Why Businesses Need to Leverage the Power of the Cloud

Businesses today are increasingly migrating their digital resources and tools into the cloud for a variety of reasons. As such, it should be no surprise if the global end-user spend on cloud services will reach $180 billion by next year. It is bound to happen.

By the end of last year, more than half of U.S. businesses were already taking advantage of cloud-based tools. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits these technologies bring:

  • Reduced capital expenses. When businesses leverage tools through the public cloud, they do not have to buy their own infrastructure. Instead, the technology they need to complete business tasks is delivered through the cloud as a subscription, paid for as an operating expense. As most cloud vendors offer versatile contracts, businesses can regularly shop around and take advantage of the latest technologies. However, there are businesses that use a legacy solution for its entire useful life. Even when it becomes dated, and that in the end is a losing game. To be more specific, businesses don’t need to get stuck with servers for more than a decade. Nor do they need to invest in new ones. They can make the most of the latest computing power instead.
  • Increased access to business tools. These days, business functions are no longer restricted to the confines of an office. By leveraging the power of the cloud, employees are able to access the tools they need to do their jobs from anywhere, as long as an Internet connection is available. This not only increases productivity, but also gives employees the flexibility they need in modern work environments. According to recent data, by 2015 almost 40% of the world workforce will become mobile and developing countries will be leading the way with enterprise mobility and BYOD policies. A recent Ovum study reveals that over 70% of users in Brazil, China, India, Singapore, and South Africa report using personal phones and tablets for work. Therefore, companies need to provide these workers with cloud-based tools that can be easily accessed.
  • Reduced utility costs. Powering your data center can be expensive, but thanks to the cloud it no longer has to be. By migrating resources to the cloud, businesses are able to significantly reduce electricity costs that stem from cooling their own infrastructure. Thanks to virtualization and shared data center space, they also reduce their carbon footprint, as data centers are optimized for maximum efficiency.
  • Faster innovation. The cloud frees up valuable resources in terms of hardware cost and manpower costs, everybody knows it. Yet, the cloud also enables unprecedented communication and collaboration among employees. Have you ever been working on something that truly excites you, but at the end of the day you weren’t ready to go home? With resources always at hand employees can access collaboration software to work on projects with their co-workers whenever it’s convenient. This accelerates the speed at which innovation occurs, which in turn increases product time to market. If, for example, two co-workers are designing a script for a television commercial, inspiration might strike one at an odd hour in the night. When the other employee wakes up and logs in to the collaboration tools, they can see their co-worker’s progress and continue where they left off. Rather than employees having to wait until the workday officially begins to collaborate, they can do so whenever they feel inclined. For more information on how the cloud fuels innovation, check out these stories encompassing healthcare and education.
  • Scalability. Instead of investing in expensive infrastructure, businesses that leverage the cloud are able to quickly provision resources and add seats and computing power on an as-needed basis. This means that they only pay for what they use and can expand and contract their computing needs as the environment dictates. In this light, rather than buying the infrastructure to accommodate peak seasonal loads, for example, contact center managers can leverage the cloud to ensure that customers’ needs are met in a timely manner, only paying for the extra resources when needed.

The benefits of cloud computing are seemingly limitless. Just to name a few, cloud-based solutions are easy to implement, integration-oriented, and flexible in terms of control and management. Businesses of all sizes in all industries stand to benefit from modernizing their technological infrastructure accordingly. As such, the more providers educate their customers on the benefits of the cloud, the more enthusiastic and comfortable they will be about migrating their resources there.

Saving Money and the Planet with Unified Communications

There is no question that Unified Communications solutions are good for business. But it’s often understated that UC solutions can have a great impact on the environment too. UC tools are all about connecting people and making their lives as easy as possible through smart deployment of technology.

Consider the following two aspects and you’ll see where I’m going with this.

