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What to Know When Switching Clouds

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Much has been written about migrating users from on-premises PBXs to the cloud. But what happens when customers want to move from one hosted cloud offering to another cloud offering?
Increasingly, customers who adopted early hosted unified communication (UC) offerings are considering migrating to newer platforms such as Microsoft Teams. Several factors are prodding unified communications as a service UCaaS customers to consider switching cloud providers. But a big one comes down to what upstart platforms can do for their customers compared to more well-established vendors. Here's a breakdown of the things customers are noticing as they rethink whether their UCaaS provider is the best one for them.
Newer UCaaS Platforms Have Added Features Rapidly
450 new features have been added to Teams in the past year, according to a recent Microsoft announcement. While not all features provide value for all users, significant improvements in key areas may increase productivity and effectiveness for many users. These improvements include:
  • Improved AI transcription – Newer UCaaS platforms now provide strong real-time speech to text captioning, including the ability to translate captions into multiple languages, providing a more inclusive experience for culturally diverse teams.
  • Increased support for flexible workstyles and collaborative interactions – As hybrid work becomes the new predominant workstyle, leading UCaaS vendors have recently added features that better support coordinating and collaborating between members who are often in different locations and time zones. These include being able to set specific working hours. In Teams, there is “people framing,” where remote participants are provided with an individual view of each meeting participant during Teams meetings and more social meeting interaction capabilities, including polling, hand raising, and emoji-like reactions during a meeting presentation.
  • Better mobile support – New platforms recognize and better support the mobile-first philosophy many newer workers have adopted. This entails providing a great collaboration and meeting experience from a mobile device, including the ability to share content while using a mobile phone or tablet, and the ability to seamlessly transfer an in-progress call or meeting from mobile to laptop or to a meeting room and vice versa.
  • UCaaS as an automation platform – as communication and collaboration solutions become the primary portal in which employees spend their time, there is an increased emphasis and opportunity to automate common work processes using low-code and no-code tools that integrate directly with newer UCaaS solutions.
Older Platforms May Lack the Ability to Scale
Many older UCaaS platforms were partner-hosted on smaller multi-tenant clouds, as opposed to being hosted on a public cloud. For fast-growing or larger companies, a partner-hosted cloud solution may not provide the elasticity benefit associated with a true cloud solution.
For multi-national companies, many legacy partner-hosted clouds do not provide the geographical scale or data residency options of current UCaaS solutions. For example, Microsoft Teams supports multi-geo data across 18 regions and countries, including specific countries with more stringent data residency requirements, such as Switzerland and Germany.
Finally, older platforms that have reached the end of their natural life suffer from a lack of investment in new capabilities to keep up and increasingly are seen as such by customers.
Newer Solutions Have Raised the Bar on Security
Legacy UCaaS solutions are not insecure, but with customers increasingly concerned with cybersecurity, newer platforms are more likely to fully support multi-factor authentication along with conditional access and a zero-trust model.
Newer Platforms Have More Integration Options
Originally voice communications were standalone . UC combined messaging, meetings, and voice and the integration simplified deployment and IT management. Many customers are now looking to further simplify their overall solution by integrating UCaaS with employee experience platforms (for example, Microsoft Viva), work process automation (perhaps via PowerApps), and CCaaS.
With older platforms many of these integrations are impossible or very difficult.
Challenges Migrating to a New Cloud Solution
The challenge for customers wishing to migrate from one cloud to another is that it often requires coordination and support from their current service provider. Not all service providers have the expertise or inclination to support switching to another cloud solution.
The challenge for service providers is that cloud-to-cloud migrations typically require a new set of tools for configuration discovery, migration, and then ongoing automation management:
Discovery: Service providers need to extract current configurations from the legacy cloud, and accurately map features to the new cloud. Not all legacy features directly map; some features may map to multiple configuration or security settings in the new, more advance platform. Multi-vendor tools designed for on-premises deployments are often not designed to support a cloud-to-cloud migration.
Migration: Service providers hoping to retain customers even as they switch clouds need to ensure the user experience is seamless. For larger customers, this requires managing the challenging middle state where users, numbers, dial plans, and functionality are split across both platforms. Dealing with this in-between state requires support, analytic, diagnostic, and management tools that connect to both clouds and provide a holistic view of the end customer.
Management: In a simple world, all the users of an organization would eventually be switched to the new cloud solution. In the real world, for a variety of reasons, the end state may involve maintaining specific users on the legacy cloud solution for months or years. These reasons could include contractual obligations, complex integrations, or data residency restrictions. Managing a multi-cloud customer requires a service provider, or the customer themselves, to have the capability to manage number inventories, emergency dial (E911) services, reporting and analytics, and be able to trace and troubleshoot across and between the clouds. Without the proper tools, this can be extremely challenging.
Additionally, many service providers augment the cloud solution to provide carrier services, messaging (SMS) and fax services, and other hosted product integrations. As users are on-boarded, exited, or change roles, managing these configurations across clouds adds an additional level of complexity.
Cloud Migration Programs
As a proof point for this trend of switching clouds, Microsoft and VOSS recently announced a “Partner Pivot Program” that is specifically targeted at helping service providers migrate customers to Microsoft Teams. The program includes planning and enablement services, an automated migration path, Microsoft certification (if required), and a UC performance management and automation management toolset. In the first phase, the VOSS Pivot Program is focused on Cisco HCS (Hosted Collaboration Solution) service provider and managed service provider partners to help them retain, and attain growth from, their existing customers.
For this initiative, VOSS is in a unique position to assist, as its multi-vendor toolset is already installed at many Cisco HCS partners, managing millions of hosted seats.
Expect More Cloud Switching
Despite the effort cloud-to-cloud migrations represent for service providers, the benefits that newer, leading UCaaS solutions deliver for customers provide ample incentive to increase the number of customers who will consider switching cloud solutions over the next several years.
Service providers would be well served to investigate and develop an approach to assist with the switch or risk increased customer attrition.