What will you consider when choosing a cloud service provider?

nec-ucaas-service-providerAre you considering incorporating Cloud services into your organization’s technology plan? With Cloud deployment making its way into businesses in a variety of industries, moving to the Cloud can certainly leverage your existing technology. It’s ease of use and cost effectiveness are just some of the ways Cloud services are helping businesses manage not only customer relationships, but also billing, expenses and more. We are pretty sure you have some concerns before you deploy, so we compiled a list addressing some things to consider before selecting a service provider:

  • Security: Regardless of how Cloud computing fits into your organization, you likely handle sensitive data, and therefore need a provider that canguarantee the security protection you need. Whether you are a hospital that needs to protect patient records, or a university ensuring student data and personal information is secure, it is important when selecting a provider to find one who will meet and exceed your industry’s standards so both you and your customers can have peace of mind.
  • Service Level Agreements (SLAs): Your SLA is particularly important because your service provider has some sort of control over your software functionality. Make sure you go with a provider that can spell out how your business is affected if there are middle-of-the-day service outages. Regardless of whether the outage is planned or unplanned, you can minimize your risk by looking for published SLAs that outline service guarantees and protect your business in the case of an outage.
  • Deployment Flexibility: Sure, the benefits of Cloud computing are numerous, but are all of your needs addressed with its deployment? Are you a business that needs the flexibility of more than one solution or perhaps must meet requirements that can only be met through an on-premise solution? If the Cloud option doesn’t meet all of your business, bandwidth or security needs, consider this when researching providers: there are service providers out there that will give you the option of Cloud, on-premise or hybrid deployments; this flexibility may be the best choice for your business.
  • Pricing: Wouldn’t you like to only pay for services that are beneficial to your organization’s needs? A Cloud-based approach enables you to only pay for what you need. Check out thispricing model and be sure that you select a provider who also supports this capability and only charges you for the services and applications your business uses. Now you’re free to think about what you will do with the capital you’ve saved by taking this approach.
  • (Support/Customer Service): Your business can’t function without its data, right? So you will want to choose a provider that can give you support when you need it as well as data protection in the unforeseen event that your server is destroyed or your network infrastructure is affected. Whatever Cloud solution you favor, it is critical to select a service provider with the capability to not only backup your data, but recover it quickly in the event of disaster so that your business experiences little to no downtime.

Regardless of where these considerations fall on your priority list, hopefully we provided insight to make your service provider decision a bit easier. There are several service providers out there, and you have the power to choose. To see how NEC measures up against the bunch in delivering you a service and supporting our customers, click below.

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Reasons to Consider Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)

nec-consider-cloud-ucaasAccording to a recent survey 36 percent of you have deployed or are in the process of deploying some element of Unified Communications (UC). If not, you’re likely in the evaluation process now, and surely you’ve seen the slew of reports touting the benefits of cloud computing.
Although the implementation and delivery of UC services continues to evolve, we remain familiar with the general benefits: increased productivity, efficiency, collaboration, connecting mobile workers, integrating communications into business processes and applications… The list goes on. Among that list is the “marriage” of UC with cloud services, which has resulted in Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS.
So, why consider UCaaS? The main drivers in your decision are likely to fall into one of the following categories:

 

  • Eliminate front-loaded capital costs: You likely understand the economic benefits of cloud computing; we’d all like to reduce, and if possible, eliminate hardware costs altogether but still receive all the features and benefits of our applications. With the clear services expectations of UCaaS, you have a simplified business case to present to your CIO and CFO. For example, UCaaS provides clear per-user costs, which simplifies the service you offer your organization, and the consistent and predictable costs of UCaaS reduces repeated trips to the CFO’s office in search of additional budget for capital intensive projects.

 

  • Standard suite of UC offerings: With UCaaS, standard UC features are offered on a per-seat basis. The monthly seat cost includes all hardware needed to support the UC functions. These software offerings typically have varying functionality (basic, standard, or premium), and include anything from IP telephony to unified messaging, audio and video conferencing, web collaboration, mobility, presence and IM, all the way to full featured contact centers. While UCaaS typically consist of a standard set of offerings, you should look for an offering that doesn’t require all users to be at the same level. The lobby phone shouldn’t cost the same as the applications delivered to the CEO. This flexibility, along with the ability to add on additional features to meet specific needs, ensures that you’re delivering a service that’s valued by the organization.

