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Real World Considerations for Moving Communications to the Cloud

8 Oct 2014

Real World Considerations for Moving Communications to the Cloud

8X8 is an Insight Cloud Partner that specializes in cloud telephony solutions. Chairman and CTO Bryan Martin discussed hosted VoIP considerations in a 30-minute presentation at CloudCast 2014. Among 8X8’s clients are SASTEL, Bell Canada, and SoftBank.

Bryan offered a brief summary of what 8×8 has to offer and set up a broad picture of the growing market for cloud telephony solutions. He then focused on what to consider when moving your company’s communications to the cloud.

Briefly, 8×8 offers straight telephony, contact center, virtual conferencing and collaboration solutions, as well as virtual desktop offerings. The company boasts about 36,500 customers worldwide.


Where is Deployment in Corporate America? [3:15] 

To begin, Bryan reports, the market for interconnected VoIP is in a nascent stage. As of the end of 2013, according to FCC data, only 13 percent of businesses had adopted this technology. That figure is nearly double the number in 2010, when adoption stood at just 5.25 percent.

Adoption of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) is expected to grow 24.7 percent in the next three years, according to compiled data from IDC, Frost & Sullivan, Gartner and Technavio.

Trends Driving Adoption [6:00] 

Nearly universally, businesses are looking for ways to be more efficient. Virtualizing telephony heightens efficiency.

There are four major trends that are driving the adoption of cloud communications solutions.

  1. First of all, mobility and the demands of the workforce have changed what a business communications system needs to look like.
  2. Outdated copper, TDM, and circuit-switch solutions need to be replaced in time. Businesses are inspired to look toward cloud-based options.
  3. The cloud is a superior option when it comes to security and privacy concerns.
  4. Due in large part to the Internet, the businesses of today, whether large or small, are global from their infancy. There’s almost no such thing as a business that caters only to local markets.

Phones are systems of enablement that people use every day and that have to work properlly. 

Virtualization allows phones to work better, sound better, and be more reliable.   [8:36] 

In certain types of businesses, such as financial, tax, insurance, and legal concerns, phones are a mission-critical component of workflow and operations. These types of firms have been some of the first to migrate.

Cloud Systems are Flexible, Easy to Implement and Swift to Deploy

A cloud telephony concern such as 8X8 “can literally deploy a global PBX functionality in minutes,” according to Bryan. Although porting the numbers from the old carrier to the cloud company can take weeks, workarounds allow a cloud-based system to begin functioning right away. Enterprise-grade call centers can be deployed in hours, he reports.

Carrier Headaches Are Passed on to the Virtual Provider

In addition, a company such as 8X8 “extracts the complexity of dealing with carriers,” providing a complete solution, so that your company’s telephony point person is freed from dealing with the carrier who originally owns the lines, originally assigned the number, etc. In addition, provider partnerships allow for seamless integration. For example, 8X8’s partnership with Zendesk means within minutes, you can have cloud telephony working alongside your Zendesk customer service solutions.

Five Things to Consider When Selecting A Cloud UCC Provider [12:40]

  1. Do your homework. Know the company you’re considering. Cloud-based communications systems experience rapid changes; updates come about practically on the fly. You need a company that can continue to provide the necessary “stream of innovation,” according to Bryan. Copycat vendors are a dime a dozen and may offer lower cost. Industry innovators and leaders, on the other hand, will likely be qualified to keep up with developments in technology over time. Fly-by-night operations might be here today and gone tomorrow. Companies with a proven track record and solid financials are likely to be in the telephony space for years to come.
  2. Look for solutions that are easy to administer. Excessive documentation — a 500-page instruction manual, for example — might be a warning sign that the system is ponderous and cumbersome.
  3. Reliability and Security: 8X8, for example, expects 4.5 nines — about two minutes per month — of unplanned system downtime, or outages. The provider you choose should boast a similar standard. To be on the safe side, take care not to sign an agreement “without service-level agreements (SLAs) that are enforceable.” As to security, look for both HIPAA and HITECH privacy certifications. FISMA is another, federal privacy standard. Even if voice security is not paramount, your call logs, faxes, call recordings, video recordings, and voicemail require a higher security standard.
  4. Geography. Data center placement and media infrastructure ubiquity make all the difference when it comes to speed. As Bryan puts it, “Speed of light does matter.” Look for a cloud telephony partner with multi-continental media infrastructure for improved latency. [For example, 8X8 has deployed media infrastructure in Canada, London, Hong Kong. Next is Brazil. All endpoints will find the closest media infrastructure to route the call,]
  5. Calculate the Average Total Cost of Ownership. Even if upfront cost is not your primary concern, look for savings over time, as compared with your legacy systems. Savings might total hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, depending on the size of your company’s systems.

Implementation Observations [22:16]

Finally, Bryan offered up a few notes and observations and debunked a few mythologies, stating, “There’s a lot of misinformation” about these technologies. As an example, the common wisdom may say, “You can’t run enterprise-class voice over the public internet.” Bryan says you can. But “you have to be careful about how you do it.” He asserts there is no need to set up an MPLS, or private data network for voice unless you are, for example, a government agency with high-level security requirements.

Moreover, he reports, you do not need voice to be separate from data, so long as you deploy a working QoS solution. The QoS must be finely tuned to the bandwidth of your LAN and of your wide area connection. Staging your deployments is a common and effective practice, Bryan notes. You can deploy by division, by department, even room by room.
Once deployed, monitor usage on that service. As an example, at the end of every call, 8X8’s infrastructure immediately sends a call quality report back to 8×8. “We can tell you which user might have an issue” with the system, even with a certain feature, such as voicemail. You in turn can nip usage problems in the bud via additional training, for example.

Finally, actively test disaster recovery systems. Pull the connection in your data center to be sure the fail-over backup solution works, the better to avoid nasty surprises in the event of a true emergency.

TAKEAWAYS

  • Know your cloud communications provider. Learn about their track record, and get references before you engage them.
  • Don’t sign a contract without SLAs that are enforceable.
  • Use the cloud when you deploy and test for disaster recovery before an emergency strikes.