Midsize businesses are better equipped to compete in today’s extremely competitive marketplace when they take advantage of cloud technology. Unified communications and collaboration offerings are a critical component that can add value when migrated to the cloud.
To keep pace with the growing digital economy, companies must find ways to work more efficiently while utilising cost-effective tools.
Business leadership expects IT to lead the way, and IT is turning to the cloud. In fact, 72 percent of midsize organisations are currently leveraging the cloud and an additional 17 percent have said they plan to utilise the cloud within the next 12 months for at least a portion of their applications or computing infrastructure— whether it’s private, public, or hybrid (1).
Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) applications are ideal for cloud architectures. After all, the cloud plays a pivotal role in seamlessly empowering file sharing, collaboration, and flexibility within an increasingly mobile marketplace. Given this reality, 47 percent of midsize companies say they have ventured, at least partially, into UCC cloud deployments (2).
Furthermore, when looking to the future, 67 percent anticipate some form of UCC cloud deployment within the next two years. That said, organisations are proceeding with caution, because if they fail to capitalise on opportunities to enhance collaboration capabilities, the business as a whole will likely suffer.
Ignoring customer expectations for highly collaborative and on-demand engagements could have negative consequences. Also, the lack of IT resources is a constant drumbeat, as the business expects CIOs to do more with less, so investments must be thoughtfully considered. If its attention is diverted to operating and optimising the existing infrastructure, management won’t have time to consider new investments and concepts.
“People are stretched thin, and there are a lot of choices they have to sort through to make the most of their investments,” says Henry Dewing, senior evangelist with Avaya, a global provider of business collaboration and communications solutions. “Selecting a cloud deployment that aligns with business goals can ultimately provide management relief.”
The benefits of UCC in the cloud
It’s not just a lack of in-house resources that’s pushing IT to explore UCC in the cloud. The benefits make for a strong investment case, including the ability to:
• Modernise with minimal technology risk
• Scale as business needs change
• Enhance user capabilities
• Gain control over associated expenses
Modernise with minimal technology risk
Cloud providers reduce technical risk by leveraging a single full-stack solution with fewer integration points and interfaces. The buyer trusts that the provider will meet its service-level agreements (SLAs) and deliver reliable service.
Scale as business needs change
Cloud-based systems provide the foundations for ad hoc, flexible, rapid deployment and disbanding of resources. Scale is especially important for organisations with business models that naturally swell or contract, such as tax preparers adding numerous temporary employees throughout the first quarter of the year or resort communities where seasons can have a dramatic impact on the number of employees who need temporary access to communication and collaboration tools.
Every midsize company understands that an underpinning of business growth is having flexibility as needs change. The cloud provides that.
Enhance user capabilities
Cloud-based UCC makes it easy for an administrator to instantly add capabilities for an individual, a group, or all employees. This results in unmatched flexibility, giving users what they need when they need it, regardless of device or location—which is crucial, considering today’s anywhere, anytime, any device mantra.
Also, when leveraging a single, full-stack solution, organisations can pick and choose what is right for the business at that time while still allowing for future adaptation and growth. One of the biggest benefits is that the user experience is uniform across the entire UCC deployment, regardless of whether a specific component is in the cloud or on premises.
Gain control over associated expenses
The cloud offers an opportunity to reduce capital expenditures (CapEx) while matching expenses to business volume. This results in greater predictability of costs and therefore profits. Specifically, the UCC cloud solution is entered into the financial ledger as an operating expense (OpEx), often with a monthly subscription fee rather than a large up-front capital expenditure.
Particularly midsize companies, where significant cash outlays are challenging, can quickly reap the value of the OpEx approach.
This investment method also continues to pay off down the road; for example, upgrades become seamless, because it’s the provider that has the responsibility of ensuring successful installations. As a result, businesses can better predict expenses and match them to actual business volume.
A well sourced cloud deployment ultimately decreases IT management overhead and requirements, increases the availability of staff for strategic efforts, and decreases the time spent on routine maintenance and operations.
However, the benefits go well beyond cost issues—for example, improving productivity and efficiency levels. Bottom line: A solid investment means spending more time running the business and less time managing the communications solution.
"Taking all these benefits into account, moving to the cloud becomes the quickest and most efficient way for midsize organisations to make communications and collaboration work", says Dewing.
“It’s scalable, updated regularly, and maintained by the provider. By relying on their cloud provider, companies are able to spend more time and focus on the right things—such as providing further opportunities for business growth.”
Understand deployment differences
As revealed in IDG’s cloud computing survey, public, private and hybrid deployments will all grow over the next 18 months, with hybrid cloud gradually taking market share from the predominant public and private options. All three—public, private, and hybrid—have their individual selling points. So then it becomes a question of how to choose which approach is the best for your organisation.
When taking the private cloud route, organisations elect to run their solutions on an architecture with dedicated resources. This can be developed either in-house or in conjunction with one of the many cloud providers. For large enterprises, embracing a private cloud often makes more sense than for SMBs—if for no other reason than economies of scale.
Specifically, private cloud configurations can strip away some of the cost benefits for midsize organisations. For example, with an in-house private cloud, all the management, maintenance, and updating responsibilities remain on IT’s shoulders. Although this approach offers IT control, it also places a financial burden on IT resources.
That said, in some instances where compliance dictates the actions of an organisation—such as a regulated financial services company—a private cloud may be the best solution. With the public cloud approach, organisations are sharing the same infrastructure and operational costs, which typically make the public cloud the less expensive option.
The most common concern with the public cloud is security, primarily because companies don’t want to share infrastructure with an organisation that may not have security policies similar to their own. However, major cloud providers invest heavily in securing their environments.
They have the financial resources and IT staff to go the distance in cloud security. Also, most cloud deployments include SLAs specifically covering the provider’s commitment to protect client data and applications. The key is to pay close attention to SLA details. Then there are hybrid solutions, which blend cloud and on-premises deployments.
This route is attractive, because it allows business needs to dictate when new cloud capabilities should be enabled while still leveraging existing on-premises infrastructure investments. A hybrid solution is useful, for example, for expanding to new regions or merging two previously independent organizations that need to have a single integrated UCC architecture. The same is true when flexing capacity to meet demands for peaks and valleys in business activity.
No organization can afford to fall behind in an environment—especially at a midsize company that sometimes competes against larger enterprises with greater resources—where customers expect highly collaborative and on-demand engagements. Understandably, this can put stress on IT to deliver. That’s why it’s critical to invest in the cloud-based UCC solution that best fits your organization. When properly sourced, such a solution spells much-needed relief for IT and gives the growing business the flexibility it needs in order to remain competitive.
1 “IDG Enterprise 2015 Cloud Computing Survey.”
2“IDG Enterprise Unified Communications and Collaboration Survey 2015.”
Adapted from the "Growing the business via cloud deployments" whitepaper, conducted by CIO on behalf of Avaya