Businesses are heavily reliant on communications technologies, though many organizations are not taking full advantage of the solutions available on the market. As organizations recognize the need to leverage multiple collaborative tools simultaneously, decision-makers are opting for unified communications systems. However, not many companies are placing these systems within cloud servers, which can make them much more efficient.
A recent ARN report highlighted how many enterprises are not taking full advantage of the products in the cloud computing and unified communications landscapes. As a result, customer service is suffering and organizations are struggling to keep clients engaged and coming back for transactions in the future.
If organizations cannot convert consumers into loyal customers, decision-makers will have difficulty asserting their dominance in today's increasingly connected world.
"While in the past these processes may have been expensive to set up, businesses can now implement these in a cost effective manner with minimal difficulty," unified communications consultant Craig Neil said, according to ARN. "And with customers getting used to more instantaneous and ongoing interactions with businesses, the bar has been raised for employee and customer expectations, and businesses who don't match these will be quickly left behind."
Cloud-driven unified communications
While unified communications itself is a relatively new technology, it's initial presence was only on-site models. As cloud computing services emerged, however, IT professionals recognized the potential advantages that are associated with migrating a unified communications platform off-site.
"Cloud technologies have been a game changer for the UC sector and the channels with which businesses can connect with customers has grown significantly as a result," Neil said, according to ARN.
A report by Transparency Market Research revealed that the global unified communications market is forecast to generate nearly $62 billion in revenue in 2018, representing a compound annual growth rate of more than 22 percent between 2012 and 2018. The proliferation of mobile and cloud technologies is accelerating this industry by giving enterprises and small organizations new opportunities to improve internal and external collaboration, while simultaneously opening up new doors in the customer service landscape.
As the overall communications and cloud landscapes mature, they will inevitably collide at one point or another. Forward-thinking decision-makers need to recognize this certainty and plan ahead, working with trusted service providers to map out a plan of attack. This approach to tomorrow's collaboration capabilities will give firms a competitive advantage.
Augmenting legacy disaster recovery strategies is one of the main reasons organizations implement cloud computing technologies, as the hosted services enable companies of all sizes to leverage a third-party data center to store mission-critical information. In doing so, executives can improve the odds of successfully restoring operations in the wake of an emergency, as the external architecture was likely unaffected by the disaster.
In a recent study of 500 IT professionals, AT&T revealed that 76 percent of respondents are currently using the cloud or plan to do so this year. Another 62 percent of executives said they have incorporated the cloud into their corporate infrastructure, likely to reduce costs, eliminate management complexities and boost the overall availability of sensitive assets.
As for disaster recovery, AT&T found that 66 percent of decision-makers said they are using or planning to invest in the cloud to strengthen business continuity efforts, which will improve their long-term chances of success. For the most part, these organizations are using storage and cloud infrastructure technologies to augment restoration capabilities.
"Companies today are very aware and concerned about the potential threats that could disrupt their operations," said Michael Singer, assistant vice president of mobile, cloud and access management security at AT&T. "With their business continuity plans in place, businesses are investing in new technologies like network enabled cloud services to help strengthen and expand their overall continuity strategies."
Cloud and DR work well together
While there are numerous benefits associated with incorporating cloud computing into disaster recovery initiatives, the ability to quickly restore operations is among the most important advantages. A recent TwinStrata report highlighted this capability, noting that roughly 80 percent of organizations using cloud infrastructure services claim they can recover sensitive data in less than 24 hours after an emergency.
This means that companies using the cloud no longer need to worry about experiencing downtime in the aftermath of a disaster - a problem that used to lead to significant short- and long-term performance and financial issues. By taking the time to develop a well-rounded recovery program, firms can improve their chances of survival.
Because no two clouds are exactly the same, however, it is important that executives select the right solutions. If companies implement poorly designed clouds, they will not reap the same rewards as those that embrace disaster recovery projects leveraging cloud services sharing the same long-term objectives.
While all cloud models are gaining momentum in the business world, Platform and Infrastructure as a Service solutions are particularly popular in the workplace. This is largely because PaaS and IaaS technologies enable organizations to leverage an advanced data center that is not necessarily maintained in-house, allowing companies to reduce costs without sacrificing functionality, according to a TechTarget report.
"PaaS gave us the flexibility to be very nimble as a team, to prototype quickly - and to throw stuff away if it didn't work," said Mario Cruz, CTO of Choose Digital in Miami that offers a digital marketplace platform, according to TechTarget. "It's like having a whole infrastructure team in-house, without actually having an infrastructure team."
At the same time, the introduction of a cloud infrastructure or PaaS environment can be a burden for organizations, largely because traditional, monolithic applications will have trouble operating in the cloud, if they function at all, TechTarget noted. For this reason, many technology experts believe PaaS should be mainly used for developing solutions, not necessarily to manage legacy tools.
