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Coexistence & Migration

Clouducation Episode #2

Coexistence & Migration

Coexistence & Migration

I know most people don’t want to hear it, but is it time to start thinking about removing legacy infrastructure and beginning the journey to rolling out a new telephony solution?  The old adage of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ might no longer fit with the rapid pace of change.   Perhaps you have already started the process of modernizing the work place and the voice communication and collaboration aspects that tag along.  Either way change is inevitable and this is really where a decision should be made of “how” that modernization should occur – not if.

In the old days, when moving from one PBX to another, the theory was much more of a “rip and replace” mentality where the users would leave work on Friday, then come back Monday morning to a new phone on their desk with a little cheat sheet on any new buttons or features that the new PBX has to offer.  But is this really the best way to make this type of change?  Is it fair to the users to be “forced” to immediately adopt the new platform?  Well, in many opinions, it is no longer the right way to go about this process and options now existing to smooth out this process.

Instead, companies are starting the concept of “migrating” to the new platform with some level of “coexistence” with the old and the new.  Let’s dive into a couple of things to keep in mind during this process as when done right, it is great but when done wrong…ouch…

A great example is in a larger organization, where many offices may exist in different geographical locations, and doing a complete cutover in a couple of days is usually impossible.  The IT teams do not have the manpower to make all the changes without a negative impact on the users – especially while focusing efforts to ensure successful deployment and functionality along the way.  This is where coexistence is key!

Coexistence allows IT managers to have both telephony platforms up and running, while meticulously identifying users and groups to migrate at a much more reasonable pace.  Users in one office can start the migration to the new platform, adopt the new technology, and continue working without interference.  At the same time, users in other offices will see no change in their daily activities, as they will continue to use the existing telephony infrastructure until they are selected and ready to migrate.

Now that is all well and good, but what about the IT department?  Having to manage two telephony environments, especially in cases where administrators may only have knowledge of one or the other but not both, can become very challenging.  This also could pose issues with the ability to manage and enforce dial plans to provide a similar experience across both platforms.  Many things to think about while beginning the journey but things that industry experts are able to assist with and reduce the pains that could come up along the way…

No need to despair and fret over the choices – there are solutions that can help in both scenarios.

We plan to cover all of the above (and much more) on our upcoming “Cloud”ucation Episode #2 – Coexistence & Migration, so please do join us to hear it from the experts.  If you have not already signed up, please do so at the following link: http://online.audiocodes.com/clouducation

CloudUcation

CloudUcation

Clouducation Episode #1

Devices and Endpoints

CloudUcation

In today’s fast paced and ever changing world, companies are quite often looking to the latest and greatest technology to get the elusive competitive edge.  This is true from the flashy ‘front door’ of their website / mobile app to the more pedestrian, but equally critical, voice infrastructure especially when deploying Skype for Business.  The latest in voice technology allows for users to ubiquitously connect to others using virtually any piece of technology they can get their hands on.  This often includes their PC, iPad, Surface, mobile phone, or tin can and string – it should not matter (except for that last one which is a stretch!).  Well, at least that what users want to think…

Allowing users to make their own unfettered decisions about what device to use is great in theory, right up until the point where they continually have quality issues and turn their attention to blaming the back end infrastructure, rather than realizing it is the device or connection they are on that is the culprit.  At the same time, it is important to realize that users are people, and for people their device choices are personal.

So how do organizations overcome this challenge?  Well, first and foremost is to properly train their users on how to utilize SfB properly.  Secondly, and arguable more important, is to provide the appropriate devices for the users to utilize at all times to ensure they have the best possible chance for a successful experience.  This is where it is extremely important to provide users with a couple of options, including certified IP phones and headsets.

