These days we all use some form of Cloud technology in our everyday business activity. Using cloud for communications, however, is more recent. The cloud involves complex technologies, but has been gaining a lot of traction lately for various forms of communications.
For some businesses this just means telephony utilising VoIP technologies, which is a great cost saving solution. Others, however, look at communications as a way not only to be more cost effective, but also to also improve on everyday business activities utilising video, email, presence, chat, messaging, conferencing, etc.
These are all real-time or near real-time applications, and the value for technology comes from its ability to support these modes as they are needed.
Communications is the lifeblood of any business, and to make the right decisions, you need to consider the facts, or rather some compelling reasons in favour of the cloud.
Here are some scenarios and reasons supporting the move to the cloud:
- Moving your communications to the cloud is more IT friendly.
- Company will be scaling back IT over time, and the cloud will be the best way, long-term, to ensure that they remain current.
- Company is becoming increasingly decentralised and or virtualised, and current IT infrastructure will struggle to support this shift.
- More flexibility in the business, which will enable competitiveness.
- Employees will have the most current, comprehensive set of tools to do their work.
- In cases where businesses have had operational continuity issues or disaster recovery, the cloud offers important advantages that premise-based environments cannot match.
- Utility model of the cloud is Opex (Operating Expenditure)-based and easier to budget for. Traditional communications systems are Capex (Capital expenditure)- based, requiring long cycles to secure funding, and long cycles to write down. This makes cloud especially attractive to smaller businesses with limited capital means.
- Pay-as –you-go also means better cost-control. The business only pays for what it consumes, so the IT budget won’t be blown out of proportion.
Having explained some reason why to move your business to the cloud, the next consideration is will it suit your business? There are two criterion to consider.
1. Is your business on the move? Or/and is your business spread out?
A key advantage of the cloud is taking geography out of the equation. The cloud makes it easy to ramp up new locations, as they just need to be connected via broadband to the LAN. This works well for both large and smaller branches/ businesses.
The benefit is greatest when you have full-size remote offices which may need to support dozens or even hundreds of employees onsite. In this case, the cloud delivers scale, making it easy to quickly provision communications services to a large number of end users. If you have been through this with traditional technology, the benefits will be very evident, both in terms of cost savings and ease of integration with the LAN.
For SMEs, a distributed operation looks very different, but the results are similar. Branch offices will be smaller – perhaps under 10 people – but you may also be relying heavily on home-based employees. We have examined the business case for remote workers in other VoIP News guides, and the economics here are attractive as well.
You may be supporting dozens of remote workers, and with the cloud, it really doesn’t matter where they’re located. This opens up new opportunities for businesses to both support employees seeking a better work/home balance as well as take on remote employees with highly specialised skills, but located in distant geographies.
Other good examples of highly distributed businesses would be retail, restaurant chains and hospitality. In many such cases, there will be a large number of standalone sites, with each location only requiring a few phones. These sites are too small to warrant their own infrastructures, and the cloud is a highly efficient and economical way to extend the benefits of UC to all of them.
2. Strategic focus on leveraging data and technology
The cloud is more of a strategic decision for the overall business rather than one based on making the IT departments life easier. Considering that most businesses are still using traditional telephony systems, it’s fair to say that this strategic focus is not yet the norm.
Clearly, businesses that have fully migrated to IP see things differently, and their decision is not based solely on the financial impact. When they look at the cloud, other considerations come to mind, such as:
• Ensuring that all employees have access to the latest communications applications wherever they’re located
• A more cost effective way to manage technology, especially when things are changing so quickly
• Having a common platform across which real time data can be captured and analyzed to help improve business processes
• Having a flexible technology infrastructure that allows the business to quickly respond to changing conditions and improve time to market
When businesses think along these lines, the cloud becomes a more logical direction for communications. While many migrations from traditional telephony to VoIP will remain premise- based, a growing number will look beyond telephony to the broader set of benefits this guide has been discussing. Also note that size of the business has not yet been addressed. This criterion applies equally well to SMBs as enterprises, and even for Small offices/ Home offices (SOHOs). Given the sheer number of smaller businesses, many cloud providers have focused on scaled down communications offerings to address their needs. As such, the cloud works well for any size of business that is ready to take a more strategic view of technology.