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Cloud migration planning key to successful UCaaS deployment

Making the move from an on-premises system to UCaaS can be full of hurdles. Cloud migration planning can help navigate the pitfalls and give a clear path to successful UCaaS deployment.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Migrating on-premises unified communications to the cloud isn't a simple rip-and-replace of legacy infrastructure and technology. With so many factors involved in a cloud migration, from preparing the network to training users, one misstep can be a setback for the whole migration.

But careful cloud migration planning can help organizations avoid the common pitfalls that can come with migrating from on-premises unified communications (UC) to the unified communications as a service (UCaaS).

Choosing a deployment architecture and network requirements

The most important first steps in cloud migration planning are to select the type of architecture and the network services an organization needs for its UCaaS deployment, according to Melissa Swartz, founder of Swartz Consulting LLC, who spoke at an Enterprise Connect conference panel discussion on cloud migration.

Organizations have a choice between a public, multi-tenant architecture and a private architecture. A multi-tenant architecture is less costly for organizations but comes with caveat of less organizational control. A private architecture, on the other hand, is more expensive, but the organization has more control, according to Swartz.

"There are so many options to choose from that if you don't narrow it down, it can be overwhelming," she said.

Considering which network services to hand off to the cloud provider is also important. Some organizations can offload network services entirely to their cloud provider, while others would prefer to manage their own network services or are under contract with other network service providers.

"Those decisions are critical to make upfront," said Scott Velting, assistant vice president of cloud voice and collaboration at AT&T Business Solutions. "They dictate how much work you intend to take on."

Involving end users and lines of business

Organizations should talk to users to make sure the features they're actually using are included in the new UCaaS platform. Organizations shouldn't assume all feature requirements are automatically included in a cloud offering, Swartz said.

Jose Pastor, senior vice president of product management at RingCentral, said in the panel discussion that organizations should "taste the soup" by running proofs of concepts with each line of business to get the exact use cases that need to be covered in a migration.

"There's a very big difference between some test calls and actually using the system to run the business," he said.

Eric Hanson, vice president of product marketing at Fuze, said the most successful organizations treat a UCaaS migration as a business transformation and not an IT project.

As a panel member, he said employees have a varying degree of technical sophistication, and including a wide range of users early in the migration process can help an organization find use cases it may not be aware of.

Training end users is also vital to the success of a cloud migration. Swartz said users should evaluate training requirements and training the cloud provider offers. Options can range from on-site training for users in the office to web-based training for remote users.

Evaluating contracts and service-level agreements

Stumbling blocks in a UCaaS migration aren't always technical. Contracts and service-level agreements (SLAs) can make or break the success of cloud migration planning.

Organizations should carefully review the language in service provider contracts to ensure information such as the cost structure, phone number ownership and the billing schedule are correct and as expected. Organizations should also look at what it takes to get out of a contract, such as paying termination fees, Swartz said.

Organizations should fully understand the costs of a UCaaS deployment, according to Chad Reese, director of information technology for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Vendor bills will often include additional costs, such as E911 charges, taxes and tariffs.

"It's good to know ahead of time," he said in an interview. "The number you see from a vendor is different from the final price."

 SLAs lacking in metrics and penalties can also affect the success of a cloud migration.

"In my experience, most SLAs don't have a lot of teeth," Swartz said.

Most SLAs limit damages to whatever an organization pays monthly, she added. If an organization suffers from an outage that keeps the business offline for a long period of time, the organization is losing more than just its monthly operating costs.

Organizations should make sure their SLAs have hard metrics for the goals their service provider needs to meet and include penalties if they don't, Swartz added.

"You want that paperwork in place to protect you upfront. It's worth taking time upfront to make sure you have as many teeth in an SLA you can get," she said.

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