So what are the key things to consider when placing an IPP on a user’s desk?  Let’s take a quick look at some of those topics briefly below, before we dive much deeper during Episode #1 of the “Cloud”ucation series:

  1. Connectivity – When it comes to IP phones, making sure the user always has a “constant” connection readily available at all times helps to alleviate those times where your PC has conveniently decided to install updates and require a reboot.  It seems like a small inconvenience, but we have all been there!!
  2. Ease of use – IP phones can also help to bridge the gap from user’s past experiences on other voice platforms, with the new ways SfB has to offer for communicating.  Why would anyone want to “relearn” how to use a phone?  It is a silly concept for sure and great options are available to alleviant this concern.
  3. Manageability – This might not be something the users think of, but who wouldn’t want to be on the latest software load and be able to report all statistics back to the IT manager automatically?  We have all been there as well, having a bad call experience, and calling the IT folks to get the old “send me more information” response.  Users should not have to concern themselves with this type of stuff, and that’s why the endpoints need to be the eyes and ears of IT.

Pretty interesting stuff to consider, especially in the BYOD world we live in!

On top of that, there is an interesting new term that I have just learned of from Mauro Caule over at Jabra called a “Confetti day”.  Think of it this way, we all work in different places and spaces, but how do we keep ourselves “on task” with the increasing number of distractions we have around us?  Mauro is going to touch on how headsets can help mitigate a lot of those distractions and keep users on task no matter what is going on around them (except the NFL playoffs, who can work during that?!?!).

Moving your users to the cloud

You have made the decision to migrate to the cloud, now what?

AudioCodes User Pack Management Pack 365 helps move your users to the cloud

Moving your users to the cloud

In today’s age of cloud communications – driven in large part by the attractiveness of Microsoft’s Cloud PBX – the pull to move to the cloud is strong. Organizations large and small are spending significant time, energy, and money to determine if and how cloud fits into their communications strategy. Though not quite to the level of agony, it certainly isn’t a straightforward decision process with many things to consider, pro’s here and con’s there. I will save that discussion for another day and assume you have already made the decision to start your migration to the cloud. So, what’s next?

This is a question I get asked on a surprisingly frequent basis. Many companies see the decision to move to the cloud as the most difficult in the overall process. Unfortunately, this is not always the case – taking that first step, moving that first group of users, often creates a challenge – unknown complexities, hidden challenges, user pushback, lack of required skills, and just being overwhelmed at the whole idea.  I will focus the remainder of the discussion around the ‘lack of skills required’ challenge as it tends to be one of the key roadblocks to success during the actual migration process.

I have seen many organizations struggle to manage users by leveraging a combination of PowerShell scripts, admin portals and other point tools to set policies and migrate users. It’s not that these methods don’t work – they can, it is more related to depth of skillset required, disparity of interface, and lack of automation. PowerShell itself is an amazingly powerful utility – but one that requires a fair amount of effort to master. Imagine turning over the migration and day to day user management via PowerShell to your helpdesk. Not often a recipe for success.

If only there was a solution in the market that would provide ‘one click’ simplicity to take current users and get them into the cloud, enable the right policies, and automate much of the day to day? Spoiler alert, AudioCodes new User Management Pack 365 – born from the CloudBond 365 solution – is that solution.

By consolidating your various ‘forests’ across prem and cloud into a consolidated web UI, UMP365 provides a single interface to complete the migration and subsequent full user lifecycle and identify management. Hybrid Cloud Simplicity.

Over the past several years, the ‘brains’ for UMP365 has been finely tuned by powering the user management capabilities built into CloudBond 365 – the industry leading all-in-one hybrid solution for Skype for Business. Realizing the need to help companies take that next step no matter their current Microsoft Lync or Microsoft Skype for Business deployment, the solution was extracted and packaged as standalone software solution.

There is little doubt the cloud is here to stay and the need to migrate is only a matter of time. Instead of leaving it to chance and introducing risk into the project, take advantage of the solution designed to make this effort simple.

You can now confidently answer the question “What’s Next” with AudioCodes User Management Pack 365.

To learn more about AudioCodes User Management Pack 365, http://www.audiocodes.com/products/user-management-pack-365:

Come visit us at Microsoft Ignite 2016, September 26-30 in Atlanta, Georgia, at Booth #409.

Want to learn more about our Skype for Business solutions? Click here to request a meeting with our experts at the show.

