By and large there were two types of dinosaur, the dull and ponderous and the quick and vicious. It’s true they came in different sizes, but they all had one thing in common, they were unable to adapt to changes in their world. In their place, warm blooded creatures came into the ascendency and survived through their responsiveness and ability to grasp new opportunities wherever and whenever they arose.

The world of Telecoms and IT has changed, and forward thinking organisations should recognise that change in their choice of telecoms provider. The change, like change for the dinosaurs, has come from the sky – it’s called the “Cloud”.

There are a number of terms that reference the same thing, hosted, Software as a Service and all the other ‘as a service’ offerings, but they all mean the same thing, the Cloud – services that are hosted in a data centre rather than in your office.

I say that there’s been a change, but it’s not a big bang, it’s been happening for years and nearly all of us have been using Cloud computing services for years. Who hosts their own web site or e-mail? Who operates their own switch for mobile telephones?

The difference now is that connectivity has improved and become more available to more users. This, in turn, means that organisations are able to access more and more services and this change also puts the end user in a much stronger position. Cloud services, whether telephony, exchange service, CRMs or MS Office can now be deployed by enterprises of any size with minimal Capital Expenditure and often at reduced running costs. The environment is there to provide a true win-win situation for both users and providers, providing that both parties take a forward thinking, strategic view of the opportunities on offer.

Dinosaur providers will either tie you up with inertia by restricting your choices and wearing you down through a lack of response, or stitch you up with contracts designed to give them a quick buck with no desire to understand your business or gain loyalty.

In the age of the Cloud the best providers will seek to understand what your organisation’s requirements are now and will position their services to meet your future needs. The problem is, the dinosaurs will tell you that this is their intention too.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Connectivity serves as a key to the flexibility and responsiveness that a modern business needs and smaller organisations are likely to deploy broadband for data. Find out if your provider offers truly unlimited bandwidth, can you upgrade as and when new and faster services become available?
  • It’s likely that mobility will form an important part of your Comms and IT strategy, enabling you to stay in touch with mail and calls when on the move. So, can your provider give you convergence, making your mobile and desk phones interchangeable without charge?
  • Will you be charged a monthly maintenance fee for your PBX or are you going to be in control of it via a web portal? Can you expand or contract on demand and will your service be routinely upgraded?

Of course it’s possible that you can’t get everything you want right away, but a good provider will be able to show you a roadmap with plans for future advances clearly set out. This kind of transparency should be the norm in all aspects of service, be it billing or future development.

Getting it right is as easy as getting it wrong, think about what you need now, and what you might need in the future. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t end up with or like the dinosaurs!