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How to Decide between Cloud-Based vs. On-Premises Collaboration

Posted by Phil Birmingham on 7/20/17 10:21 AM

If there was a one-size-fits-all conferencing tool, cloud-based collaboration would never have been developed, or it would have emerged as the only obvious answer. The conversation about cloud vs. on premises collaboration is as lively as ever, which is a clear sign that business toolkits need to be tailored to match an organization’s needs.

Communication and collaboration have also never had as many endpoints as they do today, and most of the technologies involved are multi-use; supporting voice, video, messaging, presence, as well as hundreds of other useful (and sometimes less than useful) applications.

Stalwarts and traditionalists are still holding onto on-premises tools, but cloud fans are equally stubborn about their preferences. So how does one decide?

On-Premises Conferencing and the Mobility Problem

Mobility is arguably the most important issue to consider when it comes to unified communications. The business world is generally putting it high on their priority lists, with 78% of companies having a strategy and budget for unified communication and collaboration.

36% percent are using a managed premises-based application. These are sometimes companies who are risk averse such as banks or law enforcement agencies, and others just do not trust cloud security. This trend demonstrates a degree of widespread ignorance about the security of cloud models.

How Secure is Cloud Conferencing?

The cloud’s clear benefit lies in that it can connect with outside companies and remote workers, but this needn’t create cracks in security. A well-deployed infrastructure keeps all conferencing behind firewalls. Untrusted sources are simply not allowed through the firewall, and encryption takes care of the rest. The 128-bit AES encryption is a security behemoth that would take billions of years to crack artificially, so data is as safe as your architecture.

It has little to do with whether you choose an on-premises or cloud model. In fact, cloud providers are generally much better equipped to managed complex security requirements than the average company.

What Kind of Mobility Does the Cloud Offer?

Remote work is widely used to boost staff productivity and innovation, but until recently, the capacity for employees to collaborate off-site hasn’t received much attention. Most solutions are inelastic, unaffordable, and inconvenient. The cloud, however, is none of these things. It’s highly scalable and often works on a “freemium” basis. Businesses needing global connectivity can gain unlimited, feature-rich integration between devices, even across continents. Remote workers can access everything they have available at their desks from any location.

Businesses who want mobility outside the cloud require web-based applications that keep traffic confined to a network. On-premises meeting interfaces can mimic cloud-based tools via web sharing and VOIP. Virtualized servers are less scalable than the cloud, though, and enterprises must choose their size/capacity upfront.

Best of Both Worlds?

Companies with existing on-premises collaboration and wide area networks can implement a hybrid model to gain bridge ports and virtual meeting rooms that suit their precise and varying requirements, and allow collaboration to scale when needed. There is no need to choose between one or the other. If a complex infrastructure is required, a service provider who can support unique business objectives is needed.

For instance, on-premises equipment can generally support higher frame rates with HD full motion video sharing and recording, while cloud services sometimes limit frame rate for shared content and video conferencing. For this reason, many companies will opt for a hybrid solution to support high performance while still enabling the elasticity that the cloud offers.

Bottom Line

Collaboration is a dynamic, intensely human experience, so it can’t be cast out of a single mold. Solutions should match every budget, need, and business challenge. A trusted partner is thus the only legitimate solution to the cloud versus on premise collaboration question, and a careful needs analysis is a critical part of that, as is developing the business use cases.

Lastly, as with all technologies, adoption is key, or the investment is in vain. Adoption training, whether internal/home grown, or outsourced, should be part of every new technology project to ensure the optimum use and benefit from the investment. 

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Topics: Collaboration, Cloud

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the author

Phil Birmingham

Phil is the Collaboration Practice Director at Annese and leads a team of highly trained and well certified Solutions Architects and Systems Engineers. In this role, he focuses on the quality of customer experiences and team profitability. In his previous life, Phil was a Radar Systems Engineer with a focus on missile fire control systems, and surveillance systems placed along the Arctic circle. He enjoys wood working and fishing in his free time. Phil is based in Albany, NY.

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