Unable to attend Ignite but interested in speaking with us? Click here or visit our website or contact your local AudioCodes representative.

UC Innovation Unleashed

Microsoft WPC Toronto

Done with WPC and Getting Ready for Ignite 2016

Getting ready for Ignite at Atlanta soon, and I can tell you, we have some more innovation up our sleeve.  Stay tuned, we will be announcing some cool stuff before Ignite.

Once again, this year I had the privilege of attending Microsoft’s World Partner Conference in Toronto, Canada. Microsoft’s premier partner event generates much anticipation among its channel and technology partners who come in their droves to learn about the latest developments in Microsoft’s technology and products, as well as to network with existing and potential business partners.

Microsoft WPC Toronto

So it came as no surprise that this year was no exception.  Boy, oh boy, it was a busy event!
I had back-to-back meetings with lots of system integrators and service providers who are actively promoting on-premises implementations of Microsoft Skype for Business.  All of them are also starting to align with Microsoft on Cloud PBX as part of Office 365.

… everyone seems convinced about the technological and financial benefits of cloud communications, but there is reluctance to adopt all at once

One recurring theme that came up in conversations with the partners was that pretty much everyone seems convinced about the technological and financial benefits of cloud communications, in general, and Microsoft’s cloud offering including Office 365 and Cloud PBX. At the same time, there is an apparent reluctance by some customers to fully adopt cloud-based communications solution at once. And while many, if not most, customers are planning to take their communications infrastructure completely off premises at some point in the future, relatively few have actually made the move so far with most opting for a hybrid implementation.

So what is deterring these companies from adopting a full cloud solution? Some make the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” argument while others are worried about disrupting users’ working habits. Others simply don’t feel comfortable with handing over control of their communications systems to a third party.

I believe in taking the plunge when it comes to disruptive, innovative technologies that will bring business benefits in the longer term. Of course, these changes can’t be taken lightly, which is why companies need a robust migration strategy and the technological tools to make the migration a success.

…for standalone, on-prem solution or in hybrid (on-prem/cloud) mode we offer the CloudBond 365 all-in-one UC appliance.

…for customers who do not require some users to be kept on premises, our Cloud Connector Edition Appliance delivers voice connectivity

Here at AudioCodes, we have been putting our minds to solving these issues of migration to cloud services for quite some time now, especially when it comes to Microsoft UC environments. For companies wanting a simple and rapid deployment of Skype for Business as a standalone, on-prem solution or in hybrid (on-prem/cloud) mode we offer the CloudBond 365 all-in-one UC appliance. In addition, for customers who do not require some users to be kept on premises, our Cloud Connector Edition Appliance delivers flexible on-prem voice connectivity for the Microsoft Cloud PBX users.

What makes these solutions particularly interesting is that both CloudBond 365 and the CCE appliance run on the same hardware platform so that when a company has completed its migration to Cloud PBX, the CloudBond 365 appliance can be converted to a CCE Appliance via a simple software update. We believe that the simplicity of these solutions, along with the fact that they are based on our Microsoft-certified SBC and gateway platforms, should help putting concerned IT managers’ minds at rest. They allow companies to control the pace of their cloud migration without compromising on functionality or efficiency.

CloudBond 365 appliance can be converted to a CCE Appliance via a simple software update.

Some of the partners asked me which path I recommend:  Go with CloudBond 365 for hybrid deployment, or go with CCE along with Cloud PBX?  My answer always is that we enable our partners and customers to choose the path that’s right for them.

When a customer doesn’t feel comfortable going all-in with the Cloud PBX proposition, I think that rolling with CloudBond 365 makes a lot of sense. In certain cases, the feature set that the customer wants is still not available on Cloud PBX.  Stalling the decision gives Cisco the opportunity to revisit the customers as part of a data network refresh, and offer a bundled offering to get them to stay with CUCM.  Getting the train out of the station and starting the Microsoft UC experience rolling quickly is the right choice and is implemented with our CloudBond 365.

