What does it mean when people refer to 'cloud UC?'

Dave Michels

What is "cloud UC"? What do people mean when they use this term?

That's a double whammy. Both cloud and UC (unified communications) have murky definitions. Let's start with cloud. At a high-level, there are two kinds of clouds (pun intended): private and public.

Private clouds generally refer to enterprise IT applications running on virtualized servers. Virtualization offers IT departments numerous operational benefits but requires a commitment to specific skills and tools. Once an organization makes a commitment to virtualization, it often wants to move most applications -- including unified communications -- to its virtualized environment.

For more information:

What’s the difference between hosted and multi-tenant UCaaS?

Cloud UC strategies: Hosted unified communication service models diverge

Public clouds are service offerings available to IT departments and/or individual users. They are typically delivered over the public Internet and charges are based on a per-user per-month basis. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) typically runs about $30 to $60 per month per user. There are lots of Anything as a Service (XaaS) offerings: Netflix offers movies as a service; Pandora offers Internet radio as a service, etc.

UC is a trickier term. UC represents modern enterprise communications with, typically, and at a minimum, voice, IM/presence and video. Broader definitions include conferencing, contact center solutions and mobility. The space is undergoing rapid development and major vendors now offer the following:

  • Various endpoints (such as phones, softphones, IM and mobile clients)
  • Media types (including voice, video, text and messaging)
  • Collaborative tools (such as conferencing, desktop sharing, calendar integration and presence)

Most solutions also include mobile clients' special features to enhance communication with external users. These UC solutions come in all shapes and sizes. Appliance-based hardware platforms remain quite popular, but so do software-based products that can sometimes be virtualized.

Another option is to consider public cloud models in which case you subscribe to a UC service provider and obtain UC capabilities with a per-user per-month arrangement. Some companies select all of the above and use a combination of appliances, virtualized servers (private cloud) and UCaaS (public cloud) hybrid implementations.   

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