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Cloud Computing

Cloud is bringing together communication and IT

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Cloud isn’t just a cost-effective way for organisations to get the processing power, storage and IT applications they need. It’s also about voice – and, just as importantly, about CRM, unified communications and other ‘mashup’ applications that bring together communications and IT.

Voice will be a ‘killer application’ for cloud – one most organisations will eventually adopt, says Greg Griffiths

The recession and the concurrent drive for firms to consider total cost of ownership (TCO) improvements have proved a tremendous catalyst for ‘cloud’ services.

Already tempted by benefits including reductions in in-house support costs and the ability to make applications available quickly wherever they are required, a growing number of organisations see the opportunity to replace capital expenditure with ‘per use’ service charges as just too good to ignore.

According to IT consultancy, Avanade, the number of enterprises signing up for some form of cloud computing service jumped 320 per cent between January and September 2009 [[1]]. What’s more, the vast majority (93 per cent) of the 500 companies it surveyed across 17 countries considered their cloud implementation a success.

But cloud isn’t just a cost-effective way for organisations to get the processing power, storage and IT applications they need. It’s also about voice – and, just as importantly, about CRM, unified communications and other ‘mashup’ applications that bring together communications and IT.

The great thing about IP telephony is that everything involved – the phones, the switches and so on – can be just about anywhere on the planet, anywhere connected to a good quality IP network, that is.

So if the devices that route calls around your organisation can be anywhere, why have them on your premises? Wouldn’t you be better off if they were in the cloud too?

The answer is a definite yes.

Because it’s out there in the network, a cloud-based ‘exchange’ can serve all your different buildings, regardless of where they are. It can even route calls to people’s homes and other locations. And routing is flexible. Going on a trip to your company’s office in North America from Europe, for example? No problem – just log into a phone when you arrive and your calls will reach you there.

But that’s just the start of the good news. Not only will your organisation be able to operate more flexibly and efficiently than it could before, it will save money – suppliers can achieve significant economies of scale – and capital will be released for investment elsewhere. Instead of having to buy exchanges and associated equipment upfront, you pay month-by-month for the services you use.

By using cloud-based contact centre platforms – more usually described as hosted contact centre solutions – organisations stand to benefit still further, improving both operational efficiency and the service they offer their customers.

In traditional contact centres, agents have to work close to the equipment that receives and distributes calls – at the ends of the lines that connect them to the exchange.

Modern contact centres are much more flexible. Agents can work almost anywhere – in contact centres, in branch offices or at home – which gives organisations much more flexibility when it comes to matching staffing levels to customer demand. And when these new contact centres are integrated with unified communications and collaboration systems, customers soon see big benefits. When particular expertise is needed, it’s much easier for agents to direct their calls to someone who can help.

For these and other reasons, many of us think voice will be a ‘killer application’ for cloud – one most organisations will eventually adopt.

We are not alone in holding this view. Based on an international survey, T3i Group, a market research and consulting business, reported: “interest in hosted telephony and these seven hosted applications {contact centre, audio conferencing, desktop video conferencing, web conferencing, voice messaging, unified messaging and interactive voice response/speech recognition} was indicated by more than 50 per cent of our surveyed research panel.” [[2]]

Market intelligence firm, IDC, put it like this: “The current macroeconomic climate favours hosted VoIP. The service is based on an OPEX expenditure model and offers the flexibility, low risk, and cost control now required by companies facing an uncertain future.” [[3]]

A word of caution, however: some cloud solutions are a much better bet than others.

When Avanade conducted its survey, nearly one-third of those who had used cloud solutions said they had experienced a service outage that had cost them at least one day’s business productivity.

Characteristics such as performance, availability and security are important to organisations – often mission critical. When you are processing thousands – perhaps many thousands – of calls and transactions a day, every second counts. You can’t afford to have users waiting for systems to respond, or for calls to break up every time someone nearby downloads a large file. Everything must work predictably, 24x7x365.

Please note: While web addresses were accurate on the date of publication, the sites concerned may since have been redesigned, moved or closed. In the event that a link is broken, try using a search engine like Google to track the document down. Search on the title of the reference. Enclosing it in double quotes may produce a better result.

[1]   ‘Recession has little impact on cloud computing adoption’, Press Release, Avanade Inc, October 21, 2009, http://www.avanade.com/about/news/pressdetail.aspx?id=401

[2]   ‘T3i Group Credits Quick ROI, Broadband Penetration and the Economy for Increasing Demand in Hosted Telephony and Related Applications’, Telecom Web, August 19, 2009, http://www.telecomweb.com/aboutus/pressreleases/263041.html

[3]   ‘Western European Hosted VoIP Market, 2009–2013’, IDC, May 2009

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Greg Griffiths isgeneral manager, Professional Services, Asia Pacific, BT

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