The market is so abuzz with discussion of cloud services it can be difficult to know what will benefit businesses both today and moving forward. However, cloud services are becoming widely adopted by businesses for reasons such as:
- System scalability
- Low barrier of entry financially
- Constantly upgraded feature sets
- Ease of system management
- Location independence
One tested-and-true service that companies are finding gives them immediate benefits is in cloud communications.
Cloud communications is Internet-based voice and data communications hosted by a third party. While for years the hosting model has focused on data, IP-based voice technologies (VoIP) bring those cloud benefits to the world of telephony as well.
The model eliminates up-front capital cost and means less money and resources must be dedicated to managing leased on-premise equipment. In fact, cloud-based communications can be a particular boon to companies on a growth path. While an on premise telephone system could be purchased, a smaller company would then need to project out and purchase equipment ready to meet its expected future needs, or end up forklifting systems regularly. With a cloud communications infrastructure, business pay for only the lines and features required today, and future growth is easy and incremental.
Far from the fears that people once had around its reliability, VoIP brings added reliability to phone service, as well as rich features that might be otherwise unavailable or unaffordable, such as working from anywhere and still appearing as if you are in your office, receiving voicemail to your email inbox, and local calling among your offices.
Reliability is improved because a true business-class VoIP service has private lines to and from the office, managed traffic and guaranteed quality of service. It uses Internet Protocol, but connects directly, through the service provider, to the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) network, with the Internet being used only as a fallback. The option of actually running business phone service “over” the Internet, as offered by some service providers, can compromise the sound quality and connection expected for business use. This is not what an SMB needs when it wants to appear big, successful and professional. For this reason, it’s also important to select a service provider that offers not only the security of dedicated private network connections, but the end-to-end cloud services. In fact, using VoIP and number portability, businesses can use the cloud to set up phone services and the appearance of virtual local offices in areas where they have no physical shop.
Looking further at a business’ disaster recovery plan, when a traditional on-premise telephone system goes down or the power goes out in an office, business typically comes to a grind; however, with a cloud communications service, calls can be re-routed to a cell phone or a number of choices. Employees can continue to take customer and vendor calls regardless of their “backup” location, all the while appearing as if still on the office phone system.
Although it may seem that on-premise equipment is a one-time charge, many companies forget that the total cost of ownership includes monthly maintenance charges, the cost of lines, and in many cases the cost of making regular changes. All of these items are included in the very competitive monthly cost of a cloud communications service.
What’s most important, though, isn’t simply cost. Almost every business has a degree of unpredictability. On-premise systems can easily over time fail to support a company’s evolving needs and become obsolete. On the flipside, services delivered over the cloud are scalable, reliable and can be continuously upgraded. For instance, just as business needs have changed dramatically over the last five years, so too has the Primus cloud communications architecture and service changed to match them.
For more information, visit www.primuspbs.ca
Look into cloud computing, but do so with an eye to both the advantages and hurdles
Cloud computing business strategies have become a popular way for a company to reduce costs and grow the bottom line. Rather than purchasing hardware and software, a company may enter into an agreement that allows access to a cloud provider’s infrastructure in software applications and data storage through the Internet on an as-needed basis. Benefits of cloud computing include:
The transfer of business data into the cloud is easy, as everything is done by the provider. There is no need to install hardware or software.
It is relatively straightforward to increase the use of cloud services as the business grows or to decrease costs. Most cloud services allow for this flexibility.
Businesses that move to the cloud generally experience cost savings as IT hardware and software expenditures are substantially reduced, and generally fewer staff or resources are required for IT maintenance.
Company data and required software applications can be accessed from anywhere in the world through the Internet, leading to increased productivity.
Cloud service providers generally commit large resources to securing their facilities from attack. Moreover, since the company’s data is in a cloud, there is less likelihood of accidentally losing information from a misplaced laptop or computer, as there is no need for the data to reside in a laptop.
Users at multiple sites may access a common document quickly, easily and in real time, which facilitates collaboration and creativity and speeds up the process of completing a task.
Cloud computing service providers generally offer 24/7 service through multiple data centres with less downtime than that of a company maintaining its own IT system.
It is generally easier and less costly to change cloud providers than it is to terminate traditional IT contracts.
Better cultural adjustment:
Many businesses hire employees from different countries and a large segment of employees work from their homes. Cloud computing makes working environments more accessible.
Those are the benefits, but there is also a dark side. Pitfalls include:
Vendors may process resources in and through a number of jurisdictions at any time, and this raises concerns as to whether personal information may be accessed by foreign law-enforcement bodies. Users also need to consider the risk that their data may be disclosed to foreign governments, possibly without their knowledge or consent. Relevant Canadian legislation such as the Personal Information Protection and Electronics Documents Act (PIPEDA) needs to be considered when a company thinks about outsourcing processing or storage of personal information to a cloud provider.
There is growing concern over whether owners will be able to enforce intellectual proprietary rights when computing resources result in unauthorized distribution of video, music and other rights, and the location of the infringing activity may be difficult to determine.
Loss of data:
As data is held by a third party, it could conceivably be lost. Data portability then becomes a critical issue.
Activity in one jurisdiction may cause harm in another, making resolution more difficult.
Compliance with foreign federal export controls may be difficult when software encryption technologies are used, particularly when cloud services may be provided in multiple locations.
Care must be given to ensure that intellectual property rights of both users and providers are clearly delineated, to minimize disputes.
The terms of a cloud provider’s contracts must be carefully reviewed and, if unreasonable or unwarranted, other providers should be sought out.
While corporations may obtain significant benefits from the cloud, they must also understand the full implications of these new arrangements.
Visit the Miller Thomson website at www.millerthomson.com
for information about the firm and the services they provide.
Also in this issue:
Are you using cloud computing?
What cloud computing and social media tools bring to corporate Canada
Steam Whistle nets significant savings by moving to cloud-based solution
Better, faster, stronger: Productivity gains edge out cost as key cloud benefit
VoIP Supplement: Moving to modern cloud-based communications
Cloud Computing blog