Let’s face it… we’re already on the cloud in some way or fashion. If you’re using any type of service over the internet you have been and are on the cloud. These services have been traditionally ecommerce, data storage, social media, video and applications with all their variations. So why not communications?
I believe that communications has taken it’s time getting in the cloud because of early adopter fear and uncertainty generally. Early integration of IP communications were more unified communication applications on the desktop with IP voice as an added value. Then there were LAN based solutions through VoIP and SIP connected to a traditional CPE, PBX or Hybrid, telephony solution. Not a 100% VoIP solution. Getting these to work off site and behind a firewall was best guess and not very reliable. I still hear concerns from early adopters today on time and money lost.
Also, all forms of business class internet connectivity were pretty expensive and the technology, infrastructure, and edge devices had not started dealing with QoS. The costs were prohibitive. This has all changed.
What is cloud communications?
Let me break it down to it’s simplest form. It’s communication services that are delivered over the internet. No more phone system sitting in your phone room, closet or data rack. Through the internet your phones connect to a remote system delivering business phone features at a fraction of the cost typically. Internationally.
Is it reliable and is it safe?
The terms reliable and internet have historically not been used in the same sentence. Especially when it comes to Voice over IP. The question I get most frequently when presenting this solution is “why would I put all my communications over the internet, ever?”. And you know what… that’s a very good question.
Let me answer that by asking another question. If your in-house phone system goes down, and/or your phone lines, how reliable is your current solution? Of course there may be ways to add redundancy and/or resiliency but at substantial ding to the bottom line typically. I will argue that an IP telephony solution is not only more reliable and robust but at considerable less cost. I’m sure there will be those that disagree… let me explain.
Cloud or hosted communications by nature of their offering can solve reliability and safety simply and inexpensively. First and foremost the phone system is not at your location. It’s located at a remote, environmentally controlled, data center with redundant servers and power sources. Many times with redundant facilities as well.
Infonetics forecasts the Hosted VoIP & UC market to reach $10B by 2016. -Infonetics Research VoIP and UC Services and Subscriber Market Forecast 2012
Cloud communications providers can offer easy re-routing to another facility and/or cell phones if the internet connection is down for a while. Most of the providers offer mobile applications that run on a cell provider network which will be up and running regardless of the business location.
Something else to think about is disaster recovery. If you have a disaster at your location most likely your business communications are down. We saw this with hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters. With a cloud communications solution you can place your phones anywhere and be up and running without a hitch with no extra expense and loss of business.
Having a safe communications system has and always will be a concern for any organization and business owner. Traditional phone systems have had some areas of weakness and still do. If you are a multi-site solution to achieve extension dialing between sites and free calling to the greater area of a remote site you are vulnerable. If you have given access to anyone through an IP or modem connection to your phone system your are vulnerable. Most companies do not know this.
Cloud communications is data. Every solution I have seen has encryption at some level from the provider. Because it is data it needs to be protected like any data on your system. Current edge device products and their latest operating system upgrades are necessary. Also common sense LAN/ WAN practices will keep your communications safe and business quality.
Does it make business sense?
What I have found is that most of the opportunities I’ve been involved with have existing fully depreciated customer premise phone systems that are working just fine. The attitude of “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” comes into play. As a former business owner I can actually empathize with this thought process at some level. The problem is that they are not looking at the complete picture unfortunately.
Keep in mind there are really two facets to a hosted communications solution. There is the telephony piece of course but there is also the phone line and internet (broadband) connectivity. The fact that traditional phone lines can go away can be a huge savings especially for enterprise environments. Also broadband has dropped significantly which adds to the savings typically.
IBISWorld states that the VoIP industry’s contribution to the company, also known as their industry value added, is expected to increase yearly by 15.3% until the year 2017.
Just to be fair there will most likely be some LAN/WAN infrastructure changes. Edge devices typically need to be changed or at least upgraded. Possible bandwidth increase as well. With that said, all of these items have dropped to ridiculously low prices where it has become a moot point however.
Many times a company can save enough on just the broadband and phone line savings to have a new cloud communications solution at very little or no cost. This has not been typical prior to putting communications on the cloud.
As the cloud communications products mature so do their business feature sets. Mobility is a big one. With the advent of better bigger data offerings by the mobile providers, and phones that are basically mini personal computers, this has become a focus of almost all cloud communications companies. You can be anywhere in the world and have your business phone on your smartphone and all that means. Unlimited calls, conference bridges, no voicemail port restrictions and call center features are some great business features as well. Typically included in the monthly service fee.
Cloud communications is here to stay as is all cloud services. It is safe, reliable, and now robust enough for any business to take a hard look at it. As with all service partners do your research on the company and get some references. Most will let you “try before you buy” to test on your network. Make sure you know what your bandwidth options are in your locale. If you don’t have the expertise and/or manpower make sure you team up with a good IT group in your area. They can be instrumental in the installation process and with any security concerns. If you do it right cloud communications is business quality, reliable, safe, and easy on the bottom line.Photos courtesy of 123RF
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