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Hidden Costs of UC Solutions
Any organization that is considering a change in technology takes into account the cost of the new solution in comparison to the cost of the current solution. It is easy to identify the costs associated with the new technology (either the upfront purchase cost or the monthly cost of the service). But there are other costs that are often not recognized up front. Here are some areas that you should consider when deploying a new solution:
Communications technology goes way beyond the desk phone.
As you deploy new capabilities, you may be supporting mobile devices--both phones and tablets. You may have to provide resources to address security issues and support for these devices, as well as the billing for them. Unified messaging (voice mails in email) can impact the storage of your email application. In addition, voice mail messages that reside in email could become part of legal discovery and must be addressed by a message retention policy. New applications such as presence must be supported, which may involve additional training for users. Collaboration tools such as conferencing and document sharing must be managed and supported like any other resource. Video is moving to the individual devices such as desktops and tablets; as this traffic increases, it could impact LAN capacity.
You will have to manage licenses.
Adding people or capabilities will require additional licenses. Depending upon your environment and how licenses are provided in your system, managing licenses can become complex. Failing to manage them can be expensive.
Infrastructure changes may be required.
This is well documented, but there are costs for POE switches and UPS in the data closets. Additional power may be required in the closets, and QoS must be deployed on the network.
Your support model may change.
If you are putting voice on the data network, the troubleshooting tools and procedures you formerly used will most likely have to change. When voice was on a separate network, it never impacted the traffic or configuration of the data network; with VOIP, it does. You may have to purchase or learn to utilize new tools in order to determine the cause of a network problem. You also might have to invest in training for your staff to develop the skills needed to manage the new environment.
Software subscription costs are typically higher than PBX hardware maintenance costs.
While the software subscriptions usually include the cost of software upgrades (but not the labor to install the upgrades or the cost for any hardware changes that are required), they are often as much as 20% of the purchase price per year. In addition, most manufacturers require you to be within two releases of current software versions in order to obtain support, so it is highly likely in a five year period that you will not only have to upgrade your software to remain current, but your hardware will also require some type of upgrade or enhancements as well.
Business continuity issues can become more complex.
As your organization relies more heavily on the expanded capabilities provided by the new technology, there is a greater need to maintain more services during an outage. How many capabilities must be configured for redundancy or resiliency? In the past, many organizations would configure the core voice system with redundancy, but few included voice mail. Today, considerations must include the mobility and collaboration tools that may have become essential to your organization's operation.
Security implications must be addressed.
Security breaches in the data network can now impact voice services in converged systems. Allowing vendors the ability to support the system remotely now requires providing access to your data network. Do you provide access to the entire company, or to specific employees only? And security must be provided for all of the mobility and collaboration applications. For example, in a recent installation we found that a mobile application required a valid certificate to log into the server for that application from the mobile device. However, the required certificate (which was provided by GoDaddy) was publicly viewable and included private domain information.
These considerations should be factored into any cost and/or resource analysis to ensure that you are looking at total cost of ownership. While many of these factors are not hard costs, they do require resources or skills that in the past were probably not needed to support the voice environment.
The Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC) is an international organization of independent information and communication technology (ICT) professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide