Taking the PBX into the Cloud
No matter how dramatic the reductions in OPEX, no matter how impressive the promised ROI, small and medium businesses cannot afford to rip and replace current infrastructure every time a technology breakthrough makes headlines. Take the case of the PBX—on-premise equipment and systems have become increasingly complex and unwieldy to support and upgrade.
Cloud-hosted PBX services, in contrast, offer an enticing list of cost-saving IP communications capabilities:
- Enterprise-class unified communications features (audio-video conferencing, integrated voicemail and email, automatic call forwarding, and more)
- Integration with other enterprise-class business applications (instant messaging, conference room scheduling, etc.)
- Simplified administration (managed services model)
- SIP trunking
- Voice-over-IP long-distance services
What business doesn’t want to take advantage of cost savings and advanced features? Clearly, there is demand for these types of services and the cloud infrastructures exist, both private and public.The missing link is literally the link between the two worlds. To enable businesses to migrate to cloud-hosted PBX and other IP-based communications services the cloud service provider should include an edge solution that addresses several key requirements for the business customers.
Availability. The phones are mission critical, and any new communications feature will quickly become mission critical. While the cloud has built-in redundancies and automatic failovers, the connections to the cloud must also include redundancy and a failover plan to minimize or eliminate the impact of unforseen network based failures..
Quality. Dropped packets are tolerable in data streams; transporting real-time voice requires elevated quality of service. Converged voice and data traffic must be intelligently prioritized, giving real-time voice traffic preference over data traffic.
Security. With public-switched telephone networks, privacy is assumed. Sending your voice calls out to the cloud raises concerns about security, and maintaining control of sensitive company information that can be shared in voice communications, instant messaging, and other forms of unified communications. Security and policy management must be an integral part of the overall on-premise-to-cloud connection.
Reliability. A managed cloud-hosted communications solution must comply with service-level agreements (SLAs), which calls for a new class of tools and troubleshooting capabilities that can provide visibility to support engineers, and help isolate issues in the cloud, at the edge, or on the customer premises.
Interoperability. The PBX and IP worlds are both evolving and differences in vendor implementations of the VoIP signaling protocols often prevent interoperability An edge device that can manipulate the signaling protocol to ensure interoperability is critical to any successful deployment.
Affordability. For cloud services to attract high volumes of customers, the service—including the cost of the edge device—must be affordable to small and medium businesses as well as enterprises with larger technology budgets.
So is this merely a wish list? Is it describing the components of a future solution? If that were the case, would be locked out of the cloud and stuck with aging, costly, PBX and telecommunications solutions.
Actually, the attributes above should be taken as a shopping list that can help those businesses find the right cloud service and edge device today. The list describes an enterprise session border controller solution, which provides businesses of all sizes the opportunity to drive down costs while giving employees the latest communications and collaborations capabilities.
The key is to find the service providers who support the best enterprise session border control devices, those that have been designed from the ground up for today’s networks and cloud infrastructures. Historically, SBCs emerged as devices deployed in the service provider core for linking IP networks. Today, the latest designs and technology innovations have resulted in an edge device that bridges on-premise and IP-based voice networks at the enterprise edge. The new generation of low-cost devices fit the budgets of small businesses with as few as 5 to 10 employees. The best designs also scale up to serve offices with as many as 5,000 employees and more.
Choosing your service provider and edge device should never call for compromises in any of the above areas. Communications and collaborations are too vital to your business. Today’s cloud services and the availability of affordable full-featured enterprise session border controllers mean that you don’t have to compromise.
Instead, without a major up-front investment, businesses can immediately leverage leading-edge collaborative solutions. Whether to augment existing features, or completely move to a new hosted solution, the cloud gives businesses exciting new choices.
By Dave Martin
Dave Martin is a recognized expert in the enterprise session border controllers, SIP trunking and hosted PBX markets. He currently serves as Vice President of Marketing for Edgewater Networks, where he is responsible for strategic business planning, product marketing, partnerships and marketing programs to support the company’s ongoing growth.