By Matt Christopher
Promises of reduced management costs and quicker access to new features are causing many enterprises to consider the cloud as an option for their unified-communications deployments. Hosted UC providers have clients believing that if they simply move their UC platforms from their premises to the cloud, all of their challenges will be miraculously solved.
It’s up to partners to do a reality check.
Today’s UC ecosystems depend on highly complex and converged networks that support a wide variety of critical, real-time applications, including instant messaging, IP telephony, video conferencing, mobility and collaboration. This complexity does not magically disappear when you move servers from the enterprise data center to a hosted UC provider. In fact, such a move increases complexity by adding the hosted provider and carrier transport domains to the equation.
For customers considering a move to UC, especially cloud-based, the risk of a poor user experience can be very high. Issues such as network congestion, latency and configuration errors can derail adoption of the new UC system before it’s even begun.
Unfortunately, in marketing the value of their cloud solutions and trying to lower the barriers to entry, many hosted UC providers inadvertently de-value the channel partner. The buzz around the cloud has many enterprises believing that one cost they can eliminate is their communications integrator.
The reality of a migration to cloud UC is that the channel partner has never been more critical.
Because an enterprise moves its servers to the cloud, that does not eliminate the need to ensure the network is ready to handle the traffic, endpoint devices are ready for the UC client and end users are ready for the new experience. And then there’s the responsibility of the enterprise to defend their environment and hold the hosted UC provider accountable for poor call quality or unsatisfactory user experiences.
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The first battlefront between enterprise and hosted UC provider is the network assessment. To ensure both the customer environment and the carrier connection to the cloud are ready for the voice, video and collaboration traffic coming from the cloud, a pre-deployment network assessment should be considered a priority. This is the only real way to know if the customer’s network can handle the amount of traffic that is expected. A mockup or model isn’t enough. You need to test the network in real time, during peak use periods, with simulated but realistic traffic.
To a UC hosting provider, there is nominal value in a network assessment. It increases the cost of moving, and the hosting provider does not recognize that part of the customer cost. However, to the enterprise, the user experience is the biggest value driver. Most CIOs recognize the value of thoroughly assessing their network’s ability to handle traffic before moving their users to a hosted environment.
For partners, look for a network-assessment tool that provides advanced capabilities for network pre-assessment, voice and video-quality troubleshooting and real-time problem identification and resolution. The tool should have the ability to drive synthetic traffic, providing users with the ability to simultaneously monitor quality of service within the actual UC environment while simulating voice and video traffic patterns throughout the network — enabling IT or partner personnel to spot potential trouble spots.
In addition to running a network assessment, enterprises need a trusted partner who can effectively interpret the results. To deliver on a client’s expectations, ensure you can generate an accurate snapshot of the performance of projected UC traffic on the customer’s network. The goal is to bring a level of predictability to the ability of the network to support expected UC traffic.
As UC vendors continue to push the market to deploy more complex voice, video and collaboration tools, partners can expect to see an increasing demand for network assessments that give customers some peace of mind that their networks can support a deployment with a quality user experience.
Matt Christopher is vice president of customer experience for Nectar Services Corp. Matt is charged with championing and driving channel and sales operations with an emphasis on improving the customer experience. He brings a diverse background of experience and expertise including sales, sales engineering, sales management and channel management supporting Microsoft, Avaya and Cisco.