Cloud-based unified communications, or UC, tools were designed with remote workforces in mind. Because they're built in public clouds, employees can access voice, video and messaging resources at work, home or anywhere else they have a broadband connection. Legacy UC infrastructure, on the other hand, is not nearly as flexible. It was designed around the assumption that most employees would be accessing resources from the corporate LAN or WAN.
Now that many employees are working from home due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, legacy UC platforms are beginning to show their age. Let's examine some common legacy UC hurdles for remote workers and suggestions on how to remediate them.
Legacy UC architecture challenges
When employees work from home, they are required to remotely connect to the corporate network in order to access legacy UC services. They'll likely access the network either using a traditional remote access VPN application or through more modern virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). But there is a brewing problem. Many IT departments didn't build their remote access infrastructures to be extensive enough to handle such a large number of remote employees. Thus, bottlenecks can form when the VPN/VDI servers or corporate internet connections become overtaxed.
In addition to UC server connectivity problems, IT departments have run into software and licensing issues as well. Many businesses never anticipated the need to support so many remote users. Thus, softphones and softphone licenses were only purchased for those employees that spent most of their time outside the office. Now that everybody needs access to their office phones while working from home, licenses are in short supply. As a result, IT departments either had to scramble to purchase additional licenses or potentially restrict access to UC tools to only those who absolutely need them.
Ways to solve legacy UC architecture shortcomings
IT departments can address the issues of legacy UC infrastructure access in two ways: software and licensing. The first is to beef up the current infrastructure -- adding licenses and bandwidth as needed -- to meet these new demands. The downside, of course, is that you're spending additional money to support an aging system.
A more forward-thinking approach is to look at migrating from a fully on-premises UC platform to a hybrid or fully SaaS-based system. Because time is of the essence for many businesses, the hybrid option may be preferable. SaaS phone systems require the administrator to port existing telephone numbers, known as direct inward dial numbers, to the SaaS-based UC provider. This is a time-consuming process and difficult to achieve in a short period.
On the other hand, hybrid UC platforms enable administrators to maintain their current public switch telephone network provider and architecture, while also providing some public cloud UC services. You may also find that much of your legacy UC hardware and software can be reused in a hybrid model.
Finally, hybrid cloud models make it possible for remote users to end their reliance on VPNs or VDI to access many UC resources. In this way, a hybrid cloud approach reduces a lot of the added load that would otherwise require expensive legacy UC infrastructure upgrades to resolve.