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We are living in the age of the Playbook.
The publication in March of the Digital, Data and Technology Playbook added another aspect to the Government’s vision of procurement best practice in the UK - a field which has seen major interventions over recent years in some of the most significant spend areas for public sector procurement.
Digital, data and technology joins consultancy and construction as areas where the Government is leading and shaping our commercial approach as contracting authorities.
These playbooks set out how departments should approach procurement and programmes of activity, and their application is assured through Cabinet Office controls. They also outline the Government’s expectations for how contracting authorities and suppliers should engage with each other.
At Crown Commercial Service, we’ve made significant progress building the substance of the Government’s playbooks into our products right now - enabling better outcomes for our 20,000 customers across the public sector.
Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT)
The 11 key policy reforms set out in the DDaT playbook cover everything from the development and publication of commercial pipelines to effective contracting, open and interoperable data and code, and provider assurance. CCS can support contracting authorities’ strategic planning in these areas in a number of ways.
We hold a wealth of market intelligence and commercial expertise in technology procurement, including in the specialist fields of cyber security, big data, AI and cloud computing. Our technology frameworks see billions of pounds-worth of spend on DDaT products and services every year, including significant direct spend with SMEs. Our range of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with major suppliers standardise and optimise pricing across the whole public sector, and our commercial agreements provide firm foundations for meeting the Playbook’s recommended contractual baseline of commercial, technical, security and legal principles.
Having led the drafting process, covering early provider engagement, outcome-based specifications, effective contracting, risk management, long-term planning and the overall procurement process, CCS continues to be part of the steering group supporting and overseeing the Construction Playbook’s implementation.
Our Construction experts are instrumental in shaping the public sector’s approach in the field, most recently launching our new partnership construction agreement with NHS England, which is both playbook-compliant and meets the new construction Gold Standard. This brings together our own construction procurement offer with the next generation of the ProCure agreement - helping to rationalise the number of public sector construction frameworks in operation, as recommended in the Playbook.
The Consultancy Playbook recommends that commercial teams should first consider whether there is a suitable CCS agreement to go to market through. Using CCS’s consultancy frameworks ‘provides an efficient route to market… allowing users to reduce cost, mitigate risk and maintain delivery assurance.’
Since its launch, CCS has worked closely with partners including the Government Consulting Hub, Cabinet Office’s Markets and Suppliers team, and Crown Representatives to increase the Government’s in-house capacity and expertise, boost collaboration, and ensure that, where external expertise is required, the public sector makes better decisions based on firmer data.
As workforces move to more remote models, the case for a cloud brokerage becomes increasingly apparent for large enterprises to Strengthen their overall cloud management and operations.
An obvious tool is a self-service cloud brokerage where authorized enterprise users can select and provision cloud services to support their software development and infrastructure projects using an internal cloud portal. Establishing a brokerage for your enterprise can help save internal departments' time by researching services from different cloud service providers (CSPs) and supplying your users' cloud services to help them achieve their business goals.
Typically, a cloud brokerage also frees up your service desk from handling calls to provision cloud services for internal customers. Your authorized users get access to an online portal and service catalog that automates many of the service desk functions behind going live with cloud services.
Planning a cloud brokerage for your enterprise starts with working with your internal customers to understand their business processes, provisioning requirements, cloud budget, and data management requirements.
Self-service cloud brokerage can be a misnomer in some ways. There still needs to be a team behind the cloud brokerage to support its operations. Your current cloud team or teams in inside your enterprise may cover many if not all of these roles:
Exact brokerage team headcount numbers can vary on the size and scope of your project. In the case of the cloud economist and the technical writers, a cloud brokerage may not require their services full-time once the brokerage is live and serving customers.
Your solution architects, business analysts, and customer outreach need to work with stakeholders from your business units to research their cloud requirements. Those findings should help form a cloud service catalog.
A self-service cloud brokerage is a process-driven operation. If your organization abides by Information Technology Service Management (ITSM), then that's where you'll find the processes to govern brokerage operations. However, cloud management – in the form of a self-service brokerage – may still require you to put renewed attention on processes, especially onboarding, acquisitions/procurement, and cloud security.
The service catalog you create for your brokerage must be able to stand alone, so clear definitions of services, including what you get and don't get, is a must. Don't hesitate to spend the time upfront to have your solution architects, cloud economists, and technical writers work together on draft service catalog entries. An important point to note is that you need a clear understanding of the cloud services you're offering your internal customers through your brokerage. Offering cloud services without dependent services is no help to your users. Depending on how your organization structures budgets, your users can be left without a much-needed service until the next budget cycle.
You should create your service catalog in a tiered or hierarchical format that maps the dependencies of the cloud services in the catalog to each other. Your solution architects should know (or research) the dependencies based on their cloud domain knowledge, solutions background, and customer interviews.
