Cloud communications decision makers are often drawn in by the bells and whistles of the latest innovations. It can sometimes be difficult to evaluate what are likely the most critical factors in the provider selection process, specifically a provider’s historical service performance and security posture.
Approximately half of businesses currently using UCaaS in Frost & Sullivan’s 2018 US survey are considering replacing their providers, driven by a desire to improve security (45% of respondents), lower cost per seat (44% of respondents), and increase reliability (42% of respondents).
That IT/telecom decision makers highly value service reliability and security isn’t entirely surprising. Downtime from service failures can have severe consequences, including lost business opportunities and significant operational losses from decreased productivity and output. As we’ve seen with high-profile companies such as Equifax, security breaches can bring devastating consequences for brand and reputation, with potentially catastrophic long-term implications for customer churn, revenue, and competitive advantage.
Unfortunately, despite significant advancements in cloud communications technologies and service provider efforts to deliver an excellent customer experience, not all UCaaS solutions are at the same operational level. Providers and solutions differ in terms of service level agreements (SLAs), architectural design, data center management, security policies and practices, and customer service and support, which become critical when incidents take place or issues arise.
Many UCaaS providers are still struggling to consistently deliver the coveted 99.999% service availability. To make matters worse, the effects of an outage can persist long past restoring service. Customers affected by service outages also sometimes report poor service provider follow-up and remediation after the incident. Furthermore, not all providers can guarantee security all the way to the end-user devices.
Customer-focused UCaaS providers are placing an ever-stronger emphasis on improving service reliability and security to deliver a superior customer experience. Their efforts include: geo-redundancy, data center updates, network architecture improvements, fast auto failover, advanced quality monitoring tools, SD-WAN support, additional regulatory compliance certifications (e.g., HIPAA), and more robust security controls.
Best practices for UCaaS deployment success
To future-proof their UCaaS deployments and ensure a higher return on investment, businesses must perform robust due diligence prior to selecting their UCaaS provider. Key steps in that process must include the following:
- Inquire about customer references, performance records (e.g., service availability from previous months and years, Mean Opinion Scores), technology roadmap, and partner ecosystem.
- Ensure that the UCaaS provider leverages a true cloud architecture with multiple, geographically distributed nodes; provides business continuity and disaster recovery options (e.g., analog line failover, backup and recovery); and employs advanced service quality monitoring tools.
- Seek to understand how the provider addresses UCaaS security threats such as phishing, audio spam, call hijacking, ID spoofing, call tempering, man-in-the-middle attacks, malware, and eavesdropping. More specifically, inquire about provider encryption technologies (e.g., 256 bit SSL encryption), data center policies, and other security measures. Businesses in certain regulated industries such as healthcare, government, and financial services must also ensure solution compliance with key industry regulations such as HIPAA and FedRAMP.
- Demand robust, financially backed SLAs. Incidents happen, but the provider must be willing, in writing, to take responsibility and compensate the customer for incurred losses.
- Evaluate provider responsiveness and customer service and support from the start. Keep the provider involved in monitoring key performance indicators and business outcomes to ensure that the UCaaS solution delivers greater ROI.
Businesses must exercise caution when selecting a UCaaS provider. There is an old tailor’s saying: “Measure twice, cut once,” which can provide a good guiding principle for businesses in pursuit of a long-term partner. More specifically, decision makers evaluating solutions should focus on the most essential criteria, such as security and reliability, and avoid being distracted by the fancy features that many providers like to highlight in their marketing campaigns. Due diligence and a holistic assessment of the UCaaS solution and provider capabilities are critical to ensure long-term success.
Elka Popova is the Vice President and Senior Fellow, Digital Transformation at Frost & Sullivan.
Originally published Dec 13, 2018, updated Oct 19, 2020