When it comes to their communications systems, enterprises are battling technological and vendor confusion. Microsoft has disrupted the market enormously by introducing Microsoft Lync and the recent release of Skype for Business, leaving traditional players like Avaya and Cisco scrambling to respond to a new competitive threat. This has in turn led to confusion in the user market.
Meanwhile there is a shift to the IT department becoming a service organisation within itself, treating employees as customers and using technology to allow individuals to achieve their goals of increased efficiency, collaboration and productivity through a transformational change of the business.
As a result, IT departments are beginning to realise that often it’s cheaper to outsource basic communication services so that they can focus on transformational business change. This is true with Unified Communications (UC) in particular.
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It can seem like an easy decision to make but there can be some important considerations. When deciding whether to manage their own systems on-premise, or subscribe to a cloud or hosted managed service, the question organisations need to ask is “What is the business benefit from us owning and managing this system ourselves?”
The changing role of on-premise
On-premises software is installed and runs on computers on the premises of the organisation rather than at a remote facility. Many companies have on-premise software that is managed in-house. Although the company may contract with a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) for some aspects of their UC, in the end the company is responsible for its own system.
There are times when having an on-premise service is absolutely critical – such as a hospital campus – where it is imperative to have a telephony service on-site.
UC is part of an essential business transformation designed to improve customer relationships
But the truth is, while UC is part of an essential business transformation designed to improve customer relationships, productivity and efficiency, agility, and business continuity, it is rarely a competitive differentiator within a company.
If there is a clear case for competitive differentiation, availability, security or cost reasons, then on-premise can be the way to go. However, with the range of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) offerings available today an on-premise model is no longer the default option.
Meanwhile pure ‘cloud’ services are often still like UC on-premise and offer little to no flexibility or personalisation capabilities. Leaving IT departments to tailor their businesses to the solution they have purchased. But a cloud managed service offered by a CSP can be tailored to individual customers and preferences. Below are several ways that a cloud managed service model can offload risk, and allow an organisation to focus on the business-critical levels of change.
Vendor and Technology Decisions:
The UC market is a fast growing and fast developing market. New vendors and technologies are emerging, and significant vendor consolidation is occurring. This flux makes it difficult to ensure that a three year vendor and technology decision is appropriate for the project lifetime.
Cloud managed services mitigate the risk associated with vendors and technology by contracting to meet a set of end user features within an SLA. Any change in the market such as a vendor exiting or end-of-life product becomes the responsibility of the CSP.
With a cloud managed service, the CSP takes on the responsibility of an ordered and smooth transition to the new service, mitigating any risks involved in migrating users and ensure a swifter RoI.
A CSP also has the benefit of providing a standard cloud platform and provisioning a new customer on existing equipment designed for the task is faster, more efficient and more reliable than building a new environment.
A cloud managed service provides a base UC platform to all customers. Although each have different requirements, the base platform is the same. This allows a CSP to use a number of different systems to monitor performance and maintain as close to 100 per cent availability as possible.
System maintenance is both scheduled and reactive, managing systems releases as they are available and tested, but also able to react quickly to any vendor alerts of vulnerability.
Managing Expenditure and Costs
When a CSP provides the cost of the service it is committed to delivering the service at that cost, and mitigating the risk of any unanticipated expenditure for the lifetime of the contract. Any changes in vendor, technology, products remains the service provider’s liability.
Security and Compliance
In a cloud managed service, the service provider mitigates the risk associated with malicious or accidental attacks on the service as part of the SLA. The CSP works in tandem with suppliers to maintain a robust system with timely system maintenance to protect against any threats as they become known.
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Equipping workers with the right UC tools will drive efficiency, collaboration and productivity. However UC on-premise and fixed cloud services do not offer the flexibility needed to support the UC requirements of businesses today. To fully reap the benefits of UC it is hard to look beyond a cloud managed service for businesses today. UC-as-a-Service leaves the commodities such as internet connectivity and IP systems to skilled CSP who can be a better and cheaper option. Once these basics are covered by a trusted partner, this leaves the IT department free to focus on enabling transformational business change.