Three people having a discussion in an office.

This year’s Enterprise Connect featured presentations on cloud-based enterprise solutions.

What do you get when you bring together top experts on business software, unified communications, and cloud services? Besides a bunch of tech talk and enough acronyms to make your brain feel like alphabet soup, you also get a big-picture look at the future of enterprise solutions for business communications.

That’s exactly what happened last week in Orlando, Florida, at Enterprise Connect 2017. The annual event has been a leading conference and exhibition for enterprise IP telephony, converged networks, and unified communications in North America for more than 26 years.

The following are some of the major themes and takeaways from the event:

1. Get Your Head in the Cloud

The future of unified business communications is in the cloud. That’s not exactly a big shocker. We’ve heard for years that business cloud services make everything faster, cheaper, and more scalable, and most companies have already started to migrate at least some of their workloads. At the same time, telecom vendors are increasingly taking a cloud-first approach when designing enterprise solutions.

In the first general session, “What Role (If Any) Should Cloud Communications Play in Your Enterprise?” panelists discussed various cloud migration strategies, including hybrid cloud scenarios for businesses that aren’t ready to completely abandon legacy systems. However, Vonage CEO Alan Masarek predicted that in the long term, communications will become unequivocally cloud-based.

He explained to the audience, “It wasn’t very long ago that our workflow tools were on-prem or client-based, that our communications systems were proprietary, and even within voice, those proprietary systems — whether it was landline or cell — didn’t communicate with one another.”

He said for more than a dozen years, they’ve been talking about communications-enabled business processes and how to connect customer communications to employee communications back to other workflow tools that are unrelated to communications, such as productivity and CRM. Now, he said, the infrastructure has caught up with the vision.

2. There’s an API for That — Or There Will Be Soon

The cloud might be a big party where different technology solutions can mingle and merge, but they need a common language to do so. That’s where APIs come in and why communications APIs have become such a hot topic in the industry.

Enterprise Connect dedicated an entire general session to the topic: “APIs and Embedded Communications: The Wave of the Future?” Both speakers and vendors on the exhibit floor discussed how they’ve innovated their programming interfaces over the past year. As industry analyst Zeus Kerravala wrote for No Jitter, Enterprise Connect’s official blog and resource center, “This is significant, as UC is finally living up to the vision of becoming more platform than product, enabling people to use more UC functions in more applications more often.”

3. Collaboration Is King

The cloud was certainly a hot topic at Enterprise Connect, but three general sessions and several breakout panels were dedicated to Team Collaboration. Meanwhile, vendors in the exhibit hall showed off their latest and greatest applications for team communication and workflow management. The implication? Team collaboration solutions and apps are moving from shadow IT into the mainstream, where they’re becoming an essential part of any unified communications strategy.

For more insights on the future of enterprise solutions for unified communications, watch the keynote speeches, general sessions, and other highlights from Enterprise Connect 2017.

Wondering how cloud solutions can transform your business? Connect with Vonage Business.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

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Team gathers around a computer.

Cloud migration won’t make you obsolete if you let it lead to a new, more strategic role.

As your company shifts away from on-premise solutions and opts for cloud migration to virtual PBX systems and other offsite solutions, it’s understandable that some IT pros might feel anxious. But if the question is, “What’s left for tech experts when everything is outsourced?” — the reassuring answer is: Plenty!

The fact is that nothing runs without the expertise of dedicated and experienced staff. This is particularly relevant for corporate IT pros both during and after cloud migrations. Think of if as the new tech normal, as organizations look to their staff IT experts to navigate successfyully. Here’s a look at the changing role of IT pros:

The PBX Problem

It’s no secret that companies are moving to cloud communications. However, you may be reluctant to let go of that on-premise PBX system. Why? Well, as the managing IT pro, you’re in charge. You know the ins and outs of the tech, the reasons it won’t work under certain circumstances, how to get almost supernatural performance out of it as needed, and how to coax it back to life when C-suite and front-line staff members express frustration. In short, you’re indispensable. So, what happens when your company starts trending toward the cloud?

