What is “Future-Proofing” in UC? Why is It Important?
Technology continues to move forward at a truly astounding pace. The fastest processers produced today will likely be discarded in favor of entirely new technologies. Someday monitors may be replaced with implanted chips that interact directly with our brains. Who knows!
It may seem strange to tout an IT solution as “future proof” in this sort of environment, but several factors in the Unified Communications (UC) industry make the phrase both relevant and a very important consideration.
1. The Lifespan and Exclusivity of UC Systems
For decades, UC systems have been built around substantial on-premises installs: expensive banks of server hardware, networks of desk phones, and software to tie everything together.
Because UC solutions are typically provided by hardware corporations who want to sell organizations a single system using their servers, their phones, and their software, there’s not much incentive for them to allow these pieces to talk to components from competitors. Instead vendors take an “all or nothing,” “our way or the highway” style approach.
2. What to Do When an Aging System Breaks
When a component of a communications system fails, becomes obsolete, or reaches end of life (the manufacturer stops providing support and system updates, leaving it vulnerable to breaches and breakdowns), organizations can be left with a narrow set of options:
- They can try to limp along by replacing a no-longer produced component (like a desk phone) with used pieces from the secondary market. As the system ages this becomes more and more expensive and risky as other parts break down and become obsolete.
- They can reach out to the provider to see if they produce a replacement component that will work with the rest of their system.
- They can completely replace the system with either a new version from the same vendor or a competitor. This is called a “rip and replace,” and as you’d expect, the price tag is massive.
3. The Driving Philosophy Behind a Rip & Replace
Given that other components of the system are aging at the same rate as the piece that has to be thrown out, it may well make sense to do a rip & replace, despite the cost. Otherwise an organization’s IT department may be overwhelmed trying to patch holes as they appear in the old system.
Limping along with a dying solution can deliver false economy. Critical communications may fall through, stress on staff can skyrocket, and an organization may end up paying so much in poor efficiency, repair costs, and lost business that in the long run a R&R might have actually saved money.
The good news is that there are solutions that can prevent these problems without a full R&R, extending the life of current infrastructure investments. This is part of what we mean when we talk about “future proofing” UC.
4. Collateral Damage From a Rip & Replace or End of Life Foundational Software
Because everything in UC is so interconnected, a rip & replace solution can reach beyond a single vendor’s hardware to affect other systems within the infrastructure. When organizations change their phone systems, they may have to throw out additional, perfectly good components, simply because they can’t talk to the replacement hardware.
This can happen from below as well, when supporting software, like a server’s operating system, reaches end of life. For example, organizations using Nortel’s CS1000 system were forced to come up with an alternate solution to its CallPilot messaging platform when Microsoft Windows Server 2003 reached end of support. Whether they wanted to get rid of CallPilot was immaterial, because it needed Windows Server 2003 to run. These organizations had to either drop it or keep the out of date OS in place, leaving key systems open to cyber-attacks or emerging critical bugs that would never be fixed.
5. The Inexorable March to the Cloud
The Cloud is such a major part of consumers’ lives at this point that it seems odd to call it an “emerging technology,” but when it comes to enterprise-class communications solutions, it’s still developing.
Cloud UC systems exist, and they can offer cost savings, but in many cases their feature sets lag far behind what enterprise organizations are accustomed to getting from on-site systems. Putting communications in the Cloud can also conflict with organizations’ data policies in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, government, finance, and education. They want to keep voicemail on-site where they have direct control over its security.
This puts such organizations in a tricky situation when it comes time for system upgrades. They know the Cloud isn’t ready for them yet, but everyone agrees the Cloud is where UC’s future is. The question is: do they install the on-premises solution they need now, at the risk of having to throw it away later?
6. In UC, “Future-proofing” Means Interoperability
Being able to communicate with other communications systems seems obvious, but because of the “walled garden” approach most hardware producers utilize, it can be remarkably rare in today’s UC environment.
A third-party UC solutions suite that doesn’t lock offices into specific hardware vendors can save organizations tremendous amounts of money and hassle in the future, especially if that suite has a healthy development & update program that ensures the latest software is available. If your UC system doesn’t care what brand your phones are, that means you can replace those phones at any time without losing essential features like Unified Messaging. If your UC system will work with on-premises PBXs, but just as happily connect to Cloud services, it’s one less thing to replace as the landscape shifts.
A truly interoperable solution means organizations maintain the freedom to make the best decisions for their budgets and operational needs, without worrying about expensive collateral damage to interdependent systems.
The XM Connect UC Solution – Industry Leading, Vendor Agnostic Interoperability
Whether you’re running on-premises, Cloud, or hybrid communications systems, XM Connect will add powerful Unified Communications features to your existing infrastructure, such as Unified Messaging, speech-enabled automated attendant, IVR, and more. It works around emerging concerns, such as Microsoft’s changes to Exchange Unified Messaging, and can interconnect up to ten vendors’ PBXs within a single system.
Reach out to our team to learn more about what this solution can do for you, how it can grow with your needs, and how it protects your options to keep your organization nimble into the future.