A well-crafted service catalog entry includes the following elements:
Other common elements of a service catalog entry include a Service Level Agreement (SLA), which describes the service provider's metrics. In the case of an internal portal, your internal team is the provider. It's possible to have separate SLAs for various components of a service. For example, cloud brokerage availability may have an SLA for 100% availability. However, the genuine items a customer provides through the portal, such as virtual machines, storage, and email accounts, may have 99.95% availability.
A Service Level Objective (SLO) documents the terms and conditions under which the service provider performs tasks to achieve and support SLAs. You should also consider defining SLO tiers as part of your service catalog. For example, the brokerage team will resolve severity problems in two hours or less.
Terms and conditions are typically a separate document or addendum outline other specific services and delivery criteria. For example, terms and conditions may define in which CSP region services delivery takes place. Terms can also include the discount structure as part of the billable unit and billable time.
While the designs and components of a cloud brokerages vary, some standard services and solutions enterprises use to power their cloud brokerages include:
There's a proliferation of cloud management platforms (CMPs) such as CloudTamer.io and CloudBolt right now that can serve as the central core of a cloud brokerage. Neither CMP provider is sitting still. For example, CloudBolt just acquired Kumulous, a cloud cost management platform. CloudTamer includes budget controls and continuous compliance controls. You can expect that other CMP vendors will follow suit and bolster their platforms with more robust cost management and governance features
On the other end of cloud management solutions are service management platforms such as ServiceNow and Cherwell. ServiceNow brings with it an expensive professional services engagement to stand up and take the platform live. ServiceNow expertise can be hard to find (and keep) in some major metropolitan markets. However, if your organization is already standardized on ServiceNow, it's possible to power the cloud management behind your brokerage. Cherwell is a startup service management platform provider that offers a low code solution.
Cloud spending management is still a challenge for organizations of all sizes. While you can't automate cloud economics as a practice and discipline, you can put in tools such as CloudCheckr to watch cloud spending.
Part of being a self-service brokerage is integrating cloud spend monitoring with your chosen management platform and supplying real-time and on-demand reporting about a business unit's cloud spending to your corporate accounting department, departmental management, and other stakeholders that influence the brokerage's budget.
Your brokerage has some essential cybersecurity requirements to ensure the security of your data and new cloud endpoints. You'll want your authorized users to be able to log in and authenticate to your brokerage using their current enterprise credentials, whether it's Active Directory or a Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB).
Your cloud brokerage offerings can extend beyond those services that your CSPs offer. For example, suppose you're among the many organizations undergoing digital transformation due to COVID-19 and an already planning initiative. In that case, you can offer cloud migration and other professional services through the service catalog. The same goes for obtaining cloud training for stakeholders and business users.
The source of these other services could be through contracts your organization already has in place with third-party service providers or chargeback arrangements with other departments across your company, such as the training department.
The concepts and architecture behind a cloud brokerage are continually evolving. In a recent cloud brokerage survey on pulse.qa, an online community of IT executives, 29 % of the respondents answered that they outsourced the development of their cloud brokerage to a regional systems integrator (SI) or professional services firms. More interesting, is that 56% of the respondents built and launched their brokerage using a hybrid team of their own staff and expert outside contractors.
When choosing a third-party SI or professional services firm, look for a provider with experience building brokerages for other customers like your organization. You should also investigate their strategic alliances with the CSPs and tools providers your organization requires in your brokerage. When it comes to expert outside contractors, the same rules apply. You might get lucky with finding such highly skilled contractors through contingent staffing firms – the so-called body shops – if you’re willing to go through enough resumes. However, when finding contractors for your cloud brokerage you’ll probably need to exercise your own team member’s professional networks to find the right caliber of cloud contractor.
Launching a self-service cloud brokerage at scale means taking a systematic business unit to business unit approach with your launch. Your cloud brokerage launch team (presumably your core brokerage team) needs to work with your organization's stakeholders to chart out a business unit level launch plan by priority. Like any other product or services launch, you will not turn on your new cloud brokerage for your entire organization. Use the initial launches as learning experiences for the team and to catch any technology issues or procedural challenges early as to work out any issues before the brokerage goes live across a large user community.
While the cloud's culture change brings commercial and public sector enterprises is widely written about, setting up a cloud brokerage adds some new shades to cloud culture. You need to prepare your internal business units, such as your service desk and business units for a new power dynamic.
Unfortunately, it's a familiar story that business users have a contentious relationship with the corporate service desk for reasons that aren't always their fault. Long waits for the provisioning of services. Endless bureaucracy. Service desk tickets being closed without resolution. Working on a service desk can be thankless work. Taking cloud provisioning away from the service desk might provide your employees cause to celebrate. It also is a political attack on your IT department's sovereignty and business relevancy in some corporate cultures.
Cloud brokerages aren’t for every enterprise. Brokerages can prevent their own set of risks, especially as you outsource management tools to third-party providers. As more third-party providers join your brokerage effort, it can present security risks as your teams move to a cloud computing model with enlarged attack surfaces due to integrating new and disparate components and APIs.
