Debunking The Myths Of Providing Unified Communications-As-A-Service

The IT industry is laboring under several myths related to the voice and unified communications business, including myths about the reliability of the technology, the level of technical support, and the ease of on-boarding customers.

That's the message from Eric Roach, global vice president of field channel sales and distribution at Intermedia, a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of a variety of cloud-based applications including unified communications-as-a-service.

Roach, speaking Monday along with his colleague, Mark Sher, vice president of cloud voice solutions, before an audience of solution providers and MSPs at this week's NexGen conference in Los Angeles, sought to dispel those myths.

[Related: Here's Who Made Gartner's 2017 Magic Quadrant For Unified Communications As-A-Service]

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"The good news is, Intermedia has your back," he said.

The biggest myth is that voice systems are difficult to understand and complex to install, and is best left to the phone guys, Sher said.

Sher said that partners often tell him that they are not ready to offer voice or unified communications to customers. He admitted that it can be complicated. "But if you have the right partner and the right support, it can be easier than anyone not doing it might believe," he said.

It is also a huge opportunity, Sher said. He cited analysts' surveys that the unified communications-as-a-service business is a $12-billion market, and is expected to see 17 percent year-over-year growth through 2022.

Bringing unified communications-as-a-service to customers is also a way to ensure that partners do not loose out on other opportunities, Sher said. Voice services can be used as part of a full suite of services, and a lack of voice services could open customers' doors to competing providers, he said.

"We want to help you close the door to your competitors," he said.

Sher broke his initial big myth into smaller areas in an effort to show how partners can benefit by adding voice to their offerings, starting with the idea that selling unified communications-as-a-service is difficult with limited sales support.

Intermedia, Sher said, provides on-line training, a platform for bringing marketing messages to customers, re-brandable material, easy on-line quoting, and a "concierge" support team to help provide partners with fast quotes or access to support. "No one likes to feel alone," he said.

The second myth is that installation is complex and expensive, which Sher said was once true back when voice required special servers and wiring. However, he said, Intermedia can help with installation that includes no downtime for customers, free on-boarding support, plug-and-play phones, and proprietary proactive testing of the quality of a customer's network vs. just looking at bandwidth.

Intermedia also provides support, including handling taxation issues, and provides fully-redundant data centers with five nines of reliability and automatic fail-over, to ensure partners have the right support, Sher said.

The myths that Intermedia discussed are very real, said Phillip Walker, customer advocate leader at Network Solutions Provider, a Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based MSP and managed data services provider.

"The shift in voice is towards being easier to deploy than in the past," Walker told CRN. "The myths are just myths."

To make voice work as a business, however, it is important that partners don't depend on margins to make money, Walker said. "It's a race to the bottom," he said. "Margins are difficult, but there's a lot of value partners can add."

Ranjo Sagusay, CEO of Ranjcorp, a Pasadena, Calif.-based MSP, said Intermedia is right in that voice has become easy to implement.

"The complexity is not there any more," Sagusay told CRN. "I have an IT background, so it helps. I see things getting to the point where customers will be able to do voice themselves in a few years. But for now, they don't know IP addresses. They don't know how to make the foundation work."