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Dedicated vs. Shared Cloud Voice Services

Despite the rise of cloud-based voice services, some companies are still waiting for the bugs to be worked out, features to grow richer, or the ROI to improve. Prudence guides many enterprises to let others break the trail and share their stories before they join the crowd.
When consulting with others, I sometimes tell my customers that there’s really no such thing as a “cloud.” What I mean is that your phone system is sitting in someone else’s data center, and all the care and feeding of that system is someone else’s headache.
A significant factor when deciding between a cloud-based solution and customer-premises equipment is service resolution. When an issue arises, how quickly can the issue be resolved? If hardware fails, do you have a DR solution or a crashkit of parts on-hand? Can your staff to swap out parts, reload software, generate a new license key, etc?
The flip side of the coin comes with its own challenges. Putting your voice systems in the cloud does take much of the troubleshooting process out of your hands. While it can reduce your staff requirements, it can also leave you feeling helpless and less informed. Once a help desk ticket is submitted to your provider, communication usually comes slowly.
Is Dedicated Really that Great?
Not all cloud solutions are the same. It’s important to understand that there are distinctions between different models.
Salespeople are notorious for touting proposals of a cloud-based solution with a “dedicated” solution for your company. For some reason, they tend to pitch this as the “best” offering. “We are going to stand up a dedicated and customized solution for you and no other customers are going to be on it.” When they paint their platform as picture-perfect in which nothing can go wrong, beware.
Here’s my problem with that proposal. I don’t “want” a customized or unique platform. When something goes awry and my “dedicated server” that was built “just for me” crashes, I will be the only customer that is without service! All the other customers will be operating just fine. Will the carrier respond quickly? Will my issue be addressed quickly if my company is the only customer without service? My experience says “no, not quickly.”
If there’s a service issue affecting my company or client, I want to be on a common platform that can be fixed with a routine and repeatable process any time of the day by ordinary technicians. I don’t want to hear that my platform is “different” or that it requires a “special engineer” who needs to be called in.
Multi-customer issues move to the head of the line in the repair department. When a cloud-based voice solution is built on a shared platform with many other customers and a service disruption occurs, then many of the service providers’ customers are affected. The provider will be under pressure to resolve the issue quickly. In fact, multi-customer solutions tend to be more robust in the first place. When it comes to finding reliability in the cloud, this is where I prefer to be with my systems – in the shared space with many other customers.
It doesn’t happen often, but when a system is down, I tend to check a couple of browser bookmarks. Downdetector and Is The Service Down? are two good crowd-sourced resources who often have details of an issue before I can finish opening a ticket with my carrier.
Is cloud-based voice the right solution for every business? No. There is no “one-size-fits-all” platform. There is no question that for some companies, premises-based solutions are a richer experience and more capable platform. However, I’ve implemented cloud-based VoIP to over 100 locations with great success and highly satisfied customers.