Fueled by the desire to provide better access to information at lower costs, many organizations are turning to the cloud to provide unified communications (UC) services. UC in the Cloud (also known as UC-as-a-Service, or UCaaS) integrates presence technology, enterprise messaging, online meetings, telephony, and video conferencing into a seamless service that employees and partners can access from any device, at any location, at any time.

 

Benefits of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)

 

Cloud-based UC provides a number of significant benefits to businesses:

 

  • High availability. Users experience anytime, anywhere access to services, regardless of their current location or device used to access information.

  • Low capital expenses. Front-end capital expenses, such as software licensing, hardware, and labor are either reduced or altogether eliminated. Instead, subscription-based services to provider resources are transferred to operating expenses. In most cases, any necessary upgrades are automatically included with any subscription.

  • Low maintenance requirements. All resources are housed and managed at the provider’s data center. This eliminates the need for businesses to dedicate IT support staff to resource maintenance and management. In addition, any technology can be easily augmented without additional support staff.

  • Rapid deployment. Because all services are located on provider-based infrastructure, UCaaS can be deployed in hours, versus weeks-to-months for on-site delivery of the same infrastructure and services.

  • Easy and secure collaboration. Login and access control are determined by the provider, with no reliance on in-house IT staff. This allows for simpler, secure accessibility from anywhere.

  • Flexibility/Scalability. Provider subscriptions can be easily modified to add or remove services as needed. Businesses can adaptively adjust business needs with minimal costs at any time.

 

Unified Communications

 

Flavors of UCaaS

 

One of the major considerations for UCaaS is determining which flavor to use: single vs. multi-tenant architecture.

 

The single-tenant architecture provides each customer with a single instance of software applications and the supporting infrastructure. Each customer (or tenant) has its own virtual machine (VM). This VM is wrapped with other services to create the cloud-based service. Each tenant has a customized software platform, which is then integrated with on-site applications.

 

The advantage of the single-tenant architecture is that any premises-based feature set can be quickly shifted into the cloud. This is an attractive solution for premises-based vendors. Dedicated resources are provided on a per-tenant basis, which allows for customized provider-based solutions.

 

The multi-tenant architecture provides a shared, single instance of a platform consisting of multiple VMs. Tenants simultaneously share these resources. This architecture eliminates any reliance on VM boundaries that separate tenants. Instead, logical controls are used to separate tenants.

 

Moving to UCaaS solutions means understanding the differences between single and multi-tenant architectures, and identifying the most appropriate solution for any business. Some of the important differences to consider include:

 

  • Scalability. Multi-tenant architectures make load-sharing more efficient, versus the overhead of individual operating systems for every tenant, as in the single-tenant architecture.

  • Fault tolerance. Multi-tenant architectures have built-in fault-tolerance capabilities. If a node goes down, the remaining nodes in the cluster are operational and able to sustain any failure. In the single-tenant architecture, a backup VM for each tenant must be created, with the appropriate configurations. Otherwise, failure of the VM results in failure of the entire service.

  • Management. In the multi-tenant architecture, all tenants always use the same version. There is one code base to modify. In the single-tenant architecture, tenants can run multiple versions, making development and management more strenuous.

  • B/OSS integration. It is much easier to integrate B/OSS if using one instance, versus integration into multiple instances.

The move to UCaaS services can provide significant benefits for any organization. In addition, the different underlying architectures allow organizations to appropriately identify the best solution to UC implementation, regardless of size and resources.