Unified communications (UC) has opened up a new world of productivity for today’s businesses. With all the different ways we have to share information now – voice, video and Web collaboration – managing all these tools within a single interface is critical for efficiency and speed.
But there are several options for deployment. On-premises technology implementations have always been the norm, but now we can also choose to build a private cloud, utilize a public cloud service, or even create a hybrid cloud.
With all these choices, how do you know what deployment model will work best for you? The following questions can point you in the right direction:
- How much ownership and control do you need over your UC deployment? How comfortable are you allowing other businesses to manage your communications? If you don’t mind relinquishing control, a public cloud may be a great way to get the service you need. But if control is an issue, or you have strict regulatory requirements, you might opt for an on-premises or private cloud solution.
- What kind of capital investment can you commit to your communications system? When it comes to cost, an on-premises system will require the greatest initial investment, whereas public cloud deployments are generally billed on a regular cycle without any significant initial outlay of capital.
- How much in-house technical skill do you have? For businesses with significant internal IT resources, implementing a private cloud-based UC solution may be the ideal strategy. Those with minimal expertise or few staff may find it more cost-effective to allow an outside vendor to manage the system via public cloud.
- What are your needs in terms of scale and diversity? The number of sites using the system, and the variety of users and communications configurations needed, can help determine whether an in-house UC system will be sufficient. If you have several sites that need service, and a large number of differing configurations to maintain, a cloud system may be better. For a single site with little variation in the needs of users, an on-premises could be the best.
Answering these questions will help you choose the ideal UC deployment scenario for your business. Let’s explore some other advantages and disadvantages to consider with each of the deployment models:
On-premises deployment: This option gives the greatest opportunity to manage the hardware and software. There is also a perception that security is the best with an on-premises system, but there can be flaws in a PBX (News - Alert) system that can be exploited as you modify the code. Regardless, it’s important to conduct a thorough evaluation of security options for whatever model you choose. You should also consider the length of contract with vendors, and upgrade cycles. And maintenance costs as a part of regular IT duties are often overlooked and may increase total costs.
Public cloud: A public cloud offers the advantage of fast deployment, with no need to test the integration of new hardware and software within the existing IT environment. Contracts are also typically shorter, and regular upgrades are incorporated as a part of the service. It’s important, however, to establish an SLA that will provide you with your required level of service and adequate security. Certain features are also more cost-effective when rented from a cloud provider rather than being purchased, such as if only a few employees need video conferencing capabilities.
Private cloud: This provides some of the benefits of the cloud with the responsibilities of ownership. While you have control over the infrastructure, you will need to keep up with the latest vendor releases, which will require some IT resources.
Hybrid cloud: For some organizations, a hybrid cloud will best suit their needs. In this case, the cloud would essentially operate in layers. The inner layers would be more confidential operational core applications, while the outer layers would contain the applications that need to be accessed from outside the corporate network through the public cloud, such as sales or email. This provides a balance between security and flexibility.
There’s a great variety of deployments available as you consider the best way to implement your UC system. Before committing to a specific on-premises or cloud system, take the time to carefully evaluate your needs and weigh the advantages of each model. One additional consideration is that as you evaluate vendors, be sure to find one that uses the same technology for on-premises and cloud solutions, which will allow you to modify your deployment later, if necessary. By making the correct decision for your business, you will be able to benefit immediately from all that unified communications has to offer, and improve employee productivity.
Edited by Braden Becker