When we think of cloud computing, the picture that comes to mind is one of a giant brain in the sky that runs operations for hundreds or thousands of companies. That’s the approach that gets all the press, but it’s far from the entirety of the market. Indeed, there are many other providers out there who can deliver the virtual services you need on a less grand scale. You may not be able to get everything from one service provider, but the building blocks are out there to handle your voice and data needs.
That’s important, because enterprise VoIP solutions are driving a trend toward converged networks. If you only consider moving traditional data center servers to the cloud, you’ll be missing a big piece of the puzzle. The other trend that’s important is fixed mobile convergence that integrates cell phones into your telecom infrastructure. Mobility can be the link that makes or breaks your productivity in the future.
The foundation of cloud computing is cloud hosting that incorporates Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Cloud infrastructure is virtualization on steroids. IT departments have found that virtualizing servers ups the efficiency of the physical server hardware. What cloud computing does is greatly expand the virtualization to include huge racks of high performance servers plus storage and bandwidth. It differs from the virtualization that you would do yourself or the virtual servers you’d rent from a colocation center in that it is sold incrementally on-demand. You pay by the minute, by the hour or by the number of CPU cycles used.
Another characteristic of cloud hosting is that it is highly elastic or scalable. If you start to run out of capacity, you simply order up more virtual servers. The cloud operating system takes care of how these resources work in concert to provide the capacity you need. At no point do you have to purchase, install or maintain any equipment. The cloud service provider takes care of this with a 24/7 technical staff.
There are actually three types of clouds to choose from. The one that first comes to mind is the public cloud that serves many users simultaneously. You gain access via a private line or dedicated Internet service. Companies that have highly sensitive applications, unique requirements or simply want more control go with a private cloud. That is a similar infrastructure to the public cloud but on a scale suitable for one company. The hybrid cloud is a combination of the two. Public facing or non-critical applications run on the public cloud, while a separate private cloud handles very sensitive applications.
While cloud computing is thought of a data processing service, there is also a voice cloud known as cloud communications or hosted PBX. In this case, the computing resources are specific to telephony needs and the connectivity is by SIP trunk from your location and to the public switched telephone network from the provider. You no longer need a PBX phone system in-house or any telephone trunk lines. What you have is SIP telephones connected to your network and a converged SIP trunk from your business location or locations to the service provider. Some hosted PBX systems integrate cell phones into the system so that you have the same capabilities while mobile as at your desk.
Some of the cloud services you can readily get include cloud hosting, hosted PBX, unified communications, enterprise cloud security, private/public clouds, cloud storage, hosted Exchange, SharePoint, disaster recovery, anti-spam and anti-virus, hosted firewalls, and dedicated cloud access connections.
Are you feeling that you may be missing out on productivity improvements, cost savings, agility of scaling your business, or advanced features available in the cloud? This would be a good time to explore options with multiple cloud hosting providers. You can start small and grow or make a step-change relocation to the cloud, depending on what works best for your company.