Though the cloud market has exploded over the last few years, arming companies with cloud applications for every documented process imaginable, many organizations’ security policies mandate at least some of their data stays on-site. To meet their business objectives while complying with any corporate security policies, these companies are turning to the hybrid cloud. In fact, IDG forecasts that by the end of 2016, more than half (54%) of enterprises will employ a hybrid-cloud unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) model.

Adopting a hybrid-cloud approach is a great option for companies looking to extend investments on existing systems while leveraging the scalability of the cloud. According to a report from West’s Unified Communications Services, the hybrid-cloud strategy resonates well with today’s IT managers. For instance, 32% of IT leaders think a hybrid approach would be the best method if they decided to migrate their telecommunications to the cloud.

While the hybrid cloud is a practical stepping stone towards a cloud-first approach, IT departments must develop a well-thought out plan to reap the benefits. Here are some key considerations for crafting a hybrid-cloud strategy:


Evaluate costs

Cost comparison is a logical first step toward establishing an effective hybrid-cloud environment. While cloud UC systems have lower upfront costs, many have recurring charges billed monthly as a service. As such, it’s crucial to consider total cost of ownership before migrating UC and collaboration solutions to the cloud. In comparison, going with an on-premises UC solution requires a large capital expense up front with additional installation and network integration costs (along with ongoing maintenance and upgrade expenses).


Assess third-party providers

While shopping around for hybrid cloud communications providers, IT departments should spearhead conversations around scalability, security, and uptime. Tech leaders should ask questions such as what type of disaster recovery plan is offered? What support is provided when the local network goes down? What is the process for adding and removing users from the plan? What security controls are in place to safeguard data?

Outside providers’ customer portfolios should also be considered. For instance, how many customers do they have, and what size company do they typically serve? Since the answers to these questions vary depending on provider, organizations need to ensure they identify one that has the bandwidth and experience needed to execute on their short and long-term goals.


Prepare for redundancy costs

An attractive feature of a hybrid-cloud environment is the ability to back up internal applications and business data to the cloud. This benefit ensures a smooth disaster recovery process and business survival if an internal network or hardware failure were to occur. In the event of an outage, network redundancy acts as backup for moving operations onto redundant infrastructure. Though redundancy is recommended, it’s often accompanied by additional costs, so organizations should create a buffer in the budget.


Assess network architecture

Determine if your network architecture is equipped for migration before moving any of your UC and collaboration applications to the cloud. Total number of users, remote workers, and plans for future growth should all be evaluated in advance of a migration. For example, when a company moves to a hosted VoIP phone system, organizations need to evaluate their call volume — specifically what time calls peak — and then build in some extra coverage to plan for any other spikes that may take place. Organizations should work with their providers to ensure they don’t run out of capacity. If your needs do evolve, cloud providers can expand services like SIP trunks to meet your goals. Your network provider may also be able to QoS so that you adjust bandwidth to prioritize mission critical data over less important traffic.


Figure out which data to move to the cloud and which to keep on-premises

The next, and perhaps most tedious task, is for the IT department to determine what data they want (or are required) to host on-premises and what data can live in the cloud. Cloud providers generally spend more time securing their platforms than most organizations can do for on-premises, so it’s time to put to rest the myth that premises-based systems are more secure.


Consider maintenance time and costs

To prevent unexpected expenses, organizations should factor maintenance costs into their budgets when considering a hybrid strategy. For most cloud-based UC solutions, maintenance and upgrades are handled by the hosting company. Since these upgrades can be made remotely, on-site support is usually not needed. For organizations with a smaller IT staff, this can be especially beneficial. At the same time, maintenance and adjustments to on-premises platforms call for on-site support to implement upgrades. Organizations might want to consider hiring contractors to handle extension changes, firmware upgrades, and other upgrades to on-premises systems.


Craft a timeline for migration

Some organizations make the mad rush to the cloud rather than approaching it with a strategic timeline. Hybrid environments often allow for a more phased-out approach, so organizations should meet with their provider to develop a plan that fits their goals and requirements while capitalizing on the company’s onsite resources.

Embracing a hybrid-cloud model can be a challenging yet necessary step towards modernizing your organization’s communications solutions. When all of the factors outlined above are considered, companies can ensure a smooth transition and, more importantly, a successful long-term relationship with their hybrid-cloud environments.


This article was originally posted “7 Considerations For Adopting A Hybrid-Cloud Approach To UC&C” from Cloud Strategy Magazine.