The lure of the Cloud
With any new technology transition, the first step is getting executive buy in. The great thing is, migrating to Cloud UC has a compelling financial impact. From a purely capital expenditure (CAPEX) perspective, a move to Cloud UC eliminates expensive upfront capital investments and extended pay-back periods to cover hardware expenses. Furthermore, with technology evolving so rapidly, a Cloud-based solution means easier and more cost effective future software upgrades.
When considering operational expenditures (OPEX), the potential for cost savings and value is even more compelling. With a hosted voice solution, you pay only for what you need when you need it, enabling a scalable approach as your business grows or contracts. You also benefit from simplified management of your communications network allowing your IT staff to focus on other priorities (or possibly reduce your IT staff) avoiding expensive support service visits when you wish to add a line, move location or add/eliminate new features. You can also easily update your software and save through the reduction of your physical footprint and power requirements.
Cloud deployment models
The financial argument is strong, but what about complexity? With three common deployment models, it’s actually not bad. But which Cloud UC approach is right for you? Well it depends. You need to consider the following factors: Do you need to have complete oversight of security and management of your system? Do you want to have the flexibility to deploy new features and services? What’s your financial position on technology investments?
The most popular deployment model we see today is cloud hosted. This is often used by small businesses with fewer than 20 employees where economics and flexibility allow them to share resources with similar companies. This model requires very little financial outlay compared to the more CAPEX intensive premise-based options. In contrast, a full on premise option, is maintained and operated for one specific company or organization alone. This is best for businesses that need in-house security, management and control, but it costs much more than a cloud hosted option. And finally, the third option is a hybrid model, which uses a combination of cloud with premised-based solutions so that information, communications and data move seamlessly from one to another. This option offers the best of both worlds as it is much more flexible and can be more cost effective.
Familiarity breeds confidence
Now it’s time to make the move. When thinking about migrating to a new Cloud platform, take into account any familiarity your users might have or whether it is completely new. Millions of businesses already use Microsoft's Skype for Business. It’s a familiar technology with an easy-to-use interface and it’s this familiarity that is key to accelerating user adoption and removing the fear and uncertainty that often comes with implementing new technology.
The next development phase for Skype for Business is the introduction of voice services in the Cloud, with the launch of CloudPBX in Office 365. Cloud PBX offers the ability for enterprises to integrate a full telephony solution to their Skype deployment, enabling users to call in and out to fixed line and mobile numbers.
Making the move at your own pace
With Cloud communications, the focus should be on starting small and adding more features instead of a complete overhaul; it makes more sense to migrate in phases. For example, start with moving instant messaging (IM) and presence to the Cloud. This is a good test for the IT department and they will become increasingly comfortable after each successful phase. Once they’ve moved IM they can add conference calling, then voice and video. This also ensures that some form of communications stay operational if the organization experiences trouble with one of the migrations.
It’s also important to look for solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing third party vendor equipment so they don’t have to stop using them immediately. This includes existing PSTN connectivity, PBXs (Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, etc.), common area phones, analogue faxes and dual tone multi-frequency (DTMF)/interactive voice response (IVR) solutions. Such an approach can enable you to preserve existing service provider contracts to support TDM and SIP trunking requirements. Flexibility is key, so choose a solution that can be deployed either virtually or as a hardware appliance. And with security top of mind, it’s imperative to find a solution that provides comprehensive security, including topology hiding and protection against Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
One of the biggest advantages of the Cloud is it’s a model organizations’ can try without major investment. To that extent, it’s far easier and quicker to try-out Cloud UC than trying out new devices or software that needs deployed on-premises.
Many organizations will face challenges deciding on the right deployment strategy for their UC services. It’s incredibly rare to see a business make an overnight migration. Therefore, it’s important to transition at your own pace, consider the deployment options and make sure you have the right solutions in place to make your migration to the Cloud a seamless one.