What Does Cloud-Based Really Mean?

In the world of UC, what a provider actually has in the cloud can make a big difference

It’s not hard to see that most technology offerings today are on a steady progression toward the cloud. According to IDC, there was a 25 percent surge in cloud in 2014 alone – and for good reason. Not only does the ongoing shift introduce an update-friendly environment for downtime-free maintenance and constant improvement, it also ushers in an unparalleled level of scalability as well as a host of new cost efficiencies.

Considering these benefits, I’m not at all surprised that many organizations now seek out cloud options when planning new investments. It’s a bandwagon most providers want to be on. As such, quite a few UC systems today bear the cloud distinction. But what does that really mean? From my vantage point, numerous variances exist between the cloud offerings. And it takes some due diligence to truly understand what components are actually hosted within the cloud.

While many solutions are classified as cloud-based, in reality most would actually fall within the hybrid category. For instance, while some features such as voicemail are within the cloud, many providers still have features like speed dial settings tied to the physical phone – not hosted in the cloud. And if some of the programming, processing or storage is actually dependent on the phone itself, then it is not truly a cloud solution.

Assume for instance, you are traveling or working at a branch office one week. With a 100 percent cloud-based system, you can sit down at any desk phone, login, and all of your settings and preferences are instantly available. With most hybrid systems, however, only certain features like voicemail are available across multiple locations.

Why does this matter? Misdialing numbers and having to look them up when your speed dial preferences don’t show up is a waste of your time. When people call your desk phone and you don’t answer, you can miss out on important calls. Not to mention, if a fellow co-worker needs to use your desk and accidentally speed dials your spouse or your executive recruiter, it can raise unnecessary issues. Unless the system is truly cloud-based, you must often rely on settings and programming in the phone itself for certain features, which can make you unreachable to customers and prospects, causing your company to lose business and money.

A few years back, straight winds hit our area and knocked out power for eleven days. Our communications came to a screeching halt, as it did for many other businesses without cloud-based systems. Even when calls were forwarded to our cell phones, we weren’t able to retain certain aspects of the system, including speed dials and call history. If we had access to a complete cloud environment, it would have been business as usual with no interruption. After all, when leveraging the cloud, the focus shifts to the user since it’s non-reliant on the physical phone or other hardware.

What’s more, scalability is much easier in an entirely cloud-based environment because there’s no need to buy special (i.e. expensive) phones. When programming isn’t needed in the device, it’s simply a matter of logging in from any computer, tablet or smartphone. What’s more… some companies even let you rent the phones.  

Bottom line: If a provider isn’t completely in the cloud, its offering is only as good as its weakest link - and you’re not getting the true reliability and flexibility that the cloud has to offer.