Downsides of a brokerage can vary depending on your industry and corporate culture.
While the brokerage concept makes business sense, not all your business units may fit the use case. Brokerages target technically self-sufficient business units for the most part. Less technical parts of your business are still going to want a personal touch to their cloud services. Instituting a cloud brokerage can also make your enterprise even more dependent on a small group of technology specialists. Such a dependence places your brokerage at liberty of a hot market for cloud jobs. There can also be new compliance concerns as you outsource brokerage components to new third-party services providers.
A cloud brokerage can truly democratize cloud services inside a large enterprise. However, you can't get your business users to reach the true democratization of cloud services without training. Operational level cloud certifications such as AWS Cloud Practitioner, AWS Solution Architect Associate, Google Cloud Platform Associate Engineer, Microsoft Certified Solutions Architect and need to take on a new business meaning and priority with the budget and management support behind what could prove to be a large scale effort depending on the size of your organization. Cultures that live and breathe continuous learning are ideal candidates for a cloud brokerage.
Will Kelly is a writer focused on Cloud and DevOps. He works as a technical marketing manager for a DevSecOps startup. Prior to that, he spent his career as a technical writer. Over his career, he has worked on commercial and public sector client projects. Will’s technology articles have been published by TechTarget, Opensource.com, CNET TechRepublic, and other major sites. He has also developed thought leadership content for industry leaders including Cisco, IBM, and Samsung. Follow him on Twitter: @willkelly
The Dynamic Template Designer is a tool that does not require Structured Query Language (SQL) knowledge in order to create custom report templates. You can easily assemble a simple report template by dragging and dropping fields into the template. The SQL database query is generated dynamically in the background, based on the configuration selections you make.
See Working with Enterprise Objects and Fields.
Another report template designer, the SQL Template Designer, is available for anyone with SQL knowledge.
The Dynamic Template Designer provides an inventory of , such as Job, Data Domain, Host, Storage Array, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) objects, each designed for a specific type of data. The enterprise object is an abstraction of the physical implementation of the relationships of the collected data in the database.
These enterprise objects provide the basis for creating and generating reports on collected data, to satisfy business use cases; for example, determining if your backup environment is providing sufficient data protection. Using the Dynamic Template Designer, you select an enterprise object as the starting point for your template. As you develop your template, you'll select fields and functions required to report on a specific enterprise object. You can assign a category which enables it to be grouped in the . The Dynamic Template Designer also presents a variety of elements to help you design reports in the way that you'd like to view the data--as bar charts (in a variety of styles), donut charts, line charts, pie charts, or tables. In addition, you'll use this designer to define the elements required to select the scope of the data to be included in a report during report generation.
The final output from the Dynamic Template Designer is a dynamic report template. There are two types of report templates: Dynamic Report Template (SQL knowledge not required) and SQL Report Template (SQL knowledge required for database query creation). A report template is the basis for all reports. When you generate a report, you start by selecting a report template and then selecting the scope of the data to be included in the report's output. Often, the terms report template and report are used interchangeably, but it is important to note that the report template is where the designer elements reside.
To become acquainted with the components and initial steps required to create a report template:
Andy is CSO for Huawei Technologies USA, overseeing Huawei’s US cyber assurance program.
Recent security incidents violating IT service providers like SolarWinds and Microsoft have brought to the forefront the importance of accountability and transparency in cybersecurity. The sheer volume of recent reports of ransomware attacks, cyber intrusions reportedly perpetrated by nation-states, and largescale data breaches affecting millions of people indicates that cyber defenses must be raised across the board—particularly in critical infrastructure, government and essential services.
Any response to these threats must account for the complexity of cybersecurity risk. The shared responsibility model, which delineates ownership of specific risks by different participants in the ecosystem so all bases are covered by those in the best position to do so, provides a useful mechanism for minimizing the frequency and seriousness of security incidents and simplifying the management of the problem.
Public sharing of incident information and prompt sharing of vulnerabilities when appropriate can promote necessary transparency and effective responses. The shared responsibility model includes all of the following elements:
• A clear understanding of who (be it the vendor or the client) is responsible for what.
• What requirements stakeholders and users must follow to meet their responsibilities.
• Adequate visibility and transparency to enable verification that responsibilities are met.
• An objective, independent method to verify conformance.
• Mechanisms that provide accountability and incentivize stakeholders and users to meet their responsibilities.
To ensure the successful implementation of a shared responsibility framework, here are several important recommendations and actions to consider.
Learn From Accountability-Led Cyber Governance Initiatives
In May 2021, President Biden signed the “Executive Order (EO) on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity,” which is described as “the most comprehensive change to a national strategy for cybersecurity” that looks to “unify the executive branch on its reporting requirements.” The EO set forth much-needed public-private collaboration to help the U.S.’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) develop standards and incentives to support cybersecurity risk management.
