Featured UC3 News — 10 September 2012

The ideal cloud provider should be an enabler, not an inhibitor. These five strategies will help you choose wisely.

 

By Sanjay Srinivasan

 

There’s a reason why global cloud revenues are growing five times faster than other IT products: businesses of every size understand that cloud communications slashes CapEx and OpEx while giving them access to cutting-edge technologies and the flexibility to scale their IT and telecom up and down as their business requires.

 

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Alas, many CIOs and IT managers overlook or underestimate the top five reasons cloud strategies fail when developing and executing a strategy to migrate their voice, video, conferencing, messaging, and other communications services to the cloud:

 

Quality.Can your cloud services provider ensure quality of service (QoS)? Get a detailed description up front, such as how quickly they implement vendor patches or how they ensure that their infrastructure has enough capacity and scalability to meet all of their clients’ needs. Can they ramp up quickly to match your busy periods, such as the holiday shopping season or following the launch of a hot new product? Do they offer dedicated, private IP links to each of your offices instead of the public Internet? Do they automatically prioritize delay-sensitive, bandwidth-intensive traffic such as voice and video? What are the penalties if QoS ever falls short? Be sure to get all of this in writing.

 

Security and privacy.How secure is your provider’s network? How do they protect your services and themselves from traditional and new methods hackers use to gain unauthorized access and disrupt your services? At the very least, they should provide dedicated, private IP links to each of your offices instead of using the public Internet.

 

Control and compliance.Are you losing too much control by moving to the cloud? Look for providers that let you have the same amount of control of your communications services as you’d have if all of the infrastructure were in-house. For example, the ideal cloud provider should offer a Web interface so you can quickly and easily make changes to your services. If you prefer to be hands-off, ask the prospective providers if they have a 24/7 team that can make those changes for you. Don’t forget that control includes compliance with your policies.

 

Ensure up front that a prospective cloud provider can meet general best practices for cloud, as well as any vertical-, country-, and company-specific regulations and requirements. Finally, make sure that they have any third-party audits your business may need your providers to have either completed or planned at the very least.

 

Standardization.Avoid providers that use proprietary protocols to ensure that your investments in telecom applications and services — and your customers — aren’t stranded if you switch providers. It might sound counterintuitive, but selecting a cloud provider is an ideal time to lay the foundation for your move to the next one. Keep your options open. You wouldn’t buy VoIP desk phones that work with only one operator, so why lock your telecom services into a single cloud provider?

 

Cost.Which type of savings is the most important: CapEx or OpEx? Either way, look for clear-cut pricing and avoid providers that want to nickel and dime you. If a bid comes in unexpectedly low, scrutinize it to make sure it doesn’t omit key services and features. On the CapEx side, don’t feel pressured to get rid of a PBX that still has years of service left. Instead, look for a provider that can offer SIP trunking to add the latest IP features to that PBX, maximizing your investment and further extending its service life.

 

Above all, remember that the cloud is supposed to be an opportunity, not a problem. It should improve your bottom line, not saddle it with unexpected expenses — including fines for non-compliance. It should improve employee productivity rather than undermine it by forcing users to learn complex new ways of communicating. It should enhance your ability to communicate with customers and business partners, not force them to choose from a narrow list, such as voice and IM but not video calling and videoconferencing, too. It should scale elegantly and cost-effectively as your business scales. Put simply, the ideal cloud provider should be an enabler, not an inhibitor. Use these five strategies to choose wisely.

 

Sanjay Srinivasan is the chief technology officer and head of operations of Telesphere where he is responsible for all engineering, product development, and operations. Mr. Srinivasan comes to Telesphere with over 15 years of experience and expertise in the areas of data networks, voice services, and hosted application services. He has served in all aspects pertaining to a service provider including network design, VoIP, software architecture and development, service provider process engineering, product marketing and development, and network and service operations. You can contact the author atssrinivasan@telesphere.com

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