Recently I’ve looked at the merits of both premise and cloud-based paths for deploying Unified Communications in this column. Every business decision entails risk, and with UC, there are two distinct types. First is the basic decision to move ahead with UC, as this will be a new type of solution that really doesn’t have any precedent. Following that comes the deployment model question of cloud versus on-premise.
These are not simple decisions, and all choices come with degrees of risk. Not only that, but there is risk to not doing anything, as in maintaining the status quo with your current phone system. Inertia is a common deterrent for adopting UC, as businesses may not readily see an existing problem that UC is tailor-made for. In that scenario, doing nothing is seen as less risky than trying something new that tends to have a soft business case.
Risk factors are all relative, but at least by remaining premise-based, you have a pretty good point of comparison. If you’re still using legacy telephony, then premise-based UC will be built on the same solid foundation that has served you well for so long. Of course, this presumes TDM has been holding up, which may further reinforce the decision to keep this model for UC, even though may not know much about how it actually works.
Conversely, your business may have outgrown TDM, and the potential reasons for this are numerous. Whatever the issue(s), by association, this could make you ready for two changes – moving away from legacy as well as premise-based technology altogether. Now the risk factors become more complex because you might be unfairly attributing TDM’s shortcomings with the deployment model instead of the technology itself.
This is why you must be careful with the relativity of any such comparisons. TDM has plenty of inherent limitations that have nothing to do with being premise-based. These two layers really must be considered independently. For example, instead of being legacy-based for telephony, let’s say you’re using VoIP today, and are now looking at UC for a next step. In this case, the relative comparison is that both solutions are IP-based, so if VoIP is working well, chances are good that UC will too.
That’s a pretty fair assumption, but what if you’re using hosted VoIP and performance has been ok at best? Now you may not be so comfortable with a cloud-based UC offering, and will likely opt instead for on-premise. Why? The more you understand how UC complex is compared to VoIP, the easier it will be to see the challenges of scaling up to support it properly.
If you don’t have faith in the cloud to do that, then thinking back to how reliable premise-based TDM was will make that decision for you. In other words, if your hosted or cloud experience with VoIP makes you nervous, then going this way for UC will carry more risk than a premise-based solution. This may seem like taking a step backward, since you likely moved from this position to adopt VoIP. However, if cloud-based VoIP is giving you trouble, why on earth would you think this will suddenly change with UC?
The Complexities of Risk
As noted, risk is highly subjective, and when it comes to UC, it’s more complex than you might expect. I’ve cited a few scenarios above to illustrate this, and several others are common among businesses considering UC. I’m focusing on risk here because in my research, it’s clear that businesses don’t give this enough thought. The process of deploying UC has many phases, and to properly assess – and assign risk, you must look across all of them. This means pre-deployment risk, post-deployment risk, and everything in between.
So far, I’ve only been touching on the internal risks for your business, which itself has many layers. Aside from technology risk, you must consider financial risk, operational risk and even organizational risk. Beyond that, you need to step back and evaluate the potential risk that UC could have on employee productivity as well as how it could impact your customers. Stepping further back, there is risk attached to your choice of UC vendor and the channel partner that will likely be handling the deployment.
All told, there is a lot to consider here, and my objective is not to scare you off of UC. Rather, I believe businesses need to dig deeper in assessing risk with UC, and with that you’ll make better decisions around the deployment model. Just because the cloud is the hot trend, doesn’t mean it’s the only game in town. Remaining premise-based with may look like old school, but it all depends on what your points of comparison are.
I hope this incites you to think more critically about risk, and if so, you’ll want to keep following my next few posts, where I’ll further examine some of the angles mentioned here.