Key Characteristics and Benefits of the Cloud for Call Centers
Cloud computing is one of the key drivers of today’s IT services market. According to Juniper Research, the cloud computing market is on course to reach $90.7 billion by 2018, with both Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) showing tremendous growth. Cloud solutions are set to grow six times faster than all software (according to IDC), at a compound annual growth rate of 26% through 2014.Even traditional hardware firms are jumping on the cloud bandwagon. Hewlett-Packard recently announced it will spend $1 billion over the next two years to develop and offer cloud-computing services. The company’s most prominent competitors, IBM and Cisco, have also accelerated their cloud initiatives. Why is this happening?
Companies of all sizes and types, including contact centers, have started to recognize the numerous financial and technological advantages of switching from on-premises hardware and software installation to a cloud delivery model:
Saving through Sharing
Instead of making a significant investment in hardware/software infrastructure and operations, call centers can opt to be part of a multi-tenant cloud system and share one larger, secure infrastructure. This also provides contact centers with the necessary scalability and redundancies at a much lower rate.
Getting Started Quickly
Traditional solutions take a great deal of time to install – how would a call center be impacted during this long transitional period? Cloud solutions can be implemented and deployed quickly, and often provide a more intuitive end-user experience, which shortens the learning curve for call center agents. With the cloud, downtime is reduced and ROI is achieved faster.
No Maintenance/Operations Concerns
How many contact centers have full-time employees devoted to maintaining the call center’s software? With the cloud, these tasks are handled more efficiently at the source by the cloud application vendor.
Pay As You Go
Cloud services and software are provided for a low monthly subscription fee, usually pay as you go, without an upfront investment required. Any upgrades or customizations are handled by the vendor at no additional cost – over the long haul, given how often software upgrades are unveiled, this results in a considerable savings.
When is a Cloud Not a Cloud?
Given the increasing popularity of cloud solutions, it is regrettable but not surprising that some companies would attempt to exploit the situation by offering a product under the cloud name that is anything but. These “fake cloud” or “cloudwashing” applications often come with all of the drawbacks and costs of a fully hosted solution (and an inferior one at that). Unfortunately, too many companies do not find out they are stuck in an expensive and inefficient product until after payment was made.
Those considering a cloud vendor should explore options, ask questions, and become familiar with the attributes of a genuine cloud solution. Two core elements of true cloud are multi-tenancy and self-service. With multi-tenancy call centers share the costs, but this is not possible with fake clouds, in which each customer has to be managed separately. When that happens, the cost of the infrastructure is going to go up. If a vendor’s product does not provide continuous and instantaneous access to the latest product upgrades, it is not a true cloud solution.
A self-service capability is another essential element of cloud, allowing users to make all customizations independent of the vendor and without relying on additional IT resources. These customizations will continue to work with any new product enhancements introduced by the vendor. True cloud vendors design their solutions from the ground up. Software is coded to perform better as a fully hosted solution and build talent and expertise around hosting, maintaining, and managing the software across hundreds of servers and across multiple levels of data redundancy in a multi-tenant cloud environment.Product upgrades are free and automatic in the cloud – with a non-cloud solution, customer upgrades are handled by the vendor one-by-one, which could delay implementation by months. That means when the work is done, a new upgrade may already be in development.
Asking the Right Questions
Before choosing a provider, ask these questions to be certain of receiving a genuine cloud solution:
- Does this solution use a multi-tenant architecture?
- Will all customizations and integrations work with any future upgrades?
- Are upgrades automatic, and are they provided at no additional cost?
- What type of security and data privacy do you provide?
- What is your service level uptime?
- What is the cost and speed of deployment?
- Are there any hidden costs for maintenance, additional servers, upgrades, etc.?
- How soon will I achieve ROI on my investment?
Cloud computing will continue to gain a larger percentage of the contact center industry because it offers benefits for businesses of every size and type. Large call centers enjoy a tremendous cost savings and a lower upfront equipment investment. Smaller contact centers can achieve the same technological sophistication of bigger companies on a smaller budget. And call centers with agents working from home or in multiple centers can tie everyone in to the same workforce management system regardless of location. However, with cloud computing growing so rapidly, many vendors are trying to position themselves as cloud providers by re-labeling and re-branding traditional on-premise software applications.
This can lead to problems with upgrades, process integration and business viability. Customers need to be able to recognize a true cloud solution as one that was designed from a web-based, multi-tenant, self-service perspective, and provides secure and easy access over the Internet, so contact center agents can work from anywhere at any time. A few simple questions and some time spent on researching the background and reputation of the provider should quickly clear up any uncertainty about the type of product being offered, and whether it qualifies as genuine.
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