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It’s going to happen. At some point in the not-too-distant future and after years of faithful service, your on-premises business communications system will reach the end of its useful life. Maintaining and upgrading the hardware may become difficult or just won’t make financial sense. Updating the software may no longer be the path to all those advanced features you need to maintain efficiency and productivity. The reality of diminishing returns will kick in and you’ll find yourself considering a new system.

Like most business managers at this crossroad, you’ll be faced with two potential paths to follow. On one hand you could replace the aging communications system with a brand new, on-premises solution and go through all the deployment, configuration and adjustment processes that go with that system. On the other hand, you could eliminate all the time and effort associated with moving to another on-premises system and chart a new business path with a cloud-based communications solution.

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While there are a variety of considerations associated with moving to the cloud, the speed of innovation and ability to integrate other business tools with cloud-based systems makes a shift-to-a-cloud-first thought process the best option.

Take the first step to digital transformation

Obviously, there’s no sense making the transition to the cloud just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Although most businesses will eventually migrate to a cloud-based communications system, that move has to make business sense. The end of life of an on-premises system provides the perfect opportunity to examine existing work processes and determine if a business case can be made for a cloud-based solution.

It’s also no secret that a flexible and agile cloud infrastructure makes it easier to adapt to an ever-changing market environment. If nothing else, the pandemic has demonstrated the ease of access and speed to activation that cloud technologies provide. Enterprises that were already leveraging cloud-based communications systems were able to easily make the transition to a remote working normal. Those that were not taking advantage of some form of cloud technology were left playing catch up.

But a cloud-based communications solution provides more than the ability to quickly address a specific situation. As the foundation of an enterprise operation, an agile, cloud-based communications system enables all the interactions that fuel business success. It provides the technology needed to streamline interactions between employees and with partners and suppliers. With unified communication and collaboration tools, it can increase efficiency and improve customer service.

Beyond the day-to-day operational benefits, a cloud-based communications system can also be the anchor of a digital technology strategy that leverages a variety of Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings to transform all business operations. As noted by ZK Research in a recent white paper, “the one technology that should be considered the foundation for digital transformation is communications, as it’s at the heart of digital initiatives.”

Key considerations on the road to the cloud

There are multiple cloud options, and cloud migration strategies will vary from one enterprise to another. But there are four fundamental things that you should keep in mind when considering a cloud-based communications solution.

At the top of the list should be availability requirements. Ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Do you need business hours availability or do you need your system to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year?
  • If there is an outage, what will be the impact to your business? Minor or significant? Most cloud implementations don’t require 99.999 percent availability, so be realistic about your requirements.

In addition to availability, consider whether a customized implementation is necessary or if the base package of a cloud-based system can meet immediate business needs and support future SaaS integrations. While some SaaS tools require complex customization, most make up for the heavy lift of customizing software by enabling easy integration with other SaaS tools that provide efficiency and productivity gains. Keep in mind that highly customized systems can sometimes slow support response because they don’t follow the typical scripts IT teams are trained to handle. This requires greater expertise that may not be readily available or easily accessed when it’s needed.

Change management after migration should also be a key consideration. Keeping systems up to date is important for information security and to ensure that your employees are always working with the most current capabilities the system has to offer. Most cloud-based systems are largely self-updating and provide access to new capabilities more regularly. Typically, these updates don’t require intervention by IT staff to implement or roll back plans if things go wrong.

Finally, take a hard look at total cost of ownership by factoring in whether or not your new cloud-based system will require more IT staff to support it. Consider the staffing costs in addition to the hardware resource costs. If you don’t want to increase IT staff, think about your existing team and whether adding cloud technology to the mix will create additional stress by increasing workloads. Typically, cloud-based systems can usually be supported by one or two people, and they don’t necessarily have to be system experts. 

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Look beyond immediate requirements

As you stand at the crossroads of on-premises and cloud, shift your thinking to a cloud-first mentality. Consider the big picture by looking beyond immediate needs and factoring future evolution into your thought process.

A move to a cloud-based communications system can be the first step in a digital transformation strategy. At the outset, a purpose-built cloud solution will provide unified and scalable communications to anyone, anywhere and on any device. It will take communications capabilities to the next level by enabling more mobility, rich enterprise and team collaboration and exceptional customer experiences, without the cost and complexity of scaling traditional, premises-based communications systems to meet evolving business needs. Further down the road, the same system can provide the flexibility and scalability to integrate with a variety of SaaS business support and productivity tools to enable a complete transformation of business processes.

And remember that there is no one-size-fits-all cloud solution, so avoid menu-based offerings and get a cloud-based system that is custom fit to your business.

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