Purchasing Unified Communications Solutions: Why the Network Matters
When it comes to purchasing Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), one single rule determines the success or failure of the investment:
The user experience is everything.
Above all else, communication services must work. Your CEO won’t tolerate dropped video conference calls during the board meetings, and your call center needs high quality voice service to deliver a superior customer experience. So, how do you deliver on user expectations?
The quality of any unified communication experience is determined by two things: the technology (i.e. the end-user endpoint or service features) and the network that backs it.
Naturally, these two elements outline how executives should evaluate unified communication solutions, but the two are far from equal. Here’s why the network should carry more weight in your decision-making process and seven metrics to help you identify UCaaS providers whose network is as substantial as their unified communication technology.
Why the Network Matters
With latency and jitter non-negotiable for most enterprises, network performance matters. Much like the hidden underbelly of an iceberg, the network is the massive behind-the-scenes communication courier. It must provide perfect reliability in order to keep VoIP calls and video from turning into digital mush. Reliability requires (among other things) dynamic bandwidth control as well as full visibility into voice and video performance. Software defined network platforms are best positioned to deliver on those two points, serving up application intelligence and empowering administrators to understand where bottlenecks are occurring so they can modify bandwidth as needed.
Technology Equality: Unified Communication Features are Table Stakes
As you shop around, you’ll notice that many unified communication features are similar. Most UCaaS solutions all have multi-channel bells and whistles including voice, video conferencing, video calling, instant messaging, voicemail-to-email, etc. Some feature nuances and advanced requirements may swing your decision making in one direction or another, but for those with basic requirements, many platforms will fit the bill. That’s why the network often becomes a central conversation.
Avoiding Pitfalls and Identifying the Best Network to Complement UCaaS
Some communications providers don’t offer managed network services with their UCaaS solutions. Instead, they dazzle you with ad speak and promises of cutting-edge technology, basically calling the network irrelevant. The truth is, the network is critical, and these vendors would rather put the burden of providing network connectivity on you.
Some providers may try to tell you that your existing cost-effective, broadband Internet access is all you need. Beware! Public connectivity is a shared resource, known as a mere “best effort” connectivity type. It is prone to jitter and latency particularly when routing traffic across long distances. Some may claim, “Broadband is so cheap--just buy two connections” (one for primary and one for backup redundancy). But here at Masergy, we advise against that strategy because latency and jitter delays will still be an issue on the broadband failover path. We believe critical and real-time services should always traverse private network architectures to ensure packets arrive in sequence and on time. This ensures your mission-critical IP traffic receives the predictable outcome customers expect. At the end of the day, put critical applications on networks that can accommodate it.
Here’s what will likely happen if you have different providers for network and UCaaS: When you call to complain to your new UCaaS provider about the quality of your communications service, they will quickly pass the buck, telling you to call your network service provider. The result: a frustrating customer experience.
UCaaS providers who own their own network and offer SLA-backed connectivity to complement their technology differentiate themselves in the market. Look for a provider that offers global unified communications solutions but also specializes in network service excellence, helping you solve for both technology and connectivity. This bundled partnership brings value in the form of a single source for accountability. It holds the provider responsible for both the initial technology and service delivery, which adds up to superior reliability, support, and features.
Before you buy, ask yourself these questions:
- Does it make sense to have seperate network service and UCaaS providers? What impact will this have on my IT team?
- Has my network services provider built a voice platform that delivers seamless reliability and advanced communications services that complement my network?
- Can my UCaaS services provider guarantee a seamless experience with minimal jitter and delay?
Seven Metrics and Guarantees that Identify the Best Unified Communications Solution
Unified communications partners who have software defined network platforms and have embed the UCaaS offering into the fabric of their network platform guarantee performance through service level agreements.
When you want to ensure your 450-person, global video conference call doesn’t result in garbled voices and image tiling, evaluate providers based on SLAs. These providers will easily pivot from pitching video conferencing features to explaining network reliability factors that remove latency and jitter from the user experience. The metrics and guarantees below allow for more apples-to-apples comparisons across providers and will help tease out network leaders:
- In-sequence voice packet delivery percentages
- Latency metrics guarantees per route (POP to POP)
- Jitter metrics in milliseconds (POP to POP)
- Failover rates
- End-to-end service availability guarantees
- Proactive customer notifications
- Global coverage (delivers localized experience for UCaaS and SIP trunking that includes inbound DID/DDI and outbound termination capabilities)
- Customer service ratings and Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Network management platforms, performance analytics, and some APIs will also differ among providers, making these additional areas for differentiation. Look for deep analytics capabilities and traffic visibility dashboards that assist with real-time bandwidth adjustments. But, two other factors may also help you identify the right unified communications partner: deployment options and carrier-grade solutions.
Unified Communications Deployment Options: Creating Frictionless PBX Migrations
Legacy PBX investments that have not yet reached end-of-life can pose barriers for enterprises, because they seek to take advantage of cloud technologies yet must continue to use existing equipment. Beyond network reliability, some UCaaS providers also support SIP trunking which serves advantageous for those seeking a hybrid deployment or customized migration path to fully hosted communications. SIP trunking helps enterprises bulldoze the barriers of legacy tools.
When a rip-and-replace strategy is not feasible, customers have the option to take a hybrid approach to deployment, leveraging SIP trunking capabilities to extend their PBX system with the hosted UCaaS capabilities.
These hybrid deployments connect legacy hardware to the UCaaS platform, giving enterprises the flexibility to transition and phase out aging technologies on a schedule that fits their unique needs. Highly advanced providers will run their SIP trunking solutions on the same feature server as their global UCaaS solution, allowing enterprises to overlay the most popular UCaaS features into the legacy environment. The most advanced providers will also have agile software defined network platforms that are designed to optimize performance and visibility.
Enterprise-Grade UCaaS: The Masergy Network Difference
Over the last several decades, telecom service providers have engineered an extensive range of sophisticated features into their networks, to the point where they guarantee “six-nines” reliability. That means the network is guaranteed to be up 99.9999 percent of the time, implying a downtime of no more than 32 seconds per year. This is what makes an “enterprise-grade” experience, and this is one of the reasons that Masergy Global UCaaS is so unique.
The Masergy UCaaS customer experience is superior because our software defined network prioritizes voice communications traffic and guarantees performance through SLAs. Our customers receive high-quality audio and multi-channel communications with the following Masergy network guarantees:
- 100% in-sequence packet delivery
- 0% packet loss
- Less than 1 millisecond of jitter
- 99.9999% network uptime with built-in disaster recovery and auto failover that minimizes disruptions
Don’t want to use Masergy’s network? No problem. We also offer complete flexibility to run Masergy Cloud Communications over your existing network connection or any broadband service.