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Modern unified communications platforms encompass services including IP telephony, video conferencing, instant messaging, presence and file sharing.
Despite the massive migration of applications, services and data to the cloud, most enterprise organizations have hung onto their trusty on-premises UC platform. Yet, as unified communications systems begin to age, businesses are finding that unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platforms are plentiful and full of promise. With so many added features and functionality found in UCaaS platforms, why would anyone choose to stay on premises?
In fact, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to stay on premises and even upgrade to a brand new on-premises system. Let's look at six real-world reasons why you might want to keep your unified communications system on premises.
1. Network design
Network architectures that support large numbers of remote offices are often interconnected via WAN links such as MPLS or Metro Ethernet. If that's the case, and if most of your users come into the office to work, on-premises deployments are a better fit because real-time streaming data flows are far more efficient and predictable running across dedicated private WAN links as opposed to connecting to a public cloud via the internet. From a performance standpoint, it's best to operate a UC platform that communicates over the corporate LAN and WAN, if the network is properly designed for it.
2. PSTN quality and reliability
Perhaps the biggest infrastructure change when comparing on-premises and cloud UC platforms is how you receive external public switched telephone network (PSTN) dial tone for desk and conference phones. On-premises platforms almost exclusively rely on legacy telecom digital circuits, such as a T1, or on a dedicated SIP trunk to a telephony provider.
With UCaaS, SIP connections are built over standard internet broadband connections. This means once your real-time voice communication hits the internet, there's no way to prioritize voice traffic over any other data sent or received on your broadband link. If the quality and reliability of your internet connection at corporate or remote offices is suspect, you may want to stick with on-premises UC telephony options that use more tried-and-true PSTN connectivity.
3. Existing telecom contracts
Looking further at PSTN connectivity, your business may be locked into long-term PSTN contracts, or you may have successfully negotiated extremely low rates for your SIP trunks or digital PSTN circuits. PSTN connectivity is an expensive part of overall UC deployment. In these cases, a UC deployment on premises will achieve better pricing than migrating to the cloud.
4. Extend the life of UC endpoint hardware
Businesses will often upgrade their back-end unified communications system, while continuing to use existing endpoint hardware, such as desk phones, conference phones and video conferencing equipment. It's not uncommon or unreasonable to consider UC endpoint devices a 10-year investment at a minimum. On-premises platforms are historically good at supporting legacy IP-based phones and video equipment. The same can't be said for some UCaaS platforms. For those seeking to extend the investment of their current UC endpoints, an on-premises deployment is going to be the best bet.
5. End user preferences
End users are notoriously finicky about their phones, video conferencing systems and chat applications. Even though better UC tools may be available, many are perfectly content sticking with the status quo. If you're seriously looking at migrating to a cloud-based UC platform, I recommend piloting the new UC hardware and software with your most discerning end users. These products can be vastly different from a user perspective compared to most on-premises systems. It may be so different that training users on a new UCaaS may be more trouble than it's worth. Thus, simply upgrading your current on-premises unified communications system to the next-generation platform may be the better choice for that reason alone.
6. Control over security
Businesses cautious about data security may be tired of handing over control of their communications platform to a third-party service provider. If you fall into this category, the cloud may be a hard sell in your organization. Many companies spend millions of dollars to recruit and employ in-house IT security professionals to scan for vulnerabilities, manage security patches and ensure intellectual property isn't leaking out. Having full control of a UC platform from a security standpoint is commonly of utmost importance. Therefore, your only option may be to stick with on-premises platforms fully managed by the business's personal IT security staff.