Going UCaaS: How to Choose the Right Option for You
Determining answers to a series of questions around your motivations and requirements for cloud migration will help you sort through the wilderness of options.
We are all hearing that the cloud is the future, and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is certainly a high growth area. If you have done your research, see the value of the cloud for your unique enterprise, and are thus considering moving your business communications to the cloud, how do you get there? The market is flooded with options -- how do you decide? How do you narrow down the choices to a more manageable select few?
The answer depends, in part, on why you are moving to the cloud in the first place. There are several reasons that organizations often make this decision:
- Cost reduction, which may be achievable depending on usage patterns
- Desire for an opex spend model instead of capex model (smaller monthly payments over time vs. one big expenditure)
- Preference for a distributed environment
- Speed of implementation
- Scalability to address seasonality in business cycles
- Challenges with supporting voice and/or unified communications in-house or desire to redirect resources to other uses
Some of these reasons can influence the type of cloud solution that will best suit an organization. Your reasons for making the move should be kept top of mind as you make further decisions about your direction.
Once you identify why you are moving to the cloud, it's time to select a high-level approach that works for your business. This will narrow the field of solutions for your consideration. The first big question to answer is whether you require private, public, or a hybrid cloud option. A private cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network. A public cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are provided on a shared infrastructure. A hybrid cloud is a mix of both options. This is a gross simplification of the options; however, this is a fundamental decision and your choice here will narrow the number of options for your consideration.
Next, think about how you will connect to the cloud. Do you want a more expensive private connection (such as MPLS) that will allow you to control Quality of Service (QoS)? Or is an OTT (over the top) connection that rides on your Internet service (without QoS) sufficient? Some providers offer both options, and some don't, so this can narrow your choices further.
Are there any applications in your current environment that you want to integrate with your communications, such as CRM (Salesforce, etc.), or Microsoft or Google productivity applications? Integration requirements will again narrow the number of options available. Do you have any other integration requirements?
Do you have security or regulatory compliance requirements that must be met? Certifications vary among cloud providers, and this can also reduce the number of choices for your consideration.
Other considerations that will come into play include your requirements for:
- Failover capabilities
- Features such as mobility and contact center vary by provider
- Vendor stability (The cloud market is getting crowded and consolidation is bound to occur)
- Pricing (Are local calls billed? Is long distance usage included or billed at an extra cost? What about toll free services? Is there a monthly charge for 911 capability?)
- 911 availability and robustness
- Vendor portal and tools available (How easy will it be to work with these tools?)
These are, admittedly, very high-level considerations. However, determining your answers to the questions above will help you sort through the wilderness of options and keep you from being overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices.
Once you are ready to move ahead with your implementation, don't forget these three important factors:
- Even with a cloud service, there is still a point of demarcation between your internal network and that of the cloud provider. You need to understand who is responsible for what and how to address issues that may arise.
- Number porting is a dysfunctional process further complicated by the carriers (read more about this here). Expect to have issues, and allow more time than you think you need for this.
- Cloud providers are, by definition, remote. If you are working with a channel partner, they may be able to provide on-site resources for the transition. If you are working directly with the cloud provider, you will most likely be without any on-site assistance. You will need your own resources to assist with gathering the information needed to program the system and make it work for your various users. Your training will most likely be delivered via a Web session, and project management will be remote, as is cutover support.
Armed with the right information, you can better ensure you are making the choice that best suits your enterprise's needs.
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.