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What Should You Consider Before Buying into Hybrid UC?
October 18th, 2017

What Should You Consider Before Buying into Hybrid UC?

Ian Linton

Benefits are driving greater adoption of hybrid UC. A study by IDG found that 71 percent of respondents claimed cloud computing impacted their deployment.

Hybrid UC, according to Gartner, is an approach to procuring Unified Communications through a combination of different cloud and premises deployment models while supporting the service integration needed to deliver a seamless UC experience to users. The hybrid model allows organizations to blend on-premises, public and private cloud deployments, or adopt different procurement models for different user roles.

A hybrid solution offers a number of important benefits, according to a study by analysts at IDC. It retains a significant level of control and security within a business and allows an organization to quickly scale UC to support more workers, devices and applications. And, by reducing infrastructure overhead, hybrid solutions allow IT to focus UC resources on strategic activities that improve revenue.

Benefits like these are driving greater adoption of hybrid solutions. A study by IDG found that 71 percent of respondents using UC solutions claimed cloud computing had impacted their deployment plans.

Organizations reporting a 100 percent on-premises deployment represented 49 percent of respondents in 2015. By 2017, the number is forecast to fall to 18 percent. The number of organizations reporting an on-premises and partial cloud deployment rose from 22 to 26 percent over the same period, with a much stronger increase among enterprises over small and medium businesses.

While industry trends point towards growing hybrid adoption, the diversity of hybrid solutions make it essential to consider many important factors before selecting a deployment model that is right for your business, operational and financial needs.

As the website TechTarget points out, managing a combination of on-premises and cloud-based UC applications and services is a balancing act based on the importance of each application in an organization’s overall UC vision.

Link UC strategy to overall cloud strategy

Your UC strategy is closely related to your overall cloud strategy. If you have already moved other business applications and services to the cloud, you understand the benefits, opportunities, and challenges of cloud migration. And you have likely identified the types of applications and services you want to retain on-premises for reasons of control, security or investment protection.

That experience can help you develop a UC deployment strategy integrated with your overall cloud strategy. It also provides a “comfort factor,” which may be important if you are not yet committed to full cloud deployment. Experience with the deployment of other business applications can help you choose the UC elements you can confidently move to the cloud.

Identify planned benefits

Unified Communications can deliver many strategic benefits to your business, and their relative importance can help you develop your deployment strategy.

You want to improve critical business processes. UC provides the communications tools that allow employees to carry out business processes more effectively or improve decision-making through faster, easier access to colleagues or simpler forms of collaboration. If business processes such as CRM (customer relationship management) systems are cloud-enabled, it makes sense to integrate them with related UC services through a hybrid solution.

Support for mobile and remote workers is essential. By providing these workers with access to the same UC services as office-based employees, you can maintain consistent levels of productivity, collaboration, and efficiency across your organization. A hybrid UC solution provides the reach that a pure on-premises deployment would find difficult to match.

Productivity gains are a key part of your UC strategy. That means employees must be able to access their most important UC services on any device and from any location. A hybrid solution gives you the flexibility to choose the most suitable deployment method for each service or group of employees.

If you want to increase business agility, UC supports the communications that enable a business to respond to business opportunities. Choosing a hybrid deployment lets you take advantage of the scalability of cloud solutions so you can react quickly if business growth or new threats and opportunities change your communication and business priorities.

Consult with your employees

Because UC can benefit individuals, departments or teams in different ways, it’s essential to get employees’ input on your deployment plans. Consulting with employees can also help speed adoption and ensure the success of the UC project.

Discussing employees’ working practices and communication requirements helps you identify priorities for different groups. Ask for views on how UC could help your employees carry out their work more efficiently. You may find that not all UC applications and services are essential across the board. Others may represent a priority and need to be deployed quickly to eliminate bottlenecks or deliver important efficiencies.

Consulting employees also helps you develop a roadmap for the longer-term evolution of your UC solution. Planned services and applications with a higher priority can be delivered quickly from the cloud, while stable elements of UC can remain on-premises.