Virtual Meetings Do Pay Off

With the power of UC solutions to unite business partners around the globe at a moment’s notice, in many cases in-person meetings are no longer the necessity they once were. Rather than having international business partners travel to a specific location to negotiate, consuming a lot of resources and time in the process, partners can now call from anywhere they are, with the same personalized, seamless interactions they would have in real life. Add to that the recording capabilities of the best UC software, and you will get an even more powerful means of following up on meetings.

According to the Economist Intelligent Unit’s report on the emerging role of ICT in Managing the Company’s Carbon Footprint, “the attraction of conferencing as a CO2 reduction tool is increased because it is easily measurable in terms of the resulting reduction in air or car miles following its adoption. In terms of an internal environmental audit, this makes conferencing an attractive technology compared to other initiatives which may not deliver such direct benefits.”

With the help of Unified Communications features such as conferencing and instant messaging, collaboration is immediate and effective. At the same time, travel expenses for employees are significantly reduced, since UC allows them to work remotely instead of commuting. According to the Telework Research Network, “even just one day of telecommuting could save 423,000 tons of greenhouse gas – the equivalent of taking 77,000 cars off the road for a year.”
 
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So, any tool that can make your business more efficient is worth another look. But what if there was a tool that can accomplish that goal while saving your company time and money and preserving the environment at the same time?

Less Commuting Means More Productivity

Because cloud-based UC tools are so comprehensive today and allow employees access to the communications resources they would have at the office, they are making telecommuting just as effective as driving in to the office. And in some cases, UC tools are making telecommuting employees more productive, as those employees don’t have to spend a good chunk of their days driving to and from the office, but focus instead on work-related tasks during that time. By diminishing a need for costly commutes, UC tools greatly reduce greenhouse emissions and noise pollution.

The winter of 2014 was a snowy one and, by March, federal government buildings in Washington, D.C. closed four times due to inclement weather. Thanks to telecommuting, the government saved $32 million over those four days, according to figures released by Global Workplace Analytics and Telework Research Network. If all federal employees who were eligible to telecommute had done so during those four days, the research suggests the government could have saved $68 million more over that period.

Recent research indicates that 78% of Americans drive to work alone. According to Sustainability Consulting, the average solo commuter is responsible for 0.7095 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions for each mile driven to work. The U.S. Census Bureau says the average commute for each employee is 25 minutes each way, so if we assume an average speed of 40 miles per hour during those commutes, that’s a total of 33.3 miles driven each day by each employee, resulting in 23.65 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Over the course of an entire working year, that comes out to about 5,500 pounds per employee.

How many employees do you have? If you want to learn what benefits a company may have, besides taking care of the environment, check out this infographic.

With Unified Communications, Remote Working Is Easier Than Ever

Last year, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made the headlines when she announced that her employees would no longer be able to work from home. Some industry pundits speculated as to whether that meant the end of remote jobs. A few months later however, Dell CEO Michael Dell announced his intention to enable half of his 14,000 workforce to work from home. At the time of his announcement, 20 percent of his team were already working from home.

So, while the jury is still out whether Yahoo fares better or not, Dell’s decision merely expanded what already proved to be a good decision: in 2012, thanks to its remote working policy, the company saved $14 million—and 6,735 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. It seems that offices will soon be a thing of the past, or at least will need to be re-imagined, as more and more companies are shifting to flexible working policies.

In early 2013, about one in five Americans worked from home. According to the Telework Research Network, that number is expected to rise to 63% over the next five years, as businesses tend to embrace a more mobile and flexible workforce.

In the past, employees needed to be at the office to get their jobs done. When the email became the stage of work practices, it brought a huge cultural shift in businesses. Yet, nowadays, thanks to several trends, we are witnessing an even larger shift. For instance, because of the pervasive Internet penetration, mentalities about a 9 to 5 job changed to a great extent. And with it, so did technology. In fact, technology has evolved to the point where all employees can access the tools they need to be productive from anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection. This is truly an exciting time for companies that allow for remote or flexible working. Of course, employees working in manufacturing are still tied and will be tied to their work benches a long time from now.
 
