Where's My Cloud?: Page 3 of 3

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While the April 3 RingCentral event started this investigation, RingCentral isn't the only UCaaS provider facing availability challenges. Other than UCaaS software, the operational team, and some tools, all of the UCaaS vendors have the same options from which to choose in delivering their solutions (data centers, servers, networking, Internet peering, etc.). The result is that outages are actually fairly common across the real-time cloud solutions providers. Over the last 16 months, the number of reported outages has been fairly high across the xCaaS community. For example:

  • 8x8 had one two-hour outage on March 2, and three outages in 2017
  • Cisco WebEx has had two outages this year, and 20 outages in 2017
  • Mitel had an outage on Jan. 24, but none reported in 2017
  • Vonage has had five outages in 2018, and 15 in 2017 (however, to be fair, these include its consumer service, which operates separate from the business services)
  • Microsoft Skype for Business had one outage in 2018, and one in late 2017, while Office 365 overall has had 11 reported outages in 2018 and 49 in 2017

Because Downdetector outage event reporting aggregates input from users across geographies and access carriers and the number of reporters of incidents is relatively large, it generally should eliminate local issues and show core service problems when a major outage occurs. The comments section also provides insight into the scope of the outages: "I have been down for 5 hours now." "Down in Colorado Springs, CO. And when I logged into their server status page, that's down, too." Clearly, administrators get frustrated when cloud services are offline without explanation, recourse, or notification. While most cloud vendors advertise that they'll inform customers of core outages, that doesn't seem to be all that common, based on users reporting outages to Downdetector across vendors (This is a surprise? To whom? Fox in the hen house?).

Reliability or availability, or the lack thereof, should become a major factor in cloud communications purchasing decisions. If a perception emerges that cloud providers can't deliver reasonable UCaaS availability levels, it'll impact enterprise willingness to move to the cloud for UC services.

The Verizon "Can you hear me now?" campaign was a clear attempt to mitigate early availability and quality issues on the cellular network. While many users have become accustomed to the volatility of cellular telephony, the majority of enterprise endpoints aren't configured for knowledge workers or paired with mobile devices. Loss of service totally negates the value of these devices, be they desktop, conference room, or general office phones. A cloud-connected phone without a cloud service is a fantastic paperweight.

With UCaaS, CCaaS, and other cloud-based communications services, the impact of downtime and outages is both significant and immediate. It may be that the UCaaS space should be more availability-focused than other cloud service markets due to the immediacy of the service and the expectation of users based on 100 years of five-nines PSTN. Having access to tools like Downdetector enables consideration of past performance in contract awards. In many ways this is no different than evaluating mutual funds based on their past performance via Morningstar ratings. For organizations looking at cloud vendors or consultants analyzing proposals, including an analysis of availability should become a major part of future evaluations.

Cloud availability and outages could become a major issue in 2018, both generally for UCaaS and for specific vendors. With some providers experiencing an outage lasting an hour or two every month or even more frequently, how much time elapses before customers perceive it as an issue? We need to hear how providers are addressing this and why it should be a consideration for a decision process.

Editor's note: This article has been updated since original publication.