Specifically, addressing risk in the software and supply chain was critical. A study by BlueVoyant found that 93% of U.S. organizations had experienced a cybersecurity breach in the previous 12 months from vulnerabilities in their vendor ecosystem. Moreover, 33% of respondents said they had no way of knowing if cyber risk emerges in a third-party vendor. Maintaining full visibility into software supply chain security and making security data publicly available, after patches are developed for vulnerabilities, significantly improves the security performance of suppliers and holds everyone accountable.
Germany’s IT Security Act 2.0, for example, heightens the requirement for transparency and accountability through extending the mandate for Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). Through the Act, the BSI has the authority to see inventory data from telecom service providers. This extra layer of transparency helps identify the targets or victims of cyberattacks.
Approaches such as the EO and Germany’s Security Act provide guidance that private sector organizations can benefit from to help them develop, strengthen and implement their own approaches to transparency and accountability. The same rules can be applied internally and with their respective vendor ecosystems.
Enhance Security Across The Digital Supply Chain
The surge of digital adoption, exacerbated by the pandemic and rise in remote working, has led to a spike in cyberattacks. The year-on-year volume of ransomware attacks, for instance, increased 158% in North America during 2020, then spiked to 180% by Q2 of 2021.
Both governments and commercial sectors have realized the immense risk in global supply chains and also how little visibility many have into security and assurance levels. Visibility across the supply chain has become critical, particularly between suppliers and operator-customers.
The launch of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) was a much-anticipated response to major compromises of defense data that had been held on the IT systems of its contractors and company supply chains. The program is intended to safeguard sensitive information while focusing the most advanced cybersecurity standards and third-party assessment requirements on all contractors with the DoD. As of today, the DoD has rolled out CMMC 2.0, and though it is not yet a requirement for contracts, the materials reflect the Department’s strategic intent with respect to the CMMC program.
This is a notable example of one of the U.S. government’s highest-priority programs that there needs to be strict levels of assurance requirements, conformance programs with adequate transparency and substantial consequences for nonconformance. This facilitates meaningful accountability across the entire supply chain.
Promote Global Collaboration Through Mutual Trust Agreements
One way to buttress international cyber norms is to explore the possible use of mutual trust agreements, which could involve separately signed agreements by governments and private companies and the governments of the countries in which the companies do business. Private companies could sign to provide their commitment to follow the articulated rules that they could be held legally liable for if they break them. The host governments of those companies could sign their own agreements with those governments, providing their commitment not to directly or indirectly use those companies for improper purposes and subjecting themselves to the legal process should they do so. Such agreements could outline the standards, norms or rules that companies and host governments will be held liable in the event of nonconformance.
Addressing Cyberthreats Is A Shared Responsibility
Everyone from the C-suite and IT managers to other stakeholders across an organization and its supply chain partners should gain a full understanding of what accountability means for the management of cyber risks and its value for the future of cybersecurity. Mitigating cyber risks calls for rigorous accountability that must apply to the processes and responsibilities of IT security practitioners.
The compliance with, and efficacy of, cybersecurity procedures and practices must be open to scrutiny, and this demands transparency and visibility to make it knowable if requirements are being met—and the failure to conform to the requirements should result in measurable consequences. Transparency and accountability are necessary for successful cyber risk management and governance. Governments and businesses alike can do more to create incentives for conformance that are aligned across the whole ecosystem.
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This uninstall process assumes that the Data Collector was installed using the standard installation process.
Login to the . (User must have Administrator privileges.)
Stop the Data Collector services.
Click > >
Follow the prompts in the uninstall windows.
The uninstaller may not delete the entire Data Collector directory structure. Sometimes new files that were created after the installation are retained along with their parent directories. You may need to manually remove the root install folder (default
C:\Program Files\Aptare) and its sub-folders after the uninstaller completes.
A cloud phone system uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to deliver voice communications and other data to callers on any internet-connected device. These types of business phone systems typically offer more calling features than traditional analog systems, which require expensive on-premises PBX equipment connected to the public switched telephone network to operate effectively.
Cloud-based phone systems are widely used as part of a unified communications platform to handle inbound and outbound calls, auto-attendants, voicemail, chat, SMS messaging and faxing. Most modern phone systems integrate with email applications and CRM software to ensure that all communications can move through one easy-to-use system of record.
Advanced calling features include natural language processing and machine learning to automatically provide post-meeting notes, analyze conversations for customer sentiment and provide live customer analytics for communications across a company.
With so many popular business tools operating from the cloud, it should come as no surprise that modern phone systems have followed suit. Here’s what you need to know about incorporating a cloud phone system into your business.
Editor’s note: Looking for the right phone system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Cloud phone systems use your internet connection and a third-party VoIP service provider to transmit audio and other forms of data between callers. Unlike traditional on-premises PBX phone systems, which require businesses to purchase and maintain servers, cloud and hosted phone systems require only an internet-connected device with a microphone and speaker.
