Everyone loves a good deal. When you can get great value out of a relatively small purchase, you tend to enjoy that purchase just a little more. But price shopping doesn’t always have a great outcome. Focusing on finding a steal can mean you’re getting a subpar product or service. Here’s the thing: most unified communications platforms pride themselves on their affordability, but affordability is relative. So how do you find a system that fits both your needs and your budget? Here are four questions to ask yourself when you’re searching for communication solutions.
1. How do you use your phone system?
One good place to start when shopping for communication solutions is your phone. Your phone system should be a foundational part of your unified communications system, and it’s a piece of the puzzle that most businesses already have and use, so it’s a good indicator of whether or not any given solution will work for you.
Start by analyzing how you use your phones. While going through old phone bills isn’t exactly thrilling, it will give you a clearer picture of how people in your organization are making calls. Are they mostly local, or long distance? Do a large portion of your calls go to a single area outside of your city or state? Do you have a toll free number? Different VoIP providers offer different billing structures with regards to distance, phone numbers, and call duration, so you can usually get a better price for your communications system if you purchase based on past usage.
2. What features are must-haves?
Unified communications platforms are highly customizable, and most are jam-packed with different tools, integrations, and software that can boost productivity. But do you really need them all? One sure path to the best price is choosing a solution that only has features that you know you’ll use.
For example, take integrations. Unified communications platforms open up opportunities to integrate your phone system with email, instant messengers, even your CRM, so that you can click a phone number to dial it, or pull up a client’s information as soon as you connect. For some businesses, this automation is a must-have – it saves time for both your employees and the customer, and boosts the ROI of your communication solutions. For others, eliminating that integration could allow for better allocation of funds.
3. How many people need to use the system?
Like many softwares on the market today, unified communications providers incorporate number of seats into their pricing model. Therefore, it’s important to consider not only how many people will be using the system upon implementation, but also any potential for growth or loss of personnel that may affect your communications. The good news is that UC is very flexible when it comes to expansion. Incorporating more users into the system is a matter of setting up accounts in-browser, and perhaps a handset or headset for VoIP, rather than a drawn-out process of sourcing new equipment. It does, however, mean added costs.
How many people need access to internet fax options? How many use a CRM? Does everyone need a phone handset, or can some people who use it less frequently get away with a softphone on their computer? Determining how to allocate your seats effectively can help you save money on unified communications.
4. What type of deployment will you use?
This question is a little different than the others, in that a cost-saving deployment for one company may be overpriced for another. So first, let’s go over what each deployment means in terms of cost:
- Premise: An on-premise deployment means purchasing all the necessary hardware from a provider, then installing and maintaining it on company property. This deployment requires a substantial initial investment, as well as some upkeep cost, but eliminates monthly fees related to hosted deployments. Enterprise-scale companies may be able to reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO) with an on-premise deployment simply due to the IT resources at their disposal, whereas smaller companies may struggle with paying for the equipment.
- Hosted: With a hosted deployment, also known as a managed deployment, the provider of your UC platform hosts the necessary equipment – hence the name. They take care of maintenance, firmware and software updates, and some providers offer cyber security solutions to protect your communication channels. In many cases, hosted solutions are more cost-effective because they use predictable monthly costs, and the purchasing company isn’t responsible for any equipment. However, it’s important to note that while hosted deployments can save you money, the provider is not a place to cut corners. Because they have access to your networks and cloud servers that host your communications, you have to be able to trust your provider completely. If you price shop for anything, don’t price shop managed services providers.
So, to finally answer the question: yes, you should price shop for your communications, but do so in a way that’s getting you great value, not a great price. By approaching the decision with careful consideration, you can not only get a deal, but also a great return on investment.