Who among us doesn’t use cloud services every single day of his or her life? I no longer download music to my iPhone. Why should I when I can hear just about everything I want from Pandora, Spotify, or Amazon Cloud Player? I’ve been using cloud-based email since the 1990’s. I am an amateur photographer and I share my photographs with friends through the cloud. I even backup my PC with cloud services.
The same movement to the cloud for individuals like me is also occurring in the world of businesses. My company uses Salesforce.com for its customer relationship management (CRM). We are currently in the process of moving our Exchange email to the cloud. I expect that over the next several years our IT department, and the IT departments of most other companies, will be identifying on-premise services that can be moved cloud.
So, why not move voice to the cloud? If it makes sense for emails, doesn’t it also make sense for telephone calls? I propose that the answer is “yes” and hope to start convincing you.
Why Cloud Communications?
It takes a minimal amount of capital investment to kick the tires of cloud communications. With little more than an Internet connection and an application downloaded to your smart phone or PC you are up and running — no expensive gateways, servers, 14-inch equipment racks, or the electricity to power and cool all the stuff.
New users can be added with a couple of mouse clicks creating a pay-as-you-go model. On the opposite end, downsizing is as easy as a few more mouse clicks to return licenses back to the service provider.
Unless you are AT&T or Verizon, very few companies are in the business of providing telephony services. So, instead of spending lots of time, money, and human capital on housing and maintaining a private telephone system, why not let someone else do it for you? Cloud communications gives you a state-of-the-art communication system without having to do the heavy lifting of keeping it up and running. This frees you up to focus your efforts on the business of doing your business.
Through growth and acquisition, many large enterprises have a plethora of PBXs and key systems from different vendors running several different versions of software. While some are up-to-date on hardware and software, there are far too many ancient systems out there and those systems are becoming very expensive to keep running.
The communications features that employees have access to often depends on where they are physically located. A division in New York City might provide the latest and greatest of everything to its employees while a division in Newark might get little more than dial-tone. With cloud communications, service delivery becomes ubiquitous. As long as you have network access and the proper levels of permissions, an employee is no longer restricted by where he or she physically resides.
The Evolving Workplace
When I started working for Northern Telecom way back in 1983, my job required me to get in my car and drive across town to an office building. Work was clearly a place I went to. That began to change somewhere in the 1990’s with the advent of the Internet and virtual private networks (VPNs) which allowed me to set up a home office and work very effectively without ever having to get out of my pajamas. Enter the 2000’s where I can still work from home, but more and more I find that my office is anywhere in the world that I happen to be at any given moment of time (please read my blog article on Living the Good Life with SIP). Mobility is key to the survival of many modern day professionals. Work is no longer a place we go. It’s something we do and place often plays no part in the equation.
Cloud communications decouples the delivery of unified communications from an enterprise’s physical infrastructure and as such is the perfect platform for true mobility. I simply point to an IP address, provide the proper credentials, and I have access to the exact same features whether I am in Singapore or San Jose.
SIP, of Course
SIP is key is to the delivery of cloud communications. SIP supports an extremely loose coupling between the signaling to set up a communications channel and the real-time media (voice, video, etc.) that makeup that channel. SIP doesn’t care where I am or what I am attempting to do.
There are a number of vendors in the cloud communications space, but there is one that I have personal ties to. I was part of the team of Nortel software developers that created the product that Arrow SI now sells as a part of Prism Products. These products are a pure SIP-in-the-cloud solution for unified communications. However, this is not a commercial for Arrow SI or any other provider in that space (although I may review the top players in future blogs). The point of this blog article is that there are choices and that number will only grow over the next few years. I also expect that the number of enterprises that jettison their on-premise PBX (or more likely PBXs) to rise like a hockey stick. The same logic that is driving those businesses to the cloud for email, CRM, etc. will push voice and other forms of communications in that same direction.
Stay tuned for additional thoughts and blog articles. I’ve only scratched surface of what I want to say about this subject.