By this point, the case in favor of unified communications is all but settled. Businesses of all sizes and sectors recognize the value to be gained from bringing together video conferencing, instant messaging, voice, email, presence and more channels into a single, unified platform. The only question that decision-makers now face is how to best leverage these tools.
In the vast majority of cases, the answer will include cloud-based UC. Whether purely based in the cloud or a hybrid solution, such approaches offer major competitive advantages. However, the rapid rise in cloud adoption suggests that this status quo will not last. Before too long, cloud-based UC resources will be a necessity, not an edge.
"Cloud-based UC delivers value that on-premise solutions alone cannot match."
In several ways, cloud-based UC delivers value that on-premise solutions alone cannot match. The cloud is inherently far more flexible than legacy offerings, allowing companies to add or subtract users and specific services quickly and easily. This is particularly important for firms eager to expand and grow.
Just as significantly, cloud-based UC allows businesses to outsource most of the responsibility for network management to the services provider. This enables a company to dedicate its IT staff to more high-level, important projects.
Additionally, cloud-based UC offers significant cost savings, thanks to the reduced expenses inherent to SIP trunking.
All of this suggests that the cloud should play at least some role in a company's UC efforts. For certain firms, the ideal option would be to shift all UC operations and data into cloud environments. For others, a hybrid approach that leaves certain aspects on-premises will be more valuable. It will be rare to find a situation where ignoring cloud-based UC completely would be a smart move.
Yet despite these well-established advantages, the fact remains that cloud-based UC is far from achieving universal adoption. Highlighting this issue, a recent Six Degrees Group survey of 100 U.K. businesses found that only 47 percent of participants use the cloud for their telephony services, Misco reported. Furthermore, among those that leveraged cloud-based UC in some capacity, very few had completely migrated to hosted solutions.
The survey found that concern regarding the loss of control was the biggest reason why businesses had yet to migrate to cloud-based UC. Other leading obstacles included quality concerns and the risk of redundancy, the source reported.
However, likely the most significant result is that approximately one-fifth of participating businesses did not realize that cloud-based telephony was even an option, according to Misco.
This is particularly important because it shows by embracing cloud-enabled UC, companies can take a significant leap beyond their less tech-savvy competitors. Combined, the cost savings, flexibility and other advantages inherent to hosted UC solutions will provide a major edge for early adopters.
However, this opportunity will not last forever. On the contrary, a recent study from Infonetics research found that among 162 medium to large North American organizations, well more than half will run cloud-based UC applications by 2016 – a significant increase over this year.
"Businesses continue to migrate their unified communications applications to the cloud, citing flexibility as the key reason," said Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP, UC and IMS at Infonetics Research. "Cloud solutions are inherently more flexible than premises-based solutions, offering businesses the ability to scale users up and down, centralize management and deploy new features and applications quickly."
As this trend picks up steam, businesses will need to embrace cloud-based UC services simply to keep pace with their competitors. By acting now, though, there's still time for these organizations to use this technology to gain an edge in their industries.