Interactive Voice Response Buyer's Guide
In-house vs. hosted IVR systems
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One key decision to make when choosing an IVR system is whether you want to run the system in house (called locally-hosted, client/server, or premise-based IVR) or would you prefer to use a hosted version managed off-site by your vendor.
Traditional telephone equipment is premise-based: a dedicated telecom closet in your office holds all the necessary servers, switches, and other equipment. Having locally-hosted IVR hardware and software gives you the greatest amount of control over your system, but requires that you either have the technical expertise on staff to handle maintenance or pay for regular visits from technicians.
If you choose an on-site system, the majority of your costs will be tied to the upfront purchase and installation of the new software and hardware. You may also pay smaller ongoing fees for support and access to upgrades.
Hosted IVR solutions
In contrast to premise-based systems, hosted IVR providers run the server and software for you at their data center. Phone calls are answered off-site, then transferred to your office as needed. In most cases, you'll have a web-based interface for reporting and basic account management.
The main advantage of a hosted IVR system is that it's maintained, secured, and upgraded by IT professionals at the vendor's office. They provide standby power and regular backups to ensure that the system is always available to answer calls. Payment for hosted IVR solutions is based on a smaller setup fee and ongoing monthly payments.
Which is right for you?
Locally hosted systems are more familiar to many users. Your IT staff may prefer the additional level of control that owning the system outright allows, and some contend that the on-premise systems are more robust.
However, the hosted model is gaining popularity. The technology has advanced considerably in recent years so that hosted vendors can handle even the largest of customers. Many companies have grown more comfortable with so-called "cloud based" systems (also known as application service providers or ASPs) as they've proven to be excellent resources for many critical software systems including CRM and HR.
Here are some areas you should consider when deciding between hosted and locally-run IVR solutions:
- IT staff - If your IT staff has the time and expertise, an in-house solution might be right for you. Smaller companies with little-to-no IT expertise are probably better off choosing a hosted solution.
- Budget - While hosted systems require a much smaller up-front investment, the ongoing costs will usually surpass locally-hosted versions in the long run.
- Timetable - To get started quickly, hosted solutions are the best choice, since they leverage the expertise of the provider in setting up all the necessary hardware.
You can also start off with a hosted service then move to an in-house solution: hosted IVR providers should offer a seamless migration path that allows you to easily export your data. Some vendors offer both hosted and in-house systems, making the transition easy. This approach can be an easy way to get started without committing fully to either option.