Most VoIP phone service subscribers utilize “softphones” instead of traditional desk phones. A softphone refers to software installed on internet-connected devices, such as mobile phones, tablets or computers. For users who prefer the feel and functionality of a traditional analog desk phone handset, many phone manufacturers produce IP phones that look and work like a desk phone.
You can also convert many traditional business desk phones to work with cloud-based systems through a VoIP adapter.
The advantages provided by a cloud-based phone system will outweigh any potential disadvantages for most businesses today. However, one area that can be a nonstarter is the dependency on a business broadband connection. Call quality and other advanced features will always require a reliable connection to the internet with any cloud-based phone system.
|Cloud phone system pros||Cloud phone system cons|
|It allows calls to and from anywhere.||It requires an internet connection.|
|It integrates with popular business applications.||Many don’t interface with older analog equipment for paging or facility controls.|
|You have the freedom to use any internet-connected device.||There’s the potential for latency and choppy audio in Wi-Fi dead spots.|
|There’s no complex or expensive hardware to purchase and maintain.||Location data is limited for emergency calls.|
FYI: Many of the best internet service providers offer the speeds you need for cloud phone system implementation, along with data plans, solid customer support, and services tailored to your organization’s needs.
While VoIP providers may appear similar at first glance, the combinations of features and price points vary substantially across the industry. Before you begin searching for a cloud-based phone system service provider, it’s a good idea to list all the calling features your business will be using weekly.
It’s also a good idea to take inventory of your staff in terms of which teams or individuals need access to advanced calling features and which could work just as efficiently with an entry-level or basic cloud-based phone system.
Once you have ascertained the most important features and the number of user accounts, you’ll be able to narrow your search by price. Remember that most providers offer a sliding scale with a relatively broad price range for each plan, depending on your organization’s size and the length of the contract you’re willing to sign. Many plans also include seat minimums and maximums, so be aware of this when comparing providers. If your company makes international calls beyond Canada, which is typically included for free with domestic calling, pay close attention to the number of international minutes included with each plan and if there are overage fees.
Finally, when you’re choosing a business phone system, we highly recommend taking advantage of the free trials and demos offered by nearly all providers. Most cloud phone service providers we reviewed include 14-day and 30-day trials for many of their plans.
While you may not want to take the time to fully integrate a trial phone system with all your company’s data, it’s a good idea to spend at least some time working with the interface and features you find most important in a new phone system before you make a purchase decision.
You can find a cloud-based phone system with basic business-class VoIP features for less than $20 per month for each user.
If you’re looking to upgrade from an older on-premises PBX phone system or traditional landlines, you’ll get everything you need and more in terms of calling features with an entry-level cloud-based business phone plan. However, any business that wants to utilize many of the advanced calling features, such as automatic post-call notes, unlimited video conferencing and real-time analytics, should expect to spend more than $30 per monthly user for a mid-tier or top-tier plan.
Some cloud phone systems will let you choose from multiple plans for different employees as you build your sales team, offering advanced capabilities for sales and customer service employees and a lower-priced plan for support staff or in-office teams that don’t use the phone as often.
Generally speaking, cloud phone system providers structure their pricing per monthly user with discounts of around 25% for annual commitments and further reductions in the price per seat for larger companies purchasing a significant number of user accounts. Larger businesses should consider taking the time to call a sales agent and inquire about discounted pricing near the end of the month or quarter for a better enterprise rate.
Bottom line: Most entry-level cloud phone systems are priced below $20 per user per month. However, the most popular mid-tier options with the bulk of advanced features typically cost $30 to $50 per user per month.
Our editorial team spent a great deal of time with the industry’s leading cloud-based phone systems. In our search for the best business phone systems, we examined popular options and selected 11 finalists. These are some of those finalists.
We chose Dialpad as the best business phone system for voice intelligence. Business owners searching for an advanced cloud-based phone system with AI-powered productivity tools will want to consider Dialpad’s all-in-one business communications offerings.
These are some of Dialpad’s features:
Pricing: Dialpad costs $15 to $25 per user per month through two plans. Enterprise-level pricing is available, as is a 14-day free trial.
Learn more in our Dialpad review.
We selected GoToConnect as the best business phone system for features and tools. This cloud-hosted phone system delivers a robust and unified communications experience at an affordable price point, with every calling feature a business owner or call center manager would like to see.
These are some of GoToConnect’s features:
Pricing: GoToConnect costs $24 to $39 per user per month through three plans. A 14-day free trial is available.
Learn more in our GoToConnect review.
We felt that Nextiva was the best business phone system for CRM integration. Companies that want to take their customer relationship management tools to new levels of efficiency and productivity should consider Nextiva’s popular Enterprise plan.
Available Nextiva integrations include Salesforce, HubSpot, Zendesk, Microsoft Teams, Oracle Sales Cloud, ServiceNow, Outlook, and Google Contacts, as well as advanced integrations with many CRMs.
