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Strategy Session: UC And The Cloud

Virtualization and cloud computing have taken over the mantle of hottest tech that only a few years ago was held by IP telephony and unified communications, but that doesn't mean it's easy to align the two areas.

As trends go, the cloud is big. But this isn't the first time most of us have been around the hype block. It was only a few years ago when the movement to IP-based PBXes promised to let us ride the unified communications wave all the way to efficiency nirvana. Now that cloud services have emerged as the top prospect to reduce IT capital expenditures, expedite delivery of new applications, improve business agility, and minimize IT support costs, we need to explore the impact these services have on existing technologies--including UC.

In our Strategy Session report on unified communications and the cloud, available free for a limited time at informationweek.com/analytics/uccloud, we use UC as a case study of how to make the most of existing investments while also leveraging the best the cloud has to offer.

There are three main points to consider:

1. Build on your existing investment, don't forfeit it.If you've already deployed an IP PBX--or any big, expensive on-premises system--jumping into the cloud for the same functionality will be a difficult proposition to justify. In fact, this is a major inhibitor for cloud services in general.

Taking a hybrid approach is often the best way to reap the savings benefits of the software-as-a-service model without throwing your existing investment out the window. We discuss a few ways to manage this in our report.

2. Be sure you understand the trade-offs and compromises.When exploring UC SaaS vendors, understand the application integration options available and the functionality that may need to be compromised due to limited customization. These factors should be looked at from a business process standpoint. For example, a law firm needs to understand the capabilities to be gained by, and impact of, integrating a collaboration service with its document management or client billing system. If the UC system is hosted, can it achieve the complex customization required to service the administrative assistant coverage model for attorneys?

3. Build in an escape clause.IT must consider future-proofing concerns with cloud providers in these early days, especially for something as critical as UC. Just as during the dot-com era, some startup vendors will inevitably be weeded out as competition becomes stiff and service revenue is marginalized. What will the impact be on your data and the investment your company has made if you're forced to move from one UC service provider to another? If you're unsatisfied with the level of service or the speed at which the vendor adopts new features, will you be locked in because of the complexities involved in migrating ?

John Marchese is VP of sales engineering for BlueWater Communications Group. Write to us at iweekletters@ techweb.com.

Get our full report on UC and the cloud free for a limited time at informationweek.com/analytics/uccloud

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