A recent report by BCC Research predicts the global UC&C market will reach $62 billion by 2020. Hybrid UC&C is the fastest growing segment in this market as a growing number of businesses demand more efficient, real-time communications to streamline the exchange of information between employees, business partners and customers. But what is the best approach for SMBs that want to benefit from modern communications? Manish Sablok, Head of Field Marketing, NWE at ALE, explains how the hybrid model is fast becoming the ideal solution for SMBs.

The need to deliver hybrid UC&C is heating up, with 54 percent of businesses set to take the hybrid approach in the next two years. By integrating several different communication components with on-premise hardware, such as instant messaging, document sharing or audio/video conferencing, businesses are able to facilitate all sorts of real-time collaboration, straight away.

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Large enterprises are leading the chase when it comes to UC&C, because enterprises were early adopters of premise-based UC&C solutions. But as the new models evolved and matured to deliver complete communications in ways that makes sense to SMBs, there are now big opportunities for these companies to join the ‘cloud crowd’.

Protect what you’ve got and build for the future

Hybrid cloud adoption is the ideal solution for SMBs looking to on-board cloud services while protecting existing investment. There is no need to rush ahead and completely migrate across to full cloud adoption. A hybrid approach allows businesses to realise optimal value from existing hardware at the same time as introducing the aspects of cloud-based communications. These cloud services can be ‘bolted’ on a pay-per-user basis, enabling a much more flexible approach that allows smaller businesses to only pick the services that will help meet their needs.

By adopting a hybrid model, SMBs can start to close the ‘cloud gap’ that separates the have and have nots. Any further transition to a full cloud solution is far easier than starting from scratch as it has already reduced the need for on-premise physical infrastructure.

Stay in step with a flexible workforce

With data and business applications accessible outside of the workplace, the rise in popularity of the mobile workforce has led to a complete rethink of how employees work together. In modern business, it’s becoming increasingly common for employees to work from home or on the move – collaborating with colleagues across different time zones. Add ‘hot desking’ into the mix, where each employee has their own laptop or mobile device rather than a PC at a fixed workstation, and you have a complex recipe in trying to provide one single point of collaboration.

Traditional SMB communication solutions haven’t offered the scalability and agility smaller organisations rely on, and which will allow them to grow and expand in the future. This can make for large investments when systems and platforms have to be completely overhauled in order to keep up with growing businesses – often as a result of a lack of flexible, cost-effective cloud models that have hampered the ability for SMBs to adapt their current platforms.

Controlling cost of ownership

In the past, communication platforms for SMBs would charge different licensing costs for different devices, meaning cost of ownership would rise, SMBs couldn’t have the flexibility to buy common licenses for multiple devices.

Hybrid and cloud solutions help address this challenge, enabling SMBs to take full advantage of flexible work options without CAPEX investment.

Hybrid and cloud communication providers should be able to tailor platforms to SMB needs and simplify the licensing of new users and devices. Through a cost-effective ‘pay-per-license’ model you eliminate the previous costly requirement to pay for separate licenses for different devices. This model also provides the ability to rapidly on-board new employees and their mobile devices without any significant administrative effort or major infrastructural costs.

Shifting the burden of security and support

The impact of downtime can be damaging and an unwanted expense that few SMBs can afford.

One of the great benefits of hybrid cloud is overall control stays in-house, but it removes the management and maintenance burden facing SMBs – many of which lack the IT skills available to larger enterprises. Instead the solution provider is tasked with maximising uptime. So for SMBs wanting to access cloud services, it is important to make sure any hybrid UC&C solution can be supported by on-demand remote management.

Remote management is a growing trend for hybrid and cloud-based solutions, in which solution providers can remotely access the network to provide support and troubleshooting, ensuring maximum uptime for SMBs. Hardware and software is updated remotely to eliminate maintenance delays and ensure security from external threats. With multi-year support contracts, SMBs routinely benefit from major security and functionality updates to protect their business.

A clear road ahead

For many SMBs, the cloud offered the opportunity to get hands-on with the latest business tools, but couldn’t always offer them a way to maximise the value of existing investments. Hybrid cloud is the perfect approach to take, allowing SMBs to adopt cloud services, support enterprise collaboration tools and maintain on-premise systems for when more control is needed.

Featured image credit to Lobster.media

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Manish Sablok, Head of Marketing, North West and East Europe for ALE Manish has a key role in defining go-to- market messaging for network infrastructure and unified communications product suites in this region. He has been at ALE for over ten years, and before his current role, held the position of Solutions Marketing Director for Unified Communications (UC) with a worldwide remit. Manish Sablok has a strong background in communications infrastructure, having been at Avaya for five years as Product Marketing Manager for South Asia and before that, Global Account and Channel Sales Manager at Siemens.