These are some of Nextiva’s features:
Pricing: Nextiva costs $17.95 to $52.95 per user per month through four plans. Seven-day free trials and 30-day demos are available for different plans.
Learn more in our Nextiva review.
Ooma separated itself from the competition as the best business phone system for remote teams. Its features and pricing are an especially good fit for small businesses that don’t necessarily need myriad automated tools and integrations from their phone system.
These are some of Ooma’s features:
Pricing: Ooma costs $19.95 to $27.95 per user per month through three plans. There’s a 30-day money-back ensure on Ooma Office hardware.
Learn more in our Ooma review.
Did you know? A cloud-based phone system can boost remote work productivity because it gives remote workers greater flexibility.
RingCentral MVP was our choice as the best phone system for collaboration. Its software integrates with many popular business applications, making it incredibly easy and effective to implement as a unified communications platform for phone, video and messaging.
These are some of RingCentral’s features:
Pricing: RingCentral costs $19.99 to $42.99 per user per month through four plans. A 30-day free trial is available for most plans.
Learn more in our RingCentral review.
Hikari Senju, CEO at Omneky. Omneky utilizes state-of-the-art deep learning to empower businesses to grow.
Within the past decade, there has been a worldwide boom in research and participation in artificial intelligence. Consistent research and development have been influenced by worldwide interest and are driving causes in the continued use and advancement of this technology.
Another key factor in recent advancements in AI is the availability of information. AI is an industry in which many of its publications are open source, meaning that researchers publicly share their findings. Developers can thus use any open-source library to produce their own “state-of-the-art” AI applications, and as a result, building machines has become more accessible.
Since 2015, the increase in the use of machine learning has resulted in the number of publications related to pattern recognition more than doubling. GPT-3, the AI that my company uses to generate customer-specific ads, uses machine learning to take in input text and generate large volumes of whatever prompt it receives. In the continued development of technology, AI repositories have promoted the publication of pre-peer-reviewed papers, helping researchers share their findings with others before sending in the final version.
According to the Artificial Intelligence Index Report 2022 from Stanford Univerity, within the past 12 years, AI repository publications increased by 30 times and now consist of over 15% of all repository publications (pg. 32), and from 2010 to 2021, the number of AI publications has increased from 162,444 to 334,497 (pg. 17). To supplement the increased interest in AI, there has also been an influx of participation in AI. Within the past 10 years, the number of people who attended the biggest AI conferences each year went from about 10,000 to around 90,000, which is a strong indicator of the overall increase in industrial and academic interest in AI (pg. 41).
There also has been an increase in the number of AI-related laws and funding. Many of these laws have been passed on the national, international and statewide levels, and the number of national AI-related bills passed from 2016 to 2021 increased from one to 18 (pg. 175). In 2021, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. each passed three AI-related bills (pg. 177), and in the United States, the number of proposed state-level AI-related bills increased from two in 2012 to 131 in 2021 (pg. 180), with 41 out of 50 states proposing at least one AI-related bill (pg. 181).
Much of this has been the result of an almost doubling from 2018 to 2022 in the U.S. federal budget on AI from nondefense departments, which signifies the government’s continued interest in AI funding (pg. 188). Examining some of the many laws that have been passed in relation to AI, I have identified some of the best practices for both statewide and nationwide regulation.
On a national level, it is crucial to both develop public trust in AI as well as have advisory boards to monitor the use of AI. One such example is having specific research teams or committees dedicated to identifying and studying deepfakes. In the U.S., Texas and California have legally banned the use of deepfakes to influence elections, and the EU created a self-regulating Code of Practice on Disinformation for all online platforms to achieve similar results.
Another necessity is to have an ethics committee that monitors and advises the use of AI in digitization activities, a practice currently in place in Belgium (pg. 179). Specifically, this committee encourages companies that use AI to weigh the costs and benefits of implementation compared to the systems that will get replaced.
Finally, it’s important to promote public trust in AI on a national level. To do this, agencies should provide opportunities for the public to participate and provide information in all stages of their rulemaking.
On a statewide level, one of the biggest movements has been to have precautions against discriminatory use of user data collected from AI. In 2021, Colorado enacted a law preventing insurers from using external consumer data and information sources in any discriminatory way regarding “race, color, national or ethnic origin.” While this law pertains specifically to insurers, all companies should make the decision not to use any collected customer data to discriminate.
Illinois created a law that requires companies that use AI in their job hiring process to report demographic information for applicants to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in order to monitor the potential for racial bias. In order to adhere to this, companies can conduct corporatewide reports for themselves in order to personally track and look out for any conceived unfairness.
The second common theme within state AI laws has been the promotion of AI education. For example, Washington funded the Automated Decision-Making Systems Workgroup. If individual companies want to achieve this, they must require some AI education courses for all relevant employees.
