Rating Zoom’s Cloud Phone System on Its First Birthday
In the fall of 2018, Zoom formally announced their intent to round out their product suite to include every business communications use case, including cloud PBX, cross-platform workflows, and enterprise conference rooms. This was the birth of the Zoom cloud phone system. Zoom went on to ship Zoom Phone in the first quarter of 2019 to North American customers (including Puerto Rico) and then to expand to 5 other countries (Canada, UK, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand). Today, Zoom Phone Calls are becoming as normal as Zoom video conferences. Zoom’s continued efforts significantly raise the profile of their Zoom cloud phone system among the largest enterprise organizations around the world.
Now, a little over one year into the roll-out of Zoom Phone, the debate is simply: “Is Zoom Phone enterprise–ready?” This post provides an objective answer to this important question.
Zoom Phone in Year 2
Zoom Phone was created in early 2019 to deliver a unified communications experience and provide Zoom customers with even greater flexibility. Only six months later, Gartner proclaimed that “by 2023, 40% of new enterprise telephony purchases will be based on a cloud office suite – either Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite.” That still leaves about 60% of the market open for UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) players like Zoom to capture. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan made sure that there was no confusion about Zoom’s objectives when he used the Zoomtopia Keynote in the fall of 2019 to tell the world “If any of you are still using other phone systems – no matter the first generation, second generation or third generation – today is the day to start thinking about the Zoom Phone system.”
Initially positioned as a lightweight add-on to its video platform, Zoom Phone has quickly evolved into a robust cloud PBX that Zoom hopes every customer will adopt. Since launching Zoom Phone, Zoom has added more than 200 features, certified over 50 phone models for the service, and launched a beta program in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. And they’re only getting started. While Zoom Phone still may not have as many detailed features as the offerings of calling-focused UCaaS vendors like Gartner UCaaS Magic Quadrant leaders RingCentral and 8×8, the capabilities that Zoom lacks are generally advanced functions that only a small number of organizations require.
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Zoom Calls…. or Microsoft Calls?
So, what’s not to like about Zoom Phone? Is there a downside to moving from a more traditional UC platform like Microsoft Skype for Business? Here are some important points to consider:
- Feature Parity: Zoom is devoting significant resources to the product. At the same time, some market opinions are that cloud phone system offerings are still not ‘feature complete’ in comparison to other UCaaS platforms. However, this same feature completeness opinion is also used today to describe Microsoft Teams. In fact, it was used for years to describe Microsoft Skype for Business. In both Microsoft cases, the conventional wisdom of the market hasn’t stopped the Redmond juggernaut from winning UC enterprise market share. Why should it be any different with Zoom Phone?
- Shadow IT Legacy: In many cases, the rapid adoption of Zoom Video Conferencing occurred without the initial sponsorship of IT. While such a transformation can occur quite fluidly with conferencing, on-prem or cloud PBX can be a different beast. As much as Zoom has charmed the end–user, in some cases they’re still playing catch up on the phone side with more traditional enterprise IT departments.
- UC and UCaaS Incumbent Speed Bumps: Vendors like 8×8 and RingCentral currently occupy mind share in the pure UCaaS world, and UC vendors Microsoft, Cisco and Avaya are the traditional on-premises incumbents. These older UC/UCaaS companies introduced fear, uncertainty and doubt on working through budgeting, system depreciation, migration, and reliability. Ironically there are many who believe that Zoom Phone is actually more enterprise-ready than some of the traditional players. Nevertheless, there remain speed bumps in the evaluation process before a full Zoom Cloud PBX move can be embraced by IT.
- Monitoring & Troubleshooting Depth: The out of the box Zoom administration portal allows organizations to manage and provision users, monitor business interactions, and display service performance metrics. However, some advanced IT teams still feel like they require more advanced monitoring depth, increased flexibility, the ability to simultaneously monitor and troubleshoot multiple UC platforms, and, most importantly, actionable insights that direct IT how and where to remediate problems. Fortunately, just as with other platforms like Cisco or Microsoft, there are 3rd party tools which fill any platform management gaps required by demanding enterprise customers.
- Zoom Success: Zoom’s great success in the video conferencing space, coupled with siloed informal pilots of Zoom Phone throughout many enterprises may be contributing to an overall Cloud PBX slow-down. The upside for Zoom is that organizations pause to evaluate all cloud phone options (including Zoom Phone) in more detail. The potential downside is that a more detailed analysis could allow IT to slow down a full Zoom Phone program if they determine that key requirements are currently missing.
