More Risk, Fewer Features: The Shortcomings of Legacy Phone Systems

Psychologists say we have a natural inclination to resist change, a phenomenon known as “behavioral inertia.” Put simply, we tend to assume that change will be difficult, will require more energy and might not produce good results.

This might explain why so many businesses cling to aging telephone systems that are at heightened risk of failure.

By some estimates, nearly half of U.S. businesses have outdated phone systems. That includes both traditional analog landlines and older systems combining analog with Voice over IP. Although some argue there is no hurry to replace these still-functional systems, they may be flirting with catastrophic communications failures.

Numerous studies illustrate that phone systems become increasingly unreliable as they age, resulting in more frequent outages that may often take more than an hour to resolve. Service and support become increasingly tricky because even routine adjustments can inadvertently create outages. For example, a router update could cause you to lose dial tone. Power supply changes could create static interference. A misconfigured software update could cause cascading switch failures.

Such failures obviously result in unanticipated maintenance costs. Even worse are the opportunity costs.

Inflexible and Insecure

Outdated features, fragmented applications and limited mobility capabilities create quality and operational issues that restrict productivity, inhibit innovation and frustrate users. Lacking access to the advanced communication and collaboration features available in newer unified communication (UC) platforms, employees aren’t as efficient or productive as they might be.

The lack of mobile integration is a significant limitation that could cost you customers. Most modern phone systems can seamlessly divert calls to your mobile number. Without that feature, customers may not be able to reach you in a pinch. If they must wait until the next business day to get a return call, they may choose to take their business elsewhere.

Inflexibility is another drawback of legacy systems. Organizations looking to scale their operations will find it difficult to expand their platform to add new users or support branch offices and remote workers. Most legacy phone systems can only support a specific number of phones; expanding beyond that limit requires purchasing additional hardware.

Aging phones can also compromise security. Once vendors stop providing patches, updates and bug fixes, you’ll face elevated cybersecurity risks and potential compliance issues. In one notorious toll fraud case, Pakistani hackers stole more than $50 million from several U.S. companies by infiltrating unpatched PBX systems and reprogramming unused phone extensions to make calls to premium phone numbers.

These shortcomings make it more difficult to maintain a competitive edge. Customers, partners, investors and vendors rightly expect their communications with you to be reliable, efficient and secure — anything less makes you seem unprofessional or incompetent.

A Better Way

Hosted or cloud-based UC systems eliminate all the risks and limitations of legacy phone systems while also laying the foundation for feature-rich communication and collaboration capabilities. Office and mobile phones, text messaging, email, video, social media, and other communication channels are tightly integrated and managed through a single interface. Integration with business applications provides easy access to customer data.

Because cloud-based UC infrastructure is managed and secured by a cloud service provider, you are freed from the day-to-day support and maintenance burden. The provider’s remote monitoring and threat detection capabilities will also improve your security footing by quickly detecting and mitigating potential threats. Advanced reporting and analytics features will deliver insights into customer activities, workforce processes and infrastructure health.

Even if your legacy phone system has served you well for years, it may be time to consider an upgrade. Although resistance to change is natural, a feature-rich hosted UC solution will be well worth the effort.