Considering hybrid-cloud voice communications? Here’s how to make them work

Thought Leadership on VOIP/Telecommunications presented by Chesapeake Telephone Systems.

Hybrid-cloud voice communications have emerged as a popular way for businesses to connect their people. You may already know that a hybrid cloud can support a mix of on-premises and cloud-based solutions, but before we explore the advantages and how to prepare, we’ll review your various cloud options.

Cloud basics

  • Public cloud is probably what most of us think of when we talk about “the cloud.” It’s a multi-tenant environment where you subscribe to an IT or communication service using a provider’s resources. It’s great for many businesses because it’s a flexible, scalable, pay-as-you-go model.
  • Private cloud refers to an environment dedicated to a single client or company. The physical infrastructure might be located on the client’s premises or in a commercial data center, but regardless of where the physical equipment resides, the resources are dedicated to your enterprise.
  • Hybrid cloud refers to a mix of public cloud services and dedicated, private arrangements. A typical hybrid cloud-voice communications model includes some locations served with on-premises phone system equipment and other sites using cloud voice services – with everything unified and working together.

Hybrid cloud advantages

Businesses deploying hybrid cloud solutions are drawn to them for several reasons:

  • Again, a hybrid cloud solution gives you the flexibility to integrate a mix of deployment models. Perhaps your headquarters requires a customized, on-premises solution for a large contact center, but smaller branch offices could be served by an off-the-shelf, cloud-based service.
  • Maybe you want to stagger the timing of your transition to the cloud, slowly migrating remote sites as you expand into new markets, while maintaining your on-premises system at headquarters.
  • You might want to take advantage of a subscription-based model for applications like contact centers or call recording. You could keep your primary voice services on-site, for example, and have your chat, video and conferencing features hosted in the cloud.
  • The cloud offers flexible financing, allowing you to start transitioning from CapEx to OpEx spending.
  • A cloud arrangement can help if your company has major security-compliance requirements to meet.
  • A big attraction is that cloud solutions centralize and simplify the job of managing technology.

Don’t forget to ask about…

There are questions you should ask when evaluating any potential hybrid cloud solution. Topics like uptime, data security, flexibility and scalability are critical.

When office locations are connected with a mix of cloud and on-premises phone systems, will the hybrid solution act and look like a single communications platform?

Many businesses may not be ready to transition from their on-premises systems to cloud services because they have highly customized features and apps or their assets have not fully depreciated. They may have been told they must rip-and-replace everything to transition. Make sure that when you evaluate a solution, that you will gain the flexibility to add additional cloud locations by taking advantage of hybrid technology that doesn’t require new system hardware, and that everyone will share the same user experience, including 3 or 4-digit dialing between locations, presence, collaboration and unified messaging.

What happens when my network goes down?

Business continuity and disaster recovery are critical for many business applications, but particularly for business communications. If your call center is unreachable for an hour, it begins to have a significant impact not only on bottom-line revenue but also on your brand’s image. A private cloud is ultimately only as strong as the wide area network (WAN) that supports it, while a public or hybrid cloud system can usually offer greater degrees of resiliency through hardware deployed in multiple, geographically distinct data centers.

Is my data really secure in the cloud?

This is where on-premises models tend to have the advantage, because they allow the enterprise to have granular control over policy and security. Especially in industries, like finance and healthcare, where industry compliance is a necessity, on-premises systems can provide an important extra layer of security. Many enterprises opt for a hybrid cloud model for this reason, as it affords them the best mix of security (on-premises) and cost-efficient scalability (public cloud).

What happens if we outgrow our current cloud?

It’s not unusual to see an enterprise roll out communications into the cloud in stages, often beginning with voice and eventually adding unified communications (i.e., audio/videoconferencing, collaboration, email, etc.) and even a contact center. With a private cloud, enterprises still need to deploy hardware and software in order to add capacity, which takes time and reduces enterprise agility. With a hybrid cloud solution, enterprises can seamlessly scale up internal communications quickly without deploying additional hardware, and then scale it down as seasonal demand changes.

How quickly can new offices and remote users be added?

In both public and private cloud models, automated provisioning is a key advantage, as it allows IT departments to quickly add new users or even entire offices to networked communications and applications using role-based templates. A hybrid cloud can simplify this process even further by providing secure access to those applications whether the office/user is connected to the corporate WAN or not. An example would be a contact center that uses a mix of on-premise and remote agents; using a hybrid cloud would allow all agents to access the same tools even if they’re using different networks to access them.

Cost, reliability, features, voice quality, compatibility and security are also considerations that weigh into the final decision, and each may be weighted differently depending on your business requirements.

Organizational readiness

Before you can start the transition, you will have to plan for the change. This means giving due consideration for things like your network, internet connection and bandwidth, and security.

  • Is your network ready to interface with the cloud? You have to think about things like total users, remote workers, and plans for future growth.
  • Can your current Internet connection handle the increased bandwidth needed for cloud applications? Most cloud issues are caused by weak Internet connections that just can’t handle VoIP calls. You want to make sure you have enough connection bandwidth to meet your business’s real-time data demands.
  • Your organization might want to consider cloud bursting, an implementation that relies on the public cloud when the demand for computing capacity spikes at peak times.
  • Security is another area where your organization will have to plan for the cloud. You’ll have to determine which data you want to store on-premises and which data can be stored in the cloud.

Engage your experts now. Plan for your organization’s cloud needs well in advance so that there aren’t any surprises.

Conclusion

A hybrid cloud approach to managing communications is gaining popularity because it offers flexibility, choice, and savings. Ask the right questions, plan ahead and work with your technology partner to help cover all the bases. You’ll gain the flexibility to successfully transition what makes sense to the cloud, when it makes sense for your company.

Click here for more Thought Leadership on VOIP/Telecommunications from Chesapeake Telephone Systems.

Jeff Nolte is President of Chesapeake Telephone Systems in Millersville, Maryland. He can be reached at 410-850-4848 or jnolte@CTSmd.us