Even before the cold March winds of COVID began to shake the UC telephony tree earlier this year, change was in the offing. The pandemic served to accelerate the change, but it was happening all the same. Many organizations talk about this change with a focus on cloud adoption. . . a strategic business decision to use cloud-based services instead of, or in addition to, services delivered via on-premises infrastructure. However, such talk is only a portion of the story. Additionally, such discussions are the easy part of the story — the hard work is the actual cloud migration.
In fact, Gartner reports that performance issues during and after cloud migration were experienced by 89% of customers over the course of the past year. Dependencies on applications not in the cloud, the proximity of the user to the cloud platform, and applications not designed for the cloud were the top reasons for performance degradation. In addition, although security concerns are not an obstacle to cloud migration, the complexity of securely navigating the process and meeting compliance requirements can be challenging and costly.
Given the overwhelming momentum and need for cloud migration change, Unify Square recently updated our signature consulting services to align with the key areas of demand that we’re seeing from the industry. This post will highlight requirements in three key areas — Cloud Phone Migration, Collaboration Security Risk, and Work from Home (WFH) Unified Communications (UC) Conferencing — accompanied by the Unify Square consulting offerings which we’ve developed to help lend a hand.
Five Key Benefits of Switching from On-Prem UC to Cloud UC
Before jumping into the cloud consulting details, for the remaining holdouts who have perhaps not yet embraced the UC cloud transformation trend, here are the top five reasons to make the shift:
- Collaboration Security: Going back 10 years, security was initially the poster child for why NOT to move to the cloud. Today, however, the pendulum has swung aggressively in the other direction. Cloud service providers offer the highest levels of security and data integrity. They make huge investments in the resources and technology, along with a skilled team of IT and InfoSec experts and engineers. All but the largest of organizations simply can’t afford to match these security levels and SLAs. And even if they can, why bother if the cloud provider can provide them more cost-effectively and combine them with a reduced risk of data loss with low-cost cloud back-ups?
- Deployment Speed: Cloud-based services can be deployed within just an hour or a few days rather than the weeks, months, or years it can take to strategically plan, buy, build, and implement an internal IT infrastructure with internal personnel.
- Cost & Efficiency Gains: After completing a cloud migration, IT can mostly dispense with worries regarding power requirements, storage, and space considerations, expensive computer hardware, or software updates. Because of the savings, the discussion turns to more of an IT profit center focus on generating revenue and relationships, not on IT costs.
- Connectivity & Accessibility: IT can easily keep users connected no matter where they work with any time, anywhere access. Users may access files anytime, anywhere, using any device.
- Increased Collaboration: Cloud computing enables employees situated in various locations to collaborate easily. By providing simultaneous syncing, working, and sharing documents and records in real-time, cloud computing helps increase the collaboration and efficiency of end-users.
Cloud Phone Migration
Even pre-COVID-19, many companies began more aggressive migration plans to Microsoft Teams when Microsoft announced that Skype For Business Online services would be discontinued on July 31st of 2021. Even though Skype For Business Server 2019 on-premises will keep working after July 2021 and will be supported until 2024 at least, most organizations still saw that 2021 deadline as general writing on the wall that Skype for Business was an end-of-life venture. Now with COVID winds blowing, the urgency is even greater. Reference sites from Microsoft as well as earlier “Migrating to Microsoft Teams” information from Unify Square are turning out to be top click-through destinations from customers.
As it turns out, the truly difficult and complicated part of the migration to Teams is not so much the conferencing but the cloud phone. With cloud phone — unlike on-prem UC phone systems — it’s no longer about moving sites. Rather, it’s now about moving individual users, which requires a more centralized and top-down strategy and process. It’s also not necessarily just about a Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams phone migration. It could instead be about Skype to Zoom . . . or even Skype to both Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
There’s a lot to consider here and a lot of different variables in play. In fact, there are so many considerations that we’ve not only authored a widely read cloud migration consulting blog post on the subject but also recently recorded a webinar on the key issues and steps to consider for a cloud communications migration. If you weren’t able to join us live for the webinar, we encourage you to view it on-demand.
