Is the Cloud finally ready to take on Enterprise UC?
So, when did this cloud-thing get started?
It doesn’t seem that longer ago when our geekier friends were calling each other on their PCs using something called Skype. At about the same time small businesses and consumers were presented with an internet-based alternative to traditional telephone service by a company called Vonage. These early versions of cloud communications were cheap, easy to implement, but not very flexible or reliable. Google entered the market in 2009 and brought with it number of new features and enhancements. However, it was still a PC placing calls over the Internet, and the service was still primarily geared towards the consumer market.
More recently new companies have emerged offering IP-based (internet/private network) voice services for use by businesses. Vonage, Ring Central, Grasshopper, 8X8, and many others now offer a broad range of IP-based services that revival those of traditional, premise-based PBXs and key telephone systems. Now, what was traditionally used by consumers was being developed and marketed for use by businesses, call control phone features, like Transfer and Conference, along with Automated Attendant, and basic ACD were now in the mix.
So, what’s the attraction?
Why would a business want to move their phone service “to the cloud”? If you ask a small business owner you will probably get an answer that involves a financial benefit. Businesses, especially start-ups, can implement a cloud solution with minimal investment. Rather than a substantial capital expense to implement a system on their premises, a business can simply “subscribe” to a service, making it an operational expense. Also, when considering the need to rapidly deploy and expand the phone system, a premise-based PBX/key system cannot compete with a cloud solution where new users can be added to the solution in near real time.
More and more businesses are finding it very challenging to maintain voice and data applications and communications on their own. Rapidly evolving technology, shorter hardware refresh cycles, and software update and patch management have overwhelmed IT staff. Relentless security threats, like the current Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, can cripple many organizations who do not have the resources to effectively deal with them. Off-loading those responsibilities to a service provider eases that concern, allowing the business to focus their resources on, well, their business.
So, what’s the catch?
With the ability to minimize capital expenditures and maximize ease of deployment why haven’t enterprise businesses pulled the plug on their legacy platforms and fully embraced the cloud? Well, they’re starting to, at least some are. But, there are a number of significant limitations of cloud communications that make it unworkable for most large enterprises.
Guaranteed Service: Occasional disruptions in service, or poor voice quality, caused by network or internet issues are not well tolerated by enterprises. Small businesses are typically less risk adverse than enterprise businesses if it means they are saving money. Most enterprises must maintain a well-documented disaster response and recovery plan for when the host platform is out of service or unreachable.
Advanced Contact Center: Cloud-based solutions offer some contact center functionality but typically lack the advanced capabilities most enterprise businesses require, such as omnichannel interactions, advanced call routing, voice and desktop analytics, desktop automation, workforce optimization, and CRM integration.
Integrations: Most enterprises will have the need for their communications systems work with other systems, or hardware that exist on their premises. Very few hospitals have made the switch to a cloud-based solution because it cannot support the large number of analog devices (eg. patient room phones) that they must still support. Additionally, hospitals will require integrations with other third-party platforms such as Nurse Call systems, wireless communications devices, and Electronic Medical Record (EMR) platforms, like EPIC. Other enterprise organizations may require integrations with CRM systems like Salesforce.com.
What will it take to get the Enterprise on board?
Each of the limitations noted above will need to be expertly resolved before enterprises will give serious consideration to moving their communications environments to the Cloud.
With the need to provide Guaranteed Service to the enterprise a Cloud-based, or Hosted solution must offer geographically-redundant data centers and the ability to deliver carrier-diverse network connectivity to the enterprise’s physical locations. The Cloud/Host provider will need to provide dedicated instances of each application provided to the enterprise. The Shared Tenant approach used by most Cloud providers for small businesses would not be acceptable to the enterprise customer.
The Cloud/Host provider must be able to not only offer advanced contact center functionality, but they must be world-class in designing it, delivering it, and supporting it. The provider must have in-house expertise that can evaluate the business imperatives, the workflows, and the KPIs of the enterprise and design a contact center solution that delivers impactful, measurable results.
The Cloud/Hosted solution must be able to integrate with existing hardware, premise based systems, and third-party platforms. The solution must have the same flexibility, APIs, and support of current standards that the leading premise-based systems offer.
Anyone out there?
Arrow Systems Integration has built Arrow Insight Communications-as-a-Service (Caas) that is positioned to deliver for the enterprise. Arrow leverages their decades of experience as a leading provider of premise-based communications solutions and contact centers in delivering Arrow Insight CaaS. Arrow has partnered with Equinix IBX, a global leader in data center and colocation services, to host the Arrow Insight CaaS infrastructure. Arrow then utilizes GTT a global leader in Tier 1, MPLS, and SIP services to deliver reliable and resilient connectivity to and between customer locations. In the data centers Arrow builds Arrow Insight CaaS on the Nutanix Hyperconverged Virtualization platform along with fabric-connect SDN switching and routing to provide unprecedented performance and scalability.
As you would expect from their name, Arrow Systems Integration has the in-house experience, resources, and tools to facilitate integrations of their CaaS environment with ERM/EPR platforms like EPIC, Cerner and Sorian as well as CRM and workflow management engines like Salesforce.com and ServiceNow.
Finally, Arrow Systems Integration will customize a support and management plan that will allow the enterprise to be as engaged with the process as they wish to be. Arrow’s Insight RMM for monitoring, Insight Service Management, Advisory Services, and an assigned Program Manager, are all brought together to deliver a world class solution with a world class experience designed for the enterprise. With Arrow Insight CaaS the “cloud” is finally ready to take on the Enterprise.
About the Author
Scott currently leads the Business Development strategy for Arrow’s Insight Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS). He works closely with the Hosted Solutions group, the Data Center architects, the Unified Communications engineers, and the Contact Center professional services team to develop a managed service that is uniquely positioned in the market to meet the needs for customers in the enterprise space. Scott also works closely with Arrow’s top manufacturers and professional services partners when developing unique or complex solutions and integrations for CaaS or traditional, on-premise environments. Scott has led the PreSales design engagement on numerous successful migrations of traditional, legacy environments to new IP-based environments that deliver enhanced Team Engagement and Omni-channel contact center solutions.More Content by Scott Blue