 

  • Availability of hybrid models: This model blends Cloud and on-premise approaches to deliver a customized solution for your organization. UCaaS offerings that allow you to blend both on and off-premise components offer the most flexibility and often satisfy cloud critic’s concerns about resiliency and reliability. For organizations that want the peace of mind of a Disaster Recovery strategy, a hybrid solution could offer cloud services as a primary and a DR instance on-premise. Also, under the right circumstances, a hybrid approach could also allow you to leverage existing hardware, thus extending the life of previous investments.

 

  • Broad service offerings: When researching your decision to implement UCaaS, you will notice the long list of providers who support UC services. The provider you choose will be critical, as they will play an active role in deployment and support of your system. Most IT organizations are looking to enhance the services they offer and extend the ability of the existing IT team. So when it comes to support, the provider you choose should offer local assistance that is available to you for installation and ongoing onsite support. The following are additional components to keep in mind to ensure the true value of UC is delivered: additional consulting and managed services, a broad range of UC offerings, in addition to the ability to integrate business applications and processes with communications infrastructure.

We hope this provides some additional insight on things to consider when looking at Unified Communications as a Service. To learn more and see how NEC delivers UCaaS click below.

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Visit NEC at Enterprise Connect 2012 in Orlando

Enterprise Connect is upon us once again, and NEC is busier than ever in preparation. Our theme this year is The Empowered Workforce, and we'll be featuring two recently announced solutions: UNIVERGE 3C and UNIVERGE Cloud Services

UNIVERGE 3C is our comprehensive unified communications and collaboration suite, representing not only a technology evolution, but also the evolution of the UNIVERGE brand. Where UNIVERGE 3C excels is in its common user interface across multiple device platforms (PC, laptop, tablet and smart phone), as well as its new, feature-rich Web collaboration capability. All of this will be on display at Enterprise Connect. 

Announced this week, UNIVERGE Cloud Services will soon deliver unified communications as a service (UCaaS) in a manner that easy to purchase, deploy and manage.  The service features a host of NEC's broad capabilities, including UNIVERGE 3C as its core UC platform, and Express5800 servers and M-Series storage in geographically redundant data centers. 

In addition to the flurry of activity at NEC booth 609, we have a number of speakers. You can find the full Enterprise Connect 2012 conference schedule online.  Here's a quick rundown of NEC's speakers at the event.  See you there!

 

Date

Time

Speaker

Session Type

Topic

Monday, 3/26/2012

11-Noon

Todd Landry, SVP, NEC

General Session

Plennary/Summit: Has the Post-PBX Era Begun?  (Roundtable) 

2-5 p.m.

Pat Henkle, Director Product Line Mgmt, NEC

Reactor panel

Tutorial Workshop / RFP: UC with a PBX

Tuesday, 3/27/2012

9:15 – 10 a.m.

Donna Zett, CIO, AOT Bedding (Serta / Simmons)

General Session

Plennary/Summit: Is There a New Model For Communications & Collaboration (Roundtable)

 2:30 – 3:30

Todd Landry, NEC

Breakout panel

Breakout: UC Interoperability: How Real, How Much? (Reactor Panel)

 2:30 – 2:50

Jay Krauser, NEC

Sponsored session

NEC Sponsored Session (20 min); Heavenly UC: What it Means to Consume UC from a Cloud

Wednesday, 3/28/2012

2:30 – 5:30

Pat Henkle, NEC

Reactor panel

Tutorial Workshop / RFP: UC without a PBX

2:30 – 3:25

Todd Landry, NEC

Sponsored session

NEC Sponsored Session: The Millenial Workforce & UC

2:30 – 3:30

Ed Ashley, Manager, Product Mgmt, NEC

Breakout panel

What's New in Desktop Phones?

2:30 – 3:30

Jay Krauser, NEC

Breakout panel

Managed / Hosted UC: Who's Offering What?

 

 

Building a Better Business Case for Unified Communications and Collaboration

nec-unified-communication-business-caseEver-developing technologies are causing business communications for today’s organizations to undergo rapid transformations. Developing an understanding of the basis of this shift can provide you with key insight into how to effectively leverage new technologies and build a business case for deploying Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) within your organization. UC&C has evolved over the last five years, with many manufacturers offering different solutions and delivery methods. From this evolution three main options have arisen: a fully hosted solution, an adjunct attachment to an existing PBX or IP PBX and a fully integrated all-in-one premise based solution.

So how do you view UC&C? Keep in mind that it should not be recognized as a specific product, but more as an integration of services and or an ongoing modular strategy that can be implemented or phased in over a defined period of time. The evolution of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) has evolved from basic features such as Unified Messaging, Presence and IM to an ever expanding set of new capabilities. UC&C provides many distinct functions and services, and thus should not be viewed as a single capital expense, but as an operational investment over time. In this case, consider your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) rather than your Return on Investment (ROI), as you would with other purchases.

