UC in the Cloud Brings Solid Business Benefits

    It seems anything that can be in the cloud is already there, or soon will be. And that holds for unified communications (UC). According to IDC, there’s a strong interest in unified communications and collaboration, which has been spurred by areas such as mobility, collaboration, videoconferencing, and the integration of business processes with communications, so that workers can easily communicate anywhere, any time and on any device.

    IDC also found that much of the worldwide market is still transitioning from older telephony and messaging platforms to UC platforms. And as they do, businesses that have experience with cloud services for other applications will likely look to the cloud for their communications needs as well.

    Research and Markets predicts the global UC market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of almost 16 percent until 2016—much of it fueled by the shift to cloud-based communications. But is cloud UCC, also known as UC-as-a-service (UCaaS), the right path for everyone? Companies of all sizes and in almost every industry use hosted VoIP—the one thing they have in common is that they rely on their phones to generate revenue and support clients.

    The Case for Cloud UC

    With all the hype surrounding UC in the cloud, it’s understandable that the real issues are cloudy as far as enterprises are concerned. Just as with opting for the cloud with data storage, software or infrastructure, cloud UC offers many of the same benefits, including:

    • Cost savings: Companies looking to migrate from capital expenses to operating expenses are likely to be most interested in cloud UC. Rather than investing capital upfront for on-premise equipment and software, businesses can have a subscription service to a hosted UC system with predictable monthly costs.

    • Flexibility and Scalability: Cloud UC makes it easier to add, remove and change users and services on the fly without having to make additional infrastructure investments or wait patiently for a carrier to add new lines. Hosted UC can simplify scalability, which is an attractive selling point for rapidly growing businesses.

    • Reliability: Frequent backups, 24/7 monitoring and off-site hosting make cloud UC a good strategy for businesses concerned about disaster recovery and redundancy of their communications.

    • Maintenance: Cloud UC providers handle all the heavy lifting, including setting up infrastructure, applications, and services, which frees up internal IT departments to focus on other tasks.

    These benefits can be realized whether a business chooses to completely outsource its UC functions or opts for a hybrid cloud model where a company wants to retain its own infrastructure and run UC services on top of it.

    Choosing a Cloud Service Provider

    Entrusting UC functions to an external partner doesn’t have to be a daunting affair. In addition to looking closely at the business benefits listed above, companies should ensure that the provider they select has rock-solid security in place. This should mean having data centers with high levels of physical security that is monitored around the clock.

    Another point to consider in a hosted UC provider is the ability to quickly add capabilities to the communications system, including new software and apps. The provider also needs to keep up with the latest technology and ensure it’s ready for customers as they need it.

    Businesses should also look for UC providers that are flexible and support everything from fully hosted communications solutions to hybrid deployments. Some providers focus on specific markets or verticals, which can also be a deciding factor when selecting a partner.

    The bottom line is that cloud UC can be very good for the bottom line of businesses that are looking to improve employee productivity, reduce capital costs and streamline internal processes and workflows.

    Learn More About ShoreTel’s UC Services

    With ShoreTel, customers can choose an on-premise or cloud model for unified communications. With ShoreTel Sky, businesses can take advantage of a cloud-based unified communications suite that is both hosted and managed. Or customers can use ShoreTel’s premise-based platform for brilliantly simple IP telephony, contact center, and UC services.