The Cloud-based Services Revolution has come with a lot of hype, as well as a good amount of confusion.
Three of the big questions that seem to be asked repeatedly by those in the technology-purchasing food-chain regarding Cloud-based Voice Communications (“Cloud voice”) are:
- Where is it?
- Is it Plug-and-Play?
- Is it cheaper than on-prem?
A Voice System in the Clouds
One of the most common questions regarding any Cloud-based service is “where is it?”
Now, for those who have been working with service providers for any amount of time, it might seem like a silly question, but for the many business owners and IT managers who’ve only had on-prem systems, the idea of “The Cloud” could be… well… “nebulous”.
At a basic level, “The Cloud” can be defined as the method by which services – be they software services, processing services, or even communications services – are provided by a vendor, via a public network, i.e. The Internet.
Using Cloud-based voice communications means that the customer doesn’t have to install or maintain the communications system hardware or software. Instead, the hardware and software are owned, hosted, and maintained by the provider, who offers the service via the Internet. The customer is then able to consume the service, much like they would electricity or any other public utility.
Not So Plug-and-Play
One of the (Marketing is driven?) misunderstandings about Cloud voice is that it’s as easy as “Plug and Play”.
As noted above, with a Cloud-based voice solution, it’s the host who owns, hosts, and maintains most of the hardware and software for the solution. But that doesn’t mean that it’s as simple as plug in and go for the customer. As is the case with any solution, requirements, implementation, and on-going support matter.
If you don’t put together the business needs (requirements) that the solution has to support – what communications devices you’ll be using and what enterprise apps need to be integrated – you won’t get a solution that addresses those business needs.
And on the topic of enterprise application integration with the communications system, if you don’t partner with the right type of provider, you won’t be able to get the integrations – especially custom integrations – even if you have the requirements. Not all providers are created equal. There are those that just provide the service, and there are those who are true systems integrators and who have as a goal understanding your business needs, and building and implementing a solution that will meet those needs.
And then, regarding the “not-so-plug-and-play-ness” of a Cloud voice solution, there is the issue of on-going maintenance. Maintenance is one of those things that is easy to take for granted. But the importance of outlining a detailed SLA comes into (very) clear focus when something causes your phones to stop ringing and your provider won’t answer theirs.
There’s Lots of Upside, “Cheaper” May Not Be One
As we’ll discuss in the next blog in this series, there can be lots of benefits to going the Cloud-based voice route, from agility and scalability to continuity and recoverability.
If these are things that are important to your business, a Cloud-based voice solution may be the solution for you. But if you’re looking at Cloud voice because some Marketing piece said it was “less expensive than an on-premise solution”, you’ll have to do some untangling to get to exactly what is meant by “less expensive”.
We’ll get into more detail later, but suffice it to say that, when it comes to the price of a Cloud-based voice solution versus an on-prem solution, it really is about either how the business wants to account for communications (cap-ex vs. opex) or about near-term liquidity, not really whether Cloud voice is “cheaper”.
Clearing Up The Cloud
Hopefully, this blog has given you a clearer understanding of what a Cloud-based communication solution is and what it is not. There are definite advantages to a Cloud-based voice solution for companies that have frequent need to ramp up their headcount or that choose to op-ex their communications system.