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VA turning to the cloud for collaboration

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A recent request for information from FedBizOps.gov revealed that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is working to deploy a cloud-based business telephone system, InformationWeek reported.

According to the news source, the new system will need to be compatible with unified communications technology that is able to support online chat, voice and video services. The new cloud telephony service is designed to replace the organization's current phone system, which will reduce the cost for communications within the agency.

The move toward the cloud comes amid a large-scale federal government effort to deploy more cloud computing systems in an effort to operate more efficiently and reduce the expenses of government technologies. The request for information explained that the new project has both performance and cost control in mind, InformationWeek explained.

"[The project aims] to continue to provide VA with a robust communications system that has the scalability to adapt to future VA needs while reducing the nonrecurring and recurring costs and the burden associated with the installation/operation/maintenance of its own telephony infrastructure," the request for information said, InformationWeek reported.

According to the news source, the Department of Veteran Affairs currently has high expectations for the cloud phone service. It needs to provide high-quality service capabilities including internal and external call transfer support, a dial tone, reporting metrics and integration with computer-based telephony systems. Essentially, the report said the cloud PBX solution will need to provide all of the abilities of a standard premise-based PBX system.

However, the solution needs to be somewhat unique, the report said, as it needs to serve multiple offices of varied sizes. One site has fewer than 950 users, while another has more than 5,000. The VA is still accepting bids for the project, but the ambitious nature of the new telephony system is a clear indication of the cloud's potential.

Cloud computing offers businesses access to advanced communications capabilities without having to host their own hardware. This offers considerable benefits, including access to more advanced telephony systems that would be too expensive without outsourcing, easier IT management, improved disaster recovery since the hardware is not located at site and more operational flexibility. Because of these capabilities, cloud telephony systems can be an ideal solution for businesses of all sizes.