If you haven’t implemented unified communications (UC) in your organization, it’s likely due to one or more of the following three factors: security concerns regarding sensitive corporate data, the expense of the initial transformation from an on-premises to a cloud-based infrastructure, or interoperability issues.
This is Part 2 of our three-part series on the state of the UC market. In Part 1, we looked at how UC adds business value to organizations. Now, we will address these challenges to UC deployment and how they’re being resolved with cloud-based solutions.
UC does this by enabling real-time communications both inside and outside of companies, speeding up business processes and increasing productivity. These benefits have led to substantial growth of the UC market. In fact, a new report by Grand View Research predicts that the global UC market will reach $143.5 billion by 2024, up from $35.7 billion in 2015.
According to Grand View, on-premise UC solutions accounted for nearly 60 percent of the overall market share in 2015—owing to the ease of customization and control they offer businesses. On-premise solutions give organizations a sense of security over their critical business infrastructure, but not without accompanying operational costs from maintenance and well-trained IT staff.
In comparison, hosted UC systems provide greater flexibility than on-premise systems, allowing for easier access to company data for employees (working anywhere on any type of device), especially those working in disparate locations, at a reduced infrastructure cost. The segment accounted for nearly 40 percent of the overall UC market and is projected to overtake on-premises solutions by 2024.
Although UC combines multiple communications (e.g., voice, instant messaging, data sharing, and video conferencing) into a single solution, enabling organizations to make seamless use of other conventional communication services such as email, voicemail, fax and SMS and save time and money, it’s not without its detractors.
According to a survey by Jabra, the biggest challenge for implementing UC is overall cost. Seventy-three percent of companies with more than 5,000 employees cited cost as an obstacle to implementing UC. Costs include replacing a legacy system with UC, plus implementation, training, and network costs.
Proponents of cloud-based UC argue that UC systems eliminate the waste associated with separate management tools for voice, data, and video networks. Furthermore, they significantly reduce the time spent by IT staff on managing these networks.
Organizations can be expected to recoup implementation costs through reduced expenses related to travel, teleconferencing, telephony, messaging and project timelines. To this list, add improvements in collaborative decision making, seamless communication experience, call center navigation, work-life balance and simplicity of management.
With the right UC solution, the cloud allows for secure connectivity, greater levels of data privacy, and a more exclusive company interface whether public, private or hybrid. Yet fears persist, as the task of securing sensitive data continues to elude many IT professionals. Data security is hardest to manage due to lack of enterprise control. Careful auditing of cloud data center security is one possible solution, but many enterprises opt to store critical data on-premises. Where data security isn’t a major factor, cloud access and transmission security are managed using the same tools that would be used to manage Internet virtual private network (VPN) access to corporate applications hosted in a traditional way.
Many vendors in the UC space bring a range of specifications to the market, causing interoperability issues among platforms. Solutions to the conundrum include the AT&T UC Federation service announced last year, which will more easily enable businesses to connect to partners and suppliers through a multitude of supported platforms, such as Cisco’s Jabber and Microsoft’s Lync.
Interoperability among solutions is necessary for various reasons—from integrating an organization’s various departments, branches or office locations into one solution to easing mergers with companies that have different solutions, to gradual migrations where some users in an organization remain with the legacy solution and others move to the new UC solution.
Federation with stakeholders outside the organization makes it easier to collaborate, share information and shorten project time. Various types of federation—from session to active to continuous to passive—are required for spontaneous interoperability among UC platforms. Many solutions are emerging, like Amadeo from Damaka, to eliminate interoperability issues. For example, once someone starts an Amadeo meeting, he or she can bring in Lync, WebEx/Jabber and Sametime users who can IM/audio/video with each other during the meeting.
Seeing a need to fill, companies will continue their work to solve UC interoperability issues by breaking down the “walled gardens” of large UC vendors.
The cloud will continue to be the next frontier for UC because it lowers large upfront costs and enables faster and smoother UC deployments than have traditionally been possible. Choosing the right provider, such as Star2Star, can greatly eliminate any concerns and alleviate any difficulties.
To read Part 1 of this series,
To Read Part 2 of this series,