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Determining if the cloud is a good fit

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Cloud computing is like the private sector's modern day folklore of a shape-shifter in that the technology can be altered and restructured to augment a number of traditional business tools. The cloud can improve the business phone system, for example, by providing seamless integration with other solutions and services without impairing connectivity, availability or overall voice quality.

In most cases, decision-makers have enough awareness of the cloud to assess whether public, private or hybrid cloud models will provide the most benefits. Many executives even understand how legacy solutions will be impacted by the presence of the cloud. Unfortunately, Dan Kusnetzky, founder of Kusnetzky Group and former IDC analyst, said that too few enterprises are considering their long-term goals associated with implementing the cloud, according to a Forbes report.

In other words, executives are often unsure of what they realistically expect to get out of the cloud, as they adopt the technology solely because everyone else is doing it.

Understanding cloud fundamentals

Kusnetzky said there isn't really a lot of new technologies incorporated into the cloud, as it is really just a combination of ongoing trends and solutions, Forbes noted. In a basic sense, the cloud was simply the next logical step in the transformation of IT outsourcing operations. This means that it shouldn't be too hard for decision-makers to take the time to understand the cloud and its inherent benefits.

While many executives view the cloud as a way to reduce expenses and cut costs, the advantages of the cloud go well beyond finances. Kusnetzky said the cloud makes it easier for individuals to access mission-critical resources. By using a hosted PBX system, for example, employees can connect to the network from virtually anywhere, strengthening collaboration and overall efficiency.

Kusnetzky also noted that firms using the cloud can improve agility through the highly scalable and flexible hosting environments, Forbes reported. However, there are several key questions that decision-makers need to consider when thinking about migrating to the cloud.

Critical cloud considerations

Although there are a number of things to think about when migrating to the cloud, the first should be whether the actual transition is even necessary. Kusnetzky said many enterprises simply adopt the cloud to fit in without thinking. In some cases, however, implementing a cloud-based phone system is not necessary, as conventional telecommunication tools may still get the job done.

"Do [businesses] really [need] to move what they're doing somewhere else? Or is what they're doing good enough? Information technology often centers on what is 'good enough,'" Kusnetzky said. "By trying to reach for excellence, what you're doing may no longer be needed. Good enough is often good enough."

In other situations, replacing an old phone system with a hosted model can provide a number of unique benefits that a company was not experiencing before. According to a major cloud communications service provider, hosted PBX phone solutions can be extremely beneficial for growing businesses because of the minimal IT support needed to maintain the technology. Unlike on-site offerings, hosted communications are managed by a third party, allowing decision-makers to focus on meeting other mission-critical goals.

Cloud communications also help firms develop a stronger business continuity plan because customers can still connect to the network and executives can support an employee's need to work from anywhere, the report said. This is especially important during the ongoing proliferation of mobile devices and the need to support a remote workforce.

By planning ahead, enterprises and small businesses can assess whether the cloud will be a good fit, allowing decision-makers to develop an effective deployment strategy.