So you have heard all about the cloud, and are looking to lose your legacy on-site deployment and make the transition to a cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) provider. Indeed, there is much to like about a cloud UC solution, since it allows businesses to expand their capabilities at zero infrastructure cost. And because they are specialists in this area, UC providers typically offer a more substantial set of capabilities than would be practical for most organizations to roll out on their own.


As with every technology or service, there is always the temptation to sign on with the vendor offering the lowest prices. While cost is obviously an important factor, it should by no means be the only consideration when it comes to choosing the right partner. With this in mind, we list out four important considerations when choosing a cloud UC provider below.


Proven Track Record


Having your cloud UC provider suffer an outage can be disastrous for your company, often resulting in immediate losses as phones stop ringing and messages stop flowing. Though some may argue that switching to a new UC provider is easy, this ignores the need to re-establish routing configurations and call forwarding rules that may not be available until after the current downtime is resolved.


As such, be sure to do your homework to establish the track record of a UC provider before signing on the dotted line. You can do this by searching for past complaints and unresolved technical issues on its support forum or on third-party websites. Where available, make it a point to check out their list of clients, or request testimonials from existing users.


Robust Architecture


Most UC providers attain scalability and lower costs by leveraging a multi-tenant architect from sheer economies of scale. Are there sufficient measures in place, though, to ensure that a catastrophic failure never happens? While your vendor is unlikely to share everything that goes on behind-the-scenes, a discerning customer would request more information about the underlying architecture employed by their cloud provider.


Are they relying on carrier-neutral datacentres, and are these datacentres geographically spread out to hedge against natural disasters? Is there any backup capacity and what are the vendor’s business continuity plans? After all, SLAs really only compensate for the cost of service, not the real-world losses incurred by your business.


Support for a Trial Deployment


Another important but underrated consideration is being able to set up a trial deployment. The idea here is to allow yourself or your team to thoroughly evaluate and test the provider’s platform. This comes with the added benefit of being able to appraise the actual competency of their technical personnel.


Moreover, this also serves to highlight additional surprises and technical issues that may not related to your UC provider. This could range from poor network reliability or insufficient bandwidth on your end of the network, or throttling by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).


Hybrid Support


Looking to reuse some of your existing communications equipment such as your perfectly functional IP telephony appliance, or video conferencing gear? You are not alone: Gartner reports that three-fourths of large organizations are expected to have hybrid cloud implementations by 2015. While the report is about cloud implementations in general, it illustrates that on-site hardware still has its place. So be sure to check that your cloud UC vendor is capable of supporting hybrid deployments.


What are your thoughts on the above pointers? Feel free to chip in with tips of your own in the comments section below.