The final common theme within state laws—and suggestion for businesses—is to establish a state AI task force. This task force should require local companies to submit reports about net job loss from AI use and disclose when bots are being used to communicate with people online.
Other implementations of this include AI in law, particularly in pretrial risk assessment tools, and the importance of having the policies that outline said assessment tools be publicly available, thus allowing individuals in a criminal case to review the reasons behind their calculated risk score.
Individual companies that are not in a state with a task force can take it upon themselves to complete and review the suggested reports in order to ensure they are taking all necessary precautions.
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Business phone systems make calls, video and messaging data accessible and actionable. Nextiva is our top pick for the best business phone system with analytics and reporting because it provides high-level insights and in-depth reports that don't require IT experience to set up or retrieve. All Nextiva subscriptions include unlimited internet fax and one-to-one video calling, an auto-attendant and toll-free minutes. Mid- and upper-tier plans have built-in CRM tools, professional greeting recordings and SMS/MMS texting.
|Customizations, add-ons and integrations||9.6|
|Ease of use||9|
Nextiva's analytics and reports stand out among the dozens of business phone systems we examined because it supplies dashboards, wallboards and around 120 to 130 custom point-click reports. It offers CEOs a snapshot of the business and helps sales leaders motivate teams with custom wallboards – all in real time. Although the reports are detailed, we were impressed with how setting them up and automating delivery isn't complicated.
The business phone system also has historical data reporting tools for comparing time frames and identifying trends. In addition, the built-in CRM tool uses artificial intelligence to scan conversations for customer sentiment. While Nextiva competitors like Dialpad provide stand-alone voice intelligence features, users still need third-party CRM software to get a 360-degree view of the customer journey.
Tip: Customize the NextOS Analytics Dashboard templates by repositioning the metrics, adding or removing reports, and changing the colors for the up and down arrows.
Overly complex administrative portals and mobile apps lead to multiple clicks through several screens and menus before landing on the right function. Nextiva simplifies navigation by putting mission-critical tools on the main screen. When we were testing the system, we found that the NextOS admin dashboard displays an overview of operations with tabs for users, devices and numbers. We liked how everything you need to configure a new line or user is in a single, scrollable pane. You simply move down the list to toggle options on or off and customize the settings.
The admin portal also contains various analytics and reports, and each screen has the phrase "get analytics," giving you one-click access to insights. Likewise, the desktop and mobile apps have a simple user interface with a vertical icon panel for toggling between communication methods and viewing team statuses. Drag-and-drop functionality makes sharing a file or adding contacts to a group chat easy.
Nextiva provides nearly every feature a small or midsize business could want, including auto-attendants, conferencing and business intelligence features. Unlike the entry-level plans for RingCentral and Dialpad, Nextiva's base plan comes with unlimited internet faxing, which is ideal for companies looking to reduce their reliance on faxing services. While features vary by tier, Professional and Enterprise users can access high-level analytics beyond the standard reports found on other business phone systems.
Unlike other phone services that share call times and usage statistics only, Nextiva uses AI to fuel insights. Nextiva's customer analytics and VoIP reporting tools are easy to use and incredibly detailed. The business intelligence software increases your visibility into your operations and customers, allowing you to forecast your call volumes and scheduling needs.
This feature is becoming common on unified communications platforms. All Nextiva subscriptions include one-to-one video conferencing, something RingCentral doesn't have on its base plan. The Professional and Enterprise packages support 250 video participants, which is lower than the 500 supported by 8x8 X-Series plans and Zoom but higher than what we found in our review of Ooma, RingCentral and Dialpad.
This feature is important for sales teams, call centers and employees working toward shared goals. Other providers reserve dashboards for contact center software, but Nextiva provides dashboard functionality on its business communication Professional and Enterprise tiers. The Professional package offers ready-to-use dashboard templates, whereas Enterprise users can create custom dashboards. We like how the dashboards display reports as charts or tables and metrics as tiles – all in a one-page view.
We didn't find this feature on many other phone systems we reviewed, but robust CRM features add value to VoIP subscriptions. Nextiva CRM supports multichannel outreach, uses AI for customer satisfaction scoring and includes productivity-boosting features such as click-to-call and automated follow-up. We also liked the call pops. Every time a known contact or customer calls, a small box slides across the screen with key customer information such as the sentiment from their last interaction, total account value, an experience score and the rating they gave in their previous survey response. [Related article: 20 Features to Look for in a CRM]
Even the most basic business phone systems provide call logs and basic usage reports. Nextiva goes a step further by including additional costs per call, such as international calling fees. Enterprise plans provide enhanced call logs showing redirection types and numbers. Users can also view call recordings and transcriptions in the call history at this tier. This saves time and puts details in one spot.