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Of all these powerful trends, let’s take a closer look at technology, namely at Unified Communications in the Cloud. UC tools – technology that combines voice, video, instant messaging and presence, into a single interface running on any device – gives employees and companies, a variety of benefits:

  • Personal productivity. Harvard Business Review talks about an interesting case - Ctrip, a Chinese travel website with a large call center. The management decided to run an experiment to see if remote working brings real benefits indeed, so it allowed half of its employees to work from home. Nine months later, the management found that people working from home completed 13.5% more calls than the staff in the office did (the control group). Not only did they report much higher work satisfaction, but as it turned out the number of people quitting their remote job went down by 50% compared to that of people working in the office. Telework reports that from Best Buy to British Telecom, productivity gains are between 20% to 35%, and that’s a big bounce!
  • Team productivity. Until recently, by working together, employees understood that they would have to be in the same building. With UC, that’s no longer the case. Instead, employees can easily gauge when their coworkers are available, even if both of them happen to be sitting on their couches at home. This means that when inspiration strikes on a random Thursday night, employees will have the tools they need to get to work right away, but don’t kid yourself this will happen too often ;)
  • Mobility. Let’s say you are a growing delivery company and your sales associates and drivers are increasingly out of the office and on the road attracting new business and servicing existing clients. For them, being out of the office cannot possibly mean being out of touch. To do their jobs, they need to have the same or better access to all of the resources and data they need, no matter where they are. With UC tools at their disposal, they’re able to access pertinent communications no matter where they happen to be, as long as they can access the Internet from their mobile devices. For customers, this accessibility translates into superior service and ensures a positive experience.
  • Job satisfaction & flexibility. Employees are increasingly expecting to work from home, at least partially, so they can manage their complex personal lives and still be at the height of their professional productivity. The most comprehensive UC solutions will allow them to do this with ease, as they’ll be able to communicate and collaborate as if they were in the office. On top of that, according to Mobile Work Exchange, if all U.S. employees worked remotely just one day a year, they’d collectively save $36 billion. Not to mention that remote employees constantly report feeling happier and less stressed than their counterparts stuck at desks.

These are just some of the most prominent benefits, yet there are many others such as reduced facility costslowered absenteeismless time spent commuting, lower personnel turnover and even a larger pool of applicants – for example, mothers who would only take flexible jobs, that over time add up to significant savings.

In addition to providing businesses with unmatched utility, UC tools help companies cater to today’s shifting workplace paradigm, where more employees find themselves working from home or working on the go than ever before. As such, resellers should consider enhancing their portfolios by adding cloud-based UC tools to their offerings.

Unified Communications and the Future in Education

With technology advancing so fast, it’s often a wonder that the process of delivering education is still a piece of the twentieth century. It’s true that the world of online universities and learning websites from Coursera to Kahn’s Academy and other MOOCs is taking off, but many traditional schools, high-schools and universities are still stuck with paperwork when it comes to collaboration, and to simple voice when it comes to communication. Education should be at the forefront of what tech has to offer.

Some schools are making inroads into how to leverage technology. For example, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) provides interactive video courses for K-12 schools across North Carolina. Students from across the state can collaborate in project teams and class discussions. Meanwhile, NCSSM teachers monitor the class in real-time and assess student learning. Yet, such schools are the exception, not the norm. The 2011 CDW Unified Communications Tracking Poll found that only 17% of higher education has implemented some of the features that are part of Unified Communications.

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Will teachers and students begin to see more of these Unified Communications solutions across the world? At this time, not so many. In the future? Let’s take a look at the main benefits educational institutions should expect to see after implementing and using UC tools:

