Scott Kinka on testing and UC: [swf file="http://vid.itbe.com/ctoedge/evolveipmarch31x.mp3"]
While cloud communications has emerged as one of the most promising technologies of the past decade, it is easily one of the most misunderstood. And part of that could be because there is no physical technology to see or touch. By nature, cloud communications is a set of tools and services that are available via the Web. The other reason is that the number of services that are available in this manner are nearly infinite.
The key to recognizing a cloud technology is in the name — is it available "as a service?" If so, it's most likely based in the cloud. One example is Communications-as-a-Service (CaaS), which includes hosted phone systems (IP-PBXs), desktop integration and messaging applications.
Unified Communications (UC) is a great fit for the cloud computing model. Besides hosted IP PBX systems, desktop integration and messaging, there is a myriad of applications that fit the model. This includes applications such as contact management, online meetings, file sharing, instant messaging, light project management capabilities, and a tertiary backup system.
The on-demand, virtual and scalable nature of cloud-based communication services, as well as a usage-based pricing model, make them a great option for small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking to enhance their technology capabilities and obtain enterprise-level functionality, without the expense that traditionally comes with it.
Moving to the cloud does not come without risks, though, so it's important for every organization to evaluate its current technology usage, needs and limitations, and do their due diligence when selecting a vendor. At this point, data security is perhaps the most prevalent security concern. But with proper planning, procedures, and management and monitoring technologies in place, a reliable cloud vendor can mitigate these risks.
Start by piloting a technology or application that is low risk and less strategic in one department of the organization. This will give you a chance to figure out the best practices and policies you'll need to implement as part of your cloud computing strategy, with little disruption to the business as a whole. Once you've perfected the process with a few smaller communications apps, you can take the plunge and move your larger, more widespread and integral technologies to the cloud as well.
Cloud-based UC is in its nascent period, but the promise of hosted UC for SMBs is without boundaries.