Getting ready for Ignite at Atlanta soon, and I can tell you, we have some more innovation up our sleeve.  Stay tuned, we will be announcing some cool stuff before Ignite. Make sure you don’t miss any of our latest news and announcements by following us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Come visit us at Microsoft Ignite 2016, September 26-30 in Atlanta, Georgia, at Booth #409.

Want to learn more about our Skype for Business solutions? Click here to request a meeting with our experts at the show.

Unable to attend Ignite but interested in speaking with us? Click here or visit our website or contact your local AudioCodes representative.

UC Innovation Unleashed

Migrating to Skype for Business Cloud PBX Microsoft Ovum AudioCodes

Migrating to Skype for Business Cloud PBX: Play by Play Analysis

A Microsoft, Ovum and AudioCodes Joint Webinar

Microsoft Ovum AudioCodes Webinar

I have been accused of being a crazy sports fan. And I’m guilty. We may be in the midst of the Major League Baseball season, but American football is just around the corner. So when we discussed with our friends at Microsoft and Ovum doing a webinar on the adoption of Skype for Business Cloud PBX in an ESPN Sports Center-like setting, I was really excited!

Skype for Business adoption has been amazing, and we at AudioCodes, have been right in the thick of it with our One Voice for Skype for Business solution which includes among other things, CloudBond 365, Skype for Business Cloud Connector Edition appliance and our 400 series IP Phones. We understand that it is going to take a sustained drive approach to ensure success, to borrow one football term, as there are migration issues at work here, particularly to the cloud. There will also be a need to change plans when the unexpected happens, as with a Quarterback’s audible play calling at the line of scrimmage to borrow another.

Likened to football plays, we aim to analyze Skype for Business adoption together with experts from Microsoft, AudioCodes and Ovum Research in what promises to be a unique-style webinar on the subject on June 14, 2016 at 11:00 am EDT.

Register Here

Here is a quick summary of what to expect:

  • The Pre-game Analysis: Skype for Business Cloud PBX industry adoption trends
  • The Sustained Drive: Living with BYOSIP, interoperability, migration and co-existence issues
  • The Audible – Adapting to Requirements: The case for a hybrid deployment and maintaining local PSTN connectivity
  • The End Around: Getting past resistance when introducing a new UC experience
  • The Two Minute Drill: Getting the deployment right calmly and quickly while under pressure
  • The Post Game Analysis: Final thoughts

Guest Commentators: 

Jamie Stark

 

 

 

Jamie Stark, Senior Product Marketing Manager
Microsoft

Brian Riggs

 

 

 

Brian Riggs, Principal Analyst
Ovum

Mor Hezi

 

 

 

Mor Hezi, VP, Business Development
AudioCodes

Register Here

 

Skype for Business in the Cloud

Migrating to Skype for Business Cloud PBX the Smart Way

Using a Hybrid Solution Offers the Best of the On-Premises and Cloud-based Worlds

Skype for Business in the Cloud 

Moving towards Cloud PBX

The rapid rise of Microsoft’s Skype for Business is a strong incentive for enterprises to consider deploying the popular Unified Communications suite. The Company’s most recent announcements regarding their on-line version and the replacement of on-premises based PBX with Cloud PBX are also compelling in a period in which the trend to the Cloud is almost universal. However, despite the technical and business advantages of Skype for Business UC, there are many reasons why organizations might want to hold on to a legacy voice system on a temporary or permanent basis. Reasons vary and can range from the need to maintain specialized functionality such as contact centers or alarm systems to investment protection for legacy equipment, to the current functionality gap between the on-premises and cloud-based offerings and even objective availability and regulatory requirements which may mean that Skype for Business Online may not be available at various locations around the world for the foreseeable future.

Planning the Migration to the Cloud

As such, in almost any scenario in the coming years, most enterprises will likely be implementing a migration strategy from a legacy TDM or IP-based PBX system to Microsoft UC, as for all but the smallest of organizations, a full switchover is simply not practical. A smart approach would be to gradually migrate workers who can benefit from the cloud today while keeping other workers who need the full feature set or have other reasons requiring on-premises PSTN connectivity as described above, on the local Skype for Business Server in the near term.