  • Improved collaboration and communication between professors: Professors located in various buildings on the campus can connect quickly via instant messaging, voice or video call, or even audio conferencing. This provides a boost in productivity and enables them to solve various problems efficiently. If they’re working on a last-minute addition to the curriculum standards, for example, with UC they can reach a solution and no longer need to be face-to-face to track one another. Also, by using the presence feature of instant messaging – they can instantly see who is available for a chat or who is delivering a class. Which is much easier than checking each professor’s schedule. And this is essential, as most professors do not have a standard schedule.
  • Improved communication between teachers and parents: IP phone systems can be equipped with a parents directory, which will save precious time for professors who want to contact parents. Also, automatic outbound calls or voicemail messages can be sent to parents’ email addresses – for example, notifications about a child skipping school. In emergency situations, this directory becomes even more important, as parents can be notified immediately if their child feels sick.
  • Mobility: Large campuses generally have staff that is always on the move from one class to the other, to the cafeteria or to the professors’ offices. With Unified Communications, their mobile phone becomes a single point of contact. Therefore, if somebody rings their office while they’re out, their mobile will ring for them to pick up the call. And this is valid for students as well.
  • Better learning: With such a solution at hand, teachers can also set up toll free numbers that students can dial from home and get instant help with their homework.
  • Increased safety: If there’s an emergency on school grounds, an imminent threat or a natural disaster, for example, academics and staff members can quickly be contacted through a Unified Communications solution. Security alerts can automatically be sent, allowing teachers to quickly gather their students and protect them from danger.
  • Better student communication: Students sometimes switch campuses and often find themselves far from their mates, but that doesn’t stop them from communicating using Unified Communications tools. If a peer has gone to Europe for the semester and their team continues to work on a year-long project, for example, the student abroad will still be able to contribute in real-time from overseas thanks to instant messaging, presence tools, and audio conferencing.
  • Lower administrative expenses: With IP communications, voice and data networks are unified, thus lowering the costs. By implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, schools allow their users to choose their devices, thus keeping upfront expenses under control.
  • Lower communication expenses: All internal calls are free of charge, which means that students, professors and the administrative staff can speak for free with each other. By using the least-cost-routing feature delivered by a communications platform such as VoipNow, the system automatically chooses the best trunking channels in terms of cost and availability, reducing costs yet again, especially if outbound calls are frequent. Also, by taking advantage of its special academic licensing, schools keep expenses low.

As you can see, there are many advantages brought on by Unified Communications. I kept the juicy one at the end as this usually gets overlooked. It’s what I call “the coolness factor:) I know that many education institutions are miles away from “being cool” in their students’ minds, but what if they embraced technology and suddenly became cool?! Sometimes, it takes only the smallest of changes. Engaging with students in a “language” these understand, while allowing them to use the devices they like could trigger a positive word of mouth epidemics and increase the coolness factor.

It’s only a matter of time before education institutions will abandon their outdated telephony systems and move to Unified Communications in the Cloud.

Summertime Is the Perfect Time to Assess Your Contact Center

Business slows down in summer due to vacation time. That’s a fact. Be that as it may, for contact centers, considering the relatively low call center activity, the summer looks like the perfect time to see if they’re making the grade.

When business starts ramping up again, the quality of your customer service needs to be at its peak so as to bolster revenue, enhance customer satisfaction, and reduce costs. If your contact center isn’t ready for that kind of influx of traffic as business picks back up, you may be in for a surprise. For instance, according to a recent survey by Accenture, 51 percent of consumers in the U.S. will abandon a business if they are not fully satisfied with their customer service.

So what exactly can you do so that your company doesn’t become part of the statistics? Well, you may want to start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have the proper contact center technology for today and for the future?
  • Are you collecting data to make better informed decisions?
  • Is your HR recruitment policy effective enough for your contact center?
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If your answer is yes to all these questions, you’re on the right track. But if you can’t answer them affirmatively, you might want to consider deploying a cloud-based contact center solution. Here’s why:

