Enhancing the User Experience with Cloud UC

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1 Enhancing the User Experience with Cloud UC by Blair Pleasant

2 Enhancing the User Experience with Cloud UC Have you thought about moving your communications and phone system to the cloud? If so, you re not alone. Companies of all sizes, in all vertical markets and geographies, are turning to the cloud to deploy Unified Communications (UC) solutions and to help simplify and streamline their business communications and for good reason. With a wealth of features and capabilities, unified communications has been enabling organizations and workers to be more productive and effective, while helping to save money and reduce costs. With new cloud-based unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offerings, it s even easier for businesses to reap the benefits of UC. UCaaS is a way for businesses to get the benefits of UC solutions without having to invest in hardware, software, implementation, service, maintenance, and support. By working with a hosted service provider, organizations of all sizes can avoid the hassles of deploying and operating a unified communications solution, while leveraging the resources of the hosted provider. Why Unified Communications To support growing business needs such as mobility and virtual teams, enterprises are turning to UC services and technologies that make it easy for individuals and teams to connect quickly and easily from any location or device. UC brings together multiple communications capabilities, including telephony, unified messaging, instant messaging, presence awareness, audio/web/video conferencing, collaboration, and mobility, using a unified interface that is accessible from almost any desktop or mobile device. The results are clear. Deploying unified communications improves the speed of communications across the business while enhancing employee productivity, as businesses can resolve problems more quickly, shorten product development cycles, and get to market faster. Contrary to popular belief, unified communications isn t about the technology it s about the user experience. Productivity-enhancing UC tools such as presence make it easy to identify the availability status of colleagues, while click-to-call capabilities let workers connect with someone with just one click from a buddy list on the desktop or UC-enabled mobile device. Customers can more easily reach their sales rep, or the sales rep can quickly connect with tech support or engineering to get information needed to close a sale. It s also all about improving collaboration between workgroup and team members. Individuals and teams can easily initiate and join audio, web, and video conferences with a click of the mouse, saving time and headaches. Instead of going through a complex series of steps conference calls, video calls, and collaborative sessions screen and file sharing can be initiated on the fly, and other individuals can be brought into the session as needed. An interaction might start out as an instant message chat between two people, then get escalated to an audio, web, or video conference with the click of the mouse.

3 Why Cloud-based UC The Choice is Clear UC is great, but until recently, it s been challenging for small and midsize businesses to purchase and deploy these systems. In the past, the necessary investments in hardware, software, and staffing have, limited the deployment of UC solutions to large enterprises due to the money and resources required to support these complex solutions. Now, there s an easier way. UC services hosted in the cloud provide an alternative for businesses looking to deploy UC solutions without the expense and headaches that go along with premises-based solutions. Why spend money and IT resources on a premise-based UC solution when hosted or cloud-based services makes it easier to deploy, manage, and maintain? Cloud offerings that provide unified communications as a service (UCaaS) are quickly gaining traction, as these services help companies deploy UC capabilities faster, while providing more flexibility, business continuity, reduced complexity, lower operational overhead, and minimized IT requirements. These services don t require special facilities, servers, ongoing maintenance or upgrades like their premise-based counterparts. Key Differences between Premise-Based and Cloud Solutions Financial Model Hosted Operating Expense. Little or no hardware costs (except for phones) Premise Generally a capital expense for the hardware and software needed, plus operating expense for maintenance, support, and upgrades Deployment Days or weeks, depending on complexity of the solution Generally months, depending on complexity of the solution IT Staff Requirements Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Minimal hosted provider responsible for managing, maintaining, and updating the service Hosted provider s responsibility generally multiple data centers, etc. Redundancy is built into the hosting model Significant responsible for managing, maintaining, and updating the solution (unless using a managed service option) Organization s responsibility requires redundancy Control Generally control lies with the hosting provider Control lies with the organization

