Enterprise Connect 2016 - To Cloud or Not to Cloud

14 Mar 2016

At the recent Enterprise Connect 2016, I moderated a session on Cloud Case Studies, where four enterprise organizations discussed their migration to the cloud, lessons learned, benefits, etc. The panel included Paul Patti, RPM Performance Coating Group (8x8 customer) Roger Bruszewski, Millersville University of Pennsylvania (NEC customer), Allan Feeney, Fuji Film (Cisco HCS customer), and Glenn Rappaport, USFitness Group (Vonage Business customer).

To no one's surprise, the key benefits of the cloud according to the panelists include cost savings, not having to deploy and manage the solution, speed to deployment, unburdening the IT staff, high availability, disaster recovery, staying current on software releases, and more. According to Allan Feeney, soft benefits are challenging as they're harder to sell to the finance folks, but they can be just as important as the cost savings. Roger Bruszewski noted that after deploying a cloud service he was able to reallocate IT staff within the university, which was a win-win for everyone. Paul Patti found that his company was able to add video, web meetings, and chat more cost effectively than they'd be able to with an on-prem solution.

The reasons for moving to the cloud were varied - RPM had an aging telecom infrastructure, and actually had a "lightning bulb moment" when one of their plants was hit by a bolt of lightning that destroyed their old Nortel phone system. The company needed communications up and running extremely quickly, and found that 8x8's cloud service fit the bill. Fuji wanted to standardize its communication systems and bring together 14 different organizations within the company and moved to a Cisco hosted platform where they standardized on a single cloud platform. Millersville University found that its existing phone system was going to be out of commission in a few months and needed a new solution. Bruszewski noted that the cloud wasn't an issue for them - the question was finding the right vendor to become a partner, and selected NEC. Sport&Fitness has 46 locations and was challenged by managing many different vendors, and wanted a platform without requiring any hardware, and selected iCore, which is now part of Vonage Business.

When asked about some of the challenges associated with their cloud solutions, there were surprisingly few. Interestingly, two of the panelists had more quality issues from using an MPLS network rather than the public network, and run their voice traffic on the public network and use MPLS for backup.

I kept prodding the panelists for cautions and asked what they would have done differently if they knew then what they know now, but they all agreed that they wouldn't do anything differently. They suggest carefully reading and reviewing the contract with the vendor and/or service provider, and it's important to understand the SLAs. Feeney found that although they spent a lot of time working on the contract and SLAs, "it's easy to miss a lot of little things that can bite you, including services or functions that you expect to be included but are not." In general, all of the panelists were extremely satisfied with the quality and value they receive from the cloud, and strongly advocate moving to VoIP, UC, and contact center in the cloud without hesitation.

The highlight of the session was a poem written by Paul Patti in response to my request for final words of advice:

To cloud or not to cloud, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler to retain an on-prem solution
Or to shuffle off this mortal trapping and embrace the power of the cloud
To adopt, to migrate
To migrate perchance to thrive and unify thy business in a global, cost effective manner

And to that I'll add:

What's in a name? That which we call the cloud by any other name would smell as sweet.


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