The Seamless Enterprise

Comprehensive news and discussion of enterprise communications and converged network solutions.

UC and Collaboration: A Host of Possibilities

on January 12, 2012 by Greg Burton

As enterprises consider outsourcing some segments of their networks and applications, they look to hosted services. Or do they look to managed services? It isn’t always immediately clear what is “hosted” and what is “managed.” Especially since there is some overlap between the two in the ways enterprises purchase and use these services.

There are a few key differentiators between hosted and managed services. For example, with a hosted solution, the service provider owns all the communications and network equipment. It might be located at the customer site, but will more likely reside in a remote data center. With a managed solution, more than likely the customer owns the equipment and has it on-premises.

In a hosted solution, the service provider handles all the maintenance and network troubleshooting, provides 24x7 support, and implements equipment upgrades and updates. A managed services provider may handle some maintenance and all network troubleshooting, with 24x7 support as an option, but upgrades and updates are the responsibility of the customer.

A hosted solution can usually be implemented more quickly than a managed one, since the hosted provider already has the infrastructure in place to accommodate the enterprise’s needs. In a managed solution scenario, there could be some time lag connected with the purchase and installation of the equipment.

The specific needs and culture of the enterprise determine whether a hosted or managed solution is a better option for IT. With a managed solution, IT can maintain some day-to-day control; a hosted solution relinquishes that day-to-day control to the service provider, but relieves the IT staff of that responsibility in favor of other, more critical business priorities.

When to Tell if You Need a Hosted Service
When it comes to Unified Communications (UC), a hosted solution could be just what your business is looking for. But how do you know if that is the answer, and when you are ready for it?

One key factor is the age of your network equipment. If your enterprise PBXs or routers are reaching the end of their useful life, a hosted solution becomes especially attractive. You can avoid the significant equipment upgrade expense in favor of an ongoing monthly fee.

Another factor is company growth. If your company is growing rapidly, hiring lots of new employees or opening new offices, you need equipment to expand capacity and serve each new office. A hosted solution avoids those capital expenditures, and its scalability to accommodate growth can appeal to a company that doesn’t want to be slowed down in any way.

Many enterprises today are also struggling with the “consumerization of IT” challenge, as employees demand smartphones, tablets, and other tools that they have come to love off the job, but now want to use in their work environment. Even more challenging, employees may already be using their personal devices if their company doesn’t provide them. While some businesses have resisted this trend, it is becoming more pervasive and a hosted solution can outsource that headache to the service provider.

UC involves a complex set of network and software capabilities – integrating video, voice, data, collaboration tools such as IM/presence, audio/web conferencing, mobility, and more. As a result, not too many enterprises are fully comfortable with their levels of expertise in this area. Faced with the choice of going out and hiring additional expert IT staff, or embarking on an aggressive training and certification regimen, businesses can view a hosted UC solution as the faster, easier, and more flexible option.

Embracing Hosted UC
There are some must-haves in a hosted UC solution. Number one is mobility, because no UC solution is truly unified unless it accommodates the growing mobile workforce and integrates mobility seamlessly. Collaborative work is only successful if everyone can be connected at the right time, wherever they happen to be.

Responding to the consumerization of IT is important, because the UC experience needs to be accessible for virtually any device. Again, the collaboration that is the promise of UC can only be realized if everyone can participate, without barriers of time, place, or device.

Sprint will soon be introducing a hosted UC solution that does all this and more. Sprint Complete Collaboration has been designed from the start as a comprehensive UC solution that bundles connectivity through SIP Trunking, IP telephony, unified messaging, collaboration tools, and end points, with mobile integration, into simple, price-per-user packages. The mission: enable customers to deploy an enhanced collaboration experience virtually anytime and anywhere, while lowering their overall costs.

Mobility, and the ability to leverage UC capabilities on any device, is inherent in Sprint Complete Collaboration. Three distinct solution packages maximize scalability and give an organization the option of using different solution sets for various employee groups, customized to their UC needs.

As organizations embrace UC, they will want three things: a comprehensive solution that provides “all-in-one” network, software and endpoint elements, the ability to implement it quickly and easily without putting their IT infrastructure through an upheaval, and a productivity-enhancing employee experience that leverages mobility. Did I mention reduced TCO? Make that four. In any case, a hosted solution will almost certainly be their best bet.


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About the Author

As General Manager of Convergence Marketing for Sprint Business, Greg Burton oversees product marketing, marketing, and sales enablement functions for WAN, VoIP, Unified Communications, mobile integration, IT, security, and managed services. Greg has more than 18 years of experience in a diverse range of business functions, including marketing, strategy, product planning, channel management, finance, engineering, and team building. He has an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, and a degree in industrial engineering from Purdue University.

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