Business of all sizes are shifting to the cloud for communications, collaboration and contact center services. A recent report predicts that more than half of all businesses will be using Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) by 2020.

That’s not surprising. UCaaS is an incredibly attractive option. It can cost less than an on-premises system, it facilitates the transition to a mobile workforce, it shifts the management burden to the cloud and it’s a user-friendly technology.

It’s not without challenges, however.

By their very nature, communications networks are complex with lots of moving parts. Even in the earliest days of “plain old telephone service,” there was a lot going on behind the scenes with a complex interplay of operators, switchboards and electric circuits. The complexity is only magnified now that networks must support a variety of digital communication formats and a multitude of devices.

UC is inherently complex because it isn’t a single application but rather a collection of distinct technologies that must be tightly integrated into one platform. Moving UC into the cloud masks some complexity, but it doesn’t eliminate it.

Cloud-based communications presents organizations with a number of challenges related to integration, connectivity and more. None is insurmountable, but organizations shouldn’t expect a simple plug-and-play solution. It requires research, evaluation and planning.

Network integration is often a stumbling block. There is a tendency to overlook the on-premises IT environment when implementing any kind of cloud service, but the internal network remains the essential foundation. With UCaaS, the internal network is the lifeline to applications and data. Bottlenecks in the internal network can disrupt your ability to connect to the UCaaS platform. Network congestion, latency and configuration errors can result in unpredictable performance. That’s why you must ensure that your network is operating optimally and can handle the increase in traffic.

That’s why organizations migrating to UCaaS should strongly consider working with solution provider with specific experience in IP voice communications platforms. These professionals will be deeply familiar with UC platforms and have a proven methodology for UCaaS implementations.

They will be able to conduct a thorough network assessment to ensure that your network environment and the carrier connection to the cloud can handle the workload. This process will involve running frequent and simultaneous tests of voice, video and collaboration applications to establish quality benchmarks and identify any potential chokepoints. An assessment should also demonstrate that your provider has the ability to configure switches and routers, shape traffic, and control the flow of data packets.

Your provider will also test to ensure your UCaaS applications works reliably over a Wi-Fi connection. As the mobile workforce continues to grow, providing voice, video and collaboration across the wireless LAN has become a business imperative. Moving UC traffic over a WLAN requires different service values and traffic-prioritization standards than in wired networks.

Additionally, solution providers will have skilled network engineers with advanced technical expertise in wired, wireless and cloud networks. Expertise in network provisioning, bandwidth planning, transmission rates and QoS characteristics help keep in-house equipment and the network up and running. Qualified solution providers can also help with the integration and customization of key business applications such as CRM, ERP, sales force automation and supply chain management.

Mobile, cloud and collaborative technologies are changing the way we work. UCaaS is a powerful tool for enabling these changes by helping organizations collaborate and communicate across various platforms. For those embarking upon a UCaaS migration, working with a qualified solution provider can help ensure you gain all the benefits the technology has to offer.

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