Before making the move to unified communications (UC), every organization must prioritize three issues: scalability, application integration and security. Failure to address these issues can have far-reaching implications for organizations when they enter a growth cycle or encounter a security threat.
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Independent industry analyst Jon Arnold discussed in a webinar why the issues of scalability, application integration and security are so important, and how the cloud can address them and provide additional benefits.
Organizations need scalability to meet business needs, whether it’s adding phone lines to accommodate more employees or ensuring a consistent end-user experience across branch offices. But for organizations that deploy an on-premises UC infrastructure, scalability is difficult, Arnold said.
The cloud is here to help. Organizations that deploy a hosted UC service can support growth by making sure their applications grow with the company and meet changing business needs. The cloud enables users to access their UC apps through the same interface for a consistent experience.
In addition, the cloud can leverage UC in ways an on-premises deployment cannot, Arnold said. The cloud offers flexibility that allows organizations to migrate to VoIP and UC at their own pace and makes migrating to UC an Opex decision since there’s no need to invest in on-premises hardware.
“Stop thinking about the value of communications in terms of premise-based solutions,” Arnold said. “The cloud provides new options that can create a competitive advantage.”
Organizations must integrate voice and telephony into other applications to leverage UC effectively, Arnold said. Voice is the preferred method of real-time communications. Integrating voice with other modes of communication, like instant messaging and conferencing, gives organizations an additional layer of value, he said.
Organizations looking to integrate their applications must focus on horizontal apps the whole company uses, like email, and vertical apps limited to specific departments, like salesforce.com, Arnold said. Organizations should leverage the cloud to integrate their applications for fixed and mobile environments to get the most value out of their apps.
“You need to give employees the tools they want to use in the way they like to use them,” Arnold said. “You have to integrate them in a way that works in the environment people can be most productive, increasingly that means mobility.”
Using the cloud to integrate voice into other applications also gives organizations access to big data. “There’s a wealth of new information that comes when you capture everything in a digital format,” Arnold said. Big data offers new metrics for organizations to gauge employee performance and make better decisions regarding employee and customer engagement.
For all the cloud’s benefits related to UC, security concerns add a layer of uncertainty for organizations. Arnold said it’s easy to think of security only in terms of telephony, but the reality is much bigger. Organizations that opt for a hosted UC and VoIP service face security threats in five areas: company data, employee data, financial data, operations and toll fraud.
Organizations must be proactive and address security issues before they become a problem by engaging employees, taking a holistic view of security that goes beyond IT and developing best practices to mitigate security risks, Arnold said.
Organizations should also have discussions with potential hosted UC service providers to make sure they understand security. Organizations should determine if a potential provider operates its own data center environment or if it uses a partner, what cloud models it supports, if it has the ability to encrypt VoIP traffic and if it can meet compliance requirements for data security audits, like HIPAA and PCI.
“If you don’t think the cloud is a safe place, then you have to think twice about hosted UC,” Arnold said.