Daniel Yin shares why cloud communications have grown increasingly more popular in recent years.
In an agile world, where technology and people are constantly evolving, the cloud is the only environment flexible enough to permit frequent change. With the cloud, companies can stay ahead of the curve, adapting to the needs and expectations of their customers.
The cloud delivers everything from cost-saving opportunities to the ability to streamline the way your organisation works. It’s little wonder that the cloud communications space is such a disruptive force.
However, there’s more than one kind of cloud available today.
There’s a vast variety of deployment options available to suit the demands of almost any company.
The question is, should you be considering the public, private, or hybrid cloud for your unified communication strategy?
What Is Cloud Communications?
The first step in choosing the right cloud for your unified communications strategy is understanding what cloud communications actually is.
Cloud communications is a strategy of delivering data and voice communications over the internet, instead of using the Public Switched Telephone Network, or PSTN.
Usually, cloud services are delivered by a third-party provider who is capable of providing storage, telecommunication services, and infrastructure. Because the cloud is inherently dynamic, providers can add and remove services for their clients with ease. As technology continues to evolve, cloud communications offerings will continue to provide more advanced services for communication and collaboration.
So, what is unified communications?
Unified communications is a strategy for integrating various real-time and asynchronous communication tools to boost business productivity. For instance, a unified communication strategy might include telephony, instant messaging, video strategies, and more.
The cloud provides customers with a versatile way to deploy their unified communication systems, through either a public or a private cloud (or a combination of the two). Cloud-based unified communications can also be called “Unified Communications as a Service” or UCaaS. With UCaaS, businesses access all the UC functionality they need, without having to worry about managing the system’s back end.
Cloud unified communications ensures that companies can achieve more scalable communications that are designed to suit the specific needs of each company. Ultimately, this strategy drives greater employee satisfaction and productivity, and can also lead to better experiences on the customer’s end as a result. Since everything is hosted, businesses can also open up more of their resources to focus on other crucial initiatives like sales and growth.
The Benefits of Cloud Communications in Businesses
Cloud computing as a market is set to see an increase in value to $163 billion in 2020.
With a cloud communications strategy in place, organisations can transform the way that their company works. There’s no longer a demand to invest huge amounts of capital into on-site hardware and equipment. Instead, it’s possible to access everything that the enterprise needs in a completely flexible online package.
Unified communications on the cloud can deliver everything from intelligent IVR and auto attendants to basic features like call screening and forwarding. With the cloud, even smaller organisations can access state-of-the-art enterprise-level features through pay-as-you-go models to reduce cost and enhance scalability.
The Biggest Benefits of Cloud Communications
Some of the biggest benefits of cloud communications include the following.
1. Greater Credibility for Your Brand
One of the best things about communicating via the cloud is that even the smallest businesses can access the latest technologies and tools to make their brand stand out. Companies in today’s competitive marketplace need to be able to offer their customers next-level experiences, regardless of how big or small they might be.
With unified communications on the cloud, any company can project a high-quality and professional image via tools like professional IVR, intelligent routing, and even omnichannel communications across SMS, instant messaging and more. All you need is a solution like RingCentral Office to begin.
2. The Ability to Support a Next-Gen Workforce
According to HSO and the Office of National Statistics, 50% of UK employees will be working remotely by the end of 2020. That means that in the next year, companies of all shapes and sizes will need to be able to support a more mobile and flexible workforce.
So, what is unified communications on the cloud going to do to support this new generation of workers? Simple, because unified communications on the cloud is delivered via the internet, staff members can access crucial company phone systems through any device with an internet connection.
This means that companies can hire remote workers and save money on standard overhead costs. What’s more, it also allows organisations to look further afield for the talent they need. There’s no need to restrict the hiring pool to just the local area any more.
3. Scale With Freedom
Every business, no matter their industry or background, is currently in the midst of a digital transformation. Some are adapting new and disruptive technologies like AI and machine learning. Other organisations are looking towards tech for ways to improve efficiency and productivity. Whatever your goals, cloud communications gives you the freedom to scale and adapt at your own pace, without excess expense.
As your business continues to grow and move into new territories, adding new users, phone numbers, and even technology only requires a quick conversation with your provider and a couple of clicks. You can even remove virtual extensions if your business needs to downsize.
4. Endless Integrations
Speaking of adapting your unified communications network to suit you, the cloud environment also plays well with a host of different apps from across the web. For instance, the RingCentral cloud communication solution comes with its own app gallery, featuring integrations to tools like Box, Microsoft Office 365 and more.
