A Misconception About UC

Updated: June 23, 2011

Conferencing is on the rise in a big way, largely as a result of the increasingly distributed nature of work. FlexJobs.com, a telecommuting job site, reports a 400 percent increase in telecommuting positions, ranging from IT to sales across multiple verticals. Thanks to home teleworking technologies and smartphones, fewer and fewer people are working at the office. As the workforce becomes distributed, the tools to communicate and collaborate need to adapt.

There has always been a choice to self-host conferencing infrastructure or to use a service, and both models have proven successful with different benefits. As softphones replace telephones and industry-standard servers replace proprietary hardware, premise equipment vendors have become more aggressive on applications. Some of these offers are quite impressive — tightly integrated into calendaring, email, and transcription servers.

But self-hosting UC is not free or even a trivial cost. Not only are multiple servers, licenses, and skills involved, but capacity must be purchased as well. Unlike Primary Rate Interface (PRI) circuits or analog lines, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks may have little or no recurring costs when unused. But SIP trunks do require quality bandwidth — typically dedicated connections with as much Quality of Service (QoS) provisioning as possible. And because conferencing can take place at anytime, it is incremental capacity that must be factored into the cost equation.

Conversely, a conferencing service requires no incremental infrastructure. It can be used when needed and has zero cost when unused. Most conferencing services are continually upgrading their features and capabilities — recording services, transcription, desktop sharing, on-demand recorded playback, and more — features and upgrades without any administrative time/costs, maintenance contracts, downtime, or mind share.

That's a big part of why the cloud has become a central part of so many technology conversations. In telecom, external conferencing services are not new, but the notion of being able to move critical computing applications into the cloud is revolutionary. Many organizations are finding this new choice highly compatible with internal priorities, such as serving a geographically distributed base, lowering costs, and reducing complexities.

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