The benefits of switching to a hosted unified communications (UC) platform can be compelling, but with more than 100 communications service providers (CSPs) operating in the UK alone, organisations face a bewildering choice.

On the face of it, many UC platforms offer similar core features. Whether you are an SME or multinational, UC platforms offer the same enterprise-level functionality to everyone.

However, it’s important to look behind vendor’s marketing claims to ensure that the platform lives up to expectations.

For example, is the softphone supplied compatible with clients running Windows and Mac for desktops, as well as Android and iOS for mobiles? Mobile apps should be readily available for end users to download through the appropriate app store.

While features such as voicemail, call recording, call queuing and hot desking are all fairly standard, does the platform integrate with your CRM of choice ‘out of the box’?

One of the key benefits of adopting a cloud-hosted platform is that unlike investing in an on-premise PBX, you shouldn’t be left with an obsolete system. Check that software upgrades are performed regularly and are easily available to users’ handsets. You might also want to establish what new features are in the pipeline, and when you can expect to see these.

Besides evaluating the technical features, check that the business model works for your organisation. The best pricing models are simple to understand. A license that bundles a traditional handset, softphones for desk and mobiles, as well as inclusive calling minutes, will deliver best value and reduce administration worries.

You should be able to easily add and configure new users, and ideally any new licenses you purchase should co-terminate with your existing licenses, so that renewal dates are synchronised and billing is simple.

With so many CSPs on the market, perhaps the most important thing to have in mind when selecting a unified communications platform is the vendor’s credentials.

Switching to a new supplier and then having to switch again is expensive and disruptive.

That’s why you should establish that the vendor has the capabilities and skillset to provide long-term, high-quality support. As a starter, establish how long have they been in business.

Ask about your vendor’s network topology. Do they operate servers within their offices, or do they use a fully-fledged data centre, which is more readily scalable and offers a high level of resilience?

Establish the terms of the service level agreement on offer. Does it meet your standards for availability and uptime? What measures do they have in place for disaster recovery?

One of the best ways to establish credibility is to ask for references. For example, find out how many live licenses your vendor has running in the UK. Ask to see case studies of similarly sized businesses, and, if appropriate, ask to be put in touch with these customers to verify that they are happy with the platform and service.

Your due diligence should also establish the process for porting and migrating you from your current on-premise system. You should feel confident that the supplier has the resources and expertise to switch you over to your new unified communications platform without negatively impacting on your business.

Adopting a unified communications platform means no more PBX maintenance costs, no capital outlay, more flexible working for staff, excellent voice quality and enterprise-level telephony features as standard.

With some thorough due diligence, you can benefit from all of the advantages of unified communications while minimising the risk of selecting the wrong platform.

If you are reviewing all of your office services, why not read:

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