Not Without Me

Bottom line? The cloud is coming. Migration is often slow but very, very steady, and as organizations become more comfortable with the idea of third-party providers handling their data, cloud migration is inevitable. So, what does this mean for the in-house PBX expert who may be unsure about the future? It depends on your attitude. One option here is to dig in your heels and demand that your on-premise PBX systems stay the course. This might work for a few years, but as legacy tech ages out, moving off-premise is the only option.

Your other choice? Take charge and own the move. Migrations don’t happen in a vacuum, and the move from onsite to provider-hosted can require substantive technical expertise. By getting in on the ground floor, you can help set service expectations and play an essential role in selecting the right provider. For example, if your company is making the transition to SIP trunking, you’re the ideal candidate to ensure new tech is deployed in high-availability pairs, all network regions are optimized for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic, and quality-of-service tools are in place to ensure calls are clear and consistent.

The Next Level

Taking things a step further, you can also manage the implementation process and develop a future-first viewpoint that addresses new strategic and tactical challenges. Use cloud migration as the starting point to choose which services and solutions you can implement to increase IT impact.

However, what exactly does being strategic look like in the context of this new IT normal? Here are some ways to start:

  • Get Visible: To end users within an organization, when things are working as intended, the IT department may seem invisible. But that perception can change when issues arise frequently and IT can’t respond fast enough. Now that you have a cloud-based PBX system, it’s possible to change user perception with better monitoring and response tools. For example, end-user analytics or call metrics software can help improve the lives of C-suite executives and front-line staff alike. Hey, who doesn’t want to be the hero?
  • Be Vigilant: Another way to empower strategic efforts is to find new areas of improvement. Maybe you have some legacy server hardware that could use an upgrade, or your move to cloud-based communications also prompts a look at the hybrid cloud. Or, dig deep into your new PBX and discover what makes it tick and where you can maximize efficiency. Start thinking big instead of solving small.
  • Talk, Talk, Talk: That’s right, start talking. Chat up C-suite executives, get invited to board meetings, and volunteer your time to create presentations about cloud rollout plans or the merits of new enterprise infrastructure. You probably won’t feel super comfortable here at first, but this is the new normal for top-tier IT pros. It often helps to be as social as you are tech-savvy.

Cloud migration is coming. Get on board with streamlining the transition, taking a step back, and adopting a more strategic role.

Do you want to know more about the new cloud normal? Talk to Vonage Business.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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A man sitting at a desk, using a smartphone.

Cloud solutions for business allow employees to work from anywhere.

Hiring is a lot like dating after 30: It seems like most of the good ones are already taken, and competition is fierce for talent that’s still on the market. And it can be hard to meet new people, unless you expand your search beyond those in close proximity to you.

Cloud solutions for business help to solve these challenges. By making the workspace increasingly mobile, cloud communications enable employers to widen their searches, find and hire the best people for the job, and retain those employees by offering something more and more people now want — the ability to work from anywhere.

Downshifters, Dads, and Disabled Workers

Fortune predicts that as more millennials mature into the next stage of their lives, they will soon be leaving cities in droves, opting for suburban or even country living. Add to that the tens of millions of people who already live in rural America, and you’ve got an enormous talent pool that may not be within commuting distance to your company offices. However, they are within telecommuting distance.

Remote work also appeals to parents, many of whom leave the workforce because they want to spend more time with their families or because the cost of childcare now amounts to an extra mortgage payment. Providing these caregivers with the technology and flexibility to work around their lives opens up a huge, untapped market of job candidates who might otherwise opt out of full-time work outside of the home.

Telecommuting has also created new job opportunities for disabled individuals, for whom traveling to an office might be difficult or even impossible. With the ability to work where they’re most comfortable, they can be just as productive and innovative as anyone else on your team.

Of course, this is not the extent of those who’d appreciate the opportunity to work remotely. Most everyone is yearning for a greater work/life balance these days, and they’re increasingly looking for employers who will help them achieve it.

Finding the Right People

Smart leaders don’t want to hire just anyone. They want to hire people who are not only qualified for the job, but also bring enthusiasm, passion, and dedication to their work.