IaaS providers often recognize the growing demand for PaaS technologies, which is encouraging service providers to offer additional tools within their IaaS offerings.
"PaaS is too big of a step change for people to make incrementally. People still care about machine instances," cloud expert Pat O'Day said, according to TechTarget. "We see demand for a sort of 'IaaS plus.'"
In other words, organizations today want their IaaS offerings to come with other services like identity management, content networking and object storage.
A separate report by Synergy Research Group highlighted the growing demand for PaaS and IaaS, noting that the market for these technologies generated more than $2 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2013, up 56 percent from the same time in 2012. As businesses continue to look for innovative opportunities to improve operations and reduce costs in today's highly competitive corporate environment, decision-makers will pursue cloud technologies with more enthusiasm than ever before.
By planning ahead and successfully navigating the constantly evolving cloud landscape, executives within organizations of all sizes can be sure they provide employees with the tools they need to optimize performance and gain an advantage over rival firms.
Today's businesses have more opportunities to improve operations and reduce costs than companies of the past, as executives currently have an abundance of technology to choose from. Cloud computing in particular enables both large enterprises and small firms to embrace unique competitive strategies - when the hosted services are implemented properly and their use aligns with long-term corporate goals.
A recent Smart Business Network Online report highlighted how cloud adoption rates are growing and allowing organizations of all sizes to level the playing field between small companies and large enterprises that have a more exhaustible supply of resources.
"It's a really exciting time for small business. For the first time, you have access to tools and solutions that may have been cost prohibitive in the past, and you can buy them by the seat and without the need to build and support an enterprise infrastructure," IT expert Frank Cox, Jr. said, according to SBN Online. "This allows you to build a cost effective, end-to-end automation platform that really impacts your business."
Cloud from the small-company perspective
When the cloud first emerged, the technology was primarily focused on the enterprise, giving decision-makers the opportunity to eliminate on-premise hardware and take advantage of a cloud infrastructure. More recently, these benefits have also been extended to smaller organizations, as the cloud can strengthen their ability to compete, according to a report by Microsoft.
"Gone are the days of large enterprises holding the keys to enterprise-class IT and services," said Marco Limena, vice president of operator channels at Microsoft. "The cloud levels the playing field for [small and medium-sizes businesses], helping them compete in today's quickly changing business environment, by spending less time and money on IT and more time focused on their most important priority - growing their businesses."
Cloud computing enables smaller firms to take advantage of enterprise-level applications and services for an affordable price, SBN Online noted, making it easier to develop and support a resilient data center without worrying about overstraining the budget.
As the cloud continues to evolve in the coming years, small companies will turn to the hosted environment in an effort to keep pace with an increasingly competitive business world. By ensuring cloud usage aligns with long-term corporate objectives, decision-makers can be sure the technology provides numerous advantages to their organizations.
As mobile and social collaboration tools continue to make headway in the business world, decision-makers are moving the solutions to cloud computing environments to improve availability, performance and flexibility. These characteristics are important for a broad range of applications, but more so for collaborative services, as employees who cannot communicate with clients, colleagues and partners will not be as efficient.
A recent report by Strategy Analytics highlighted the growing cloud-based collaboration market, noting that it generated $7.4 billion in revenue in 2012, up 12 percent from 2011. Experts believe that the industry will continue to expand and eventually reach a tipping point in two years when cloud-based software is used more than on-premise resources.
"It is no surprise that collaboration in the cloud is so prevalent. Email and web conferencing have been leading examples of network-based services for the past 20 years," said Mark Levitt, director of business cloud strategies research at Strategy Analytics. "Today's collaboration cloud services, combined with real-time and mobile capabilities, empower workers without requiring that corporate IT staff continue to be collaboration and messaging system experts."
A separate Frost & Sullivan report highlighted similar findings, noting that the mobile landscape in particular is encouraging organizations to embrace a cloud infrastructure for managing advanced collaborative tools.
Mobile drives cloud collaboration
Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Audrey William said the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in the workplace has given employees the ability to access sophisticated collaborative tools from virtually anywhere. For this reason, enterprises need to consider moving communication solutions to the cloud to support this new mentality, as doing so will drive innovation and improve teamwork in and outside of the office.
"It makes a lot of sense for collaboration, which frequently involves people from different organizations on mobile and non-mobile devices, to be served up by trusted third-party service providers with expertise in networking and connectivity," said Andrew Brown, executive director of Enterprise Research at Strategy Analytics.
Because not all clouds are created equal, however, it is important that decision-makers find the right cloud vendor and take steps to ensure they migrate only the most applicable services to the cloud, as not everything will be a perfect fit. As the cloud and mobile landscapes mature, a blending of the two will be almost inevitable, encouraging businesses of all sizes to migrate collaboration tools to the hosted environment.
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Unified communications and cloud computing are converging, forcing decision-makers to get on board or risk not being able to meet demand.Read more
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