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The IT departments of large enterprises are behaving more like telecom providers, especially when it comes to procuring telecom services for their unified communications deployments. That's what over-the-top (OTT) provider Voxbone is discovering with its SIP trunking customers: Enterprises, as well as contact centers, are seeking out the same providers that telcos use in order to cherry-pick specialized services that meet the needs of the company and customers.
SearchUnifiedCommunications interviewed Hugh Goldstein, VP for Strategic Alliances of Voxbone, to learn why enterprises are turning away from traditional service providers, and what benefits come from using OTT providers for VoIP communications.
Why have large enterprises been looking at OTT providers for their unified communications needs?
Hugh Goldstein: Part of it is to fulfill the promise of unified communications [UC]. In earlier years, enterprises were much more dependent on local access and the PSTN to connect their systems to the rest of the world. With [UC], one of the value propositions was that they would be able to not only interconnect with their internal employees better, but also have much better interconnection with external parties. Because of things like SBCs, Microsoft Lync Server 2013 and many other [VoIP] architectures out there, enterprises can now more easily source telecommunications services. The provisioning time of SIP trunking versus traditional systems … [whittles down to] maybe days instead of months, which is what enterprises would have experienced in PSTN terms … Enterprises have now been empowered to go out and buy telecom-like services the way service providers normally do … [also because of] the more advantageous wholesale pricing through [OTT] vendors like Voxbone.
How do OTT services compare with traditional phone services?
Goldstein: OTT implies that all you need to have is some bandwidth [within] your business and then run whatever you like on top of it -- whether it be Skype, Facebook or whatever -- compared to communications that the telcos had normally provided as an integrated service. But at the same time, OTT services may or may not always win against traditional integrated services.
Why wouldn't OTT services win over traditional phone services?
Goldstein: I think every customer has specific requirements. There's a complexity in the market where, even if there's been a disruption from OTT services, there's still a legacy market for the traditional services that it theoretically replaces.
How do you define UC from an OTT service provider standpoint?
Goldstein: I've talked to folks in the industry and at conferences, and I think there is a sort of fuzziness around what UC is. Already we see people back-pedaling away from the term. About six months ago, Microsoft said, 'Let's stop talking about unified communications and start talking about universal communications.' Research about the state of adoption for [UC] suggests that, particularly for the Microsoft use case, the enterprise will … go from using their traditional email to using UC in a very fluid way because it's part of the upgrade path from Exchange to the products that they've been using for a long time. But then they may use that in conjunction with a traditional phone service for a while before taking advantage of the product as a PBX replacement.
What's the difference between cloud UC and an OTT cloud service?
Goldstein: I would go out on a limb here and say that they're the same. I think it's a case of buzzwords overlapping to a degree, but the buzzwords are coming from different corners of the industry: OTT is coming from the access provider and retail/consumer market angle, and cloud is coming from the enterprise and hosting angle. But as we look at them, they're really sitting over the same territory in the sense that … OTT, SaaS and cloud are all really talking about the same set of benefits.
When should an enterprise consider using OTT services for UC?
Goldstein: Enterprises have different paths to follow once an enterprise decides to replace a PBX.
They can go with:
- a dedicated server that does the PBX functionality for them that they manage [a.k.a. an on-premises UC deployment];
- a dedicated server that somebody else manages [a.k.a. a managed service];
- [or] variations of hosted or cloud services that they just subscribe to [in order to] replace the PBX completely.
The larger the customer, the more interest organizations have in managing dedicated servers for a variety of reasons: cost, privacy or having a lot of people on staff. Smaller businesses are gravitating towards pure cloud or OTT services with [UC], where they want to focus on their core competencies and they don't necessarily have an interest in becoming experts on UC -- they just want to talk with their customers, get emails and faxes and do what they're specialized in. Even Microsoft, one of the big leaders in the [UC] space, seems to be very aware of the need for both or multiple options, because they have the Lync Server for large enterprises and they have a multi-tenant version of Office365 that a lot of people in the industry are waiting for the next steps on it. So right now, it's not a PBX-replacement yet, but there have been indications that it's going to go in that direction. There [are] already many OTT cloud PBX services out there that are very successful in helping lots of different businesses migrate from their legacy PBX to cloud [UC].
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