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The Search for Truth in Cloud Providers: An Information and Resource Guide

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If business patterns from the previous few years continue, 2015 will see more companies than ever making the choice to break away from the high cost and maintenance responsibilities of supporting their IT infrastructure in house. 


The alternative – moving to the cloud – offers a number of significant benefits for contact centers in technology, efficiency and cost. 


So far, so good. The challenge now for contact centers is choosing a provider that delivers an authentic cloud solution, rather than one attempting to exploit the benefits of the “cloud” name, while offering a product that is no different (and in some cases, worse) than a traditional hardware/software system. 


Buyer Beware

If all hosted software offerings labeled as “cloud” are anything but, how can you tell the difference? It’s not enough to review the marketing collateral provided by vendors – do your homework first so you are already familiar with how a genuine cloud solution works, and which questions to ask to make sure you are getting the right product. 


A true cloud solution is built from the ground up with software coded to perform better as a fully hosted solution. Applications can be customized in a way that will not cause complications as new product enhancements are introduced. And since all updates and upgrades are automatic, and do not require additional cost, your contact center is always assured of operating with the most up-to-date functionality. 


If such product upgrades are delayed, it may mean you have been stuck with a fake cloud solution. 


Result? A system with all of the problems and costs associated with an on-premise solution. It won’t be as scalable as the cloud, or as efficient. In addition to delayed and difficult product upgrades, a fake cloud solution will entail other drawbacks that will have a negative impact on your business. Don’t be surprised if downtime increases as a result of the limited resources of the hosting set up. Security could also be an issue, as the provider may not have the most important industry certifications, such as PCI-DSS security compliance, EU Safe Harbor certification, and SSAE 16 (SOC1) Type II audit completions.


Finally, any company that would misrepresent the most basic features of its product is one that will likely not be in business for the long haul. Imagine that worst case scenario – your service provider goes out of business, and you are forced to quickly find another vendor and make the switch, risking loss of data or data access. Or you can start over building an in-house solution, which will not be cheap. 


The Qualities (and Quality) of a True Cloud Provider

True cloud solutions are typically more scalable and more reliable than hosting of traditional software, while offering the advantages that companies expect from a cloud delivery system, including:  


Automatic upgrades to new software versions

Fast and secure system access from anywhere with web access

close to 100% guaranteed uptime

Advanced data privacy protection

Easy integration with other applications

No significant upfront investment


Additional Resources

For more information on the differences between fake clouds and true clouds, there are a number of third-party resources available online which specify industry standards, while highlighting additional benefits of the cloud computing model. Here are just some of the most popular: 


The Cloud Standards Consumer Council (cloudstandardsconsumercouncil.org)

The CSCC is an end-user advocacy group established to address the lack of a customer driven prioritization and focus within the cloud standards development process. The Council separates the hype from the reality on how to leverage what customers have today,  and has established a core set of client-driven requirements to ensure cloud users have the same freedom of choice, flexibility, and openness they have with traditional IT environments. 


Publications available on the website include The CSCC Practical Guide to Cloud Computing and The CSCC Practical Guide to Cloud Service Level Agreements


The Cloud Computing Use Cases Group (cloudusecases.org)

While this site has not been recently updated, it offers two solid white papers on common use cases for cloud computing. It is also a helpful source for cloud information in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. 


The Open Group (opengroup.org)

The Open Group is a consortium comprised of IT experts around the world who have developed several IT standards, while providing a number of assets related to cloud computing. These include The Open Group Cloud Computing for Businesses, a publication that can be downloaded for free, as well as several white papers including Building Return on Investment from Cloud Computing


Conclusion

Cloud computing will continue to gain a larger percentage of the contact center industry because it offers benefits for businesses of every size and type. 


However, with cloud computing growing so rapidly, many vendors are trying to position themselves as cloud providers by re-labeling and re-branding traditional on-premise software applications. This can lead to problems with upgrades, process integration and business viability. 


Customers need to be able to recognize a true cloud solution as one that was designed from a web-based, multi-tenant, self-service perspective, and provides secure and easy access over the Internet, so contact center agents can work from anywhere at any time. 


A few simple questions about cloud-computing and some time spent on researching the background and reputation of the provider should quickly clear up any uncertainty about the type of product being offered, and whether it qualifies as genuine. 


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