A range of small and large communications vendors are shifting their services to cloud-based delivery, giving customers the choice of having hardware that sits on their own premise, or accessing PBX and other unified communication (UC) platforms that are hosted by the provider or a third party. But some analysts say slow customer adoption points to customers being more concerned about managing their workers' mobile devices compared to traditional boxed communications systems.
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Communications systems that are hosted off-site or through a cloud offering are not necessarily new, says Forrester analyst Dan Bieler, but there has been a market progression during the past few years from managed hosting to cloud services. Cloud-based services are a next generation of hosted or grid computing, he says. Unlike a managed or hosted service, cloud offerings have a pay-per-use model, with the ability to scale up or scale down, and they're offered from a multi-tenant environment. That compares to a managed or hosted service, which is built to peak demand for individual customers and usually has dedicated resources for individual users.
Many of the big players in enterprise communications have some sort of strategy related to cloud offerings, including Ericsson, Microsoft and Cisco all pushing cloud products with "good momentum." "That inertia isn't always translating into sales though," Bieler says. He estimates that 1 in 10 enterprises use cloud-based communications services, a figure he expects will grow in the future. "It's not a mass market yet," he says. Where there is movement, he says, it's normally not for cloud-based voice services, but instead for an entire UC platform, which includes video, instant message and presence -- or allowing workers to see if other users are actively online.