Unified Communications has fully made its way into the cloud. Over the past few years, the trend for shifting communications platforms and applications to the cloud has grown, and even at this point large Enterprise organizations are making their way over. However, there are of course still some hold-outs -- and for good reason. While the cloud introduces a number of benefits, it can introduce a number of drawbacks and pitfalls as well.
Migration can be a confusing and difficult process for a number of reasons, including the sheer number of options available, and the critical importance of consistency. Yet even with the risks involved, adopting a cloud approach still offers enough to make the transition worthwhile. Now, we're not talking about adopting a UC solution from the ground up. But rather, we wanted to put together a quick guide to help your organization better position itself for an inevitable cloud migration.
On-Premise vs In the Cloud
Now, the distinction between On-Premise and Cloud delivered solutions has become fairly common knowledge. But, before we can address the risks associated with migrating from one to the other, it’s important to lay down a foundation to better understand what it is we are discussing.
These different solution delivery models bring with them a different host of benefits and downfalls, some that can be mitigated and some that might not be worth living with. Before jumping in, it is of course important to have as deep of an understanding of the solutions as possible. So, what exactly is the difference between On-Premise and Cloud hosted solutions?
On-Premise: Just as the name states, On-Premise solutions are installed in-house, on site. Traditionally telephony solutions, On-Premise platforms are often utilized by large Enterprise organizations. With an On-Premise solution, all of the hardware, devices, network infrastructure and security protocols are physically hosted and stored within your organization's building. This puts total control of the solution at your fingertips, but it also adds the need for a dedicated in-house team to maintain the solution.
Cloud: As opposed to hosting the hardware and infrastructure inside your organization's buildings, Cloud solutions are delivered through the internet. Instead of installing costly hardware and employing a team to maintain it, the "heavy lifting" so to speak is handled by the service provider. This enables your team to simply gain access to a tool, without the need to keep it running smoothly. Instead of paying a one-time installation fee, however, Cloud solutions are generally charged on a reoccurring subscription.
On-premise solutions naturally provide greater control over the entire system, with everything located in-house. On-premise solutions in a way can provide cost savings as well, by avoiding a reoccurring subscription cost -- but they will also require a rather large initial investment.
On the other hand, Cloud delivered solutions can reduce the need for a large capital investment both on the hardware side, as well as overall platform cost. Cloud solutions are also very easily scalable, without the need for additional hardware. Cloud solutions are also simple to maintain and can provide a greater level of flexibility. Either way you stack them up, the numbers are clear -- cloud based UCaaS is moving forward and will continue to do so.
Don't Forget Hybrid
While both solution platforms have their place, your organization does not need to invest heavily in one specific installation method. In fact, based on the specific needs of your organization, it might be worth adopting a hybrid approach.
Hybrid solutions enable your organization to maintain control over the platform in-house, while offering service and functionality through the cloud, around the world. In the same vein as an on-premise solution, your organization would acquire the necessary hardware and equipment to establish and maintain their own communications platform. In one form of a hybrid approach, service can then be distributed to other locations.
But in a more typical hybrid approach, some specific solutions can be kept on-premise while others are handled in the cloud. For example, your organization might still want an in-house PBX, but seek out a cloud delivered Team Messaging and Collaboration solution to support video conferencing.
Tips for An Easy Transition
At the end of the day, even with a 30-step plan in place, it’s entirely possible to run into different roadblocks and interruptions during a transition as large as moving communication solutions.
However, that doesn't mean your team should run in absolutely blind. It is imperative to assess the situation and arm yourselves with as much knowledge and understanding as possible to help ensure the transition is as smooth as it can be.
- Create a Team of Experts - This rings especially true for smaller organizations looking to make the transition. By establishing a team of experts, you will have an on-tap resource for configuration, modification, testing and training of the new platform. Internal experts within your team will help ensure a smooth transition by managing expectations and assisting with the transition efforts internally. But, if your organization is too small, it is worth it to embrace a team of external experts. Many solution providers will offer dedicated representatives or on boarding/training experts. Utilize these resources whenever your organization experiences a road block or discovers a new issue. Before abandoning the system, learn where the limitations lie and how one might overcome them.
