Cloud Communications Basics: What You Need to Know
Looking at the core features of cloud communications
The way that you communicate says a lot about your business and who you are as an individual. And yet many business communications systems are anything but personal. They’re one‐size‐fits‐all solutions that your business probably outgrew more than a decade ago.
Moving your communications to the cloud can help your business build your communications around the way you work, and not the other way around.
For example, cloud communications can:
- Deliver the same phone features of a Fortune 500 company: Mobile‐friendly communications, broad selection of endpoints, automated callbacks, announced queue times, and more—at a cost that businesses of all sizes can afford
- Ensure a better customer experience: With intelligent call routing that sends customers to the right agent, with the right information, right away
- Provide deployment flexibility: Only pay for the features that you need, where they’re needed, and custom bundle features as your needs require
- Enable versatile communications: Employees access their phones, unified messaging, chats, apps, and more—on any device
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Integrating advanced applications with your communications system
Have you ever stopped to think that voice is just another application—albeit, an extremely critical application—that runs over a data network just like email?
Voice communications can be integrated into multiple aspects of your various business processes. Communications shouldn’t just start and stop on your desk phone.
Critical business applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, that support key business processes need to be communications-enabled so that your mobile workforce can be productive no matter where they are and what device they’re using. Examples of communications-enabled business applications and integrated capabilities include the following:
- Salesforce.com (for example, click to dial, inbound calls auto pop customer records, find contacts via directory search, capture notes and call details to the record)
- Microsoft Office 365 (for example, calendar-based presence notifications, click to dial, auto create calendar invitations, voicemail to email integration)
- Google Apps (for example, click to dial, in-call management options, and inbound call notifications)
Choosing communications deployment models
Until recently, there weren’t many options for deploying business communications systems. For most businesses, the traditional deployment model required a substantial investment in on‐premises private branch exchange (PBX) systems. This model put all of the risk on the buyer because it was a long‐term strategic decision that, among other things, potentially impacted:
- Future business growth and scalability
- Expandability to multiple locations
- Agility and ability to support new features and capabilities in communications‐enabled business processes (CEBPs)
During the 1990s and early 2000s, many organizations replaced their legacy PBX systems with more flexible on-premises unified communications (UC) systems, enabling these organizations to converge their voice and data networks and leverage many standard networking components in their telephony infrastructure, while offering advanced unified communications and collaboration capabilities to their users.
Cloud communications, also known as unified communications as a service (UCaaS) or hosted communications, is the newest option in business communications and is one of the fastest growing market segments in technology.
Cloud communications is growing roughly 25 percent year over year.
- Small business (1 to 100 employees):
o Some integration into other key applications like Salesforce.com and basic contact center may be required
o Ideal consumers of mobile and public cloud solutions displacing small-end customer on-premises platforms
- Mid‐market (100 to 2,500 employees):
o Often have sophisticated business process integrations and contact center requirements
o Interested in public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions preferring private networking instead of over-the‐top (OTT) solutions
- Large enterprise (2,500 to 10,000 employees):
o High interest in private cloud migration and hybrid cloud solutions to leverage existing investment
o Integration into larger IT framework is a key consideration
- Extra‐large enterprise (10,000‐plus employees):
o Focused on solutions that can be effectively deployed to a large user community by emphasizing role‐based user types and multiple location scalability
o Security, scalability, and third‐party integrations are key considerations
o High interest in private and hybrid cloud migration strategies
Public cloud is the primary cloud communications deployment model for small and medium businesses (SMBs) and is the most popular option. It can be easily procured on a per-user, per-month basis and can be combined with private network connections, although it’s often used over a basic Internet connection or runs on an “over the top” (OTT) service. Most public cloud communications services include contact center features and integrate with popular business applications.
Public cloud communications offerings can be delivered with private networking for increased security and reliability.
Private cloud communications deployment models are most popular with large enterprises, key verticals, and government agencies. Private cloud communications take advantage of cloud benefits while achieving maximum levels of security and control for the organization.
Private cloud communications can be managed by a solution provider and often includes recurring cloud revenue components. Some executive decision makers may prefer the CapEx investments and perpetual licensing in private cloud models, instead of the recurring OpEx and licensing fees in public cloud models, for various financial reasons.
The hybrid cloud leverages existing on‐premises communications investments, increases resiliency, and enables cloud management benefits and efficiencies of scale. A hybrid cloud communications strategy is often adopted by organizations as part of a transition strategy, from a traditional on‐premises phone system to a more robust cloud‐based unified communications solution that provides unlimited scalability and advanced business capabilities.
A hybrid cloud communications strategy can also be adopted as an end strategy, rather than simply a transition strategy, offering organizations the advantages of both public and private clouds. For example, an organization may choose to maintain complete control of certain aspects of its communications infrastructure while leveraging the resiliency, management, and scalability benefits of the cloud. In these cases, primary communications functions may be handled on‐premises in a private cloud deployment, while overflow call volume and business continuity/disaster recovery is handled in the public cloud.
Hybrid cloud communications favor large campus environments with geographically distributed locations. This model is embraced by IT organizations with limited resources and coverage, as it provides unified management tools to manage users across all sites.
The benefits of cloud communications include:
✓ Cost savings from reduced communications complexity and operational expenses and an overall lower cost per user compared to legacy PBX systems
✓ Improved employee productivity through a rich suite of easy‐to‐deploy communications capabilities
✓ A truly mobile workforce connected with communications tools and virtual systems across multiple locations that give employees access to resources from anywhere
Cloud computing and outsourcing aren’t the same thing
The old IT outsourcing adage was that outsourcing allowed firms to focus on their core business, rather than on technology. While that seemed like a reasonable proposition at the time, the mistake that many firms made was in giving up the control of their technology and their ability to differentiate themselves in a competitive global market. This is particularly true of firms that went well beyond IT outsourcing to farm out their customer service, sales, design and, in some cases, manufacturing processes.
Cloud computing (more specifically cloud communications) outsources the communications infrastructure, not the business processes. By simplifying network operations—such as managing firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and session initiation protocol (SIP) trunks—and eliminating server administration, moving to a cloud communications provider enables businesses to reallocate IT staff to more value‐added projects and business-critical responsibilities that actually do create competitive differentiation.