Perhaps the most important thing an enterprise should do in this regard is to develop a voice migration strategy. Such a strategy would compose of several stages including assessing corporate requirements (typically in the headquarters), building an infrastructure that meets those requirements, migrating relevant users to the cloud and finally, expanding that migration by assessing the needs of branch offices, building a corresponding infrastructure and migrating branch users to the cloud as required. By deploying a hybrid system such as AudioCodes’ CloudBond 365, enterprises can benefit from the essential functionality required to ensure a smooth migration to Skype for Business enterprise voice. This can include:

  • Hybrid and pure SBCs which ensure full interoperability between Skype for Business and legacy systems
  • Active Directory integration which enables administrators to control how calls are routed during the migration
  • SBC provided secured SIP trunking connectivity for after the migration is completed

Migrating Smart with a Hybrid System

A deployment of Skype for Business which mixes on-line and on-premises functionality will lay the foundation for a smooth transition to the full cloud solution down the line. The best way to protect the enterprise’s current investments, ensure a full enterprise voice feature set, guarantee that all company branches around the world are serviced and comply with regulations, is with a hybrid solution which offers the best of both worlds and allows the benefits of Unified Communications today with a secure and smooth migration to voice in the cloud when the time is right in the future.

To learn more about how to migrate to Cloud PBX, read AudioCodes’s Application Note: Getting the Cloud Right: A Practical Guide: Migrating users to Cloud PBX with AudioCodes CloudBond™ 365

Make sure to visit us at UC Expo on April 19-20 in London, UK stand #K1016!

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

Today, Tomorrow, and In-Between: Skype for Business Observations with Fortune 50 companies

On my flight back to Israel from Enterprise Connect 2016 at Orlando, I decided to recap my top 3 observations about Skype for Business from spending time with some of our largest customers.  During the show, I sat down with one of the world’s largest energy companies, one of the biggest pharma producers, and one huge food maker that feeds us. They all deploy Lync/SfB and they all shared the following views.

AudioCodes at Enterprise Connect 2016

A vision is not enough

“Yeah, I get what Microsoft is trying to do with CloudPBX, but…” was a common amongst them.  Seems the “Everything Cloud” vision is compelling when left described by 2 words only.  Numerous caveats are observed:

  • How do I gradually migrate there? Because overnight replacement of a great number of PBX’s serving x0000s of users is clearly not an option.
  • Do I really want to relinquish control of all my users to a Front-End server that is hosted by Microsoft? I understand Microsoft is racing Google and wants as many Enterprise users on their cloud as possible, but is that good for my company, or just for Microsoft? Can I customize to preserve my competitive enterprise edge?

Show me the money savings

Microsoft seems to have correctly identified that the heavy monthly costs of conferencing services is something these enterprises love to cut.  Offering simple, hop on/off services right within SfB, with intuitive integration into Outlook is clearly a compelling proposition.  However, if I am going to send all my global voice traffic to the cloud for conferencing, I must guarantee excellent voice quality and experience.  Getting this done requires costly MPLS infrastructure.  How do I calculate the actual cost or savings by moving to the cloud?  Overall, it seems Microsoft still hasn’t convinced these customers that the TCO through the cloud offering and on a global level, is a favorable one.

Old habits are hard to break

A clean, wire-free workspace with voice, video and chat integration, and slick “click to everything”.  Nirvana!

There are a few “Buts”…

Not all of the employees easily say goodbye to their phones and switch over to headsets.  Nor are they proving responsible to own a small and expensive wireless ear piece, without losing or taking it out of their pants before washing. The bigger “over the head” headsets annoy some of the users, and it seems most “Born before 1980” are used to transferring a call by a push of a button, and hate reaching out to their computer for that.  Last, but not least, it seems a great number of the international markets associate a desk phone with seniority and status.  Seems the IP Phone is going to be with us for a good number of years to come.