As you look for new ways to transform your business, you can experiment with all the integrations you like, including click-to-dial phone numbers and extensive CRM solutions that bring more context to a conversation.
What Is Public Cloud Communications?
Now you know what unified communications on the cloud is, and why it’s so beneficial, it’s time to think about your deployment options.
One of the most common choices for any cloud deployment is the public cloud. The public cloud delivers services in a virtualised environment which uses shared physical resources for a host of clients. These cloud solutions are available through a public network like the internet.
So, what do public cloud communications mean to your business?
Well, if you’re hoping to reduce the costs of running everyday workloads and applications like email, communication and collaboration, and CRM, then you might need the public cloud. What’s more, the public environment is incredibly scalable, which makes it excellent for the development and testing of applications.
Of course, the public cloud does have a few restrictions. For instance, your tools and applications will be hosted on the same infrastructure that many other companies are using. Although the best cloud providers work hard to keep these environments secure, some organisations still worry about the safety of their data in a public environment.
On the other hand, with the public cloud, you also get a range of benefits, such as:
- Simplicity: With a public strategy for unified communications on the cloud, your service provider will deliver everything you need to evolve. There’s no need to maintain a dedicated team on site. Whenever something new is available for your services, your tools will be updated automatically.
- Scalability and flexibility: Another excellent thing about public cloud communications is that you’ve still got plenty of room to grow if you need to. You can start with just a handful of solutions for your employees and scale up or down as you need to. You also won’t have to worry about spending too much on your new deployment strategy. Your entire system can scale up or down with ease, and you can expand to bigger markets as and when you like.
- Cost savings: Public cloud unified communications is one of the most cost-effective ways to go live with your cloud solution. Maintaining your communication strategy on the public cloud reduces your capital expenditure significantly. However, it doesn’t mean giving up on excellent functionality and communication quality. You also won’t need a team of specialists on-hand to maintain your communication system, which means that you can spend less on basic overheads.
What Is Private Cloud Communications?
If you want something a little bit more advanced than the standard “public” cloud, then you might decide to explore private cloud communications instead. The basic private cloud model addresses many of the security concerns that come with a public cloud. This is because you can host all of your workloads and applications on a single dedicated infrastructure and enjoy much greater control over your network.
Private clouds give your business a specific allocation of computing resources, which is similar to having a small cloud that’s specifically for you and your company. There’s no one else sharing the same virtualisation space that you’re using.
Although private clouds are incredibly valuable for security and control purposes, they’re also very expensive. Some people regard the private cloud to be a luxury for computing purposes. After all, you can access the same functionality on public clouds. However, private cloud deployments are far more advanced. Usually, companies access the private cloud model to support proprietary workloads like HR applications, business analytics, and ERP.
Adopting private cloud communications instead of public opportunities typically means limiting your access to certain cost and scalability benefits that you might be able to unlock on the public cloud. One of the biggest drawbacks of private cloud communications (aside from the greater cost) is that there is some complexity to consider. With the private cloud, you’ll have more self-service opportunities. This means that you still need a dedicated IT team to manage the tools and infrastructure that your employees rely on every day.
However, there are still many advantages to private cloud communications, including excellent up-time. If you’re supporting a range of customers from around the globe, then you’ll have no trouble with a private cloud, as all the resources you access are dedicated to you and no one else. That means that you’re not sharing your cloud computing power with anyone.
Additionally, if the information exchanged with your organisation is crucial for your business, and the safety of the customer, then you won’t have to sacrifice security for functionality. Private cloud communications gives you more comprehensive control over the factors that can harm or improve your company’s performance.
What Are Hybrid Cloud Communications?
So, if public cloud communications deliver your solutions over a public network, and private cloud strategies provide you with your own specific instance of the cloud, what is hybrid?
A hybrid cloud unified communications approach is designed to combine the best of both worlds by allowing organisations to access unlimited scalability and cost efficiencies while keeping their core applications and other components within their control. For companies who need a more customised approach to unified communications, hybrid cloud can be the perfect solution.
Hybrid offers a range of attractive solutions to organisations that want to move aspects of their communication strategies into the cloud. You can maintain more control over various security-focused elements of your cloud environment, while still having the freedom to scale and evolve according to your needs.
The key to effective hybrid cloud unified communications is to make sure that you have fundamental components in place to keep both of your cloud systems aligned. The private and public elements of your cloud need to be accessible within the same environment through a robust and unified networking model. Service providers give you the flexible unified communications environment you need, combined with excellent security and an environment capable of delivering consistent support.