Unify Square Consulting can help with your cloud phone migrations through:
- Cloud Communications Transformation (CCT) Service
CCT is designed to help IT rapidly migrate users while supporting technology systems with optimum performance. The Cloud Communications Transformation (CCT) service is a proven programmatic process that handles transformations from an older UC system (usually on-prem Skype, Cisco or Avaya) to a new UCaaS cloud-phone system (most frequently Microsoft Teams or Zoom). Our experienced consultants will create a migration plan and lead you through all the implementation steps.
- Cloud Phone Jumpstart Service
The Jumpstart service assists organizations with a quick set-up and mini-pilot to begin testing and evaluating either a Zoom or Microsoft Teams cloud phone platform. This service provides a carrier-hosted virtual SBC implementation of either Direct Routing (Microsoft Teams) or Premise-Peering (Zoom) as well as up to 50 users with DIDs/phone numbers for testing and piloting.
Collaboration Security Risk Mitigation
Recent research finds that the average digital workplace in 2020 uses around 80 SaaS apps, with larger enterprises running even more cloud-based apps in their environment. Given that SaaS clutter, and combining it with the free flow of information and users in apps like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it’s easy to see how Microsoft Teams security blind spots can arise.
The pandemic naturally exacerbates and accelerates this risk exposure for organizations. According to Gartner, through 2025, at least 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. On the one hand, 93% of end-users are confident that the information which they share using collaboration apps is safe. On the other side, 88% of IT professionals surveyed view insider security threats (from end-users) as one of the top security issues in their organization. Clearly more focus and assistance are needed.
Unify Square Consulting can help with your collaboration security issues through:
- Collaboration Security & Governance RightTrack™
The Collaboration Security RightTrack™ focuses on managing the balance between collaboration and security for organizations using Microsoft Teams and/or Zoom. To do this, our consultants help teams create a collaboration information and policy model that can be easily applied to the creation of collaboration security policies and regular governance reviews and audits. The end goal is to increase InfoSec awareness relating to the collaboration workloads without limiting the productivity benefits of workstream collaboration applications.
- Collaboration Security Risk Assessment Service
Our Collab-Sec Assessment Service is conducted in the form of a workshop that provides you with a comprehensive audit of your current Microsoft Teams–, Slack–, or Zoom–related governance structure. The workshop results in an overview compliance report, as well as a top-level plan that provides recommendations for modification of existing policies, the addition of new policies, and adjustments to Microsoft Teams security settings.
WFH UC Conferencing Support
Back in March, we authored a blog post entitled “Microsoft Teams Deployments: Simple Set-up or a Sleeping Giant?” We actually debated an alternative title like “Return to the Office Horror Story: Stable Now, but Hybrid Scenarios May Wreak Havoc,” but at the time we thought such a title might have been a bit too inflammatory. However, the more time we spend talking with and troubleshooting for new customers, we’re thinking that perhaps the secondary title is, at least by now, more appropriate.
In order to accelerate video conferencing set-up, many quick-flip customers simply turn on ‘Islands Mode’ to get going. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a real problem when organizations don’t properly plan their journey from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams. This results in unhappy users because of feature overlap and no interoperability between both communication and collaboration apps. This is but one of many issues that either already have, or soon will, start to create chaos in the organization as users begin to return to the office.
Unify Square Consulting can help with your UC conferencing, especially in an evolved hybrid organizational scenario, through:
- Unified Communications (UC) RightTrack™
The RightTrack is a ‘catch-all’ workshop-type engagement to help answer many different UC-related questions. Our certified consultants assess your current video conferencing set-up and/or cloud-voice specific situation and business goals. We also engage in some level of Teams or Zoom Troubleshooting relating to systemic issues. Next, we apply industry and Unify Square best practices to develop a customized, ready-for-execution approach unique to your environment. The analysis and focus primarily revolve around Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom, but can also bring in the analysis of Cisco Webex Teams, Avaya, Google Meet, or other UCaaS platforms.
- Return to the Office (RTO) Readiness Service
As the RTO process commences, organizations will begin to see complex usage scenarios emerge. Unique hybrid scenarios mixing WFH, office worker, and remote (non-home) workers already are creating unanticipated media quality and collaboration challenges for some organizations, and soon will for most others. Our RTO Readiness service focuses on current Teams or Zoom troubleshooting and helps you game out an optimized strategy and best practices for UC/WSC platform health that is customized for your environment.