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Weighing Your Cloud Computing Choices

shutterstock_107141402Cloud computing continues to gain attention and momentum as companies learn about and experience the benefits of Internet-based solutions. The use of cloud solutions is increasing exponentially while traditional data center computing models are declining for the first time.

Virtualization via cloud computing creates business efficiencies, adds flexibility, increases server capacity, and provides companies with the benefits of distributed data. The positives of the cloud are universal and the cloud computing market has evolved to support four primary models for cloud deployments. Each model has its own benefits and drawbacks that must be weighed when making a cloud choice.

Keep It In-House

The idea of “the cloud” gives rise to images of equipment housed and data stored in some vague place. In reality, the cloud can reside within the physical confines of a company’s premises or at a private data center.

Private cloud solutions allow companies to provide the benefits of the cloud to employees while maintaining tight control over the network equipment and applications available to them. Companies with the resources to deploy the necessary equipment and maintain it over the life of the network may gravitate toward this option, especially if in-house control of assets is a primary concern.

Third-Party Options

Some companies, particularly smaller organizations or companies that only need the cloud for a limited time, may not have the resources or time to deploy and maintain an in-house private cloud network. For these companies, the ability to flip a switch and activate cloud services without the startup cost and work is attractive.

Public cloud offerings hosted and maintained by a third-party provider might be an ideal choice for this segment. The provider services many end users with the same resources, thereby aggregating the costs among those users and allowing each to pay only for what they need, when they need it.

The Best of Both Worlds

Many companies want the simplicity, flexibility, and scalability offered by public cloud solutions, but they are hesitant to cede such a high level of control to a third party. Enter the hybrid solution, which gives companies the benefits of both models.

Using a hybrid approach, a company can still tap the resources and benefits built into the public cloud model while retaining some control within the company. This model allows a company to adjust the network to meet its changing needs. Companies can also use a hybrid approach to offload traffic during peak usage on the private network temporarily to the public cloud.

Community Cloud

A relatively new concept, the community cloud model allows equipment to be hosted either privately or publicly. Companies may use this model to test public-cloud products and features. Within this model, servers do not have to be dedicated to specific users, but can be logically segmented among several end users while maintaining the security of a dedicated environment.

Making the Choice

Choosing the right model will depend on each company’s business environment and needs as well as the type of data that will be hosted on the network. A careful evaluation of the company’s needs and how each cloud model might fulfill those needs is crucial when deciding how to deploy cloud services.

VoIP Deployment Models: Which One Makes the Most Sense for Your Company?

shutterstock_289575947The ability to communicate is the lifeblood of most companies and advances in technology, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), are transforming the way communications take place in the business world.

Employees must have the ability to communicate with each other and, more importantly, with clients and customers. In the not-too-distant past, most employees had a wired telephone at their desk that connected to private branch exchange (PBX) equipment. As technology has evolved, Internet-based solutions like VoIP have begun to take the place of traditional PBXs.

VoIP provides a variety of benefits that help businesses be more efficient and give employees more advanced communications tools. VoIP solutions often provide the same critical features that PBXs provided, but add flexibility and the ability to incorporate a variety of devices.

Deployment Models

VoIP can be deployed within a company via two primary models.

A company that wishes to retain a high level of control over the network and can afford to maintain it both in terms of cost and personnel may opt for an on-premises VoIP solution. This model calls for servers and local area network (LAN) equipment to be hosted on-site.

Companies looking for a more turnkey VoIP model that requires little to no maintenance on-site may choose a hosted VoIP solution. In this scenario, the network equipment is hosted off-site and maintenance is handled by a third-party provider. Service usually can be activated quickly and the number of connections that can be made to the network is flexible.

Each model offers its own benefits and tradeoffs for companies to consider when making the choice to transition to a VoIP solution.

Cost Tradeoffs

Both VoIP models involve costs. On-premises deployments typically require a company to make an upfront investment in equipment. In addition, the company is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the network and equipment, which may include both capital costs as well as investment in personnel who can service the network.

A hosted model, on the other hand, does not require much of an upfront investment, but usually requires companies to pay a recurring fee for the service as well as fees for maintenance of the network equipment by the provider.

Security Considerations

Protecting company data and information is critical for any business. When deploying a new network, either on-site or via a host provider, how the network will be secured is a primary concern. The level of security and how it will be delivered may be a differentiating factor when network deployment decisions are being made.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that data stored on network equipment housed on-site is more secure because it travels over fewer connections that could potentially cause a compromise. However, that line of thinking can sometimes lead to complacency and a higher potential for a security breach, as a result.

A reputable hosted provider should place a high priority on security and will work hard to stay up-to-date on the latest security threats and protections. While data may have to travel more extensively on a hosted network, the provider’s reputation and business survival depends on keeping its clients’ data secure.

The Decision

A large company that has the manpower and capital resources may decide an on-premises deployment fits its business model the best. A hosted solution might appeal to smaller companies that may be resource constrained and need flexibility.

There is no inherent right or wrong choice for a VoIP deployment model. The decision will come down to which model makes the most sense for the specific company’s needs.