I’d guess that every organization has or will look at using the Cloud for communication. So I’d like to outline some of the reasons they should – and shouldn’t – move to the Cloud.
First, a brief explanation of what it means to move to the Cloud
Let’s take the example of a phone system. (We’re using the “Software as a Service [SaaS]” model of Cloud computing as an example.) The “old” approach was to buy a PBX or key system, install it in the office, hook up some phone lines, and put phone handsets on the desks.
The Cloud approach puts the functions of the PBX or key system – call control, voicemail, etc. – on a server in a data center. Incoming calls are directed to the Cloud phone service and sent over an IP network. Outgoing calls are controlled by the Cloud phone service. Users still need handsets, but all of the work of managing and maintaining the system is done remotely, by the organization but most often, by a service provider.
What’s motivating the move to the Cloud? Here are a few of the reasons:
Total cost of ownership:
- Better uses for capital. Organizations that use service providers don’t need to invest in new phone systems when they open new offices or find that their existing PBXs or key systems are failing, at the limits of their capacity, or don’t have features they need. They can free the capital dollars for other, better uses.
- Lower operating costs. Because the “heart” of the phone system is managed by a third party, organizations don’t need their staffs to do so. Also, moves, adds and changes are usually free or provided at very low cost. Finally, there’s no ongoing PBX maintenance to pay for.
- Scaling: PBXs or key systems that are located at the organization’s premises are fixed. That is, they can support a given number of phone lines and users. Cloud communication services are “on demand” – users can be added or deleted as business conditions change. This means that Cloud services costs vary with the demand for them.
- Disaster recovery: If a PBX or key system is located on the organization’s premises, its availability can be affected by electricity outages, fires, natural disasters, etc. – which means that the organization can’t communicate internally and with customers and vendors. Cloud communication services are usually housed in redundant data centers, so calls keep coming in and can be rerouted to mobile phones.
The above are powerful reasons to move to the Cloud. Why wouldn’t every organization do so?
Here are some of the disadvantages of moving communication to the Cloud
- Customization: If the communication system the organization needs depends on extensive customization, it’s more difficult to find a Cloud service.
- Outages: IP networks are more resilient than they were several years ago; outages still occur.
- Privacy, security and regulatory compliance.
- Ownership bias: Many organizations have a bias favoring ownership of key equipment. They simply prefer to own rather than trusting a third party.
As the foregoing suggests, whether to move to the Cloud or not depends on both economics and an organization’s particular circumstances.