3 Keys to Success with Cloud-based Unified Communications

The market for hosted unified communications and IP voice services is growing at a healthy clip – 13 percent this year, according to Infonetics, which projects it will reach 62.6 billion seats by 2018, accounting for $12 billion in revenue.
This seems a good time, then, to offer up some key considerations for companies as they embark on a hosted UC deployment.
Fast, reliable connection
Any hosted offering relies on having a fast, reliable connection to the service provider, but most UC applications are even more demanding on that front. Many of them are highly delay sensitive, including voice, video and web conferencing. A run-of-the-mill Internet connection from your local ISP is not likely going to cut it.
A better choice is a service based on MPLS, which provides the ability to classify traffic to ensure each applications gets the level of performance it needs, as we’ve discussed previously. In practice, services based on MPLS are typically delivered as virtual private networks (VPNs), which provide additional security.
Another option is Carrier Ethernet, which also offers fast, reliable connections over a carrier’s private network. VPNs are likewise available over Ethernet connections but users implement their own Quality of Service mechanisms on top of the service.
SBCs for proper security
While security is often the top reason companies give for avoiding cloud-based services, it’s often for the wrong reasons. In most cases, service providers have the tools and expertise to provide a higher level of security than a typical SMB or even enterprise can. That said, there are still important considerations with respect to cloud-based UC services.
One is the use of a session border controller (SBC), which is used to provide security and other functions (including QoS) for IP-based communications based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). SIP is the protocol used to set up and tear down UC communications sessions. SBCs are able to detect attacks on video and audio streams that are beyond the scope of a firewall and can detect and prevent denial of service attacks as well. (For more on how SBCs differ from firewalls, see this post I wrote for theUCbuyer.com.)
For a hosted UC service, it makes sense to have an SBC on both the customer side of the connection as well as the carrier side. Just make sure the carrier’s SBC can work effectively with yours.
It’s also a good idea to ask about data privacy, says Gary Audin, a consultant with Delphi Inc. In a blog post on the topic, he notes there have been cases where the FBI confiscated multiple servers and storage systems from a service provider because it couldn’t determine which ones hold data for which it had a subpoena. That means your data could be lost along with whatever data law enforcement was after. You’ll want to examine protections in such cases and ensure they’re in your contract.
Think about your end points
Finally, remember that for any UC solution to be successful, it has to be easy and deliver good quality. To that end, consider how your users will be accessing the solution.  
In many cases, it’ll come down to providing a good quality headset for use with the VoIP service. In a recent report, industry watchers Frost & Sullivan said demand for so-called contact center and office (CC&O) headsets was expected to experience compound annual growth of 12.7 percent per year through 2020, more than doubling the size of the market to $2.45 billion. UC is a chief driver, Frost & Sullivan says:
In particular, end users in the UC space are using CC&O headsets that improve sound quality, reduce background noise and boost comfort in a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) call. Superior user experience accelerates adoption of advanced collaboration tools.

This article excerpt, by Paul Desmond, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1xBHMYF