 

Read more

CloudBond 365 gradual migration to CloudPBX

VoIPerfect less-MPLS solution for resilient, quality-assured VoIP

AudioCodes IP Phones with IT management tools for SfB

Transition to Cloud PBX

Start the Transition to Cloud PBX Today with a Hybrid Hybrid Environment

Transition to Cloud PBX

One of the biggest challenges today with the vision of transitioning to Microsoft’s recently released Cloud PBX revolves around matching business needs with available features. Although Cloud PBX is on a rapid pace to parity with Skype for Business Server, some of the advanced features are only available on-premises for the foreseeable future. For example, a user who migrates to Cloud PBX today won’t be able to take advantage of features like response groups or integration with contact center software.  In addition, the organization will not be able to use existing analog / fax lines or common area phones.  So the question is, what can you do if you’re interested in making the move over to the cloud but you can’t afford to compromise when it comes to features? One choice is to wait, but I believe the true answer lies in what we call a hybrid hybrid environment.  Yes, you read that correctly – a hybrid hybrid environment.

Bridging the Limitation & Availability Gap

Microsoft has basically allowed – and even encouraged – people to live in a sort of hybrid environment.  Users can essentially take advantage of the Cloud PBX features and functionality that exist today while keeping their existing T1s or SIP trunks. This hybrid deployment gives them the ability to do IM, chat, and video calls with other Skype for Business and Skype users – but limitations as compared with a traditional PBX exist.

Features aside, it’s also now possible to have voice calling plans coming from Microsoft services in the form of DIDs in the cloud (PSTN Calling). Unfortunately, Microsoft is encountering the limitations and regulatory pressures of essentially becoming a carrier.  As a result, it’s going to take them quite some time before they’ll be able to provide DIDs in regions outside of the US.

These limitations and challenges is where the hybrid hybrid model comes into play. (‘hybrid hybrid environment’ is a phrase we commonly use here in AudioCodes) For customer environments today, it means that as long as they have a full Skype for Business Server environment on-premises, they’ll be able to leverage the best of both worlds with some users in Cloud PBX and other on-premises leveraging full features and connectivity such as T1s, E1s, etc.  That is a huge benefit for customers – allowing them to take advantage of the promise of the cloud while staying grounded in the reality of users’ needs today.

The Best of Both Worlds Option

The hybrid hybrid model is something we speak about quite often with our customers and partners.  Today, it’s simply the only way to enable real PBX replacement and smoothly and easily get select users around the world on Cloud PBX while still having the ability to leverage full voice features with on-premises connectivity.

Organizations can pick and choose which users will have the feature set of Cloud PBX and which will be enabled for full Skype for Business Server.  They’ll be able to take advantage of features that aren’t ready for the cloud such as response groups or integration with analog phones/common area phones immediately.  My experience is these are key features that businesses need (especially in larger environments) and subsequently can delay adoption.  In a hybrid hybrid environment, you’ll have a full Skype for Business experience without having to delay the migration process to cloud PBX.

CloudBond 365 Q&A Part 1

You Asked About CloudBond 365: Part 1

As part of the recent launch of AudioCodes CloudBond 365, we conducted webinars with our global partners. The events generated considerable interest. Given the many good questions we received from both our partners and the general audience regarding the new platform, we decided to publically share these questions so that everyone can benefit and learn from them.

CloudBond 365 Q&A Part 1

CloudBond 365 is a solution for the data center, customer premises or the branch. It is a versatile all-in-one Skype for Business appliance designed for hybrid environments or a full on-premises Skype for Business deployment that combines the best of the Skype for Business server, the cloud-PBX and the service provider’s voice services. CloudBond 365 is available as a hardware box (Standard, Pro and Enterprise Box Editions) or as a Virtual Appliance.

We have divided the questions we received about CloudBond 365 into several categories, each of which will get dealt with in a separate blog over the coming weeks.  In this first instalment, we tackle the questions of upgrading to CloudBond 365 from AudioCodes One Box 365 as well as connectivity and integration issues.