Depending on a business’ location, this can be challenging. In smaller towns, the talent pool is often limited, particularly for highly specialized jobs. In larger cities, there are more professionals, but also more businesses seeking to hire them, many of which offer salaries and perks your company might not be able to match.

Location doesn’t matter for companies that hire remote workers. Not only can they hire from anywhere, but they also have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting top talent.

For example, Jenny Collister, founder of the Reef & Rainforest travel agency, said she believes that successful travel agents must be passionate about travel and adventure (translation: the kind of people who don’t like to stay in one place). To attract these wandering souls, she offers the balance and flexibility of being able to work from home or on the road. With a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system and mobile app, her agents can even help customers plan trips while on trips of their own.

“I like offering flexibility to my staff,” Collister said. “Some employees embrace it, and others like more structure, so we try to maintain a balance that ensures that our customers are fully served during work hours and often beyond.”

The Value Equation

Having a remote workforce doesn’t just help companies find and hire the best talent, but studies confirm how productive these employees can be. For employees, working remotely can help meet their professional and personal priorities. There are some employees, particularly millennials, who may value work/life balance and flexibility more than a big paycheck. With the high cost of daycare, some parents may offer to work for less if they can work from home. Of course, remote workers should expect to be valued and compensated as any in-office employee would. But the remote work model sometimes offers negotiable flexibility that can appeal to both employer and employee.

Mark Krassner, founder of Knee Walker Central, has built a successful business with a team of remote workers spread across the country—all of whom are tied together by a hosted VoIP phone system. This arrangement affords employees an attractive level of flexibility. In fact, several of them have relocated their home offices without missing a beat. With cloud solutions for business, all workers need is an internet connection in their new location, and they’re up and running. Krassner also points to how productive his remote team has been for the company.

So yes, hiring these days can be a lot like dating. However, there’s one big difference: In the case of hiring, long-distance relationships actually do work.

Speak to a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about cloud solutions for business.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

Business cloud services make it possible for your employees to get more done, wherever they are.

Business cloud services make it possible for your employees to get more done wherever they are.

Think business cloud services are only for big companies? Not so fast. The cloud can offer flexibility and speed that helps small businesses provide a higher level of service and response for their customers, too.

Want to take an impromptu ski vacation this weekend? Has your top sales associate been looking for plane tickets to an exotic island? Maybe another employee has a child with the flu and has no backup child care. However, there are major client deals in the works or big projects on the table that need to be attended to. As much as you want to accommodate both your employees and yourself, you just can’t afford to have people out of touch right now.

Instead of everyone being chained to their desks, you and your employees can have the best of both worlds. The cloud provides your team access to all the tools needed to stay in touch with colleagues and customers no matter where you choose to work.

Here are three ways that business cloud services can help you and your employees work from anywhere:

  1. Talk or text with customers using a business identity.

    You’re sitting on the beach with your favorite book when your biggest customer calls. You want them to think you’re sitting at your desk instead of warming your toes in the sand. With business cloud services, you can forward your calls to whatever device is in hand while ensuring that your customer sees the same business profile that’s displayed when you’re in the office — and hopefully the customer will believe that the sound of crashing waves is just your cubicle mate’s white-noise machine.

  2. Access a familiar desktop.

    You’re sitting in the ski lodge when a team member needs you to look at a document. Instead of having to fumble around to find what you need, you can log on to your virtual desktop on your tablet or whatever device you choose — even a computer in the hotel business center — and see exactly the same desktop as back in the office. You now have the tools needed to do your job in between ski runs.

  3. Use company tools or data.

    It used to be that your tools were installed on your hard drive, making it challenging to do your job from anywhere else. However, with cloud computing, your company can install all tools to the cloud, allowing any employee to access them with a simple login. Whether they are waiting for the cable company to come or sneaking in some work while their sick child naps, employees will no longer have to skip over any items on their to-do lists because they can’t access the necessary software.

It’s hard to balance work and personal life, but cloud communication makes it much easier to ensure that you get the relaxation you need, or the time to take care of your family, while still providing top-quality service to your customers.

