Unified Communications (UC) is continuing its move to the cloud, with the model crossing the chasm into the mainstream. While there are plenty of benefits in embracing this digital transformation, there are also a few common pitfalls in making the transition, including network latency, performance, and security. Taking a hybrid approach can help businesses avoid these and ensure success in moving to an “as-a-service” model.
Cloud Unified Communications Going Mainstream
According to Gartner: “The UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) market as a whole is transitioning from the ‘early adopter phase’ to the ‘early mainstream phase’ for enterprise delivery.” Transparency Market Research expects growth in the segment to be impressive; the value of the global UCaaS market was pegged at $8.23 billion in 2015 and is projected to expand at an impressive CAGR of 29.4% through 2024, to reach $79.3 billion by the end of the forecast period.
The reasons for the market enthusiasm are myriad. For one, UCaaS eliminates the need for intensive, upfront capital investment; instead, businesses can move to a predictable monthly payment model while eliminating the need for maintenance. The software is automatically up to date, as it’s kept in a centralized location in the cloud where it’s maintained by the vendor. This enhances security and makes better use of limited in-house IT resources. And cloud Unified Communications support business agility, providing anywhere, anytime access to any screen—as such, it supports remote and mobile users and the borderless office.
When implementing UCaaS, it’s possible to use best-efforts internet for the experience: Simple broadband from a service provider will allow users to access their communications hub via the public internet. But the key here is the term “best-efforts”: there’s no guarantee that the performance of the ISP and public internet will be robust enough to support the user experience or even all of the necessary applications. Video, for instance, is a bandwidth hog that could slow the network for other users. This may be acceptable for those employees on the road, but in-office users require a better quality of service (QoS) threshold.
Hybrid Has It All
The way to combat this is to embrace a hybrid approach. Moving to cloud Unified Communications (UC) doesn’t have to be a wholesale proposition. In the UCaaS world, implementing a plug-and-play, on-premise system allows businesses to prioritize how voice packets, video and other WAN traffic is handled, reserving bandwidth for mission-critical, real-time communications and allowing others to take a back seat when necessary.
And in fact, hybrid UC solutions are becoming a dominant model.
“The integration of on-premises UC with cloud and hybrid UC services continues to play an increasingly important role as these options (cloud and hybrid) mature,” Gartner noted.
Ensuring success with UCaaS requires proper planning. It’s critical to create benchmarks for performance and data security and then assess and test the UCaaS environment with stress-tests for audio, video, and content-sharing. There are tools to enable this, and channel partner advisors can help guide organizations through the process. It’s also important to proactively monitor quality and performance for conferences, video, and calls, and to implement firewalls and other security measures to keep data safe at rest and in transit. Here, too, hybrid cloud UC solutions perform analysis and monitoring functions that help organizations achieve visibility into what’s happening in their critical communications environments.