Cloud UCC: Revolution or Repackaging?
When computers first pervaded the business world, they were generally a huge asset and occasionally an expensive headache. These days, between peripherals, mobile devices, software and communications systems, the balance has tipped toward greater complexity, downtime and expense when things go wrong. Business owners don’t have time or energy to learn how to manage their entire IT system, and spending money on in-house IT staff and on-site hardware can feel like a frustrating money pit. Not to mention the burden (and learning curve) that managing multiple communication channels puts on employees.
That’s why cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UCC) systems are creating buzz as businesses see potential to cut costs, reduce aggravation and help them get back to what they do best. But is cloud UCC really all it’s cracked up to be?
Adding communication and collaboration services has been a piecemeal affair over the years, but a growing number of companies are starting to fully host the complete suite of services. In one report, software firm IceWarp notes the UCC concept is really more about packaging and sales than any new technology, “In many ways, referring to unified communications as being in the cloud is just a sexier way to describe the hosted PBX, unified messaging, and managed services solutions that have been available for some time from a variety of providers.”
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As is the case with any cloud capability, infrastructure costs can be greatly reduced compared to installing and maintaining an on-premise system, while scalability and updates are simpler. Hosted solutions effectively make all users mobile users, eliminating the need to add employees to multiple closed user groups. Concerns do still exist about security, reliability, customization and control, which outrank features and functionality as barriers to adoption. Security worries are similar to those faced with on-premises systems, like data vulnerability and system holes, but additional concerns should be addressed by any cloud firm asking for your business. Where will the data be stored and who can access is? How is your data segregated from their other customers? How do they protect against attacks pushing through their system to your local equipment? What is the disaster recovery plan?
Knowing the firms stance on regulatory compliance is also key since business owners are ultimately responsible for the integrity of their information. Traditional service providers are subject to audit and security certification measures so if a cloud provider won’t subject themselves to the same scrutiny then walk away.
Gartner notes that interest in this new blend of service and function is concurrent with the growth of unified communications as its own market. Their recently released vendor comparison notes, “The enterprise UC market continued to mature over the past 12 months and is now considered by Gartner to be entering the early mainstream adoption phase. Products and best practices both for deployment and increasing end-user adoption will continue to mature during the next several years.”
Time will tell if cloud UCC is the answer that business owners have been looking for, or just another way of repackaging last year’s solutions.
Edited by Alisen Downey