UC focus to the cloud, so users will have
to decide when and how theyll evolve their UC approaches to meet their evolving cloud commitments.
They can view this unified communications cloud evolution three ways: as an evolution of
applications, as an evolution of communications services and as an evolution of
hosting technology. Cloud
UC will likely implicate all three of these evolutions, but IT departments in most cases can
decide where its best to start.
Unified communications cloud evolution of applications
Many companies build collaborative relationships around their applications. Workers communicate
with other workers and supervisors to resolve issues that come to light while processing a
transaction or reviewing an account. For these collaborative relationships, the key step is
duplicating the application context for the others involved in the collaboration. If this isnt done,
embarrassing and costly errors are certain to follow.
Modern thin-client orchestrated applications make it easy to customize worker screens; in many
cases, these applications allow a worker to create a URL that represents the specific thing theyre
looking at to share with collaborating partners. The evolutionary goal here would be to ensure that
an email or instant messaging or text messaging (IM/SMS) sent to convey this application context
offers the option to reply in the same form or to escalate the conversation to voice or even video.
In these latter cases, providing a link for that collaborative session is more than a little
helpful, particularly for mobile workers who would face considerable navigating to set up
functions. To make this work, the UC/UCC systems must expose calling interfaces as APIs and
provide a means of sending someone an invite to join.
Unified communications cloud evolution of communications
Some businesses frame their evolution to UC as an evolution from TDM or
traditional voice to VoIP. VoIP services
are often cheaper than traditional voice and more easily integrated with applications,
particularly when mobile devices become a big part of collaboration applications. A voice-centric
evolution is likely to involve equipment changes, though.
Companies can make current phone systems compatible with VoIP services through simple gateway
functions, but this wont address the question of how to create IP voice calls to and from data
devices like tablets. Some UC vendors that also offer TDM voice or that have TDM voice incumbency
offer tools to create a kind of uniform calling plan that allows users to call IP and TDM voice
extensions and extend attendant services across both voice forms. This approach has the advantage
of allowing a company to evolve from a pure TDM to a pure VoIP service while letting workers
transition from current phones or stay with them, at least for a time.
Unified communications cloud evolution of hosting technology
The final evolutionary option for UC is one driven by changes in hosting UC elements. Many UC
systems today are server-hosted and run on-premises, but a growing number of vendors (or vendor
partners) offer UC
as a Service hosted in the cloud. For SMBs in particular, this can be a cost-saving tool
because it eliminates local capital equipment and software support.
The major question for UCaaS
evolution is the reliability of the cloud service on which UC is based. While the general
expectation in the marketplace is that cloud is more reliable, many users of cloud
UC services have reported more problems with availability than they experienced with in-house
application hosting. To be sure your UC evolution doesnt join that group, first validate the
long-term reliability of your current communications system and determine whether its sufficiently
robust. From this interview process, you can set a goal on availability ? a goal that can then be
used to set up an SLA and service
plan with a hosted
Cloud UC = greater dependence on broadband
Any evolutionary path leading users to cloud UC will create a greater dependence on broadband
connections. Internet connectivity will mostly likely be an issue when cloud UC is used to support
mobile devices or teleworkers.
Its easy to underestimate the impact of unified communications on broadband connections and
costs, so an audit of the specific UC applications is essential to determine whether a given
broadband plan will work and be cost-effective.
Video is the most expensive of all communications forms in terms of consumed bandwidth, and some
companies have elected to restrict video use in UC applications to control the load on the networks
? especially to conserve mobile bandwidth. Since more than 70% of UC exchanges now occur within
company facilities, its possible to control mobile costs by adopting Wi-Fi as the primary
connection tool and using Wi-Fi-capable appliances. However, Wi-Fi may not support workers roaming
between hotspots, and most large facilities cant be covered with a single Wi-Fi base station.
Early adopters of unified communications cloud report that their greatest problems come early
on; the problems create a negative momentum for cloud UC adoption that becomes increasingly
difficult to overcome. Trial programs help ensure that major issues in an early rollout are
avoided, particularly if a single small facility is used and tested thoroughly as a pilot site
before main locations with larger worker populations are empowered. As in all projects, a cloud UC
evolution project is most likely to succeed if its well planned and well tested.