Jerry DotsonOctober 10, 2019

Choosing the Optimal Path to Cloud for Unified Communications

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In this Cloud Smart era, federal managers no longer ask if the cloud is right for them, but rather, “How do we get there?” That question takes on even greater importance for communications solutions, which are integral components of organizations’ information technology and business operations.

Moving communications to the cloud can be a complex undertaking because these solutions comprise a host of data and voice functions, end-to-end infrastructure, various systems, as well as multiple vendors and teams. Cloud migration paves the way for organizations to integrate previously siloed enterprise communication functions-such as instant messaging; presence information; mobility features; audio, web and video conferencing; voice (including IP telephony), desktop sharing, data sharing and more applications-into a unified communications (UC) platform that can be delivered as a service via the cloud. With unified communications-as a-service (UCaaS), the government workforce can connect to powerful voice, messaging, and collaboration tools at any time, from anywhere, on any device.

However, such a complex and diverse set of communications and IT technologies and capabilities simply cannot be lifted and shifted into cloud infrastructures. The duration and complexity of planning and training, the requirement to forklift and replace hardware and software components, the immediacy of change for the user community, and the risk of downtime or failure due to unanticipated anomalies combine to render the lift and shift approach untenable.

As Lauren Nelson, a principal analyst with Forrester, noted in a FedTech magazine article, “Everybody’s ‘ready’ for the cloud, but the real question is, ‘How prepared are you?’” Most cloud experts advise organizations to conduct a preparedness assessment to assess an agency’s existing environment to set goals, identify potential stumbling blocks and determine which resources to move first.

Failures can frequently occur, especially if a cloud transition team think that they can move quickly to the cloud. A cloud expert in the same article cited an example in which an organization set out to migrate 400 workloads in 18 months, but only ended up completing five of those migrations. Some workloads, some applications and systems are easier to move than others.

A gradual transition to cloud makes far more sense a lift and shift. To be successful, agencies must invest in hybrid integration and facilitate connections between legacy applications and new cloud applications. A hybrid approach that provides integration between on-premise systems and cloud architectures enables agencies to leverage their legacy communications solutions to the maximum possible extent and better control their UC and cloud migration journeys. With this approach, agencies move communications systems and components to the cloud whenever they are ready based on their needs, comfort, and budget. This option also preserves the end-user experience because legacy features and interfaces remain in place initially, then are replaced over time by new ones.

For example, an organization with an existing communications infrastructure could initiate its transition by redirecting its media gateway from the on-premises core to the cloud – allowing it to dip its toes in the water by moving a less-critical function like voice mail to the cloud first, with others to follow at the appropriate time. As a result, agencies can more rapidly begin realizing the advantages of cloud, such as automation and security upgrades, without incurring the protracted time, risk, and expense associated with the hard cut-over to the cloud.

Strengthening Security

Information and data protection are major concerns for agencies moving to the cloud. The federal government’s Cloud Smart strategy focuses on three inter-related areas to drive cloud adoption – security, procurement, and the workforce. From a security perspective, Cloud Smart’s goal is to modernize security policies to focus on risk-based decision-making, automation, and moving protections closer to data. A key program to help agencies move closer to these objectives is the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP).

FedRAMP government-certified, cloud-based unified communications solutions are designed for federal agencies and contractors who need to meet tight security requirements and compliance regulations. FedRAMP provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. Agencies looking to leverage the efficiencies of the cloud can now do so with UCaaS services tailored to meet unique government sector security requirements.

Avaya Cloud Unified Communications solutions are FedRAMP-certified, which ensures agency managers that the underlying cloud infrastructure meets stringent government compliance and security requirements. Moreover, Avaya Cloud Unified Communications solutions enable agencies to select the hybrid approach because they seamlessly support both new and legacy technology.

Given the cloud mandate, it’s tempting for agencies to see this time as a “race” to the cloud. If that’s the case, they should see it not as a sprint but as a marathon. Heavy lift and shift of communications solutions rarely work out well. They typically cause pain that pushes the finish line further away. Instead, consider adopting a hybrid strategy with a gradual transition to cloud and UC that puts control in the agency’s hands, not the vendor’s hands. Go at the pace you need, and you have a better chance of crossing the finish line.

Choosing the Optimal Path to Cloud for Unified Communications

Jerry Dotson

Jerry Dotson is the Vice President for Avaya Public Sector. Dotson oversees the design and implementation of communication services to support the various operations of DoD, Civilian, Intel, and SLED  customers.

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