In a recent post, I shared perspectives from our professional services team about why some organizations are reluctant to move their communications from on-premises to the cloud. Since then, I had the privilege to ask Colin Carmichael, 8×8’s Chief Information Officer, similar questions. He manages our organization’s business applications just as many of our customers do. So I was interested in his perspective.
Carmichael says most businesses today are “SaaS-forward” thinking. There is greater appetite for cloud solutions across all workloads. Economics, scalability and performance make up a portion of the reason. Vendors are pushing SaaS and that can lead to on-premises offerings being more difficult to acquire and maintain. For businesses, justifying additional capital expenditures to get and support on-premises communications will become a harder sell. “The pendulum is swinging toward SaaS especially in communications,” he says.
“Some companies still have reservations about cloud starting with security, high availability, and latency. Often what happens is IT leaders considering migrating their communications to the cloud are balancing their risk tolerance and their budget,” Carmichael says. The more knowledge an executive has about cloud communications, the more their fears will be allayed as they understand the rapid progress being made by all cloud players, especially in infrastructure-as-a-service offerings.
“In an on-premises scenario, you can do whatever you want, harden as much as you like. You feel in control of your own destiny rather than at the behest of a cloud company. However, that is rapidly becoming a myth. As it turns out, these cloud players have a much larger core competency in security than most IT shops ever will.”
“To win over companies that are leaning toward staying with on-premises communications, vendors must earn a customer’s trust that they offer sufficient security controls.” Cloud security options are maturing rapidly thanks to pushes from Microsoft, Oracle, Amazon, Google, and the app security community. “Not every executive is going to trust every vendor making it vital for vendors to go beyond highlighting basic compliance capabilities to showcase all the ways that security considerations are at the core of what you do. If you want to earn trust, don’t be afraid to give customers a deep dive into your tech stack. Show them you are using leading technologies and managing best practices.”
High Availability and Latency
To make the jump to the cloud, customers often want assurances about high availability and latency. Over the past two years with the transition to hybrid work models, the cloud has held up remarkably well, averting potentially disastrous productivity consequences for many organizations. Cloud providers can typically provide better redundancy options than you might otherwise have available to you. “If you’re not promised four or five nines, then you’re basically putting the whole communications of your company at risk,” Carmichael says. “You can’t afford minutes of downtime. You can’t afford lag, you can’t afford people being worried about not having availability to services anytime they need it.”
Regardless of what kind of communications solution you buy, Carmichael says privacy and data residency are two other hot-button issues and that buyers should feel comfortable about how their prospective vendors address those.
Mobile Capabilities are Critical Selection Criterion
In a work-from-anywhere world, supporting mobile devices is a must. Phone and tablet apps can work in both on-premises and cloud environments. Carmichael argues the difference is that natively-built cloud apps are purpose-built for remote access on any kind of device whereas on-premises apps tend to be more legacy in nature with more constraints than what might be expected in 2022.
No Such Thing as the One Hybrid Work Model
Carmichael says that in discussions he has had recently with peer CIOs, trying to define a hybrid or remote work model is challenging. “What I have learned is that there is no such thing as a singular hybrid work model. Everyone is creating their own version of it.” So from a planning standpoint, you need to figure out how you can adapt to your ideal working model today as well as the one five years down the road. He views cloud communications as offering significantly more flexibility than on-premises to make the adjustments you need.
Still, Carmichael says, unified communications need to continue to evolve to fully replicate an office environment. He would like to see better ways of recreating hallway conversations and making employees feel connected. “No one has really figured that all out yet, but I have urged my peers to really give thought to how infrastructure can lead to better culture and improved employee experiences. The world we live in today has created social and cultural gaps within company communities and subcommunities. We need technology to close or minimize those gaps.”
Final Question Cloud or On-Premises
Getting down to brass tacks, I asked Carmichael cloud or on-premises and why. It definitely makes more sense to have a cloud offering and capability. Cloud-native applications generally are architected and built to interact with other cloud based solutions, and that is something that is inherently in the cloud architecture. That is not to say it happens easily, it doesn’t happen easily. Generally however, it is much easier to do with cloud than on-premises. Integrations are so important to create efficient workflows and better employee experiences.”
Thanks to Colin Carmichael for chatting with me. This is helpful information about what is on the mind of IT leaders as they consider whether to move their communications from an on-premises solution to the cloud.