What are the advantages of deploying unified communications (UC) using a cloud service and considerations when seeking a service provider? This Q&A with Melanie Posey, an IDC research director, addresses these questions and more.

Two trends – challenging business environments and highly distributed workforces – require a different approach to what could turn out to be your

most critical business applications: communications and collaboration. In this paper, AT&T asks IDC to define UC, why it’s important and how to optimize implementations for more productive and efficient business processes.

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A key benefit of a cloud-based UC solution versus an on-premises implementation option is lower up-front costs, as well as lower cost of ownership and operation. The cost elements of any premises-based solution involve not only up-front capital expenditure on hardware and software but also the cost of IT staff for deployment, operation, and maintenance. In addition, there are post deployment costs related to change management, driven by factors such as evolving business objectives, geographic expansion, and technology evolution. With hosted UC, the service provider bears these costs and organizations gain access to the functionality on a monthly recurring fee basis.

Another benefit is scalability. Cloud-based or as-a-service UC solutions running on a service provider’s multitenant infrastructure make it easier for organizations to scale their UC usage both horizontally (adding more users) and vertically (adding more applications and feature functionality). With cloud-based UC, organizations can roll out capabilities in gradual fashion without massive up-front commitments or the risk of stranded sunk costs.