Whether your team members are at home, on the road, or in the office, the cloud can provide the flexibility they need. Contact Vonage Business to learn how.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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A woman using a tablet in an office setting.

A hybrid approach can give your cloud communications the best of both worlds.

Cloud computing is no longer an outlier: According to Beta News, 95 percent of survey respondents said they’re using some form of the cloud. However, it’s worth noting that while 18 percent of companies rely on public services alone and just six percent use all-private solutions, the lion’s share — 71 percent — prefer hybrid cloud communications environments.

What’s the real deal with going hybrid? Do you end up with the best of both worlds — a centaur with strength of draft horses combined with human cognitive capacity, or some kind of cobbled-together creation that amounts to a wobbly horse head driven by tiny human stick legs? Here’s what you need to know:

Crashing the Party: Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds

Public clouds are typically used for public-facing applications that need room to stretch in response to resource or traffic demands. They’re also ideal for smaller companies that don’t have the on-hand capital to spend on local hardware or those that love jumping on tech bandwagons to get their “I’m with cloud” T-shirt.

Private clouds, meanwhile, are excellent for consumer or corporate data privacy, while also giving IT professionals total control over their computing environment. Think of private clouds as the hipsters of up-and-coming tech — they’re solidly put together, but require a lot of upkeep and maintenance to keep running.

Hybrid promises both the sizzle and the steak — public scaling and private control — to provide a combination of flexibility and firm network boundaries. It’s also a middle ground between the cost scale of public vs. private options. Ultimately, hybrid looks to balance the benefits of outsourcing and in-house talent to create an adaptable best fit for organizations.

Do Me a Flavor…

While there’s no single way to use the hybrid cloud, a number of popular “flavors” have emerged, including the following:

  • Adaptable Apps: This is one of the most popular hybrid types. Organizations keep critical data close to their chest on private clouds but use public clouds to build out and scale up customer-facing apps.
  • Do-It-Yourself Duplication: Another hybrid cloud option sees IT departments creating duplicates of private stacks on public clouds and then linking the two with a secure connection.
  • Moving to Multicloud: Hybrid deployments also support the move to multicloud architecture, which has emerged as companies look to tap multiple public providers for specific services. Private clouds keep critical data grounded and provide a central link for various cloud services.
  • On-Premises Public Performance: Large-scale cloud providers are also looking for ways to move the public cloud into the private space by offering on-premises versions of public cloud offerings. The advantage here? Total control over scalability and performance. The downside? Big bucks to buy in.

Managing Migration

What’s the biggest barrier to cloud adoption? The easy answer is worry over granular control of data, but according to ZDNet, it’s more than that. Ultimately, the task of integrating and migrating legacy systems becomes a huge headache for many companies that try to tap into cloud communications or leverage scalable environments.

It’s here that hybrid cloud solutions really shine: By linking private stacks with third-party offerings, it’s possible to keep many legacy systems in place and link them to public services only where it makes sense. In effect, going hybrid lets incompatible legacy solutions age out in place, rather than trying to shoehorn them into cloud deployments or retire them before the business can fully absorb their loss.

It’s worth noting, however, that even hybrid migrations don’t happen in a vacuum. Companies must be prepared to tackle the gap between public and private services — the potentially confusing interplay along the edge of multiple service types, where apps may not work as intended and performance may be hard to measure. Overcoming this challenge means enlisting the help of an experienced cloud provider with a track record of providing reliable public services while also respecting the bounds of private networks.

This type of cloud migration partnership is especially important for companies making their first foray into the cloud. The right partner can not only provide necessary hardware and diverse service catalogs but also act as an IT consultant to suggest ideal migration strategies and ways to minimize the impact of new systems on existing architecture.

The bottom line? Hybrid clouds are on the rise as a way to tap the flexibility of public models and the control of private stacks. However, with multiple flavors and the need to integrate legacy apps while simultaneously leveraging new services, finding the right combination of variety and vendor is ideal to maximize hybrid cloud communication benefits.

Are you ready for the hybrid cloud advantage? Talk to a Vonage Business specialist today!

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

Linkedin  |  Twitter

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