Review your existing infrastructure

Your investment in communications infrastructure can influence the choice of deployment. You may have a digital telephone system, for example, that meets current and medium-term requirements. Comparing the operating, maintenance and updating costs with those of an alternative cloud telephone system may yield potential savings, as well as benefits of scalability and reach.

However, upgrading your existing infrastructure to support UC may require significant investment, and you may also need to recruit staff with the technical skills to manage and maintain a suitable infrastructure.

Moving your communications infrastructure to the cloud as part of a hybrid solution eliminates upfront or upgrade costs and reduces any associated support costs. You will also benefit from the high levels of reliability and availability delivered under a service level agreement. (And your service provider will take care of any software updates within the monthly service fee.)

Choose your financial model

Closely associated with infrastructure choice is the preferred financial model for UC deployment. For applications and services hosted in the cloud, you pay a monthly subscription to a service provider, rather than incurring upfront purchasing costs. That preserves capital, shifts expenditure from CAPEX to OPEX, and provides predictable, affordable budgeting.

Operating and support costs are also part of your financial decision. Some applications or services may require high levels of technical support or integration skills outside the expertise of your IT department. By comparing the costs of purchasing and in-house support with the monthly cloud subscription for different applications or services, you can determine the best mix for budgeting.

Assess compliance requirements

If your business is subject to compliance requirements from industry regulators, or if customers specify security levels in their service level agreements, you must take account of security in your deployment decision.

Businesses in financial services or healthcare, for example, must ensure that their security measures protect clients’ or patients’ privacy. As part of compliance procedure, healthcare organizations using cloud communications must confirm their service providers’ security and storage policies strictly adhere to regulations, and ensure that communications between service providers and their organizations are encrypted.

Similarly, if you hold confidential business or personal data on behalf of your clients, you must ensure that your service providers’ security levels minimize the risk of eavesdropping or data loss.

If security levels are not adequate, you may find it necessary to retain your communications infrastructure on your premises and host any relevant applications in your own data center.

Factor in growth plans

Cloud solutions have proved important to growing businesses. Service providers can scale up phone capacity for example, or add new application users quickly and easily, often in real time. With premises-based solutions, growth requires new investment, delay, and disruption to meet changing requirements.

If you are planning to recruit more people, open new branches or grow your market share, consider which applications and services will be most important to your growth plans, and include them in your cloud deployment.

Because UC is continually evolving, you can take advantage of new or emerging applications as they become available by deploying them from the cloud. This is particularly important for more complex applications such as social media or analytics, which you may not be able to support with internal resources.

Consider integration issues

Successful UC projects allow users to access all applications and services through a single unified interface. While the end result makes UC simple to use, delivering a unified solution requires high levels of integration.

You may, for example, have multiple vendors or cloud service providers delivering different elements of UC, or you may want to integrate business applications with UC. This can present major integration challenges, so you need to assess individual services and applications to identify how or if they can integrate with other elements.

If you have an application such as a CRM system hosted in the cloud, and telephony is important to the system’s users, deployment and integration of CRM and telephony in the cloud will deliver the greatest benefit.

Take account of all UC elements

Jeff Lawson, CEO of cloud telephony platform Twilio, has outlined the various elements of a UC solution and recommends an a la carte approach to deployment, choosing a mix of cloud or on-premises to best meet operational requirements and available skills.

  • Data center strategy (public cloud, private cloud, self-hosted).
  • Network services (carrier network, internal networks, network infrastructure).
  • Software applications (call control, media services, call center, voice, presence, instant messaging, audio/video/web conferencing, API integration).
  • User interface/device (phones, soft clients, laptop, desktop, mobile).
  • Management applications (configuration, administration, monitoring, user self-service, analytics).
  • Service delivery (help desk, escalation).

Your hybrid deployment

A hybrid UC deployment offers many important operational, financial and business benefits.  To maximize the benefits, it’s essential to conduct a thorough evaluation of all the elements that make up an effective UC solution. Then finalize the deployment strategy that is right for your business.

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