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UC in the Cloud – Panacea or placebo?

Alan Shen, Vice President of Consulting Services, Unify Square | May 30, 2016
Separating fact from fiction in a cloud-based unified communications deployment.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

The forecast for unified communications (UC) in the cloud seems bright with clear skies ahead.

According to Transparency Market Research, UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) is expected to reach nearly $38 billion by 2022 with an impressive compound annual growth rate of over 23%.

And while the benefits of UCaaS have been well documented, it is important to note that simply putting UC in the cloud does not ensure a highly functional, highly available enterprise communications platform that end users will readily adopt.

To truly realize the optimal UC end state – one where old PBXs are decommissioned and dial-in contracts are no longer necessary – enterprises must come to the realization that cloud is just one small piece of the bigger UC puzzle, despite what Microsoft and other UC vendors may profess.

IT departments would be advised to take into account multiple facets of their IT infrastructure that are at least equal to, if not more important than the cloud, in order to build a thriving UC environment. So let’s break down the cloud hype.

Cloud – The 15% UC solution

As Zig Serafin, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Skype Business Services, stated at Enterprise Connect 2016, users expect a seamless experience when it comes to day-to-day communications. They don’t view video and voice as distinct or separate entities. Rather, “they're thinking about one infrastructure that people use for different modalities”, and “…are expecting a mobility of experience across whatever devices they're using.”

To facilitate this kind of freedom of communication requires a holistic, end-to-end UC solution. Whether or not the UC infrastructure itself resides in the cloud is only one part of a complex equation. UC environments are comprised of highly interdependent systems that rely on the availability and stability of multiple technologies, including endpoint devices, corporate data networks, telephony gateways, TDM services, server infrastructure, the public Internet, and willing end users.

By viewing the UC ecosystem across this full spectrum, it becomes clear that the cloud is not a cure-all. Despite the aggressive efforts by UCaaS vendors (which now include Microsoft) to market and sell the Cloud PBX as the current, hip place to be, enterprises should pause and heed some clear-headed analysis before proceeding. Choosing to place UC in the cloud is likely only a 15% solution, at best. So what about the remaining 85 percent?

The other 85%

Engineering a UC infrastructure is a challenging undertaking. Not only does it require technical expertise in UC architecture, but the success of the project is contingent upon the collaboration and cooperation of other IT teams whose technologies greatly impact UC voice quality, service availability and end-user satisfaction. When the cloud enters the equation, there are additional factors to consider.

 

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