UC: On-Premise or in the Cloud?

There are many definitions of the cloud and many definitions of unified communications (UC). The best advice for companies thinking of moving UC off premise is to make sure that everyone is on the same page – and that a prospective provider is capable of doing what they promise.

 By Carl Weinschenk
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Over at CTO Edge, Frank Ohlhorst has an interesting post that is sort of an aside to a review he wrote for Channel Tech Center about Avistar's C3 videoconferencing line. (The full review is linked to from the CTO Edge piece.)

Frank's post raised the issue of cloud versus premise-based. His take is that, at least for now, Avistar is doing the right thing in eschewing the cloud for the more traditional on-premise approach.  He writes:

After exploring the intricacies of the product, the bandwidth requirements and the benefits of a 'behind the firewall installation,' it became obvious that certain services have no business being placed out in the ether, especially high-performance videoconferencing.

At the end, however, Frank left the door open for Avistar – and, presumably, other firms – to leverage various tools to make them capable of operating in a cloud environment. Indeed, Polycom and BroadSoft clearly think this is possible, since the firms announced last week that they are offering BroadCloud, a cloud-based telepresence and high-definition voice service.

The topic of UC and the cloud is inherently complex. Both terms are used in a vague sense. There are many types of clouds and UC is a blanket term covering any number of services and applications.

Wednesday, Mike Vizard wrote on IT Business Edge that the cloud UC business is not taking off. Mike wrote:

There's a lot of discussion about unified messaging and communications in the cloud these days, but there seems to be more talk than action. Beyond basic messaging services from Google and Microsoft, there are very few robust unified messaging and unified communications offerings for the enterprise that are delivered as a true multi-tenant service in the cloud.

A Tech-Genie writer, meanwhile, seems to think that the cloud-based UC market will remain up in the air (or in the clouds) until Microsoft Lync adds its cloud component next year. The best move, the writer says, is for “solutions providers to get as many clients as possible because the advent of Lync in the cloud will depress the rates that can be charged.

This is an area rife with fuzzy terminology. The bottom line is that companies thinking of using cloud-based services must insist upon very specific definitions of what is being promised. Cloud-based e-mail is a far cry from videoconferencing, and end users must make sure that a potential service provider can handle it all.

This article was originally published on Dec 3, 2010
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