Time to Move Communication and Collaboration to the Cloud

Jeff Gardner, CEO, Carousel Industries
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Jeff Gardner, CEO, Carousel Industries

Twenty years ago, the Internet was dubbed the "information super highway." Today that term sounds incredibly dated and obsolete. The Internet is far too ubiquitous in our business and personal lives to be thought of in terms so linear.

Fast forward to 2006, when then Google CEO Eric Schmidt coined the term "cloud computing.” As terminology goes, it's not obsolete yet. But ten years later seems like a good time to look at where the cloud is and where it's going. Now the cloud can refer to many things: business services, applications, platforms, infrastructure, storage, and so forth.

There's a certain amount of "froth" around cloud discussions these days. Depending on who you talk to, every workload an enterprise has could be done cheaper and better in the cloud. Nevertheless, more reasoned thinkers would say we're still in cloud 1.0.

I am a huge proponent of moving business into the cloud. But it's always good to spend some time trying to get a little insight into the "unknown unknowns."

Who's Moving to the Cloud and Why?

A recent cloud research survey by IDG confirmed that cloud adoption continues to grow. In 2015, 72 percent of organizations surveyed had at least one application or a portion of their infrastructure in the cloud.

The primary cloud drivers for enterprise organizations are replacing legacy technologies, speed of deployment, and lower TCO. Midmarket organizations flock to the cloud to enable business continuity and improve customer service. And one of the biggest concerns for all is still security.

One of the mild surprises—at least to me—was how far down the list of drivers was the need for real-time information. The cloud is part of every conversation about Big Data and competing on analytics. So I would have thought gaining access to real-time information would have placed higher.

IT Feels Pressure to Move to the Cloud

There are compelling reasons to move to the cloud. It can lower TCO; it can simplify provisioning during growth spikes; and it can make an organization more agile and efficient.

A few short years ago, companies facing an upgrade in their communications portfolio would consider on-premise solutions first. IT organizations now feel increasing pressure to look first at cloud solutions. Premise-based offerings have become Plan B. The mindset has shifted from asking whether to make the move to questioning the cost of not doing so.

According to IDG's numbers, 48 percent of current unified communication deployments are fully on premise. In two years, it projects that percentage will drop to 18. Some 40 percent will choose either all cloud or a hybrid model that is primarily on-premise with some cloud. Another 22 percent will elect a hybrid model weighted toward the cloud. The shift of communications to the cloud is underway.

Communication and Collaboration: Inherent Complexity

Communications solutions are among the most complex enterprise technologies. Just about any enterprise-grade communications solution, from simple dial tone and voice services to contact center and comprehensive desktop unified communications, relies on a variety of technologies. Creating a solution that integrates voice, call center, video conferencing, wireless connectivity, chat, desktop sharing, and virtual desktops will always require products from multiple vendors and manufacturers.

As a result, the financial considerations that favor one deployment model over another take thorough vetting. The tax and regulatory structure in the communications industry means that moving to the cloud doesn’t always provide the cost savings it does in moving other workloads to the cloud.

Moving communication and collaboration to the cloud requires on-premise and cloud services deployment expertise. To match the technology to the environment, it's essential to have detailed conversations with vendors in multiple specialties.

Avoiding Deployment Pitfalls

There are many factors to consider when moving communication and collaboration to the cloud. Having placed portions of my own business in the cloud, I can personally attest to three areas that emerge as critically important:

Reliability

You need to know exactly what a solution provider’s redundancy and reliability platform includes. At first blush, it may sound encouraging if the provider has eight data centers. But how many will actually be involved in the redundant architecture that supports your system? If it is only one, that’s a problem. If the answer is two, that’s better, but it still doesn’t really matter that the provider has eight.

Security

Assessing security requires going beyond a provider’s marketing material. If you operate in a highly regulated industry, such as financial services or healthcare, very strict security and compliance requirements apply to privacy and data access. For example, just because a provider encrypts recorded phone calls doesn’t mean it meets all the provisions of PCI DSS. Ask to see independent certification.

Functional Requirements

It’s important to understand the features that matter to your employee population. In a cloud deployment there’s likely to be a trade-off between breadth of features and the benefits of the deployment model in terms of cost savings.

The Time is Now

From what I see with our customers and IDG’s survey results, it is clear that organizations are placing more and more elements of their business in the cloud. And this trend will only continue to grow. Simply put, the cloud is where business is being done.

IT and organizations are becoming more knowledgeable about the cloud, and cloud service providers are gaining complex deployment experience. Meanwhile, cloud infrastructure is growing in sophistication and is poised to deliver the agility and efficiency that competitive organizations crave. Those who stall on taking the plunge risk allowing competitors to take the lead. This again begs the question, what time better than now to carefully consider communication and collaboration in the cloud?

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