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Hidden Costs & Complexities of On-Prem PBX Integration with Cloud-Based SaaS Platforms

Have you ever been convinced (either by yourself or a vendor) that you can mirror all of the features and functionalities of a cloud-based UC system for less money if deployed on premise? Not so fast, my friend.

We recently published an article on the hidden costs of maintaining an on-prem PBX. One of the hidden expenses we revealed was paying for system integration with 3rd party Cloud-based SaaS platforms such as Salesforce, Netsuite, Hubspot, etc.

While cloud-based Unified Communications platforms are built for 3rd party integration, the same is definitely not true for on-premise PBX systems. Many of the systems may tout the ability to integrate just as easy as their cloud competitors, but we have found that to not be the case at all!

Establishing API Connectivity

Establishing API Connectivity between an on-premise PBX and a cloud-based SaaS platform isn’t a walk in the park or a 1-click-and-done. It has to be done bi-directionally to maintain sources of truth between both platforms.

To accomplish this, you need a talented system integrator that understands syntax, arguments and formatting for both the PBX and the SaaS provider. If this isn’t done correctly, then your data outputs will be completely screwed up and cause issues. But be forewarned, these rare dual experts are going to run you a lot of hourly charges in the form of professional set up services.

By contrast, cloud native UC solutions are built on microservices frameworks, with large, well established API gateways and pre-built API integrations into a myriad of SaaS platforms. With a cloud-based UC solution, it’s a simple matter of the UCaaS provider establishing the API connection to your account and you are off to the races.

404 Errors, Hang Ups, Expired Certificates and More

In today’s agile world, you can count on SaaS platforms rolling out new features, services, and, consequently, updating their API’s. Cloud-based UCaaS providers, or at least the best of them, have robust lifecycle and development teams that are getting ahead of these updates. They manage API calls for tens of thousands of customers and go through tedious tests and bug fixes to make sure that when SaaS providers update their API’s, the flow of data remains intact.

Most companies that go with an on-premise alternative rarely have their own DevOps prowess to stay on top of these updates. It is almost certain that on-premise users will eventually see the dreaded 404 error, or worse, the unruly hang up of a frozen screen.

If you want to integrate with any SaaS provider that takes their security seriously, they are going to require a pinned certificate that proves your PBX system is a trusted system in the handshake. Don’t forget, these certificates expire (for good reason). An expired certificate will immediately drop the API handshake and leave your organization without any integration.

All Around Slowness

With on-premise to cloud integrations, latency almost always becomes a point of frustration. For one, on-premise PBXs aren’t known for their super-fast databases – it’s just not cost effective or practical. When you combine that slowness with an API call that has to go from your location all the way up to the cloud and back every time, for every user, all day long, you start to see loss of productivity on a large scale.

Cloud Communications and Software providers, by contrast, tend to leverage large, fault-tolerant, highly performant and distributed databases built for speed. They combine that with super-fast API gateways that make the flow of data between platforms consistently instantaneous.

Minimal Support, End of Support

When examining UCaaS providers, you definitely want to make sure that the integrations they offer are under a support SLA that assures your business will be running smoothly, even while updates occur on either end.

Additionally, you would optimally want to partner with a company that is committed to continual improvements of their 3rd party integrations to keep up with the never-ending expectations of your customers (i.e. your end users!).

While nobody has a crystal ball to see how great any given platform will be in the future, your best bet is to ask about how much they are investing in research and development, and how many feature improvements they have rolled out in the last two years for the 3rd party application you are looking at integrating with. A great track record generally indicates a great future.

If you are looking for continued support for a 3rd party integration with an on-premise PBX, don’t count on it. Most PBX VARs and MSPs have either a small or non-existent group of engineers that are on the level of what’s required to manage these complex integrations. And if your integration engineers are really that good, then you can count on them taking another job at a large UCaaS company for more money any day now…

Security Concerns

Even top-tier Next Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) aren’t great at protecting PBXs. Always remember the Golden Rule of cybersecurity: if it has an operating system, it can be hacked.

Attempting to integrate your PBX into the cloud via API is already enough of a challenge thanks to Certificate Pinning requirements that most SaaS providers have in place, but it gets even more difficult when you factor in hacking vulnerabilities. If your PBX is compromised, then it essentially leaves the door wide open for hackers to easily pull all of your secret records off of your CRM or ERP.

It is for this reason that many SaaS companies don’t allow for on-premise PBX or other types of systems to integrate with their service in the first place.

Moving to a UCaaS solution certainly removes this vulnerability from your own network, but make sure you ask your potential UCaaS partners about how they secure their own network, as well as how they secure and monitor API calls to 3rd parties.

Need Help Making the Right Decision? Shamrock has Your Back

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to sourcing, assessing and procuring your Unified Communications or Software solutions.

Shamrock partners with the leading providers for both hosted PBX and UCaaS services; big names such as RingCentral, 8×8, Fuze, Microsoft Teams, Vonage Business, CallTower, Mitel and many more!

As a vendor-neutral company, we will give you an unbiased assessment of which platform, if any, best meets your business needs. We also guarantee the best price from whichever partner you may choose.

No matter how you decide to design your communications network, Shamrock can help you ensure that you make the right choice in terms of cost, security and performance.

Contact us today to arrange your free telecommunications audit and solution design!

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson

Ben Ferguson is the Vice President and Senior Network Architect for Shamrock Consulting Group, an industry leader in digital transformation solutions. Since his departure from Biochemical research in 2004, Ben has built core competencies around cloud direct connects and cloud cost reduction, enterprise wide area network architecture, high density data center deployments, cybersecurity and Voice over IP telephony. Ben has designed hundreds of complex networks for some of the largest companies in the world and he’s helped Shamrock become a top partner of the 3 largest public cloud platforms for AWS, Azure and GCP consulting. When he takes the occasional break from designing networks, he enjoys surfing, golf, working out, trying new restaurants and spending time with his wife, Linsey, his son, Weston and his dog, Hamilton.

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