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Hyping Up Hybrid: Making the Case

While UCaaS and other marketers make a cloud-based future for communications seem inevitable, we know that not all enterprises are approaching the cloud in the same way. Many enterprises still have concerns about a purely cloud-based communications system. Do I have to scrap my current on-prem system? What’s the cost? How do I manage a “split” deployment? Instead of looking up just at the cloud, some enterprises are moving forward with one eye on the ground and one on the cloud.
A hybrid deployment, which combines elements of cloud and traditional on-prem systems, can be a best-of-both-worlds approach – allowing an enterprise to move to the cloud gradually or complement what works on-premises with cloud services. With the Gartner Magic Quadrant report speculating that “40% of new enterprise telephony purchases will be based on a cloud office suite” by 2023, moving “partially” to the cloud through a hybrid solution can be a good way to introduce an enterprise to the benefits of a cloud system.
In the last five years, UC&C consulting firm TetraVX has often seen clients turn to a hybrid deployment for the scalability and other advantages it affords, according to Kara Longo Korte, director of product management, TetraVX.
A Steppingstone to the Cloud
As mentioned, one of the biggest advantages to a hybrid deployment over a purely on-prem system, or a private cloud, is scalability. Enterprises that want greater control over their services can easily turn them “on” or “off” with a hybrid solution, a “[luxury] not typically afforded to you when you are on a private cloud,” Korte said. Enterprises that are responding to an emergency, a weather event, or a seasonal boost in activity can scale up their communication services to meet the demand and scale down once it's over. Similarly, hybrid deployments can be used as a “steppingstone” to a full-cloud platform.
In terms of implementation, enterprises aren’t uniform in their approaches to hybrid, either – some are moving one application to the cloud at a time, while others are going site by site; for example, replacing on-prem PBXes with cloud voice services. “We are really seeing a mix. It’s based on the organization’s reason or reasons for making a change,” Korte said. Some enterprises might favor a site-by-site approach because it allows them to learn the system quirks and improve implementation on the next site, she added. In other cases, an enterprise might move an application to the cloud when its server license expires.
A ‘Managed’ Complexity, Cost
Probably the biggest obstacles to adopting a hybrid deployment model come down to two Cs – complexity and cost.
Anytime you introduce complexity into a system, you’re inviting potential risks. However, Korte said she believes this complexity can be “easily managed” from an enterprise level — with a few caveats. "If you have a good understanding of your overall architecture, if you have the right monitoring in place, if you have the right partner or partners providing your cloud-based solution ... I think it's certainly manageable.” When these aren’t in place, a hybrid model can fall apart, Korte said.
To fears over managing a “split” system, Korte suggested that enterprises assess their human capital before jumping into a hybrid model – making sure IT staff understands the new parts of the system and can easily manage a mixed prem-cloud environment.
For an enterprise used to treating a communications system as a capital expense – bought and paid for upfront —the idea of switching to the operational expense model that would come with an all-cloud or hybrid cloud deployment might be a barrier. However, enterprises need to think about “cost” holistically, Korte said. “It depends on what CapEx costs that they might already have and how they are configuring their new solution. If you take a pure-cloud solution, that can introduce huge cost savings. You don’t need the hardware anymore. You don’t need as much human capital,” she said. Despite costs associated with ongoing service costs, an OpEX solution will still provide savings, like in the case of human capital, according to Korte.
In addition to transitioning to an OpEx cost model, enterprises might be leery about “throwing out” technology. However, Korte discussed two ways to address this concern. First, some UCaaS providers allow you to bring your own devices (telephones, etc.) rather than having to purchase new ones. This means you can leverage CapEx on existing equipment. Secondly, migrating to a new deployment model allows enterprises the opportunity to determine what hardware is really needed, Korte suggested. As an example, she shared how an anecdote about a clinic that wanted to get rid of telephones entirely because staff primarily used headsets – making the phones unnecessary. If phones have essentially become bricks on a desk carrying them forward into a new deployment doesn’t make sense, she said.