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I love ice cream, especially soft serve ice cream. Traditionally there wasn’t much variation in soft serve ice cream. It was available in three flavors, chocolate, vanilla, and twist. You could change it up a bit by adding chocolate or rainbow sprinkles, but all in all it was pretty straightforward ordering your ice cream. Recently I’ve found ice cream stands offering flavored soft serve. They pour vanilla into a dish, add flavoring and color, and put the mix through a dispenser to create a host of new flavor options. My personal favorite is coconut soft serve with chocolate sprinkles. Yum!

I tell you this story about ice cream because like soft serve, many enterprises believe that there are only three flavors of cloud communications—public cloud, private cloud or hybrid. Pull the lever on the left of the Cloud dispensing machine, and you get private cloud, which usually consists of a customer building their own data center(s) and hosting a communications solution with purchased licenses. Pull the lever on the right, and you’ve got public cloud, typically a communications service managed by a third party, delivered over the public internet in a subscription model. When you use the middle dispenser, a hybrid cloud blends the two solutions together.

Like soft serve, cloud communications has matured from these three core flavors to deliver more solutions tailored to your unique needs. Customers who want a public cloud solution, with subscription based licensing, delivered over a private network, can find providers who offer that flavor. Customers who want to continue to invest in software licensing while leveraging public compute environments, such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, can do that as well. Large companies with global footprints can build their own private cloud solution, hosted in their managed data centers with a subscription based licensing model.

Cloud solutions can be procured from a single vendor, an integrator who blends their expertise in different solution sets into a cloud product, or with an internal team tasked with managing & maintaining a private cloud.

All of these solutions fit the definition of cloud, yet each is radically different from the other. Vendors who offer a one-size-fits-all version of cloud are akin to an ice cream stand selling only vanilla ice cream while another shop across the street has longer lines because they offer more options.

The Five Steps on the Journey to Cloud

In my experience the journey from an on-premise to a cloud based communication solution has five waypoints.

I’ll stay on the deck at the pool

For more than a few businesses, moving from an on-premise solution to a traditional hosted cloud solution is not an option. For some, a full VoIP solution–on premise or in the cloud–isn’t a viable option due to existing cabling. Recently, I worked with a large retailer who struggled to understand the business benefit of retrofitting their older stores with new Cat6 cabling, just to put a new phone at a cash wrap. Another business I work with occupies a designated historic building, complete with solid brick walls throughout, which makes running new cabling a difficult, and expensive, proposition.

For many others, especially those in highly regulated industries such as health care, finance and gaming, data integrity is paramount. I recently spoke with a customer in the gaming industry who believed they could not consider a cloud solution due to a requirement for all data & infrastructure to remain on tribal land.

While many of these customers could easily realize the benefits of a cloud, the traditional cloud solution is a non-starter.

I’ll wear a swimsuit to the pool, but I’m not ready to swim yet.

Another waypoint in the journey to cloud is occupied by businesses who believe that a cloud based solution is in their future, but they are not ready to abandon their on-premise architecture at the current time. These customers have read about outages on the internet due to everything from massive denial of service attacks to the typo that took down Amazon Web Services, and worry about using a cloud based solution which would be affected by these events.

I’ll Wade Into the Shallow End

The third stop in the journey to the cloud finds businesses who want to begin to leverage the cloud, but are not ready to fully cut the cord. For these customers, a hybrid cloud approach is a great way to begin wading into the shallow end of the cloud pool. Most often these customers have created a disaster recovery strategy which leverages shared data centers to host replicated copies of their business applications. This Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) approach allows the business to begin leveraging the cloud on their terms.

I’ll Jump in the Deep End, but I Need a Float

Customers at this stage are generally those who were recently in the shallow end, and have become comfortable with the stability of the data center. These customers realize that flipping the infrastructure upside down–so the primary solution resides in the shared data center space and the disaster recovery equipment is on-premise–provides more benefits such as rapid recovery, centralized management, improved uptime due to Data Center resiliency. With the improved cost of bandwidth, further resiliency with duplicated network links provides even more comfort. 

However, even with all of this experience and added redundancy, on-premise survivability is a requirement. Often driven by a contact center located in the facility, business continuity is paramount, and a loss of connectivity to the data center is not acceptable.

Where’s the diving board, I’m ready to jump in.

In the last stage of the journey, customers migrated their core infrastructure off-premise. Thanks to duplicated network links, the on-premise gear has either never been activated. In the event that both network links fail, chances are there was an external event which has disrupted ALL service to the facility, including PSTN access. Often times the on-premise survivability gear has been an insurance policy which has never been used.

These customers are generally perfect candidates to migrate to a cloud based solution, public or private. Strategies for business continuity vary, from using mobile phones to relocating to alternate such as home offices or co-working facilities. 

Is the Cloud A Product, or a Portfolio

The moral of the story, visit the ice cream stand that offers more variety, and choose a cloud communication solution that fits your needs. The one size fits all approach is a limitation of a vendor’s products, not a round circle you need to force your square peg into.

Obligatory Plug

Avaya’s portfolio of Cloud solutions is designed to be tailored to your business needs. Customers who want to maintain ownership & control of their their infrastructure for now, yet want to be “cloud enabled” for the future, Avaya IP Office and Avaya Aura provide a full migration to the cloud. Customers taking small steps to the cloud, the “Powered by Avaya” solutions offered by our business partners can provide flexibility for your business’ journey to the cloud. Finally, customers who are ready for an out of the box, subscription based, fully hosted cloud solution, Zang Office provides simplicity, elasticity and scale.

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Steve Forcum

Systems Engineer at Avaya
Steve Forcum is a sales engineer with Avaya. Leveraging the ability to explain complex technology in simple terms, Forcum has developed trusted advisor status with many of the largest businesses in New England and beyond. He has created a platform of engagement, with followers on all forms of Social Media, and hosts a weekly Podcast “Inside Avaya”.

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