Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar is the Vice President and Service Director at Nemertes Research, where he manages research operations, develops and manages...
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Irwin Lazar | April 28, 2014 |


A UC in the Cloud Update

A UC in the Cloud Update UC in the cloud, or UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) is gaining momentum, but obstacles to large-scale adoption remain.

UC in the cloud, or UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) is gaining momentum, but obstacles to large-scale adoption remain.

Adoption of cloud-based UC applications isn't exactly new. In fact, one could argue that the two most widely used collaboration applications have always been cloud-based; WebEx and Skype. But for those using enterprise platforms for voice, video conferencing, messaging, and document sharing, it's only more recently that cloud-based alternatives have become a viable alternative to on-premises systems. So is it time for companies of any and all sizes to toss out their on-premises platforms and move to the cloud? The answer, as any good consultant will tell you, is "it depends."

Before we get too far into the discussion, it's worth taking a minute to discuss the various flavors of "cloud" UC. There are SaaS-type offerings from vendors like 8x8, Fonality, and dozens more, each requiring little more than a credit card to purchase, configure, and deploy. Then there are the provider-hosted/managed offerings built on platforms like Cisco's "Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS)." These are custom-built, single-instance software images customized to a specific customer's needs, but sold largely the same way as SaaS; on a per-user / per-month basis.

Alternatively there are even approaches pioneered by Inter-Tel (acquired by Mitel) where the solution is on-premises, but billing is OpEx-based, just like a cloud/SaaS platform. To make matters even more confusing, some UCaaS solutions lack key UC features; Office365 for example, which doesn't provide telephony.

For small companies, the solutions are plentiful and integrated. Numerous vendors offer bundled solutions delivering voice, video, instant messaging, web conferencing, audio conferencing, and even contact center capabilities. For larger enterprises, with broad installed bases of various applications, many of which aren't fully depreciated or can't be moved to the cloud due to governance and regulatory concerns, creating a cloud strategy might mean picking specific cloud services for individual needs.

As an example, a company could leverage a cloud-based video interoperability provider like Acano, Blue Jeans Network, or Pexip to connect its on-premises video endpoints to each other and to business partners. Another might leverage Esna's suite of offerings to integrate its on-premise IPT platform with Office365 or Google Apps, while a third might use a federation-as-a-service provider like NextPlane to connect its IM platform to public and partner systems.

About 85% of companies currently use at least one cloud-based UC application, with web conferencing still dominating. But other UC apps are rapidly gaining adoption as well. Cloud IP telephony use is up to 13% in the Nemertes 2013-14 Enterprise Technology Benchmark, with another 27% evaluating or planning to deploy. Email/calendaring/instant messaging services from Google, IBM, and Microsoft enjoy widespread adoption, with 53% either using, evaluating, or planning to deploy by the end of 2014.

Nemertes finds three primary factors that impact cloud deployment decisions: Cost, integration, and risk.

While lots of IT buyers like the OpEx model of cloud, the reality is that cloud isn't always cheaper than on-prem, especially for larger companies. In a study I reviewed at Interop last month, we noted that while cloud IPT provided a lower 5-year TCO for a small company of 80 employees, cloud was actually more expensive over the same timeframe for another company of 5,000 end-points. In this example, the cost to procure and self-manage the solution was actually cheaper, though the upfront (first year) costs were almost $1 million more for the on-premises platform.

So the first step in evaluating if cloud is right for you is to conduct a TCO analysis and compare various options. Keep in mind that cost isn't the only buying criterion. We've talked to many IT leaders who have picked cloud over on-premise despite higher costs simply because they like the OpEx budget model, they can shift their IT resources into more strategic roles, they want rapid upgrade cycles that many cloud providers offer, and they want to be able to easily scale up and down as needed. Costs (and availability) will likely vary by operating region as well.

The second factor is integration. Understanding that cloud is generally not an all-or-nothing decision, the ability to integrate cloud solutions with on-premises platforms is a key buying criterion for those evaluating competing cloud solutions. Increasingly, it's not just cloud-to-on-prem that's important, but cloud-to-cloud (e.g. 8x8 and ShoreTel Sky's integration with Salesforce). Companies that are building a UC strategy want to maintain (or expand) application integration capabilities as they move to the cloud.

With respect to risk, we see two sides of the coin. Some argue that cloud is "less" risky because of the lower up-front investment, though moving between cloud providers can be disruptive, especially if one cloud provider suddenly closes up shop, as has happened in the past. For others, cloud represents increased risk due to potential data loss by the cloud provider, or snooping by government entities.

So ultimately, the decision as to what and when to move to the cloud depends on a variety of factors. The best approach to evaluating cloud is to weight these factors based on your own requirements, and use them to evaluate competing offerings. Look at the ever-growing variety and breadth of cloud solutions, and remember that even if cloud doesn't make sense today, it may in the future.

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Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
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March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
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August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.