Zoom Cloud PBX on the Rise
The UCaaS market could reach a value of more than $79 billion by 2024, up from roughly $8 billion in 2015, according to a 2019 report by Transparency Market Research. In parallel, based on its reputation as a leading video conferencing platform, Zoom’s mind share, buzz and early transformation successes for Zoom Phone are strong. There’s a long list of reasons to strongly consider piloting Zoom Phone:
- Ease of Use: Perhaps the biggest benefit of Zoom Phone is how easy it is to use. The tool is designed to be as accessible as the rest of the Zoom experience, so you don’t need to download any complex software to use it. With Zoom Phone, you can transition from video to voice calls with ease – finding the communication strategy that suits you.
- Product support: As the leader in cloud video conferencing known for its focus on happy users, Zoom product support delivers excellent customer value, even for Zoom Phone.
- A true UCaaS cloud voice suite: In addition to a highly competitive cloud PBX, Zoom Phone delivers important additional capabilities, such as video and web conferencing, chat, intelligent call routing, call blocking, voicemail, voicemail transcription, native integrations (to various contact center platforms, Salesforce, Office & Google G-Suite), secure HD audio, call history, auto-attendant, interactive voice response (IVR), call delegation and shared lines, and call recording.
- Every Month = New Zoom Phone Features: If Zoom Phone is behind on features and functionality, they won’t be for long. As an example, the January update added voicemail greetings, anonymous call blocking, out-of-office call routing, and dial-by-name directories. Plus, the product gained new paging capabilities through integrations with intercom device-makers Algo and Cyberdata.
- Gartner Magic Quadrant 2020: We don’t have any sort of inside-track knowledge regarding Gartner Magic Quadrants. Having said that, we would be very surprised if Zoom didn’t appear in the upcoming UCaaS MQ in a strong position. They missed out in 2019 only because of Gartner rules that a solution must be commercially offered in two or more large regions, and now that Zoom Phone has expanded its coverage, this should no longer be an issue. Additionally, the Zoom “ability to execute” and “completeness of vision” (the two key Gartner rating vectors) are unquestioned.
- Zoom Conferencing Combo: Zoom Phone integrates seamlessly with Zoom Room conferencing. In fact, Zoom introduced the ability to elevate a Zoom Phone call directly into a Zoom Meeting without disconnecting or creating a new meeting.
- Flexible deployment models: Zoom Phone can be deployed in many geographic areas because of the platform’s ability to leverage existing providers or use third-party SIP trunking and calling plans.
- BYOC (Bring Your Own Carrier): Almost a mirror image of Microsoft’s Direct Routing capability, Zoom’s option ensures that you can access all the advantages of Zoom Phone through your existing PSTN trunks. This unique capability gives organizations all of the benefits and features of Zoom Phone while keeping existing service provider contracts, phone numbers, and calling rates with their preferred carrier of record and if needed, an incumbent PBX.
- Communications endpoint choices: Zoom Phone has smartly allowed businesses the ability to choose among desktop IP phones and headsets. Even more importantly, the Zoom cloud phone system supports off-the-shelf hardware (without requiring any sort of a complicated certification program like other vendors). This provides IT flexibility with respect to legacy proprietary systems.
- Frequently Asked Questions: This isn’t necessarily an indication of Zoom’s ability to deliver, but we think that the nature of these Zoom Phone FAQs (e.g. e911, local number portability, etc.) are indicative of the maturity of the platform.
- Zoom + Slack: The two vendors recently introduced a new integration that will let users initiate Zoom Phone calls within Slack. The Slack popularity and relationship with Zoom help to further expand Zoom’s calling influence.
- Ecosystem: To support Zoom Phone, Zoom has brought with them some of their established conferencing partnerships and pulled in new partners who have long-standing cloud phone system expertise. Additionally, compared to some of their UCaaS competitors, Zoom has been flexible, nimble, and quick to market with their APIs and mobile/desktop software development kits (SDKs). This allows third-party developers to create tools and applications to better enhance the IT and end-user experience.
The Enterprise-Ready Answer
It wasn’t much more than a decade ago when Microsoft’s Skype for Business was the David to the Cisco Goliath in the UC market. In those days, Microsoft actively sought out partners with deep conferencing and telephony experience to help them advance beyond their initial UC beachhead. Today, Zoom finds itself tapped to play a similar David-like role in cloud calling. Are they ready to begin the battle? Absolutely. Zoom’s innovation, happy users and understanding of the market have them poised for great success. Fortunately, Zoom’s “happy users” mantra also extends to encompass “happy partners.” Unify Square is thrilled to be partnering with Zoom to bring our deep UC experience to bear. Our PowerSuite software and cloud managed services provide Zoom administrators with the ability to surface actionable insights, troubleshoot quality issues, and especially manage Zoom Phone.