How to choose an SMB Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution

Your guide to choosing the best Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution for your small or medium business

The on-premise deployment of Unified Communications (UC) continues to be a source of considerable corporate angst especially for the Small to Medium Business (SMB) sector.

The only alternative is to treat UC as a ubiquitous utility deploying it as a service from Australia’s dominant telecommunications providers or major vendors.

First generation offerings are lacking in support but as major vendors expand their client/server UC into Cloud-delivered versions, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) has become sufficiently attractive in price and performance.

IT research firm Gartner believes UCaaS will be adopted as an adjunct service by large enterprises and as a core service by SMBs before 2015.

To help SMBs choose the best offering and develop a suitable roadmap Computerworld has prepared this special feature profiling the major offerings in the Australian market.

The two most prominent offerings in Australia are the Telstra/Microsoft Office 365 service and the SingTel-Optus-AlphaWest solution which provides a Cisco hosted collaboration service as well as an OfficeApps Portfolio using Google.

What is shaping the UC market in Australia?

Gartner analyst, Geoff Johnson, said UCaaS is about to become a stimulus for overall UC market growth in Asia, especially as major trusted brand name vendors are deploying this service. Johnson said SMBs clearly prefer UCaaS to an on-premise solution because it is easy to use and source.

He said few enterprises have actually thought through a considered UC strategy, plan or road map, and are merely upgrading UC components such as messaging, conferencing or telephony on an ad-hoc basis or when consolidating/virtualising UC into a data centre.

“Sound practices such as proactively determining a standard operating environment (SOE) specification or road map for integrating any disparate communications investments as UC or UCaaS are typically absent,” Johnson said. Despite this poor state of planning the competitive dynamics for UCaaS in Asia is beginning to take shape.

Johnson said UCaaS adoption today is dominated by Microsoft and Cisco and their channel partners. He said IBM Sametime has modest traction as a UCC suite and can be hosted while LotusLive delivers a business, social networking, and collaboration Cloud.

UC infrastructure suppliers Cisco, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, NEC, and Siemens also have their own UCC suites, followed by Mitel, ShoreTel, Aspect, Interactive Intelligence, Aastra, and Digium.

How are the major offerings shaping up?

In Australia Telstra has an exclusive distribution arrangement for Microsoft Office 365 based on longstanding hosting operations. Buyers of Office 365 that have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) can buy directly from the software giant.

However, the rest of the market is obliged to buy through Telstra’s T-Suite portal in bundles at prices at least 23 per cent higher.

“Telstra’s strategy for UCaaS is not as complete as SingTel’s strategy in Singapore, where it sells Google Apps as a Cloud service principally to SMBs,” Johnson said.

“Office 365 is offered by Microsoft from data centres in multiple locations around the world. At this stage, Office 365 delivery in Asia Pacific countries is only from its Singapore and Hong Kong data centres.

“Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Service (HCS) from the Cloud is aligned with the SingTel subsidiary Optus in Australia via its system integration arm Alphawest.”

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Tags unified communicationsUnified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)

More about AastraAlcatel-LucentAlphawestAvayaCiscoDigiumGartnerGoogleIBM AustraliaIBM AustraliaInteractive IntelligenceLucentMicrosoftNECOptusSiemensTelstra CorporationWest

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