Regarding upgrades: We want to emphasize that all One Box 365 units are eligible for upgrade to the CloudBond 365 firmware. The actual upgrade path will be communicated by AudioCodes in the near future.

The following questions were asked regarding connectivity and integration:

How does directory integration work? Does CloudBond 365 have FIM/AD?

The CloudBond 365 Active Directory Connector is an application developed by AudioCodes. It is FIM like and allows for synchronizing user attributes with the customer user forests while simplifying the deployment and creating a clear point of demarcation.

Can multiple CloudBond 365 units be connected into an Office 365 tenant?

Indeed they can.

CloudBond™ 365 can be connected to Office 365 to allow:

  • Exchange Online UM integration
  • Support for Hybrid topology
  • Support for On-Prem PSTN for Cloud PBX

Does AudioCodes offer a full UCMA connection to all users?

UCMA can only work with an On-prem FE server. Trusted applications can work only on an on-premises server.

What can you say about resiliency?

Resiliency can be achieved by using two units of CloudBond 365 in a pool pair. The deployment wizard simplifies the settings of the pool pair.

CloudBond 365 can be deployed as a BPA in a Skype for Business private Cloud to achieve full branch UC resiliency.

 

If you have any additional questions on these topics or any other topic, feel free to reach out to us.

Please check back for our next instalment of the CloudBond 365 Q&A which will focus on Sizing, Licensing and Pricing issues.

Further reading:

Are you stuck in the fog on your way to the cloud

Are You Stuck in the Fog on Your Way to the Cloud?

Are you stuck in the fog on your way to the cloud

A practical approach to migrating (the right) users to Cloud PBX

Many organizations are stuck in the fog of complexity as they move towards the promise of communications in the cloud. Recent Microsoft announcements surrounding enterprise voice for Skype for Business in the cloud have caused significant waves – and no small amount of confusion – in the market.  Cloud PBX and PSTN calling will undoubtedly have a dramatic impact on the way organizations communicate.  Since the online offering doesn’t yet have all the features of Skype for Business server, it is important that enterprises evaluate needs carefully and plan their users’ migration to the cloud accordingly.  (For those looking to dig even deeper, please see AudioCodes’ White Paper: To Cloud or not to Cloud? A Practical Guide for Embracing the Communications Future.)

If you’ve already deployed Lync, Skype for Business, or are seriously considering doing so, you may be compelled to start migrating some users – likely those who may not need the full feature set of the server – to the cloud. The good news is the migration can be done gradually and smoothly.  The AudioCodes solution set provides a practical approach, addressing the reality of today with the cloud’s promise of tomorrow. 

What is Cloud PBX?

Cloud PBX is the set of Call Management features of Skype for Business Online, which is the new version of Lync Online and is the Microsoft hosted version of Skype for Business Server. It is part of Office 365 and is included in selected E-Suite Plans. Cloud PBX includes a subset of the PBX features available in the server edition, enabling such things as outbound and inbound calling through on-premises PSTN Connectivity (using local service providers or local telephony systems) or through a Microsoft  PSTN Calling Plan (available only in select regions).

Challenges and practical considerations in the transition to Cloud PBX

As of December 2015, the lack of feature parity between the online and on-premises offerings remains significant.  Among the main features not included online are branch survivability, response groups, location based routing, call admission control, analog devices, common area phone, and integration with on-premises PBX (can be achieved when using on-prem software such as Cloud Connector or Skype for Business server).  Given that reality, the first step in the migration process is to profile your users and understand which ones should be included in the first migration batch.

In planning a migration strategy to Cloud PBX, several practical considerations need to be taken into account:

1) Which users do you want to migrate to the cloud? How many people really need all the PBX features? How many people outside the office (on the road) can be satisfied by the cloud features?

2) Do you have an existing on-premises telephony infrastructure that you want to co-exist with or gradually migrate away from? (Call center, PBX, IPPBX, etc.)

3) Do you have devices (faxes, video rooms, analog devices) that you need to continue to use?

4) Do you need to maintain local connectivity to the PSTN (existing contracts, or availability, regulatory and Quality of Service reasons for branch offices)? 

