All You Need is CLOUD [LOVE]
New buzz words like "cloud computing" can be a fad. Yet in VoIP call centers this is a useful new technology.
Every era has it’s buzz word. Today in tech it’s the cloud computing era . To many the idea does not seem that exciting. But in the VoIP and Call Center the cloud is a big deal. Hosted VoIP services is a few years old, but was not adopted in the market as expected. Some reason were technical: slow connection speed in remote areas, spotty service quality and difficult support from a remote location. Just like other changes in delivery modes, telecom services needed to figure out how to deliver reliable service quickly remotely. This has been going on for the last few years. Now we are at a point where call center and PBX services can be delivered to large organization in a matter of days. With all the competition entering the cloud hosting market, prices are competitive and service is good. This is an opportunity for many companies to add call centers without the initial cost of hardware and software. The title of this article comes from the Beatles song “All You Need is Love“. It seems that every era has it’s big idea, is the cloud our big idea? Time will tell.
A Short History
After a slow period between 2006 and 2008, the IT industry needed to refresh or innovate (with new products.) There were new themes during the slow years, but none turned out to bring attention and user excitement. As business stagnated, in the back rooms engineers continued to develop new ideas. Technology managers were searching to get the feeling of an innovative sector once more. But fast internet, WiMax, free ubiquitous WiFi and even smaller packaged laptops as Net-Books were not enough. In the corporate IT world, storage and virtualization were introducing new products with some promise. The combination of high speed networking and a slow IT market pushed the idea of completely invisible (hosted) virtual computing forward. Today this work is what we see as cloud computing.
Technically, cloud computing and storage are simply a hosted virtual solution. Somewhere in a large hosting facility, you have a virtual machine with virtual storage and networking. The rest is up to you. Today, with fast networking, a server in another location is almost as good as one in your own facility. For some applications that serve the general public, a server with fast networking near where they are (i.e. west coast US) is actually a better solution than having a server in Europe with users over the internet in the US. This solution is attractive to organizations that do not want to maintain hardware and software. It is also attractive to services which are working in a production mode and do not need support or development while the system is being used. If you could “package” your application with a standard branded program (i.e. Oracle database, Linux HTTP server, etc.) and your data is all in one place (i.e. banking records), you can simply move that application to a remote server and be done with it.
The business benefits come down to cost, maintenance and reliability. Today, large cloud hosting facilities from Amazon, IBM and many hosting companies are much more reliable and cost less than buying small amount of hardware and software. If you are a medium company or a small division of a large company, the numbers make sense. If you have old hardware or have not invested heavily in hardware and software, you can do better initially with a cloud operation. Today, some IT managers and high level executives still do not trust their data and key applications to be hosted remotely. Like many new trends in IT, most of the market is not made up from leading edge customers. In the VoIP segment, call center and PBX operators see big potential in the cloud computing mode. VoIP systems, when running hundreds of users and complex configurations, are not simple installations. Yet most of the computing and networking is generic and static. Communication is not exactly “just computing”. For some companies phone communication is as critical as e-mail and a web site server. To some, they can depend on outside communication like the cell phone network as a backup system. What we see at Tikal Networks is a shift of dependence on a single site or a single system in the call center and PBX operation. Companies with outside services for call center, design their system to be portable with almost immediate backup capability. This type of design is certainly useful also in PBX systems. What is also attractive in the cloud computing model, is the use of private cloud installations. This is essentially a way to control almost every aspect of an installation, yet have a server sitting at a running hosting facility. The facilities can be situated in the same city or state. This gives a company a redundancy in terms of a local disaster. If your own facility goes down, the one 10 miles away still works fine. You can also install part of the private cloud on your own premises, simply connecting two sites with high speed communication. More on this in future posts.