Hosted UC, Not your Mothers hosted VoIP

Most people have now either heard of or used one of the many versions of Hosted Voice over IP. For years now companies have been marketing products that use the Internet or other IP Networking topology with some hosted server technologies to provide an end user with a voice call. Many times people have no idea they are using this type service either.  In your home, if you are using a phone from your cable or broadband provider you are in Hosted VoIP. You may have seen the plethora of internet advertisements that hit your web searches talking about free long distance or get a phone number from anywhere in the US. These are all functions of many Hosted VoIP systems. Each have their own caveats and terms with small twists here and there. Not unlike any other service that is saying it is free.

But have you heard of Hosted UC or Unified Communications? 

Imagine the concept of being able to use your PC, laptop, Tablet or phone to communicate as one device. Imagine being able to click any phone number and dial it over your corporate network.  What if you could be in any standard document or email and know instantly if the person you sent it to was available to talk, email or join a conference or video session. Sounds like what many busy people have been asking to have since the early days of telephone and computer integration started.  Think of the idea of a single platform that literally takes every standard office software (ok, most of them) and allows you to share the document via a real time interactive voice, data and video call. Share it, work on it together, make changes in real time, and then be able to save it right back into the cloud.

Now let us take this one step further. Why do you need a phone system or a Hosted VoIP system anymore? Ok, I can hear you now, “I have thousands of dollars tied up in a phone system”. Well that may well be true, but that hardware and software normally has about a three year life cycle before you need or are forced to make upgrades, major revisions and you pay a pretty penny each year for software agreements, maintenance agreements, local phone lines or T-1s and you may or may not be able to just call anyone in your company via some private network. So for now, the Hosted UC platforms make allowances to connect to some more current legacy phone systems.

How many people are paying for conference bridge services? You know the ones where you can set up a dial in number and get 3 or 4 maybe even 10 or more people into a single call all at a fee per minute plus long distance charges. Many people are also paying for web conference services to show documents, share documents or presentations to groups of people. This also comes with a per user, per minute fee or you have bought a lot of software you are paying annual support fees to use and upkeep on servers and phone lines to support it. Now let us start breaking this down a bit more. With a hosted phone system you get voice, voice mail (normally sent to an email address as a wav or MP3 file), and some cool lights that tell you who is on the phone or not, maybe even some nice features that will forward the call to your cell phone in some way. There are also some that allow you to use your laptop as your phone.  But adding things like conference calling has restrictions to functionality and added costs. Web conferencing services are normally not part of this at all. Let us move to Hosted UC. You get all those things a Hosted VoIP can do in general but let’s really turn up the application heat here.  One small monthly fee per user. Many times it is very close to the same as Hosted VoIP.  Voicemails are transcribed to email as well as MP3 files

Very tight integration to standard business software tools like Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and the others we use every single day.  Turn your PC, laptop, cell or iPad into a UC communications tool, voice, data and video conferences can be launched by every user, from any device, Sharing is not a point click or drag and drop function, not a phone call, email, two day wait for schedules to match up sort of thing.

UC literally pulls from the old VoIP systems and jumps about 20 steps forward. Not only are the applications endless for how businesses can use tools that are easy and simple, but the financial justifications go way beyond just the idea of free calls.  No hardware support contracts, no annual software assurance, no 3 year upgrade cycles.  Totally cloud based so it’s full featured almost anywhere you can get an internet connection

Its disaster recovery and business continuity at its best, anywhere, anytime, nearly any device just find Internet service or cell service. People are no longer restricted to a desk and can have access to all their business documents, voice calls, chat sessions, emails, voicemails, web and video conferencing tools. Hosting the unified communications tools allows for a per user investment model. No infrastructure to manage, no telephone system to maintain, no restrictions to geographic locations.  If you look at what your company is paying for web conferencing, teleconferencing and travel the Hosted UC model can show a positive ROI in MONTH ONE to many businesses. Now what do you think?  Is the idea of Hosted UC the same as the older style Hosted VoIP?   Companies like Conquest are taking the lead in providing, building and consulting on Hosted UC services every day. Some are private builds others just want to take their road warriors to UC. Take a look inside your company and see how much you are spending, how much people are asking for and how many times could you have used some of these tools to make your life easier and business communications move faster. Once you see those numbers you may well start looking at true Hosted UC services as the answer. It’s more than FREE phone calls.

