VoIP Support vs Vendor Technical Assistance vs System Administration

by

February 10, 2021

The following three sections will empower you with pointed questions to articulate your business requirements with much greater clarity.

 

#1 – VoIP Support

Integris and most other MSPs are familiar with the two basic varieties of VoIP: Software as a Service (SaaS) and premised-based phone systems.

This discussion will focus on the SaaS category and its more descriptive and current moniker, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).

The evolving UCaaS platform has a comprehensive catalog of collaboration solutions that span voice, video, chat, telephony, text, mobility, presence, instant messaging, conferencing, and scheduling.

It also has expanded functionality and integration with office productivity tools, file sharing, and storage.

Doesn’t this sound more like an IT application than a basic phone service?

It should because it is and it’s constantly evolving.UCaaS also has a high level of public awareness and transparency. Many of the industry leaders are Unified Communications as a Service companies featured in Gartner Group’s Magic Quadrant.

Since your IT provider’s job is to monitor, manage, support, and secure your local area network and users, they are responsible for owning the uptime of your IT systems.

This base-level service covers integrating and tracking all of the network components through various stages of the relationship. If it’s connected to your systems, they have to be involved.

Every UCaaS service implementation includes but is not limited to the following activities, which by default, require your MSP to:

  • Coordinate the cutover with the carrier and the service provider (could be the same company)
  • Make changes to settings on your server, switch, and firewall
  • Create a vLAN to segment voice traffic from data traffic
  • Install additional cable drops or at least collaborate with a low voltage vendor
  • Assist with the setup and configuration of desk phones or softphones

Of course, your MSP has visibility into all the standardized hardware, software, and services connected to your network.

So they should be able to not only support UCaaS infrastructure but also provide help identifying and troubleshooting issues related to the service.

The same is true of other well-known solutions from prominent names like Cisco, Datto, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, Proofpoint, Veeam, and VMware.

On a small world note, both Cisco and Microsoft are in the UCaaS space. And each UCaaS solution from major names like Ring Central, Nextiva, and Vonage are designed to work in IT stacks that include all of the brands I mentioned so far.

We’re talking about modular pieces of the same general puzzle.

 

#2 – Vendor Technical Assistance

Sometimes referred to as vendor management, vendor technical assistance (VTA) is a more formal description of daily IT support activities that require the MSP to troubleshoot IT support issues with third parties.

While the first section mostly addresses core support capabilities, VTA is the intentional discipline of engaging a host of outside technology vendors.

For example, when users open tickets with their MSP, they may be unaware of the root cause.

A system administrator or network engineer knows how to quickly isolate the problem and then work with their technical counterparts at AT&T, Bigleaf Networks, Comcast, Ring Central, Windstream, Polycom, etc. to resolve any issues.

Part of this process may entail calling and emailing several different companies before a resolution is achieved.

VTA goes way beyond UCaaS and is typically a separate line item on an MSP proposal and contract.

I’ve been in the MSP business since 2003, and many of the following scenarios qualify as VTA events:

  • Onboarding a new PEO vendor
  • New service cutovers of any kind
  • Data recovery projects
  • Ransomware threats
  • Power outages
  • Floods
  • Security alarm malfunctions
  • Hardware or software procurement projects
  • Copier installs
  • Firmware upgrades
  • Software updates

Each one of these situations can potentially consume up to six hours a month. Can you see why companies would much rather pay someone else to do this?

MSPs who don’t classify this service, define the parameters based on the client’s vendor count, and simply tell a prospect they “support” everything are setting an expectation that will be hard to fulfill.

They will either do all the legwork and lose money or only do part of the legwork to avoid losing money.

 

#3 – VoIP (UCaaS) Administration

This is a completely different animal compared to support and VTA. It certainly incorporates operating activities from both disciplines.

However, it’s similar to the role an MSP plays when they administer your Microsoft 365 account.

When your users need help with passwords, SharePoint, One Drive, or Teams, they aren’t opening tickets directly with Microsoft.

They’re contacting their Microsoft Certified Partner MSP, who is the authorized admin on the account.

When your MSP is the administrator of your UCaaS solution, they typically handle all moves, adds, changes, and user support for a fixed system fee (Auto Attendants, Call Centers, General Voicemail Boxes) and a variable user fee based on your headcount.

Like Microsoft 365, UCaaS solutions are software-based and easy for qualified engineers to jump into and tweak the settings.

Your team will not have to call 8X8, Dialpad, Nextiva, Ring Central, Vonage, or anyone else. Your MSP should do this on your behalf if they charge you an administrative fee.

 

Next Steps?

I hope you have a better idea of what to ask when it comes to determining how an MSP can enhance your VoIP/UCaaS experience.

Here’s a quick run-down of the main takeaways:

  • Integris can support all of the usual suspects in the UCaaS field.
  • VTA is different than basic support and requires interacting with third parties. (This can be time-consuming and frustrating for non-technical types.)
  • Administration means the MSP is truly running the show, and you won’t have to worry about going direct with one or several vendors when you need a hand.

We can also support and provide VTA to premise-based VoIP solutions as long as the hardware and software have current warranty/support coverage.

The administration will need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

If you have any additional questions, the Integris team has decades of experience, and we look forward to guiding you.

 

Jed is a Solution Advisor at Integris who has specialized in MSP solution development, sales, and marketing communications since 2003.

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