September 16, 2013 | last updated September 16, 2013 8:23 am
Know How

5 Signs It's Time For A Telecom Upgrade

Cloud communications. VoIP. Bring Your Own Device. Video chat. Rapid technological changes have transformed the telecommunications industry, bringing businesses even more capabilities at lower costs. Yet many businesses are still running legacy systems that don't support modern technologies and are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

For example, many Massachusetts businesses still use Nortel systems, despite the fact that new components are no longer available and the company declared bankruptcy in 2009. Nonetheless, businesses continue to use Nortel equipment because it has been reliable and the switch to a new telecom system is mistakenly perceived to be very costly and complex.

If your business is using legacy telecommunications systems, it's crucial to plan for the future and have a migration path in place before the existing system starts to cause problems. You may not need to migrate to a new system right away, but you'll be able to respond quickly when the time is right.

Here are five signs that it's time to update your telecommunications system:

1. Out-of-office workforce productivity is limited by your existing system. If many of your employees are working remotely, unified communications systems will help bring the office along with them for maximum productivity while on the road.

2. Your system leaves you vulnerable to security threats. On-site data storage, centralized network authentication and different security settings on different pieces of equipment can increase your exposure to security risks.

3. You want greater flexibility. Your business is growing rapidly and you need a more flexible communications system to keep up.

4. You want more features at lower costs. You're spending more to keep your older system working smoothly than you would if you had simply upgraded the system. Plus, you're cobbling together features from different vendors and paying higher costs than those offered by a consolidated solution.

5. It's becoming difficult to service and repair your existing system. If hardware and software are no longer being supported by the manufacturer, it's time to move on.

When you're ready to upgrade your system, you have two options: extend the functionality of your current telephone hardware, or explore an entirely new system. Possible solutions include:

• Managed iPBX — If you're happy with your current telephone sets and their functionality, consider migrating to a system in which you can enjoy the benefits of state-of-the-art VoIP technology while leveraging your investment in the existing handsets. This option has limited upfront costs and may be hosted on-premise or in the cloud.

• Unified communications — If you want a more robust solution that integrates voice, data and video, consider a unified communications option. A unified system typically offers a wide range of features, including full smartphone integration, Outlook calendar synchronization and enhanced conferencing. This solution also may be hosted either on-premise or in the cloud.

It can be hard to keep pace with changes in voice and data communications. The best way to ensure a new system will meet your business needs for years to come is to consult an expert who designs and services a wide range of systems. Ask for a "full needs" analysis and help to design a system that meets both your IT goals and your budget.

Lindsay Gerhardt is vice president of Barry Communications of Worcester, a provider of VoIP and telephone systems for businesses.

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