A complete UC&C solution consists of a number of elements that provide users with a truly unified experience, enabling them to communicate in a timely and productive manner specific to their roles in the organization. These elements are generally categorized into 3 main categories. Let’s identify and describe these categories to determine which makes the better business case for your organization’s needs:

  • Core Foundational Elements: This category includes a Multi-Service Network, VoIP, and Pervasive Presence
  • Traditional UC Elements: This includes Unified Messaging/Voicemail/Fax, Text Chat/IM, Audio/Web Collaboration, and Video Conferencing
  • Emerging Elements: Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), Mobility (Fixed Mobile Convergence), Mass Notification, and Social Media/Federation

Which category suits your organization’s needs? Do you fit strictly into one, or an overlap of multiple? In the next post we will further examine and focus on a current emerging trend in UC&C, which is to provide all of the above mentioned elements in a completely integrated software-based solution approach, thus allowing UC&C to be deployed in a more flexible and modular manner. This deployment will in turn give organizations more control in determining which solution elements they want to utilize across their company to best suit their needs.

Moving? We can help.

nec-uc-movingAre you considering relocating your data center? Or maybe you’re thinking about moving your entire organization. Either way, we know moving can be an extremely stressful (and expensive) process, and one you’d prefer not to repeat often, so we’ve gathered some helpful tips to help you address, and consequently avoid, common oversights when moving. Whether you’re moving for business or technology reasons, remember that, when moving day comes, it is important to establish and maintainfocus. It is likely that everything will not go exactly according to plan. Focus, combined with a well-developed plan, will help you overcome the speed bumps, and before you know it you will be settled in your new location and back in the flow of day-to-day business.

1. Think ahead – It is never too early to begin planning for your move. Moving a company is a huge project, and it is always beneficial to develop a well thought-out game plan.  Moving is a good opportunity to take inventory, so to speak.  Are you planning to move your communication system as a whole, or use the move as an opportunity to upgrade?  Perhaps you’re considering moving to Unified Communications as a service (UCaaS). Regardless of where you stand, don’t just plan for today. Assess the needs and analyze the growth of your business up to ten years ahead, that way you get the most out of your move.

2. Location, location, location – Aside from moving to a location that is convenient for your customers, it is important to look at a low-risk location in terms of natural disaster. Also in terms of safety, avoid locations near major highways as part of risk mitigation. Conduct an analysis to determine whether the intended site is suitable to house your data center. Aside from geography, other factors to consider include power availability and budget.

3. Power – When you are moving it is important to consider what your current and future power needs will be. Some questions to consider are: Is power abundant? (This is perhaps the most important question to ask), where are you on the power grid? Are there at least two sub stations providing power to the building? Does the building have a backup generator? According to a Transitional Data Services report, in 2010 data centers consumed about 2 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S., and the same report projected that power consumption would continue a rapid growth. Any site under consideration should have easy access to abundant power from multiple sources of electricity, taking advantage of low cost providers whenever possible. When assessing your power needs, also consider the following:

  • Fiber – Be sure to research how many and which fiber providers connect to the building.
  • HVAC – does the AC run only during the week? This is often overlooked but it is important to keep your server room cool during the weekends too.

4. Budget – While it is difficult to estimate a fixed budget for a project as complex as a move, you can alleviate some stress in this area by taking an in-depth look at what hardware and software your company is using. That old PBX that you’ve been using for the past 10 years might not be worth moving, so why pay to have it moved?

5. Enlist your employees – Before you begin the moving process, it is important to note which employees will be involved in the move and keep them informed every step of the way. Once you know who will be involved, determine how your manpower will be allocated: What will employees be responsible for? Be sure to announce what the company will and will not transfer with the move.

6. Data backup – Just as the IT staff should perform data backups prior to the move, you should also remind your employees to back up their personal work computers before the move as well. This will help to limit downtime once the move is complete.

7. Communications – We may be mentioning this tip last, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. If your move is communicated poorly, it could result in customer resentment and consequently a loss of business for you. Be sure to give advance notice, not just a last minute e-mail. MARKET, MARKET, MARKET: tell your customers you are moving and how your new facilities will better accommodate their needs.
Proper planning can help you avoid prolonged downtime and business disruption, as well as the need to move more often than necessary. These tips are a good start to help you prepare for your move. As the economy continues to change, an increasing number of organizations are relocating their data centers and offices as a whole. Good luck with your move!