  • Your employees will be more productive. With a cloud-based contact center solution, they will be more efficient and you will gain a stronger workforce. For example, VoipNow is an all-in-one cloud communication platform designed to cover complex communication needs and intensive workflows. The system brings together voice, conferences, video calls and much more, all in one platform. In addition, VoipNow ensures an improved customer experience thanks to its history-based queue routing, which helps connect callers to the agent they spoke with in the past, making the communication thread a lot more efficient. Moreover, with IVRs and intelligent routing, all incoming calls can be directed to the right place, allowing representatives to help customers right away.
  • You get access to qualitative and quantitative data. For contact centers, the greatest pressure arises from solving customer issues as soon as possible. As a result, once you have deployed your contact center tools, you can start collecting data and analyze it. That way, you will be able to make data-driven decisions regarding your contact center. With the help of a cloud-based solution, your call center managers can track and improve a long list of call-center metrics and, based on such information, they can increase revenue, improve customer satisfaction, and reduce costs. For instance, 4PSA’s solution can help optimize human resources and business processes by allowing companies to measure performance indicators such as call distribution reports, agent reports, call reports, answered/unanswered call reports, and status reports.
  • Cloud-based contact centers improve their time and staff management. This is especially important since call center agents have a high turnover rate: with a cloud-based contact center, you can hire far more people who would otherwise prefer to work from home or have a flexible schedule. Whenever they’re available, they log in to the system and start taking calls. Plus, you can save money! With access to analytics, you can establish a per-call rate for these remote employees. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.

This list of features is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good starting point. If you’re interested in optimizing your contact center so as to be able to handle a higher volume of calls more successfully, you should give VoipNow a try for free. For more insights on the subject, you may want to check out this article regarding the contribution of cloud services to an improved customer experience.

Africa Is on the Brink of a Unified Communications Revolution

For quite some time, VoIP telephony and Unified Communications tools (voice, instant messaging, video calls, audio conference, and presence combined into a single communication stream) have proliferated on many markets, and now it appears as though Africa too is on the brink of this communications revolution. With technology evolving so fast, businesses in developing areas of the world are catching on to the need to deploy robust communications tools.

By taking advantage of both VoIP and UC, companies benefit from cost savings and increased functionality which, in turn, improve business processes and boost productivity.

As the number of reliable Internet connections increases, so does the number of businesses that can leverage IP telephony. With that in mind, let’s take a look at two countries in particular—South Africa and Nigeria—and how VoIP and UC are making an impact there.

South Africa Eager to Embrace Mobility and BYOD

When it comes to deploying modern communications solutions on the African content, South Africa is a trailblazer. With a 41% penetration rate among users, the Internet is definitely on the rise.

According to Ovum, as far as adopting VoIP telephony goes, South African enterprises are even ahead of their global counterparts. 87 percent of them have already adopted IP PBX solutions, that is 7 percent above the global average. What’s more, 91 percent of large South African enterprises already set up a plan to use UC and collaboration applications in their processes in the coming years.

Breaking the research down a little more, we can observe the following:

  • 58 percent of businesses use instant messaging and presence, while 26 percent of them plan to use the tools within the next two years.
  • 38 percent have standard UC tools—like unified messaging, presence and softphone—while 26 percent of them plan to deploy them within the next two years.
  • 64 percent use audio or Web conferencing, while 18 percent plan to deploy the technology within the next two years.

In addition to those figures, South Africa seems to be embracing mobility and the BYOD movement at a fast pace. 53 percent of businesses offer support for company-approved, employee-owned smartphones, while 33 percent offer support for any employee-owned smartphone.

For service providers, things are looking good on the horizon. South African businesses seem to be more open to public and private cloud delivery options than their neighbors. In this respect, they resemble more North America and Europe.

Nigeria Has Ambitious Plans for Business Communication

Nigeria may not have been so fast at developing Internet infrastructure, but it definitely has the most ambitious plans. At the end of 2013, Communication Technology Minister Omobola Johnson stated that Nigeria plans to reach 30% broadband Internet penetration by 2017.  For more details, here’s a link to Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan 2013 – 2018.

According to a recent report, for the time being only 25 percent of Nigerian businesses’ outgoing voice traffic is routed over Internet connections. Still, since more infrastructure is being built, the rate is expected to increase in the near future. “With Unified Communications gaining traction in Nigeria, VoIP adoption by businesses is expected to grow because it offers an even cheaper platform for making voice calls,” explains Oluwole Babatope, telecommunications analyst at IDC West Africa.

