unified communications systems in the cloud

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Is your agency missing out on hosted voice benefits?

Cloud-based systems haven’t always been an easy sell in government. Burdened with heightened security requirements, budget constraints and limited staff, agencies have not been able to adopt cloud solutions at the same rate as their private-sector counterparts.

While the role of cloud within government is no longer in question -- with the call to modernize made clear in the cloud-first policy within the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy -- many are just realizing that the cost of carrying forward outdated technology can outweigh what it would have cost to upgrade. On top of that, there are several benefits that agencies can achieve by migrating to the cloud.

One often-overlooked system that can have a particularly large impact on an agency’s overall operations is the voice and collaboration platform. This system has a direct impact on productivity levels and employee output, and when these systems are hosted off-site in the cloud, agencies can achieve significant savings from the cloud’s operating-expense-based costing model. Additionally, agencies can take advantage of The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which can help ease their transition into the cloud.

By migrating voice and collaboration systems to the cloud, agencies can:

Free up IT staff.  The last few years haven’t been easy on public sector IT workers with slashed budgets, scarce resources and workloads that never seemed to diminish. Fortunately, the cloud can be the over-burdened IT staffer’s best friend. It can ensure that users always have access to the latest software, without worrying about upgrades (cloud service providers often cover maintenance and upgrades, which frees up staff for more strategic projects). At the server level, staff will no longer be burdened with maintaining their infrastructure once it is securely migrated off-site in the care of a hosted voice and collaboration provider.

Leverage OpEx pricing. While many fear the cost of modernization while facing budget constraints, when a cloud solution is on the table, finance officers need not worry. Cloud services are typically administered via an OpEx costing model, which allows agencies to pay for cloud services they use and nothing more. In addition to avoiding any large upfront costs, the cloud also allows agencies to save as they continue to use the service. Because agencies aren’t stuck with a specific user count, they can add and remove users without financial impact. Also, if a prospective hosted voice and collaboration provider is compatible with the agency’s existing hardware, phone systems may not need a costly upgrade. Even so, agencies are looking at a low total cost of ownership for what can be an impactful step towards modernization.

Facilitate collaboration. By unifying communication systems in the cloud with a hosted voice and collaboration solution, agencies can enable workers to be their most productive. With more communication tools in play than ever before, a unified communication (UC) system allows employees to leverage all the tools available to them to collaborate and get work done. Users can initiate a chat to quickly exchange information, leverage a presence tool to determine the best time to reach a colleague and escalate to a conference call when it’s time to dive into a conversation. Considering the cost of inefficient communication, especially with the rise of remote work, a hosted UC strategy can have major impact on employee output and an  agency’s overall efficacy.

Increase mobility and empower mobile work. Agencies that have adopted cloud typically migrate their email, overlooking equally important communication tools that give employees the flexibility to work when and where they choose. As this “new work style” emerges in the public sector,  it’s critical that employees get the tools they need to connect to more than just email when working remotely.  With features like device mobility, single number reach, unified messaging and mobile phone support/apps, hosted UC is an ideal springboard for agencies looking to be more mobile friendly.

Find approved solutions. The FedRAMP authorization framework was put in place to help agencies evaluate cloud service providers and to ensure that systems serving government meet the requisite security protocols. Agencies can look to FedRAMP, and authorized providers, to speed up their migration process, since authorized solutions have already been vetted by FedRAMP.

What’s next?

With a clear path to the cloud already laid out in the public sector, IT officers are tasked with strategically migrating their systems into the cloud. As discussed above, there’s a particularly strong use case for hosted voice and collaboration services in the public sector. All benefits considered, the question isn’t why agencies should migrate, but why shouldn’t they?

About the Author

Kevin Schatzle is CEO of collab9.

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