UC & the Cloud: Channel Expertise Still Required

Matt ChristopherBy Matt Christopher

Today’s UC platforms have the potential to revolutionize how your customers communicate and collaborate while boosting efficiency, productivity and business agility. Moving applications to the cloud promises increased flexibility, scalability, reliability and accessibility with decreased management costs. So it makes sense that enterprises believe they can achieve exponential benefits by moving their UC platforms to the cloud.

What makes less sense is the idea that UC in the cloud is a DIY project — something that an IT team can migrate and manage without an MSP’s help. Let’s look at where that idea comes from, and three selling points for a trusted adviser’s involvement.

Maturity Matters

Within the context of UC and the cloud, your customers typically fall into one of three categories: Early adopters have already moved to full cloud UC deployments. Traditional enterprises with specialized requirements around functionality and compliance, perhaps in regulated verticals, have kept their UC environments fully on premises. Typical enterprises are in a state of transition and have a hybrid deployment, with some workloads and/or users on premises and the rest in the cloud. Most of your customers likely fall into the third bucket.

Unfortunately, CIOs across all three categories may assume that, over the long term, moving UC workloads to the cloud will eliminate the need for active management and security while dramatically cutting the cost of UC.

The reality is, moving to the cloud does not solve communications quality problems and does not guarantee end user adoption. If anything, cloud may complicate matters because you’re adding the cloud-provider and transport domains as additional variables. If voice quality suffers on a conference call, is it in the hosted provider’s cloud, the MPLS network provided by the carrier or within the customer’s own network? Moving to the cloud also does not eliminate the challenges around a UC deployment — who will train end users and advise on security and device-management policies?

Bottom line, UC as a service does not remove the need for a managed service provider any more than moving servers to an external data center magically solves potential issues with the enterprise’s network, devices, or user adoption. In fact, with a cloud deployment, MSPs become more important because their depth and breadth of people, processes and tools help the customer quickly identify and remediate potential negative impacts to the user experience.

There are three main advantages an MSP brings to an enterprise UC deployment:

Breadth and Depth of Personnel: As customers embrace UC and start to depend on the business benefits it provides, they will need help effectively managing and monitoring their environments. As an MSP, you can offer the resources needed to support the variety of infrastructure components inherent in a UC system, across global time zones. If an enterprise has to hire the necessary expertise to troubleshoot servers, security, gateways/SBCs and network connections, not to mention end user devices, across all time zones, the ROI for the UC deployment evaporates. An MSP with a focus on UC and expertise in each of the infrastructure components offers the scale to effectively manage those deployments at a fraction of the cost. This depth of knowledge saves the customer time, too, because they now have a single source with the expertise to address any issue throughout the UC ecosystem.

Tools for Enhanced Visibility: In order to identify and resolve the issues that will inevitably arise, the support team needs to have an end-to-end view of the UC environment, including servers, the network and devices. There are tools that provide such a holistic view — however, they can be expensive to acquire. Furthermore, they tend to be complex and require significant training to use effectively. As an MSP, you can invest in these tools and training and spread the cost across multiple UC customers.

Visibility throughout the network also gives MSPs insight into the issues commonly associated with multi-vendor UC environments. For example, in a QoS breakdown, it can be difficult to identify and isolate a problem, leading to network congestion and frustrated end users. With proper tools proactively monitoring the entirety of the network, you can identify problem areas and isolate the key causes before your customer’s communications system is plunged into chaos.

In a cloud deployment, this visibility is key to helping your enterprises “defend their edge.” If you can help a customer definitively demonstrate that the communications quality is high within its network but impaired coming over the transport domain from the cloud provider, you have given your customer the justification to push back on the cloud provider — to defend the delivery edge of the network. Having real-time monitoring solutions makes it immensely easier for a customer to fully utilize its UC deployment. As an MSP, you have the ability to provide that peace of mind and bring multiple tools and diagnostic programs to bear across a wide range of deployments. With certified experts at the helm of these tools, repeat issues can be minimized and the goal of optimization fully realized.

Processes for Efficient Identification and Remediation: The true value of qualified personnel and industry-leading tools is compromised without the process to effectively leverage all available resources. The third advantage MSPs enjoy over an enterprise “self-maintaining” its own environment is that monitoring, troubleshooting and remediating UC is your core competency. No single customer can ever be as efficient or as effective as you at bringing the necessary personnel and tools to bear to quickly restore the user experience.

Enterprise UC deployments, whether cloud, on-premises or hybrid, require a skilled IT team that can bring the right resources to bear to ensure a smooth and problem-free rollout. By providing quality expertise with 24/7 monitoring and quick problem resolution, you can ensure your enterprise customer has a UC network that is always ready to go.

Matt Christopher is VP, customer experience at Nectar Services Corp. He is charged with championing and driving channel and sales operations with an emphasis on improving the customer experience. Christopher brings a diverse background of experience and expertise including sales, sales engineering, sales management and channel management supporting Microsoft, Avaya and Cisco. Prior to joining Nectar, he held the position of Director Global Alliances responsible for working with the Americas Microsoft Lync Alliance.

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