by Larry Mead, Kate Kompelien and Kurt Schroeder
By now, most organizations have explored the option of moving some applications to the Cloud.
Generally recognized benefits include:
- Increased flexibility
- Faster deployment time
- Minimal upfront capital expense
- Reduced IT requirements
CaaS (Communications as a Service) is the hosted offerring from Interactive Intelligence and Avtex. CaaS offers the same award-winning Customer Interaction Center (CIC)platform and features but in a hosted model, and there are 3 configurations to choose from.
Remote Control VoIP - In this configuration, the trunking, whether T1/PRI or SIP, is terminated in the CaaS Data Center. If you want to your relationship and service with existing carriers, your carrier can work with Avtex and Interactive Intelligence to bring their circuits into the CaaS Data Center. Or, you can order new service through Interactive Intelligence. This option is the least amount of hassle if you are already ordering new circuits.
With Remote Control VoIP, your premise requirements are minimal and in some cases may only consist of IP handets and a small analog gateway for 911 calls that go directly over local analog lines.
Local Control VoIP - In this popular configuration, you maintain premise trunking to the PSTN, which may be existing or new. Typically new PSTN gateways will be deployed at your location to manage the communication between the PSTN and CaaS platform. One or more Media and SIP Proxy Servers will be deployed to keep voice traffic on-premise, whether at a single office or across your WAN to other company locations. The benefit is less disruption to your existing services, and fewer telecom-service costs to consider. Additionally, less bandwidth is needed between your main office or data center(s) and the CaaS Data Center, because it is only supporting data traffic.
The premise Media and SIP Proxy server also allow you to make outbound calls during a WAN outage, and also distribute inbound calls to local users, albeit with less intelligence than is applied when the CIC application server is available.
The Local Control model provides you with the benefits of hosted/managed application services while maintaining control of your telephony, whether to the PSTN or other PBX system, and reducing MPLS costs. You have more flexibility and control over connectivity to other systems and remote users / telecommuters. Finally, an advantage over many competing services is that you maintain control and management of your own data - such as call recordings and database records. Compliance standards such as PCI and HIPAA may make it illegal to store sensitive customer data off-site.
Remote Control TDM - This is the easiest point-of-entry to hosted CIC contact center functionality and can be used as a part of a phased approach. Whether T1/PRI or SIP trunks are brought into the CaaS data center, your users make and receive calls over TDM lines to the PSTN. Calls are made out to agents on your corporate PBX or home phones. So one example is an organization that wants to get started with CaaS while continuing to use their existing PBX handsets, then migrate to VoIP later. Another example is an organization with many telecommuters that will use their home phone service to make and receive calls through the system.
Premise vs. Hosted - So how to do you decide? Since Interactive Intelligence offers the hybrid Local Control model, and the option to migrate your hosted configuration to a premise solution later (key differentiator), regardless of which deployment model, the choice is not as easy as with many competing services.
These would be some of my considerations:
- Obviously cost is important. Accumulated monthly service fees over the term of the hosted contract, compared to the purchase and maintenance costs associated with an all-premise solution. Keep in mind all of your internal costs associated with maintaining a premise system, and any time or dollar savings that may be harder to quantify, because the vendor service-fees for any hosted product will eventually exceed the costs of an outright purchase. A comparison should be made on as many levels as possible.
- Customization - Some advanced custom applications or system integrations are not a fit for a hosted solution where the emphasis is on rapid deployment, easy maintenance, and efficient support that is improved by standardization across customers' systems.
- Make a list of all required contact center functionality and determine if anything is available on-premise but not in the cloud. With CaaS, the number of features and applications available has grown over time, and in some cases if a feature is not yet available in CaaS, it will be in the future.
- Security compliance - While the CaaS Local Control model addresses many concerns, it is still important to look at organizational security and third-party compliance requirements - Identify all concerns and confirm that they can be met by a hosted solution.
- Control - Some organizations still prefer to maintain control over all aspects of their systems, and are willing to invest the time and resources needed to host services in the secure, highly-available corporate data center with the IT staff on hand to maintain it. Avtex can help in this regard with our Managed Services offerring. You can host the devices, but we can monitor and maintain them for you.