Does Hosted UC Make Sense?


With recent initiatives from vendors and service providers to bring Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) based UC solutions to a broader market, it’s time for enterprise IT managers to look at SaaS as part of their UC plans. So far we’ve seen fairly slow uptake of such services. For example, only 6% of organizations are using hosted VOIP (with another 17% evaluating) compared to 46% using managed VOIP services. One exception, however, is hosted Web conferencing, deployed by 61% of organizations. In a hosted scenario, hardware and applications software is physically located on the provider network/data center. The provider owns, monitors and manages the application, and provides access to management portals to customers. Hosted solutions afford businesses all the technical advantages of the UC services without the large capital investment. For most of these services, there is no equipment to purchase, except in some cases of phones for VOIP, or codecs/displays for video conferencing. Even then, some service providers do lease all hardware as an alternative. There are a few drawbacks to hosted solutions. Numerous customers share a general purpose infrastructure residing in the service provider’s data centers, which often means a more limited feature set and little room for customization. Also, when new UC applications or enhancements come out, the carrier decides when to implement them, so customers are at their mercy. There are a variety of vendors that offer hosted UC applications. These include carriers--- such as AT&T, Covad, Cypress, Global Crossing, Masergy, Orange Business, PCCW, Sprint, and Verizon--- as well as pure-play providers, such as 8X8 (Packet8), Alteva, Intelliverse, and PanTerra. Hosted conferencing and increasingly the application vendors themselves including Cisco, Microsoft, IBM and Google. Most organizations still adopt a selective-outsourcing strategy, in which they decide which pieces they can justify outsourcing from financial, innovation and management perspectives. As they move away from offering bits and pieces of UC toward a true unified solution, they’ll also look for providers able to unify the management. By 2010, we predict UC managed and hosted services will be gathering even more momentum, and by 2013 we predict that end-to-end management and hosted/SaaS communication offerings will be deployed by a majority of all size organizations. Make sure evaluation of hosted UC is part of your go-forward strategy and cast a wide net when evaluating managed and hosted solutions.

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