The “Hidden” Value of UC Cloud Services
Imagine a world where Unified Communications is less complex and "simple" is now the iterative word. Imagine a world where enterprise users look to an OPEX hosted model as their financial model moving forward. And imagine a world where cloud-based technologies are taking "front and center stage," helping drive organizations to move forward to replace their aging Telephony infrastructure.
Features, Capabilities of the UC Cloud
That world is now here. Cloud-based Unified Communications models are now making the financial evaluation process less complex, as models used for cloud do not carry the same detailed bill of materials that we typically see in premises-based models.
Cloud-based UC services offer a number of benefits, including:
- No Upgrade Requirements – No upgrade requirements or scheduled quarterly patching updates as required for premises-based system. No scheduled downtime is required
- Security and Encryption – to each remote site, even to the desktop are available
- Licensing Models – Are a bit simpler now, and subscriber based (vs. perpetual) giving enterprises the ability to scale up or down as their needs arise
- Cloud Models Can Adapt Quickly to Technology Changes – Some organizations see Unified Communications and associated IT applications changing at such an unprecedented rate that the move to a cloud infrastructure is more about business strategy and going to market faster than the competition, and less about lowering or managing costs
- Faster Ramp-Up Implementation Periods – Because the cloud model is already built by the provider, the ability to implement a cloud solution quickly typically provides the advantage of a faster ramp-up period compared with a premises-based solution. In addition, a cloud solution can expand quickly among endpoints and applications
- Complexities of UC Now Managed By The Vendor – UC is a complex technology and the best practices for delivering on a successful UC model require a specific UC skillset. The maintenance required for keeping the network alive is now relegated to the cloud provider
- Lower CAPEX – Depending on the provider, little capital expense is required. In most cases, cabling, data switch, and Intermediate Distribution Frame (IDF) closet upgrades are still required, while most everything else can be rented or leased by the provider.
While there was previously a feature parity gap with premises-based solutions, that is no longer the case. For example, cloud-based solutions now offer:
- The Full UC Suite – The full UC suite of features and functions are now available in the UC cloud as with premises-based models, including: Telephony, Voice Mail and Visual Voice Mail, Speech-To-Text, Unified Messaging, Active Directory integration, IM/chat, Presence, Audio Conferencing, Video Conferencing, Collaboration, and newer technologies including CPaaS and workstream communications
- Contact Center – Contact Center capabilities, including routing, reporting, IVR, callback, call recording, workforce management, speech analytics, omni-channel functions for voice, email, chat, and video, social media integration, and more
- UC Mobility – UC mobility clients, integration, and twinning – including single number each
- E911 and Emergency Notification
The above features and functions now allow enterprises to choose between premises-based and cloud services, with the full suite of features available in the premises model now also available in the cloud.
There are also less obvious, almost hidden features available in today’s cloud models that we don’t speak a lot about, that help to fulfill enterprise requirements. They include:
- Single Dial Plan – A UC cloud solution provides a dial plan that supports a multi-site enterprise. It can adapt and provide 4, 5, 6, and 7-digit dial plans among multiple sites while providing DID services to individual sites
- Voice Mail Transcription – This capability is available by some providers and allows the user to read rather than listen to voice mails, saving the time associated with listening to voice mails
- Call Accounting – Call Accounting is available from cloud providers, providing various reports per user, per department, per division, or the entire organization. Flagged number and suspicious activity reports are also available. Billing by site is also available to enterprise administrative users
- Portals for Move, Add and Change (MAC) Activity – Portals for making changes to the enterprise (including DID numbers, voice mail password resets, name re-assignments, relocation of DIDs to a new department, and more) are available via a portal from virtually anywhere to an administrative owner of UC.
Hidden Benefits and Cost Savings of Cloud Services
A subtle and not highly-publicized benefit of cloud services is that all domestic long distance is now included as a part of the monthly cost per user. This is an often overlooked benefit of the cloud solution. Many cloud providers now deliver all of the features and functions above with pricing that now includes all local, intrastate, and interstate domestic long distance.
In my experience, this inclusive feature is valued at $6-$8 per user monthly, based on an average of $.02 per minute per outbound call and average monthly call volume of 100 outbound calls. I have found that bundling long distance in the cloud brings the cost of cloud down a full 30% and 40%, as compared with cloud offerings just 36-48 months ago. This is a significant statement, and should be included in an enterprise’s financial analysis when considering a cloud-based UC solution.
Other not-highly-publicized cost benefits include:
- Costs for twinning to mobile devices are included in the base price
- Collaboration-based meet-me conferencing is now-flat-rated, including all meet-me conference costs and long distance. The model for commercial cloud offerings now mimics that of consumer cellular voice, unlimited domestic flat rate.
Lastly, there are no SIP trunk or PRI costs required for the enterprise. In a cloud solution these circuits are now $0 cost monthly. For larger strategic sites, back-up POTS or PRIs or SIP trunks can be a cost effective redundant alternative in the event an MPLS or SD-WAN link goes down, which would also include a survivable remote.
These cost drivers continue to make the cloud a desired alternate model to any premises-based solution.
Summary and Conclusion
The hosted UC cloud model has come a long way since its inception. Enterprises are expecting a fully redundant, resilient solution that will operate at a five-nine’s model as with a premise solution or legacy Centrex solution. The features and functions of a cloud-based solution now match (and in some cases exceed) that of a premises-based solution.
The less obvious benefits, including long distance and single dial plans for multi-site enterprises, are just some of the "hidden" extras available in a UC cloud solution that are not discussed very often. Including domestic long distance in a cloud offering brings the cost of a UC cloud down significantly and should not be overlooked. The long distance, twinning, and conferencing inclusion now make cloud services a competitive alternative to a premises-based solution.
AT&T Collaborate is a great example of a UC Cloud service offering the hidden values discussed in this article, and should be considered when exploring a UC cloud solution.
When contemplating moving to the cloud, take into account the obvious and less obvious benefits of cloud services. They can make an impact on your enterprise model moving forward.
This paper is sponsored by AT&T.