By Chuck Ciarlo
Cloud computing is one of the key drivers of today’s IT services market. According to Juniper Research, the cloud computing market is on course to reach $90.7 billion by 2018, with both Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) showing tremendous growth. Cloud solutions are set to grow six times faster than all software (according to International Data Corporation), at a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent through 2014.
Even traditional hardware firms are jumping on the cloud bandwagon. Hewlett-Packard recently announced it will spend $1 billion over the next two years to develop and offer cloud-computing services. The company’s most prominent competitors, IBM and Cisco, have also accelerated their cloud initiatives.
Why is this happening? Companies of all sizes and types, including contact centers, have started to recognize the numerous financial and technological advantages of switching from on-premises hardware and software installation to a cloud delivery model.
When Is a Cloud Not a Cloud? Given the increasing popularity of cloud solutions, it is regrettable – but not surprising – that some companies attempt to exploit the situation by offering a hosted client server solution under the cloud name, which is anything but. These fake cloud or “cloudwashing” applications often come with drawbacks and additional maintenance costs because there are fundamental differences between hosted client server solutions and true cloud solutions.
Those considering a cloud vendor should explore options, ask questions, and become familiar with the attributes of a genuine cloud solution.
What Defines a True Cloud Solution? Cloud solutions are distinguished from hosted client-server products by a distributed delivery model. This is a multi-tenant architecture that provides guaranteed service levels and up times, full scalability, and easily allows for frequent updates. With hosted client-server solutions, the vendor controls the product from a hosted facility, where such virtualization and scalability are simply not possible.
With multi-tenancy, call centers share the costs, but this is not possible with hosted client server solutions, where each customer has to be managed separately. When that happens, the cost of the infrastructure is going to go up.
If a vendor’s product does not provide continuous and instantaneous access to the latest product upgrades, it is not a true cloud solution. Product upgrades are free and automatic in the cloud; with a non-cloud solution, customer upgrades are handled by the vendor one by one, and that could delay implementation. That means when the work is done, a new upgrade may already be in development.
Asking the Right Questions: Before choosing a provider, ask these questions to be certain of receiving a genuine cloud solution:
- Does this solution use multi-tenant architecture?
- Does the vender use the same product for its premise and cloud deployments? (If so, the code was probably not built from the ground up to be cloud-based.)
- Will all customizations and integrations work with any future upgrades?
- Are upgrades automatic, and are they provided at no additional cost?
- What type of security and data privacy do you provide?
- What is your service level up time? (Anything less than 99.5 percent may not be a cloud provider.)
- What is the cost and speed of deployment?
- Are there any hidden costs?
- How soon will I achieve ROI on my investment?
Conclusion: Cloud computing will continue to gain a larger percentage of the contact center industry because it offers benefits for businesses of every size and type.
Large call centers enjoy a tremendous cost savings and a lower up-front equipment investment. Smaller contact centers can achieve the same technological sophistication of bigger companies on a smaller budget. And call centers with agents working from home or in multiple centers can tie everyone in to the same system regardless of location.
However, with cloud computing growing so rapidly, many vendors are trying to position themselves as cloud providers by re-labeling and re-branding traditional on-premise software applications. This can lead to problems with upgrades, process integration, and business viability.
Customers need to be able to recognize a true cloud solution as one that was designed from a Web-based, multi-tenant, self-service perspective, and provides secure and easy access over the Internet, so contact center agents can work and be managed from anywhere at any time.
A few questions and time spent researching the provider should clear up any uncertainty about the type of product being offered and whether it qualifies as true cloud solution.
Chuck Ciarlo is the founder and CEO of Monet Software, Inc.
[From Connection Magazine – Jan/Feb 2015]