere” workforce model.
All this feeds into the explosive growth we’re seeing in the adoption of cloud-PBX solutions. For one thing, these allow business customers of all sizes to bin the costly on-premises hardware. Additionally, they support a distributed workforce. A recent report from ResearchandMarkets.com estimated that the global hosted PBX market in 2021 is $5.7Bn. By 2026, this number will rise to $11.3Bn. Demand is impressive but there are cloud-PBX challenges.
With a market this hot, comes competition. As a result, the choice of providers is becoming overwhelming for customers. The pool of customers is no longer dominated by large enterprises and high-tech companies. Consequently, many won’t have large teams of experienced technical decision-makers. To compete for their slice of this growing market, cloud-PBX providers need to showcase why their offering stands out.
Concerns and considerations for cloud-PBX
Even the most inexperienced tech procurer knows that no solution is perfect. Cloud-PBX growth should not be attributed to buyers having a gung-ho attitude. The attractive benefits seem to outweigh cloud-PBX challenges. So, what are some of the concerns and considerations that buyers of cloud-PBX solutions have? What might cloud-PBX solution providers offer to make sure they stand out from the crowd?
It’s not enough to say your solution will save money. Gartner’s analysis of the B2B buying journey points to 6-10 decision-makers being involved in the buying group for a complex B2B solution. You will be able to reduce or eliminate the cost of voice minutes. But, what are the cold, hard numbers for the return on investment (RoI) for customers if they move to a cloud-PBX solution?
Many buyers will appreciate support in making the cost-benefit / RoI case. This is especially true for small-to-medium sized enterprises with smaller teams, A solid case helps to gain buy-in internally. Moving from a legacy solution, with the comfort of being able to see the hardware in the server room (albeit with the costly maintenance it brings) can still feel like a leap of faith for leaders. Easy-to-use RoI calculators and example proposals will be a valuable asset for a buyer looking to gain internal buy-in and budget approval.
We may feel this concern is a bit of a red herring in most cases. The growing reality is that residential broadband for home workers is more than adequate to manage the requirements of a cloud-PBX solution. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a concern for businesses still getting to grips with an increasingly dispersed workforce.
To allay concerns, one of the key things that cloud-PBX providers can do is to educate customers on the connectivity requirements. They can encourage a full audit and analysis of their employees’ equipment and connection as part of their roll-out plan. In addition, easy-to-use guidelines and FAQs addressing issues like using hardwired equipment if necessary and avoiding overloading broadband with video streaming, online gaming, etc, will help new customers avoid the pitfalls.
An increasingly persistent concern and cloud-PBX challenge is the security of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. The US provider Bandwidth Communications, Canadian provider VoIP.ms, and UK operator VoIP Unlimited have all reported distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in 2021 alone.
The security concern here is that of the provider’s network. The impact on the customer is extremely inconvenient service outages. The high-profile nature of these attacks does also play into concerns about the security of complex cloud-based networks more generally.
Providers evidently need to up their game with their network security. To prevent these attacks, they must ensure their network is secure. They have to present reliable service for their customers. Security measures will likely have an increased influence on buyer decisions.
Caller ID spoofing is being increasingly flagged as a concern for many. Effectively, these are phishing scams where employees are tricked into thinking they’re taking an internal call. On a search of some of the key players in cloud-PBX, however, security measures to mitigate the risk of these attacks seem to have a low profile. Similarly, measures to ensure against international toll fraud don’t feature as benefits. This is where account details are stolen to make long-distance calls.
As the diversity of the customer base increases, it becomes more difficult for providers to ensure the quality of configurations made at the customer-end of the network. This makes it difficult to maintain complete security.
We’re going to assume strong password protection and encryption are a given. But, some of the other measures providers might take (and use as a selling point for concerned customers) include:
- Routinely scanning networks to secure all SIP endpoints; securing them behind a firewall and not exposing them to the public internet (and alerting customers accordingly).
- Offering proactive monitoring and flagging of atypical call activity. For example, call volumes to high-cost locations, calls being made out of business hours, or high call volumes from a particular source.
With proactive monitoring in mind, we move on to quality of service (QoS) concerns. Consistent quality can be a cloud-PBX challenge.
Many of the key players in the cloud-PBX market sell themselves on improved call quality and clarity. They note their use of only the highest quality codecs. But we all know that networks are extremely complex, and, as a provider, your network is only as good as your partners’.
Routing dynamics bring cloud-PBX challenges
The most well-renowned providers feel blindsided by grey routes being used by their partners (or partner’s partners!). Partners using lower quality codecs to compress audio files can result in degraded service for the end user. Unfortunately, when it’s only happening at particular times of high usage to save bandwidth, the problem becomes even more tricky to diagnose.
The first strategy, of course, has to be careful selection of partners to eliminate grey routes. With the best will in the world, there are still parts of the network that a provider somewhat blindly relies upon.
This is where proactive call quality monitoring comes in. For providers of cloud-PBX, proactive monitoring of quality allows for the early detection of issues. Resolution can begin before the customer has even noticed.
By dialling into a cloud calling number within a target country, Spearline’s test call follows the entire call path. A call travels from origin to the cloud-PBX, and on to a subscriber. A test prompt allows us to monitor call connectivity and measure audio quality. This results in an independent measure of quality. Real-time alerts for any quality issues are easily established.
With a similar test in reverse, we measure outbound call performance. This type of proactive testing is an essential part of the toolkit for cloud-PBX providers. Especially for those looking to guarantee the quality of their service to customers, both new and existing.
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Spearline is the leading network intelligence company in the telecommunications industry. Our platform enables enterprises and telecommunications service providers to test connectivity and quality on global telecoms networks, testing automatically at volume. Please get in touch with us to learn more about the benefits of our platform.