A Cloud for Everyone: The Best of Two Worlds
Moving Unified Communications to the cloud combines the better of two worlds: a predictable, simple Operating Expense (OPEX) model combined with the “evergreen” availability of advanced features and functionality. But it has not always been this way…Centrex subscribers have long coveted the advanced features and functionality that their PBX brothers and sisters have enjoyed: telework capabilities, Unified Messaging, integrated collaboration features and complementary or stand-alone softphone capabilities. As premises VOIP and UC systems approach “legacy” status, however, many PBX owners have secretly cast a jealous eye to their Centrex siblings, who have enjoyed the benefits of a predictable budget and avoiding the iterative cycle of recurring upgrades, perpetual maintenance costs and forced obsolescence.
Which Model is Better? Both Of Them… And…Neither Of Them!
Centrex: A Familiar Home
Centrex service has been offered for decades. The digital and ISDN revolution offered a respectable portfolio of telephony features delivered in an ideal operating model: voice, voicemail and PSTN access all wrapped into a monthly recurring seat price. Advanced features, such as multi-party conferencing,were available to be added to individual users on an ala carte basis, and all of this was operated by your friendly neighborhood telephone company: everything from moves, adds and changes to phone set programming and placement was handled directly by the local service provider. But the system had limits: there was no practical way to IP enable a Centrex class 5 switch. Teleworkers were relegated to forwarding phones and inter-LATA charges, and there was virtually no direct integration with applications on the desktop without invoking adjunct hardware and applications, such as an RS-232 connected Simple Message Desk Interface (SMDI) between your phone and your PC. The PBX was looking like a respectable option, but the question remained: who would operate it?
Digital PBX: The Road To Nowhere In Particular
For those early adopters of PBX technology, things were looking up. The added cost of additional headcount seemed to be offset by the availability of enhanced PBX capabilities. Complete autonomy from any single carrier and the flexibility to program features “on demand” was extremely appealing. Despite the onerous cost of proprietary digital handsets, these circuit switched solutions were reliable and predictable. Recurring maintenance became a fixed part of the budget, and the rare hardware replacement costs were manageable. It seemed as though all was right in the land of Enterprise PBXs, but soon, the proliferation of mobile devices and rising expectations of the end user community began to cast doubt on the venerable platforms. Enter the IP PBX.
VOIP: The Landscape Changes Forever
The proliferation of Enterprise VOIP was supported by an increasingly stable LAN and WAN environment. Expensive Point to Point WAN links and Circuit Emulation gave way to ATM and Frame Relay in the WAN. Ethernet switching became faster AND cheaper, ultimately displacing ATM from the LAN altogether. Cable plants were upgraded to support faster speeds to the desktop, and layer 3 networking was no longer just for routers at the network edge. As TOS (type of service) became QOS (quality of service) on the WAN and LAN, the infrastructure was ready to embrace the emerging concept of VOIP in the enterprise. Once MPLS connections and high speed internet access became commonplace, VOIP seemed to be the logical enterprise play. Mobility, survivability and scalability all seemed to be enhanced by the promise of VOIP.
It did not take long, however, for the shine to wear off of enterprise VOIP solutions: not only had they become increasingly complex to manage, but the limited lifespan of server based call control platforms and local gateways began to take its toll on capital expense (CAPEX) budgets at virtually every level. Maintenance and upgrade protection, although available, was becoming increasingly expensive. Unplanned hardware procurements wreaked havoc on IT budgets and maintenance windows, and the lure of “interoperability” between disparate solutions become either “peaceful co-existence” or the cause of full scale interdepartmental wars. As the cost of licenses, hardware and maintenance began to spiral out of control, many organizations soon found themselves paying for features and licenses that they had little hope of deploying in a timely fashion. Meanwhile, many Centrex subscribers have since settled in for the long haul to see how this was all going to shake out…their data infrastructure has long since been upgraded to keep pace with the rest of technology, but taking on PBX management AND converging voice and data was one bridge too far, and they were quite satisfied with their predictable OpEX budget, thank you very much….
Cloud UC: The Silver Lining
Things have changed once again, and now there is something for everyone. Cloud delivery for unified communications (UC) combines the best of carrier operated, legacy Centrex solutions and premises based, VOIP PBX’s while leaving much of the pain behind. Unplanned maintenance and upgrade costs are eliminated by placing the burden squarely on the shoulders of the cloud service provider (CSP). Paying “up front” for licenses and features for the entire enterprise and struggling to deploy them before the next upgrade cycle is replaced with predictable, seat based recurring charges only for the features and users that have been deployed. Gone are the days of costly, time consuming lab implementations, replaced instead with cloud based proof of concepts and pilots. Released from this burden, valuable technical resources instead focus on developing business requirements and solution evaluation criteria rather than the installation and support new hardware and software. Forklift upgrades and “warm” backup sites are replaced with highly available, geographically redundant infrastructure available when and where you need the service to be. Finally, proprietary, tie-line connected standalone systems are replaced with fully integrated, standards based best of breed platforms, and the CSP is on the hook for actually making it all work seamlessly.
By migrating unified communications to the cloud, you really can have it all. Come to collab9 to learn more about transforming the way you operate.