Poor quality of service—which was a problem even in the United States in VoIP’s early days—is a major reason IP telephony adoption hasn’t taken off in the country, as reported by IDC. As technology continues to improve and companies can safely rely on providers to deliver a high quality of service, one can expect to see Nigerian enterprises adopt the modern communications tools with more frequency.

VoIP Market: Revenue Set to Triple Yet Lack of User Awareness Jeopardizes Success

Due to the myriad of benefits brought by technology, like business flexibility, reduced costs, and bolstered collaboration, the VoIP telephony market is looking particularly sunny. In fact, according to Frost & Sullivan, the North American VoIP market (including SIP services) is expected to at least triple in revenue from $2.83 billion to $9.35 billion between 2013 and 2019.

Businesses are transitioning from legacy private branch exchanges to IP-based Unified Communications platforms and, as such, are looking to VoIP access and SIP trunking services to complement these new platforms,” said Michael Brandenburg, communications analyst at Frost & Sullivan. He also noted that VoIP and SIP trunking offer business recovery and mobile features that “are simply not available on more traditional telecommunications services“.

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However, there is no sunny sky without a few clouds (no joke here). Brandenburg declared that, even though the market is considerably expanding, the lack of customer awareness of the benefits of VoIP telephony and Unified Communications tools still presents a challenge for providers. The fact is that familiarity with these tools is still driven by the experience as a consumer with products such as Skype or Viber. And since there are tools that differ markedly in usage from UC tools, employees have trouble adapting their work habits to this new environment. A recent Ovum study revealed that over 40% of employees don’t understand or “understand a little” about Unified Communications tools and their role in their day-to-day jobs. VoIP is still a challenge for 20% of employees. Of course, this is an alarming situation because lack of awareness will impede on IP communications adoption at user level – actually, the only level that truly matters.

Because of that, Brandenburg suggests that providers enhance their portfolios with robust solutions while focusing on streamlining how easily their technologies can be implemented. And our suggestion for service providers is that, no matter what contract they have underway, they make sure they offer proper training as part of the package. To reap the benefits of VoIP and Unified Communications at an organizational level, service providers have to ensure that employees understand the tools, the benefits, and the learning curve required.

If you’re a decision maker for a service provider and you’re considering enhancing your company’s portfolio, take a look at VoipNow, our comprehensive cloud communications platform that offers benefits to businesses of all sizes, regardless of their industry. And of course, we offer proper training adapted to your needs!

Latin America: With UC&C, Business Will Never Be the Same – Part 2: Mexico

Last week we talked about how Unified Communications and Collaboration are shifting the way people work. This week it’s time to take a look at the state of cloud and business communications in Mexico.

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The UCaaS Market Is Growing And Here’s Why

An Ovum study conducted with over 1,300 ICT decision makers in 18 countries revealed that organizations are still bound to on-premises Unified Communications. Around 80% of UC systems are deployed on-premises and managed internally or by a third party. Managed UCC arose from the need of organizations lacking in-house experts to support the UC evolution. So where’s the cloud in all of this? If we look below, we can see that hosted core IP PBX stands at 3%, while instant messaging and presence lead the way with 7%; which is a lot less than we’d like.

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Read more

Latin America: With UC&C, Business Will Never Be the Same

This week, Brazil takes a deep breath from the whirlwind days of the FIFA World Cup and returns to business. The fact is that businesses in Brazil, and in Latin America for that matter, are not going to be the same much longer. In short, business for a lot of people is no longer limited to the confines of an office. Research indicates that by 2015, there will be 1.3 billion mobile workers worldwide. Recognizing this shift, businesses across the globe are leveraging modern communications tools, those which enable workers who are on the go to remain connected in order to adapt to this changing landscape.

Unified Communications tools are becoming more popular than ever as they cater to a mobile workforce. Such tools that combine voice, data, presence, email, and video into a single interface provide employees with access to their critical communications from any Internet-connected device, no matter where they happen to find themselves. Read more

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