Is maintenance the silent killer of Unified Communication?

Posted by Frits

In choosing a Unified Communications platform many decision makers still believe that initial layout cost is the main consideration they should base their purchasing decision on. Unfortunately, this is often not the case when looking at the true Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculated over a five-to-ten-year period, taking into account factors not all UC providers are willing to disclose upfront.

Maintenance costs for many UC providers over this period often exceed the initial layout cost.

Confused?

Let me explain…let’s look at a few factors…

IT Resources

Who is responsible for the maintenance of the UC platform - the client or the supplier? In the case of the client taking responsibility for the maintenance of the UC platform, in-house IT resources require the necessary experience and skill set for the UC platform in question. Another financial factor, besides the cost to company, is product certification.

Some UC platforms’ product certifications are quite expensive to maintain. If the supplier is responsible for the maintenance of the UC solution, not only is the support cost higher than having the necessary skill set in-house, assistance may not always be readily available, which could increase the business risk.

Storage space

For many of these UC platforms the storage space requires specialised air conditioned rooms, which translates into additional costing factors namely, dedicated floor space, electricity for the air conditioning units on top of the actual power consumption of the UC platform.

Availability

A critical component of the business is the availability of their UC platform. How reliable is the technology (break downs and system failures)? What options are available with regards to redundancy of the system? For many UC providers, redundancy means duplicating their solution.

User administration

A common task performed on a regular basis by all UC providers is adding and removing of users, as well as setting up their voicemail. For many UC providers, this simple task often requires access to multiple and complex system interfaces, taking several minutes to perform and consuming specialised IT resources and time.

Diagnostics

Fault finding on most UC platforms is another area responsible for several headaches faced by IT resources. This is due to a number of factors including physical access to the system, a deep and thorough understanding of the technology and accessing multiple system interfaces which adds pressure to IT resources supporting the UC platform. This results in unnecessary downtime and productivity loss.

At this point you might be wondering is there an alternative UC solution that provides a more cost effective TCO model?

Yes…and that UC provider’s name is ShoreTel. In 1996, ShoreTel set out with a clean piece of paper and a few questions: ’what should an IP telephony platform look like?’ ‘what if UC was just another service running on the network?’

With that in mind they set out to design their UC platform from the ground up for the IP age.

Let’s take a closer look at what set ShoreTel apart from their competitors:

Easy administration

Administer training on ShoreTel takes approximately 4 hours, which can be completed online. The entire ShoreTel solution can be accessed through a single, intuitive web-based interface.

Purpose build for IP

ShoreTel voice appliances responsible for call control were designed from the start for telephony. These devices have no spinning media, and use a flash memory instead. There are no moving parts, except for a cooling fan. They do not require specialised cooling systems and can operate in temperatures exceeding 50 degrees. The average power consumption of a ShoreTel voice appliance is a mere 25 Watts! Combining all these factors drastically reduces the monthly operational cost of the ShoreTel UC solution.

Reliable

ShoreTel offers five 9’s of reliability straight out the box. Due to their unique distributed architecture, redundancy is offered in the form of their N+1 methodology, eliminating any single point of failure. By simply adding an extra voice appliance to the system, ShoreTel offers seven 9’s of reliability, which equates to less than 3 seconds down time per year.

Ease of Use

The easy to use and intuitive single administrator interface dramatically simplifies daily tasks like adding and removing users - which does not require specialised IT resources.

This mundane task can be reassigned to an area outside IT, for example, the receptionist or HR department where it would take only a few minutes to complete, freeing up valuable IT resources and time.

Diagnostics and Monitoring Tools

ShoreTel offers built-in diagnostic and monitoring tools, displaying the entire topology of the telephony network. The easy-to-use interface offers IT resources a real-time graphic display of the UC Platform. The system continuously monitors the entire system’s MOS value (mean opinion score) checking for latency and jitter, effectively providing a view of VOIP (voice over IP) QOS (quality of service) on the network. The diagnostic and monitoring tool can be set up with several different types of alerts, instantly notifying the assigned resources in case any part of the system is experiencing abnormalities.