Steve Leach, CSSP

Regional Microsoft UC Solutions Specialist

ConQuest Technology Services

813.280.7747

sleach@conquest247.com

April 30, 2014

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Microsoft O365 Cloud Migration “Powered” by Savings

As most of us are aware, cloud migration can save our companies significant costs for applications that are mission critical to our organizations. Silicone Angle reported an average of 82% of companies that migrated to the cloud for one or more services saw a hard cost savings in IT spend. Once your company determines the cloud offering meets your security and organizational compliances, cost savings quickly becomes a relevant discussion point for the migration decision.

Of the recent studies I have seen, most only cover licensing costs that are discounted by the cloud provider to move you to their service. Although those savings can be easily documented and are very significant, you have many other areas where savings can be substantial as well. Things like employee hours doing upgrades, installing patches, infrastructure costs, OPEX vs. CAPEX for budget considerations, data connections and power consumption should be part of the fiscal exercise as well.

Both government and privately funded studies have been conducted analyzing the type and consumption of energy used by cloud providers, such as Microsoft. Many cloud providers choose to locate data centers where renewable energy is available. It is almost always less expensive and reduces the carbon footprint. General estimates to power a single physical server in a traditional datacenter is $700.00 per year. That includes a primary and secondary power source, and all associated heating and cooling. Across major US cities, about 72% of that power is provided by coal and delivered through an aging, inefficient power grid. Cloud migration will significantly reduce or eliminate infrastructure, and will provide a tremendous savings on power in the data center. In many cases, the data center consumes more than 20% of the electricity of a traditional brick and mortar.

Saving money on licensing, data center hardware and power may be the most visible ROI for moving to the cloud, but it is certainly not the only benefit. You can expect additional savings, but the bigger impact is a better approach to create an environment for corporate users to connect, share, collaborate, communicate and become more productive in a competitive landscape.

Tom Sullivan

Director of Sales & Marketing

ConQuest Technology Services

TSullivan@conquest247.com

April 18, 2014

 

How Technology is Changing the Business Landscape

Years ago businesses were making substantial investments in a hardware-centric IT environment, that’s what was available so that’s where investments were made.  Time warp – it’s now 2014 and the systems used by these companies are now not relevant to an operative working environment.  Software and services now dominate business efficiencies and investments.

Companies now are evaluating their priorities which includes refined and considerable focus on data analytics, tools to provide better infrastructure intelligence, cloud service growth and the importance of securing networks amid an increase in employees’ desire to use their own devices, anytime, anywhere.

The breadth and depth of technological advancements has never had the impact on our lives both personally and professionally than it does today.  It’s a mantra you’ll hear every 3 to 6-months as new technology replaces old ways in doing business.  Forward thinking evolving technological advancements will change how we do business and interact in general tomorrow and each following day.  Consumer empowerment, mobile, social, data and cloud capabilities are redefining the business environment in profound ways. 



Everyone will agree that new technology is being developed at an accelerated pace.  These developments impact our personal lives and the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Let’s look at a few of the trends in the market today:

Data analytics

If businesses are to harness big data and use this to drive their commercial strategies, they need to invest in state-of-the-art data analytics and business intelligence systems. Continued growth in the volumes of enterprise data available to businesses is only valuable if they obtain cross-functional buy-in in order to break down the many data and organizational silos that still exist within many organizations. 


Infrastructure intelligence

Depending on which analyst you talk to it is estimated that by 2020 there will potentially be 4 billion people online using 50 trillion gigabytes of data. The increase in data volume is being driven by the rise in use of business critical applications, mobile devices and the cloud. With storage growing at 20-40% each year, businesses need to improve their intelligence and implement an infrastructure to store such vast quantities of data. 


The rise of the cloud

Many IT managers foresee that the rise of cloud-based applications will have a tremendous impact on the way in which they manage their data center and enterprise infrastructures. Businesses need to manage these changes and the impact on IT personnel. Business processes must evolve in tandem with cloud adoption if organizations are to achieve the full potential of their cloud investments. 