- Utilize/Embrace a hybrid approach to ease the transition - This was important enough to have its own section, but I want to touch on it again as I can't stress it enough. Migrating to the cloud does not have to be an all-or-nothing situation. It is entirely possible to find the best of both worlds and develop a platform that fits the needs of your organization. In fact, most medium to and large sized organizations will probably benefit the most from a cloud adopted solution, while the smaller teams will want to embrace a cloud only approach. With a hybrid deployment, your team can slow the migration period down, without having to place all your bets on black.
- Constantly Test with Slow Deployments - Like any new platform or application roll out, do not rush into simply adopting the platform organization wide. Testing your new UC environment is a critical aspect to a successful adoption. Attempting to onboard everyone at the same time is just opening up a can of worms, asking for problems. Slowly roll out the new solution and test in pilot programs before massive adoption. Just be aware not to fall into comfort with the success of a pilot program, and underestimate the necessary requirements for a wider-spread adoption. Just because your internet can handle 20 users doesn't mean the same bandwidth can handle 20 more.
- Recognize and Address Security Concerns - Security should be an absolute priority for any business, not just large Enterprise organizations. With malicious attacks becoming more and more common, like ransomware attacks in particular, every business needs to ensure their data and their client's data is as protected as possible. It is imperative to ensure that Cloud providers are offering the level of security necessary for your organization and industry. Discuss in detail with the vendors to better understand their security and privacy practices.
- Embrace, Don't Avoid, Re-Training - It will be expected to see a productivity and efficiency drop for a bit during the transition and initial time afterwards. Even the tiniest changes within the user experience can throw off users, requiring them to relearn their existing processes. Instead of attempting to save on your investment by avoiding training, embrace it. Re-train the departments adopting the new platform to ensure the highest level of acceptance, leading to improved productivity. After all, that's a big reason your organization will want to be moving the solution into the cloud, after all.
- Constantly Monitor and Adjust - Unified Communication solutions aren't exactly a "set-it-and-forget-it" approach. Your team will more than likely run into a number of issues and roadblocks. At the end of the day, you can only do so much testing and it takes real world scenarios to understand how the platform will perform. Constantly monitor your solutions: call quality, conference call connectivity, actual application usage, and more. Make the necessary adjustments when you do notice an issue begin to show its head, and avoid letting problems grow worse over time.
Downfalls to Avoid
A slow and methodical approach is absolutely the best way to ensure success for your organization. There's a reason that Unified Communication solutions have taken the cloud, and there's a reason the cloud will continue to expand and grow over time.
The benefits that follow a cloud-based solution will vastly outweigh the cons. By addressing the transition with the attention and resources it deserves, your team can help ensure a successful move. Attempt to avoid rushing into one single solution, or cut costs wherever possible.
- Putting All Your Eggs in One Solution - If your team relies too heavily on one specific solution to come in and save the day, it can easily lead to a disaster scenario. This is why a hybrid approach is such a great way to go -- instead of pushing all the baby birds out of the nest right away, slowly ease your way into a cloud only organization. Try not to also put all your eggs in the "cloud" basket, assuming it is the right way to go for every single solution or platform.
- Failing to Properly Test - Now there will definitely come a point where testing has become redundant. However, before your team looks to make any lasting changes it is imperative that new solutions or functions are tested properly. Not only do you need to test the effectiveness of the solution, but the supporting hardware and networks alongside it. Without properly stress testing your network, for example, you are running the risk of creating a massive issue that could have been caught early.
- Rushing the Transition - This can almost go without saying, but it’s important to remember. Transitions are unfortunately a lengthy process, and by no means should they be rushed. This holds especially true when it comes to your organization's communication platforms. Attempting to rush through a transition without proper planning, testing or training will wind up producing more issues than solutions, sealing the fate of the transition towards failure.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, your team must come to decision whether or it a migration to the cloud will benefit the organization. Jumping ship from on-premise solutions just to follow the trend of cloud focused platforms isn't necessarily the answer. While the Fear of Missing Out is real, especially when your team is looking to gain an advantage over the competition, abandoning existing solutions and processes can cause more issues than they solve.
With the proper transition plan and period in place, your team can ensure that adoption of a new cloud deliver solution with run as smoothly as possible. By setting clear organizational goals and expectations, establishing a plan of action, and following through with the necessary investments, your team will be better prepared to handle this massive change.