Getting the Cloud Right: A Practical Approach

Taking into account the considerations noted above, perhaps the most important thing to do is develop a clear voice migration strategy. Such a strategy would comprise of several stages including assessing corporate requirements (firstly in the headquarters), building an infrastructure that meets those requirements, migrating relevant users to the cloud and finally, expanding that migration by assessing the needs of branch offices, building a corresponding infrastructure and migrating branch users to the cloud as required.  We here at AudioCodes leverage the following model when helping our customers build their strategy: 

Assess – Inventory Your Profiles

In this initial state, it is important that the organization understands its requirements. This is the opportunity to pause and analyze what users are doing, what their needs are and which users can stay local and which can be moved to the cloud. Once the requirements are understood, a hybrid strategy can be developed to build the appropriate infrastructure, adopted to the organization’s needs today and its plans for the future.

Build a Hybrid Platform and Migrate Information Workers First

Once the requirements have been mapped out, an infrastructure need to be built that addresses the needs identified in the assessment stage. The solution is a hybrid platform that is both versatile and flexible, one that can meet not only today’s requirements but ensure that the investment made now can be leveraged for the coming years as well.

With a flexible hybrid platform in place, it’s time to take a second look at the users that were profiled in the assessment stage and choose the first batch of users to be moved to the cloud.

Expand Rollout to the Branches

With the platform deployed and the first users moved to the cloud, the organization can begin examining the needs of its remote branches. An assessment similar to the one done in the assessment stage at HQ may be warranted for the branches as there may be different requirements to consider, including resiliency needs and custom applications such as IVR and contact centers. An assessment should be done as to whether a hybrid platform is needed to meet those requirements. 

Migrating Gradually with AudioCodes CloudBond 365

To facilitate the migration to Cloud PBX, AudioCodes takes a gradual approach based on the steps noted above and proposes a unique solution that enables the transition of some users to the cloud, but also allows other users to enjoy the full feature-set of Skype for Business server.

AudioCodes CloudBond 365TM, the next generation of the One Box 365TM, is a modular, adaptable solution for the data center, customer premises or the branch. A versatile all-in-one Skype for Business appliance designed for hybrid environments, it combines the best of the Skype for Business server, the cloud-PBX and the service provider’s voice services.  It is available as a hardware appliance (Standard, Pro and Enterprise Box Editions) or as a Virtual Appliance.

The CloudBond 365TM provides a fully integrated solution.  When necessary, it has the required Skype for Business servers built in, including the front end, mediation, monitoring, edge and reverse proxy servers.  The appliance also contains an embedded Windows server 2012 R2 and an embedded SQL Server Standard 2012, as well additional virtual machines for trusted 3rd party applications. The CloudBond 365TM Box Editions have built in gateway and session border controller (SBC) capability as well as a host of specialized tools including Office 365 and Active Directory connectors, a deployment wizard, and IP Phone management software.

CloudBond 365TM connects and syncs with Office 365 and the local Active Directory, allowing for voice enablement and an easy setup of voice policies.  Skype for Business users can be registered on CloudBond 365’s Skype for Business server Front End or in Microsoft’s Cloud PBX and can be moved at any time in both directions, providing tremendous flexibility. For users that were migrated to the Cloud PBX, the appliance provides the required mediation, edge and PSTN/SIP trunking connectivity.

The Ideal Bridge

CloudBond 365TM is the ideal bridge for a gradual, smooth migration to full cloud-based connectivity, allowing companies to migrate at their own pace, moving from an on-premises PBX infrastructure to a true hybrid structure. While the Microsoft cloud offering is still evolving into a viable PBX replacement, AudioCodes’ solution exists today, creating the critical bond between today’s UC and the cloud of tomorrow.  For enterprises that want to leverage the flexibility, dynamicity and economical model of cloud services, but still need the power and control of the more traditional on-premises model, the wait is over. You can have tomorrow’s UC today!

For more information, see our Application Note: Getting the Cloud Right – A Practical Guide