24/7/365 business connectivity

The social and business implications of always-on connectivity are only just beginning to emerge. In order to service the demand for round-the-clock access to goods and services, businesses will need to invest in new technology and modify their working processes accordingly. 



Network security and the growth of Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD)

Most employees and in particular Generation Y – new entrants into the workforce – will want to use their own devices to access their employer’s network,  Actually it’s been stated that many employees have been accessing company data – without their employer’s knowledge or permission.  Now there is a demand and substantial focus on improving security. Safeguarding networks is a must and requires the implementation of BYOD usage guidelines alongside technical controls that physically allow or prevent access.

Other important trends:

3D printing is another new technology that is rapidly evolving and gaining mainstream acceptance.  Augmented reality, which provides users with a real-time view of the environment enhanced by digital data such as text, sound, graphics and navigation, is already available via smartphones.  The use of wearable technologies such as bionic lenses and Google Glass type products look likely to become increasingly widespread. 
The ‘gamification’ of commercial websites, where businesses add game-like features to their commercial applications and websites that reward customers is also increasing in popularity.

It’s valid to say that businesses which fail to embrace the latest technologies run the risk of losing their hold in the markets they serve being left behind as competitors reap the advantage of controlling their costs, driving results, staying connected and focusing on their business instead of the IT infrastructure.

Debbie Brandt, Marketing Manager

ConQuest Technology Services

dbrandt@conquest247.com

April 15, 2014

Healthcare providers need to revisit their technology strategy – more specifically their cloud strategy

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACCA) commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “ObamaCare” is probably the most significant change in the United States’ healthcare history since 1965 with the passage of Medicare and Medicaid.  As of March 31, 2014 open enrollment closed.  However, exception enrollment opportunities may still be available for those that have not yet enrolled.  Visit https://www.healthcare.gov/ for more information.

It’s very obvious that Americans have their own feelings about the program which I am not going to address in this blog.  From a technology standpoint there are opportunities for Healthcare IT since they have to adhere to the new requirements but also because they have long strived to reduce costs while improving patient care.  Some of these opportunities may occur in evaluating traditional approaches versus cloud adoption.  Technology has significantly evolved over the years and it’s now time to plan for modernizing business processes and operations.

Providing high-quality clinical care is not feasible without the support of strategic, cohesive, and nimble IT systems. More fully aligning medical care with technology allows IT systems and staff to improve their effectiveness.  Healthcare providers need to look at more contemporary and pioneering ways to not only deliver more efficient care to patients and providers but also to quickly comply with the law.

This is where the cloud comes into the picture.  Adopting the usage of resources to make it easy to provision is important to support the healthcare mandates.  Cloud computing features such as agility and time-to-market advantages make adoption pretty attractive.

Understandably some healthcare providers are questioning security by potentially failing an audit or compromising data.  However, the fact is that regardless if it’s co-located or cloud, the function of planning and which technology employed is more important than where the data is actually stored.

One of the goals of the Act is to provide more efficient and effective healthcare to Americans.  To do that healthcare organizations will need better automation, collaboration and information sharing.  One of the fastest, least expensive and effective ways to accomplish this is to consider cloud computing.

Healthcare IT modernization is set to accelerate as information sharing will now need to be in place considering in the past a lot of data was not previously shared.  This will actually make providers’ jobs easier.  While exchanges are not new required deadlines and data management and regulation now makes cloud that much more important.

Digitization of patient medical information will drive advanced levels of information sharing and collaboration between insurance providers and doctors.  Key systems and security changes need to happen to accommodate ObamaCare. There are certainly some advantages considering there will be less human handling, less margin for mistakes, more timely responses and decision making as well as using information sharing to better serve patients and health providers in general.

Americans have their own perceptions and many have strong opinions about the Act but it brings about a great opportunity for healthcare IT to make significant changes and modernize their organization.  It’s the perfect and necessary time for healthcare providers to revisit their technology strategy – more specifically their cloud strategy.

Debbie Brandt

Marketing Manager

ConQuest Technology Services

dbrandt@conquest247.com

April 1 2014