4 With a UCaaS solution, the hosting provider is responsible for management, service, and support, enabling the business IT staff to focus on other initiatives while reducing overall operating costs. The benefits are even greater for businesses with multiple office locations and branches, as the IT staff is not required to deploy and manage the hardware and software deployed at each location. As businesses grow and change, it s simple to add new locations and users, as it s generally much easier to connect various locations through cloud-based services rather than have equipment sit at every site. One of the key benefits of a cloud solution is the flexibility in terms of scalability, feature updates, deployment, and business continuity: Scalability: Businesses only pay for the user licenses they need, and can add and remove user seats as necessary. This is especially useful for companies with a great deal of seasonal workers, such as tax preparation firms, retailers, and others. Being able to ramp up and down and adjust for seasonal spikes without having to purchase licenses that are only needed part of the year can save organizations thousands of dollars a year. Feature updates and obsolescence: Companies can be guaranteed to get the latest and greatest features as they re introduced, and don t have to do anything to stay current with new releases it s done automatically. Speed of deployment: UC services can be up and running much more quickly in a hosted or cloud deployment compared with a premise-based solution, and new users can easily be added. Business continuity: If a business location is inaccessible due to weather conditions or power failures, workers can use their phones or UC client on a desktop or mobile device to access their communication capabilities from any location. UCaaS Empowering Mobile Workers and Workgroups With hosted and cloud-based services, web and video collaboration tools are now easier than ever to deploy, manage, and maintain, making collaboration capabilities affordable for companies of all sizes, not just the big guys. Virtual teams become a reality, with dispersed and distributed workgroups working more effectively together, efficiently communicating and sharing information. In today s mobile world, workers are no longer tied to their desks, and the on-the-go workplace requires mobile capabilities to enable them to work from any location using any device. With UCaaS and a UC client that runs on a variety of mobile devices, workers can access their communication and collaboration capabilities from wherever they might be at a customer site, hotel, or even the golf course. With functions such as single number reach and the ability to easily forward incoming office calls to a mobile phone, users have more freedom and flexibility, which ultimately increases productivity.

5 Potential Challenges When compared with premise-based solutions, cloud-based communication systems bring additional security concerns for enterprises, since the enterprise depends on the cloud-based provider to address their security needs. Ensuring that the cloud provider can protect the security and privacy of the company s data, particularly for companies in regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services, is critical. Some companies also fear losing control of their communication system, which no longer resides in their server room on site. The enterprise is dependent on the cloud provider for general operational needs and to make changes when necessary, and there may be times when the provider isn t as responsive to requests as an in-house team. In some cases it may be more difficult to customize a solution for the organization s specific needs. Working with the right cloud provider will eliminate or reduce these concerns. What to Look for in a UCaaS Solution Most businesses have specific needs that must be addressed, especially when it comes to the reliability, scalability, and security of a UCaaS solution. Businesses considering UCaaS should look for a single solution that provides all of the key unified communications capabilities, including voice, conferencing, collaboration, mobility, messaging, and presence capabilities, as well as a common user-interface between desk phone, softphone and mobile client. In addition, most businesses today run contact centers, and require full contact center capabilities including screen-pops, integrated desktops and presence, agent monitoring, call recording, and reporting. Regardless of their size, companies should look for enterprise-grade solutions that provide: High-availability, fully redundant, multi-data center architecture for disaster recovery Scalability Network security, including the latest encryption technologies and strict physical security at the data centers 24/7 system monitoring 24/7 customer support E911 capabilities Global Connectivity for offices around the world Interoperability between existing on-premises systems and cloud communications A smooth migration path from existing communications infrastructure to a cloud-based system, eliminating the need to rip & replace Support for all leading devices and operating systems

6 Introducing UNIVERGE BLUE - Business Cloud Services by NEC New hosted providers are popping up overnight due to what can be considered low barriers to entry. Local or regional carriers or resellers can provide white label UCaaS services simply by offering UC applications on top of a communication provider s platform. However, many of these hosted providers may not have the longevity, experience, and global reach required for a successful UCaaS deployment. NEC has focused on providing business-grade solutions from Day One. As an international corporation with 100 years of experience in communications technology, NEC developed UNIVERGE BLUE as a true enterprise class, business-grade communications solution built upon decades of real experience and understanding of how businesses communicate, how they use their communications tools, and what is important to business productivity. With over 200 UC phone features, UNIVERGE BLUE provides Unified Communications, Business Phone Services, and Contact Center in an enterprise-grade, cost-effective, all-in-one hosted communications solution. Small to medium-sized businesses up to enterprises can take advantage of NEC s business cloud service, delivering the unified communications and collaboration features and capabilities organizations expect, and the flexibility and agility of the cloud combined with reliability, performance, and NEC s history of innovation, implementation, and infrastructure investment. Conclusion For small and midsized businesses with limited IT staff and resources, or for any organization with multiple locations, cloud-based UC solutions should be a no brainer. Unified communications solutions provide an improved user experience, enabling individuals, teams, and the business as a whole to be more productive and effective. Hosted or cloud-based UC solutions make it possible for any sized business to cost effectively deploy UC and reap the many benefits provided. But, not all UC solutions are created equal. Regardless of whether you re a five-person or 50,000 employee business, reliability and quality matter. To optimize the user experience, look for a business- and enterprisegrade solution.

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