This feature is available at all plan tiers and is a separate application dedicated to collaboration. It places tools critical to teamwork in one spot, including team calendars, task management and a persistent chat space. In addition, companies can invite an unlimited number of guest users, perfect for collaborating with clients. However, it falls short of what we found in our RingCentral review because Nextiva collaboration requires a second app, whereas RingCentral integrates its virtual workspace into the main application.
While almost all providers we reviewed offer a virtual receptionist for greeting and routing calls, we appreciated the intuitive interface and professional implementation support that helps small business owners without technical experience configure their system quickly. This ease of use extends to updates, allowing users to add or remove employees and update permissions from a single screen.
Did you know? Nextiva provides up to three free 50-word, professionally recorded greetings. Nextiva uses voiceover talent to record the greetings and uploads them directly to your account.
Nextiva recently revamped its service plans, condensing them from four to three versions: Essential, Professional and Enterprise. Nextiva pricing is about the same as that of RingCentral or 8x8 but costs more than what we found in our review of GoTo Connect, Dialpad and Ooma. However, its top plan tier is one of the most reasonable among competitors. Volume-based and annual billing discounts also lower the overall costs.
Additional discounts may be available if you sign up for a 12-, 24- or 36-month contract, but it's a good idea to take advantage of the seven-day free trial before making a long-term commitment. All subscriptions include unlimited calling, internet faxing and one-to-one video meetings. Each comes with a toll-free and a local phone number, call groups, a virtual receptionist, and mobile and desktop apps.
Here's how the plans for five to 19 users compare:
|Service plan||Monthly fee||Features|
|Essential||$29.95 per user, or $21.95 with a 12-month contract||
|Professional||$33.95 per user, or $31.95 with a 12-month contract||
|Enterprise||$43.95 per user, or $41.95 with a 12-month contract||
In addition to business phone systems, Nextiva offers four contact center packages. These subscriptions have workforce optimization tools and omnichannel routing. Although Nextiva Contact Center integrates with its business phone systems, these packages are sold separately. Nextiva also sells and leases desk and conference phones, headsets and adapters. Prices for office phones range from $107 to $840.
Nextiva provides the best onboarding experience because professional implementation services come with all plans, not just enterprise-level subscriptions. The online phone setup guide walks you through four steps: Add employees, create hunt groups, set auto-attendants and attach phone numbers. We found each page easy to navigate, and the tool lets you set up one or more auto attendants quickly. Once complete, simply submit your configuration details to Nextiva, and they will set up your system for you.
Alternatively, you can use NextOS to bulk-upload employees from your active directory. If you have just a handful of employees, you can set up a Nextiva phone system and start communicating within minutes. It'll take a little longer if you want to define specific user permissions and create advanced call flows.
While you can handle most tasks online via the self-service portal, you will need to contact Nextiva to enable end-to-end encryption for voice. Like other business phone systems, Nextiva provides onboarding tools for administrators and employees, including training webinars and step-by-step guides. With these materials and the intuitive user interface, your teams can familiarize themselves with the system faster and face fewer barriers when using various tools.
FYI: Nextiva offers live Q&A webinars several times per month. Anyone can join by registering. It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the system and even hear answers to questions you haven't thought about yet.
Nextiva's customer support experience is one of the best in the industry. Unlike competitors, Nextiva provides 24/7 customer service for all plan tiers, so even if you're a small team using the Essentials plan, you can still access high-quality support.
Nextiva's support team is available via live chat, phone and email. You can also submit a help ticket online. Moreover, the Nextiva website includes a vast knowledge base, and you can join a live Q&A session, offered multiple times each month, to learn about Nextiva services.
Although Nextiva stands out for its advanced analytics, there are a couple of cases where it may not be a good fit for your business. For instance, we were disappointed that the Essentials plan lacks core features such as SMS/MMS and video conferencing with more than one other person. There are less expensive and equally reliable solutions for basic voice calling. Some Nextiva alternatives include chat and video on their base plans; see an example in our Dialpad review.
Also, Nextiva doesn't offer international phone numbers or global workforce capabilities. While this won't affect some small businesses, you may want to add virtual numbers to make it less expensive for international customers to contact your company as your company grows. Business owners planning to scale their services worldwide within a year or two will find RingCentral and 8x8 more adaptable in this case.
After researching all of the top business phone systems and spending dozens of hours trying different services, we rated each platform based on our experiences. We looked at the types of analytics and reports available as well as scheduling options. Plus, we factored in our customer service interactions and ease of use during installation.
Yes. Nextiva offers softphone applications for iOS devices, including iPhones. You can download the app from the Nextiva website or the Apple App Store. Once you set up your Nextiva subscription, you can start making and receiving calls.
Yes. Nextiva's stand-alone fax services and the virtual faxing included with VoIP plans are encrypted during transfer and stored in highly secure data centers. An added benefit is that no papers are lost or misplaced, because faxes are routed directly to your device.
You can send and receive unlimited text messages using your business number. The SMS/MMS feature works on mobile apps and desktop apps.
We recommend Nextiva for …
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