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unified communications

UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS AND COLLABORATION IN THE CLOUD?

BY GILL ROWBOTHAM

IT technology and infrastructure

INTRODUCTION

Many organisations are considering implementing Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) strategies to support the increased mobile / flexible nature of their workforce. There may be a range of drivers for this – including the possible requirement to replace legacy systems.

UCC typically enables users to use telephony, instant messaging, presence, messaging, audio, video and web-conferencing from a single application on their desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile devices. So providing real-time communications and collaboration from anywhere, at any time and from any device.

As organisations start to look at their future UCC requirements, a key question is whether this should be provided from the cloud, on-premise or a combination of both. The objectives of this paper are to provide an insight into how a UCC strategy should be developed with a particular focus on the relative influences of the cloud as an emerging UCC option.

BACKGROUND

Cloud based UCC offers many attractions, particularly in the current economic climate. The ability to benefit from a new service without major capital investment; predictable costs for the contract period and no responsibility for server infrastructure are the key benefits promoted by service providers.

In developing the right strategy for your business, you will be faced with a multitude of factors to consider. For example:

  • UCC software and applications are developing at an ever-increasing pace;
  • New entrants are focusing upon cloud based solutions;
  • Traditional providers are introducing new cloud based solutions which appear to be competing with their legacy UCC solutions. e.g. Microsoft Skype for Business / Teams, Cisco Spark, Unify Circuit etc;
  • User expectations are increasing as users benefit from free of charge consumer solutions;
  • Telephony systems traditionally have long investment cycle 7 - 20 years;
  • Traditional telephone handsets are proving to be remarkably persistent;
  • Usage of traditional telephony services is reducing. However, those services that remain are increasingly business critical.

The factors above are resulting in an environment where traditional on-premise and cloud based UCC solutions are competing with each other to influence UCC architectures and solution choices.

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WHAT ARE YOUR STRATEGIC OPTIONS?

Today’s marketplace is complex, with many solutions and services from multiple suppliers. This white paper doesn’t set out to select or comment upon particular products or services. Rather, we consider the key question relating to the overall solution architectures available to enterprises. This paper identifies three broad options:

  1. On-premise deployment
  2. Hosted (cloud) deployment
  3. A hybrid approach

These options are summarised in the following sub-sections.

4C STRATEGIES

1 – ON-PREMISE DEPLOYMENT

This option is based on an on-premise solution – this means that all the server hardware is based on the organisation’s site. The key advantages and disadvantages associated with this option are:

ADVANTAGES

  • More local survivability opportunities
  • Greater control over change/upgrades
  • Greater control over cost model (capital or revenue options)
  • No (or reduced) dependency upon external WAN connections
  • Potential to self-build or purchase and deploy from third party
  • Potential to migrate to Cloud as service maturity develops

DISADVANTAGES

  • Dependency upon site based infrastructure
  • Less opportunity for resilient solution for mobile workers
  • Greater support requirement (cost and resources)
  • Greater committed investment (either in capital or long-term lease costs)

In summary, an on-premise deployment enables maximum control over the UCC solution, with no dependency on external connections.

4C STRATEGIES

2 – CLOUD BASED DEPLOYMENT

This option is based on a full cloud deployment – this means that all servers are located in the Cloud. The key advantages and disadvantages associated with this option are:

ADVANTAGES

  • Less dependency upon site based infrastructure
  • Less resources required for support
  • Simpler overall solution (e.g. carrier services are provider responsibility)
  • Pay per user, so more predictable costs

DISADVANTAGES

  • More complex survivability
  • Dependency upon WAN connectivity
  • Primarily a revenue based model only
  • Less control over changes / upgrades
  • Less granular management / administration capability
  • Likely higher overall costs
  • Immature market for large enterprise level full UCC cloud solutions
  • Some emerging service offerings do not include fully featured enterprise telephony

In summary, a fully cloud based deployment offers advantages in terms of reducing the site based infrastructure and the need for the internal management of the UCC service.

4C strategies

3 – HYBRID / BEST OF BREED APPROACH

This option would be to deploy some elements of the UCC on-premise solution (typically telephony), whilst Unified Communications would be consumed from the Cloud. The key advantages and disadvantages associated with this option are:

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Good survivability opportunities for telephony elements
  • Ability to benefit from latest UCC solutions without compromising business critical telephony

CHALLENGES

  • Complexity regarding integration between the Cloud based and on- premise elements.
  • Uncertainty regarding the longer term cost model for UC provided as a Cloud service.

In summary, this approach would offer some advantages for the delivery of a resilient site telephony service, whilst enabling the organisation to take maximum advantage of the preferential UC pricing. It would also enable some services to be cloud based if there were specific benefits.

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HOW SHOULD YOU DECIDE?

The analysis above has identified three alternative strategic development pathways. None of these are inherently right or wrong. Rather, each enterprise organization must adopt the strategy which is correct for them. There are a number of primary considerations that should be taken into account when taking this decision. In particular:

  • What is the capability and risk associated with current solutions?
  • What is the demand for new capability / solutions?
  • How should carrier services delivered?
  • What connectivity is required to the outside world?
  • Will the UCC service need to integrate with existing applications?
  • What user experience is required / demanded?
  • What are the potential benefits -and how do these align to business processes / transactions?
  • What level of security is required?
  • Will investment cycles within your enterprise influence the decision?
  • What is the cost profile and are all options affordable?
  • What service delivery model do you require?
  • What are the in-house support / training requirements?
  • What should happen at the end of the contract?
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IN SUMMARY

It is clear that there are a number of questions to be answered before an organization can decide how to deliver the most appropriate Unified Communications and Collaboration solution. The attractiveness of Cloud based solutions must be balanced against a range of areas – including the user experience, business continuity, support, contract period and budget profile.

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HOW CAN 4C HELP?

4C Strategies is an independent ICT consultancy with an 18 year track record in major telephony projects.

We’ve helped numerous NHS Trusts, Universities, Colleges, Councils and private sector companies to replace large mission critical telephony infrastructures with new systems and services. Our experience covers PBX systems, IP Telephony, Unified Communications, hosted telephony, data networking and video conferencing.

Our services include:

  • Position statement in respect of current telephony (and UC if applicable)
  • Business needs assessment for UC
  • Market assessment
  • Strategy development
  • Procurement support
  • Deployment and transformation
  • Realisation of benefits
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HOW TO FIND OUT MORE?

For more information on 4C, and how we have helped our clients make the move to UC, please visit our web site at www.4c.co.uk.

To arrange a no obligation introductory visit from one our Principal Consultants, please contact Dave Mailer via:

Telephone 01858 438938

Mobile 07970 573427

Email dmailer@4c.co.uk

TERMINAL WAREHOUSE, UNION WHARF | MARKET HARBOROUGH | LEICESTERSHIRE | LE16 7UW

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