With the right provider, all organisations need to do to unlock the wide and varied benefits of the hybrid cloud is choose a plan that suits their needs. Hybrid cloud is also an excellent opportunity for companies that are still in the midst of their own digital transformation. You can decide exactly which resources you want to be able to host on the public cloud, and which you need to keep private for security and control purposes.
A hybrid cloud communications environment can also reduce the amount that you need to spend on specialist IT support. Usually, your service provider will be able to deliver the extra guidance you need, while ensuring that you still have plenty of control over the services that you’re getting.
You won’t save as much money with a hybrid cloud as you would by moving into a fully public environment. Nor will you have the end-to-end control that you get with a private cloud environment. However, you can achieve an excellent balance between peace of mind and affordability.
How to Choose the Right Cloud Communications Strategy
Moving your unified communications strategy into the cloud is an excellent step in growing your business.
With cloud communications, you can streamline your everyday operations, reduce costs, and even eliminate the need for high-level IT department support. There’s even the option to collaborate seamlessly with remote workers and ensure that you always have access to the latest innovations. This can free up staff and resources in your business so that you’re able to focus on other opportunities for your organisation.
So, how do you know which route to the cloud you should take?
Because each of the cloud solutions available today has its own strengths and weaknesses, it’s often very difficult to determine what solution you need. Here are some basic questions to consider:
1. What’s Impacting Your Business?
The first thing you need to know is what factors are having the biggest impact on your business. In other words, what are your goals in switching to cloud unified communications? Do you want to save money and time? If so, then you might need a public cloud communications strategy at first. You can always scale up to a private cloud in the future if you feel it’s necessary to access greater control.
On the other hand, if your focus, for now, is to ensure that your business is as secure and compliant as possible in a highly regulated industry, then a private cloud service might be the right solution. The primary business strategy for many cloud providers is to maximise the scale of their operations while maintaining excellent security. If you want next-level control over your system, private cloud is the way to go.
On the other hand, if you want a combination of both safety and affordability, then perhaps you should be considering the hybrid cloud. Hybrid cloud environments give you plenty of security and scalability opportunities, combined with expert support.
2. How Much Self-Service Do You Want to Do?
Do you have the resources and talent in your team to manage a lot of your cloud environment yourself, or do you need someone else to help you? A hybrid cloud implementation may quickly become the dominant solution for many environments, as it allows businesses to access some of the support they need, along with a good balance of secure and flexible strategies.
On the other hand, if you want a company to manage most of your cloud infrastructure for you, then you can consider switching to the public cloud. Most of the time, unified communication solutions on the public cloud will require very little specialist assistance from an IT company or team.
Alternatively, if you already have the expertise on board to manage all of your cloud solutions, then you shouldn’t have much of a problem with private cloud environments. You might prefer knowing that you have end-to-end control over your cloud system. Many of the best cloud unified communications providers will still be able to help when you need it on the private cloud. For instance, RingCentral’s team is always on hand to answer questions.
3. What Kind of Business Do You Run?
Choosing the right architecture for your cloud communications relies on your ability to visualise how the cloud will be implemented into your existing and future operations. Here are each of the cloud infrastructure options, and the kind of unified communications environment they work best to support:
Public cloud communications is best for:
- Organisations that need to test software or develop various data-heavy tools.
- When you want to access additional resource requirements at varied times, to address peaks in demand.
- Companies that have predictable computing needs and require communication services for a specific number of people.
- Businesses that want to keep their adventure into the cloud as cost effective as possible.
- When you’d like someone else to manage your infrastructure for you.
Private cloud communications is best for:
- Highly regulated industries and environments that require next-level security.
- Organisations that can’t afford to compromise on high levels of availability and performance.
- Larger enterprises that require state-of-the-art data centre technologies.
- When you need complete control over your cloud communication strategy and infrastructure.
- If you need strong security for your IT workloads and unified communication infrastructure.
Hybrid cloud communications is best for:
- When you face a variety of different regulatory, security and performance requirements to support a multitude of verticals.
- Optimising cloud opportunities without compromising on the benefits of either private cloud or public technologies.
- Companies that are strategically approaching cloud investments and want to be able to switch between the best service models in the market.
- Improving the security on your existing cloud solutions that need to be delivered via private networks.
The wide range of cloud communications options available in the market today are designed to ensure that everyone can access the right environment for unified communications. Whether you’re a highly regulated company that needs state-of-the-art control and next-level security in your cloud system, or you’re looking for something simple and affordable, there’s a cloud for you.
The good news is that with the right cloud communications provider, you can always adapt your needs and switch to a new solution whenever you need to. A service provider like RingCentral will support you through every stage of your cloud journey – no matter which route you choose.