Hosted unified communications is a mission critical application for most businesses. Few can continue to operate effectively if all communications are down. Therefore, it is extremely important that the selected service provider follow certain best practices that ensure the availability of the service. There are many best practices that a hosted service provider should follow, but these are my Top 5:
1. Reliable Network and Software Infrastructure
A good way to deliver the availability characteristics required is have redundant servers, where the software can fail over to the live server to keep all application functionality alive. However, in the case of a major storm, redundant servers in the same data center could be equally affected by flooding, fire or long electrical outages. The better implementation has geographically dispersed servers so the loss of an entire facility would not impede the ability to continue support for the subscribed customers. This could be taken one step further with a pair of geographically dispersed servers to reduce latency and share traffic volumes.
2. Automation of Operations Support Systems and Business Support Systems
The degree of automation ultimately drives how many personnel are required to accept orders, engineer, provision and activate the product. Moreover, automation minimizes the number of errors and the potential for miscommunications.
3. Test Laboratories
Test labs should reflect the actual network environment so changes accurately reflect how things will work or influence other applications. A second lab can be used to test potential new services or serve an interoperability platform.
4. LAN/WAN Assessment Tool
All too common is a sale where, after the implementation, the customer network struggles to serve both the data and voice needs of the business. A proper LAN assessment should model current network flows and capacity to serve existing data traffic and projected voice/UC needs. The tool should also be able to stress test the LAN to determine maximum capacity requirements, as well as allowing the prospect to know when additional bandwidth would be needed to service future growth.
It is important for the hosted service provider to exhibit integrity in every element of its business. It should be exhibited during the sales process, installation, training, support and billing. In addition to the voice service, the hosted UC service provider transfers confidential documents and may offer other cloud services such as storage, server backup or voice recording. These additional offerings need to maintain a high level of security and customer confidentiality.
David Byrd is chief marketing officer at ANPI and leads marketing programs for SMBs, enterprises and carriers. Prior to joining the company, Byrd was chief marketing officer and executive vice president of sales at Broadvox where he built a nationally recognized channel partner program and award-winning SIP product offering.