Taking Unified Communications to the Cloud

September 12, 2016 Collaboration, Trends

Unified Communications in the Cloud is reaching an initial stage of wide acceptance and stability.  Many IT organizations see UCaaS as a way to reduce maintenance costs, reduce TCO, and minimize the demands on onsite staff.  While UCaaS can certainly accomplish these goals, it’s important to look at the models that are available and the potential pit falls that can occur prior to jumping in.

One of the first things to consider when looking at UCaaS is: does it really offer me the benefit I think it does?  It’s important to do the math.  It may turn out that UCaaS is no less expensive on a month to month basis than an on premise system with a lease.  Additionally, if that on premise system uses existing phones, it can turn out to be a much more cost-effective solution.  It’s great to turn over maintenance and administration to the cloud team, but it’s important to factor in the cost of those changes.  Most IT shops have moves, adds, and changes as a result of normal business.  How would these get addressed?  Are there an additional fees associated?  Be sure to factor these costs into the total.

Another consideration when looking at UCaaS is the type of cloud model.  This can encompass everything from hybrid to pure cloud and from dedicated circuits to pure Internet connectivity.  The right model is completely dependent on the needs of the enterprise and potential cost considerations.

Cloud Services

Cloud services work alone or with on premise equipment.  When they integrate with on premise equipment they are a great example of a hybrid service model. The service is cloud based, but works with the customer’s existing UC deployment.  This can be a cost effective way to begin working with UCaaS.

Hosted Cloud

Many of the current UCaaS providers use the Internet as connectivity between the cloud, the phones  and other devices on premise.  This has the advantage of using the existing circuits for the added functionality.  No expensive dedicated circuits are required.  The downside to this approach is that it relies on the Internet for voice quality…which can’t be guaranteed.  It’s important to analyze the connection for capacity and latency before going down this path.  Another disadvantage of this model is that a failure of connectivity between the cloud and the phones on premise leaves the phones unable to make calls.

Hosted Cloud: Internet – Hybrid

Similar to the Hosted Internet model, the hybrid model makes use of the Internet for connectivity.  The key difference is that the hybrid model will utilize some form of onsite hardware.  This hardware can provide internal calling during an outage situation and even capable of PSTN calling.

Hosted Cloud: Dedicated Circuits

The hosted model using dedicated circuits is typically reserved for larger deployments.  In these cases, MPLS or similar circuits are used to connect to the cloud data center.  This allows the cloud option to function like an on premise solution with similar failover redundancy.  These systems can replicate the features of very large on premise systems.  But the disadvantage here lies within the cost of the dedicated circuits.

Some other things to consider include: Who handles moves, ads and changes; is there a charge? What is the SLA for dealing with an outage? Who is responsible for replacement/repair of faulty equipment, such as a broken phone?

UCaaS is a mature technology, yet like many other technology solutions available, it doesn’t make sense for every deployment.  Perhaps the questions posed above provide enough food for thought for those considering this path.


Curtis brings over 25 years of collaboration experience to ABS. As the Collaboration Team Manager, Curtis works to ensure that ABS is consistently providing the latest collaboration technology and support to ABS clients.