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As workplace environments continue to rapidly evolve — teams working with disparate applications may not even work in the same country, let alone the same office — so too have the communications tools used to foster productivity and stay connected. 

Video, web conferencing, chat and other productivity apps have all become crucial elements contributing to innovation amongst employees, teams and third-party partners or vendors. 

Still, 65 percent of office workers prefer a desk phone to make or receive one-on-one business calls. Simply put, this means phone calls — often considered relics of the past — remain an integral means by which employees collaborate and get work done. 

Unfortunately, legacy private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems utilized by many organizations are a hassle — nobody wants "telephone strategy" as part of their job description. PBX systems are also costly to maintain and manage.

In the modern economy, where many are shifting to a cloud-first strategy, cloud calling is a logical alternative for companies looking to shed the capital expenditures associated with PBX while enhancing flexibility and reducing IT management. 

What is cloud calling? 

As the name implies, cloud calling is telephony services provided through a third-party cloud host. Calls are placed over an internet connection instead of a landline, which replaces the need for organizations to manage their own systems. 

Benefits are numerous for migrating on-prem calling systems to the cloud: 

  • Improved agility
  • Scalability
  • Reduced capital expenditures
  • Predictable operating expenditures
  • Carrier-class security
  • Geo-redundant deployments
  • Faster upgrade cycles
  • Faster access to new features
  • Easy self-service
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • Integration with major cloud apps

Cloud calling, part of the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) family, can also accelerate digital transformation efforts by freeing IT from managing on-prem infrastructure and focusing their time on more strategic initiatives.

Why does cloud calling exist? 

A fundamental shift, in which organizations adopt more cloud-centric approaches to their business, is well underway. Those that haven't already made the plunge are no doubt thinking about it. 

According to Gartner, 90 percent of IT leaders will not purchase new premises-based unified communications infrastructure by 2021. 

Why? There are several reasons.

PBX has reached end of life:  Businesses grow and PBX systems, at a certain point, inevitably run out of capacity or vendor support expires, leaving organizations that are still operating legacy infrastructure to figure it all out on their own. 

Digital workplace initiatives: Companies of all shapes and sizes are embracing and looking for ways to speed up digital transformation. Communications is a major part of this effort. 

UCaaS functionality is simply better than on-prem: If you're still working with legacy PBX, you're probably thinking, "My phone works just fine." And you're probably right. But you don't know what you don't know. Cloud calling is a natural gateway to additional UCaaS features such as voice analysis and call center capabilities such as interactive voice response and artificial intelligence-enabled customer support. 

Cloud calling vs. VoIP vs. UCaaS

Inevitably, the question arises: How is cloud calling different from voiceover IP (VoIP)? It's a good question, but probably not the right question. 

Cloud calling and VoIP both place calls over the internet and the terms are often used interchangeably. 

The better question would be asking about the difference between UCaaS and VoIP.

In moving your phone systems to the cloud, organizations are naturally positioned to unify various communications tools to the cloud (i.e. UCaaS) to benefit from a more robust solution — all delivered through one provider — that combines all of the tools organizations use to collaborate. 

This includes VoIP and cloud calling, but also ties in web conferencing, chat, email, etc. These tools are bundled and then delivered as a service and can be consumed with a monthly subscription.

Moving these services to the cloud enables end users the ability to access these tools from anywhere and from any device. 

Many organizations look at all of their collaboration tools holistically. More options doesn't necessarily mean improved productivity.  It's important to think about whether tools hurt or hinder collaboration. Whether you use soft phone clients like Skype or Jabber, or VOIP phone handsets, looking at moving voice and meeting traffic to the cloud can enable better collaboration, scale faster than legacy systems and delivers a more efficient onboarding process for new employees.

Public, private or hybrid?

As with other cloud-enabled solutions, organizations have options when it comes to hosting — public cloud, private cloud or a hybrid of the two. 

Public cloud

How it works: Applications hosted over the internet are served up by a third party. Multiple customers share a multitenant software platform using individual virtual instances.

Who it's good for: Organizations that aren't invested in existing systems and want rapid access to affordable calling and collaboration hardware, software and infrastructure.

Private cloud

How it works: Providers create dedicated customer instances of a single-tenant platform. This may reside on-premises, in an offsite data center or with a managed private cloud provider.

Who it's good for: Large enterprises — like banks or hospitals — that have established on-premises systems and worry about loss of control over compliance or security.

Hybrid cloud

How it works: Enterprise applications for calling, meeting, teams and contact center are deployed in a mix of on-premises and cloud services.

Who it's good for: Organizations trying to save money by using existing on-premises systems, apps and processes but that want to leverage emerging applications through the cloud.

You're not a phone company

No matter your requirements, few, if any, businesses desire to be a phone company. And those stuck in legacy environments are seeking to get out of the phone game, and fast.

Cloud calling, and more broadly speaking UCaaS, is a great way to significantly reduce cost of ownership, increase agility while providing a seamless experience for your employees and customers across the disparate communications tools they utilize today.

UCaaS does more than just unifying collaboration tools in the cloud. It enables high performing teams to collaborate more efficiently in an always-on, highly mobile environment.

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