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Weighing the Benefits of Cloud, On-premises and Hybrid UC

Companies and organizations everywhere have been learning the value and uses of unified communications (UC), and are getting their own solutions to improve their operations. After all, being able to access all your communication and collaboration tools from a single platform can provide great improvements for productivity and client service, although there is more to consider than just whether or not to invest in a UC solution. The method of deployment is as important as the solution, so understanding the different benefits of on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployments is a necessity.

With on-premises UC, a vendor installs the hardware, then leaves it in the hands of the UC adopter. The buyer’s IT staff is responsible for daily operations, although the provider will usually assist with support and troubleshooting. On-premises solutions give the business full control of its capabilities, including the ability to switch to IP-based telephony or make capital investments and deprecate them over time. They can be adapted to optimize workflow for a business’ needs, without recurring costs.

However, while there is a certain comfort in managing a UC solution according to an organization's needs, this also takes up IT time and resources. The loss of recurring fees from a cloud-based solution is often outweighed by the higher upfront costs that can include installation and hardware expenses, support and more, which either costs additional fees or IT resources. Scalability is often a challenge with on-premises solutions, and any downtime or emergencies must be addressed internally.

Those drawbacks are often resolved by hosted UC solutions, or cloud UC, which provides services from a vendor's cloud. In this model, IT no longer has the responsibility of providing management, support, upgrades and so on. This frees up IT resources for more vital tasks, not to mention disaster recovery being significantly easier. Scalability is also much easier with a hosted solution, so adding users, features and capabilities is easy. Plus, organizations with multiple sites or mobile workers can receive the same support.

Yet hosted UC is not without its drawbacks either. Monthly costs and licensing fees can add up, and while leaving the solution in the provider’s hands relieves an organization of management and support responsibilities, that also means control and ownership also belong to the provider, which could impact the user’s ability to meet compliance standards and other industry guidelines.

So where is the balance? Is there a way to get the benefits of both, while minimizing the drawbacks? Of course there is, and it’s called Hybrid UC. As the name suggests, Hybrid combines two solutions, providing the control and customization of an on-premises solution with the support, availability and ease of management of a hosted solution. ShoreTel’s own hybrid solutions provides a scalable, brilliantly simple blend of hosted and premises capabilities, offering the best of both worlds and counteracting many of the drawbacks.

In the end, the type of UC deployment that a company uses depends on that business’ needs and requirements. But understanding what each can provide allows buyers to make smart decisions and find the solutions that fit best.