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For real-time communications, there’s never been a better time to consider the cloud

Five Reasons to Move Real-Time Communications into the Cloud

There are some enterprise applications that were born to be in the cloud. Customer relationship management (CRM) applications were an early favorite because salespeople (the primary consumers of CRM) are decentralized and mobile. Web applications and personal data storage are also ideal cloud applications because they allow enterprises to scale up easily while driving down costs. Enterprises have held on to their communications, however, making it one of the last applications to move into the cloud.

Enterprises are now waking up to the fact that some people were born to use the cloud - specifically, those born in the 1980s and known as millennials. Millennials will soon make up more than half of the U.S. workforce and, for them, mobility and decentralization aren't the exception, they're the rule. As employees, millennials don't want their communications tied to their office, their desk or even to a single mobile device. They want a communications experience that moves seamlessly between places, devices and applications - and cloud-based unified communications (UC) gives them that experience.

But the "millennial mandate" isn't the only reason to consider the cloud, as the following five reasons illustrate.

Reason #1: Clouds Give You Better Performance
Communications, in IT parlance, represent a dynamic workload. That is, it's not predictable from day to day, but can experience spikes of activity based on unique dates and events. An all-hands conference call is one example; holiday traffic coming into a call center is another. With on-premise communications, IT departments need to build this maximum capacity into their networks or risk performance issues. As a result, enterprises end up paying for capacity they rarely use. With a cloud-based communications system, enterprises only pay for the bandwidth they use and have almost unlimited scalability to handle peak demands when they arise.

Reason #2: Clouds Are Naturally Resilient
Internal and external communications are mission-critical applications; even lost communications for an hour can cost an enterprise millions of dollars in missed revenue. For that reason, nearly every enterprise that has an on-premise communications system also has a backup system, often located in the same data center. The problem with this strategy is that should disaster strike (e.g., a fire, flood or power failure), it will strike both systems at the same time. Cloud-based communications offer built-in redundancy at a much lower cost (because you're not buying twice the equipment, just extra capacity) and geo-redundancy that ensures a single disaster won't take your communications down.

Reason #3: Clouds Are Secure
For years, security was the number one issue for CIOs when they considered the cloud. But these days CIOs feel more secure about the cloud's security capabilities. Cloud providers are increasingly up-to-date with the latest compliance requirements (PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX, etc.) and are building their cloud experiences around the unique security requirements of real-time communications, from "always-on" encryption to mobile identity management.

Reason #4: The Cloud Gives You More Features
The millennial workforce is app driven and mobility centered. If they can't get the features they want from their enterprise communications suite, they'll go out and add it, which has created a shadow IT problem for many enterprises. Cloud-based UC solutions typically feature a much more robust set of applications than premise-based systems do, and thus reduce the likelihood that employees will feel the need go into the shadows to mix and match their own apps.

Reason #5: The Cloud Provides More Insight
Legacy communications systems can generate call detail records (CDRs), but cloud systems can provide rich business insights by capturing, storing and analyzing more data around communications. This data can be used to improve customer service, enhance marketing efforts or even optimize the enterprise network for better performance.

Okay, I'm Sold on the Cloud. Now What?
When it comes to the cloud, enterprises have a host of options, literally: they can host the cloud themselves (private cloud), host it in someone else's cloud (public cloud) or split elements of their communications, such as their internal communications and their customer call center, across public and private cloud environments (hybrid cloud). Choosing the right cloud for the job often comes down to a choice of cost (Do I want to save money?) versus control (Do I want to control security and performance myself?).

Whatever cloud they choose, enterprises will also need a session border controller (SBC) to securely connect their network to the public cloud and/or their private cloud to the Internet. SBCs are a gateway to the cloud that supports the cloud experience including load balancing, security, intelligent routing, data collection and interworking between different devices and different networks. With the trend in data centers toward virtualization, enterprises would do well to consider implementing virtualized SBCs in their network, as this will allow them to centralize the SBC functionality in their data center (versus deploying an SBC at each physical office location) and deliver flexible capacity as SBC resources can be shared and shifted to handle changing workload demands.

For real-time communications, there's never been a better time to consider the cloud. Whether you choose to move everything into the cloud or just one aspect of your communications (e.g., call center), it's a move that more enterprises will be making over the next five years.

More Stories By Rich DeFabritus

Rich DeFabritus manages product realization and life cycle with the Sonus Communication Applications business unit. Rich has more than 20 years of industry experience in product management and marketing, and previously worked for Avaya, Lucent Technologies, General Electric, and Telcordia Technologies. Rich holds an MS in Software Engineering from Monmouth University, and a B.S. in Accounting from Seton Hall University.

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