Study: Orgs Still Wary of Unified Communications in Public Cloud

According to a study commissioned by Seattle-based Azaleos Corp., one of Microsoft's top Gold Certified Partners, midsized and large businesses remain reluctant to adopt unified communications (UC) services over a public cloud.

The study, titled "UC in the Cloud: Ready for Primetime?: Cloud Realities in the Age of Office 365," was conducted by Osterman Research. It found that while cloud-based e-mail is currently seeing a "healthy pace" of adoption, adoption of UC services via the public cloud "is relatively slow." In fact, just 10 percent of the survey's respondents said they plan to deploy public cloud-based UC services within the next year.

About 58 percent of respondents cited "loss of customization and IT control" as the top reason for not using UC services over a public cloud. Other reasons included a "lack of confidence in public cloud uptime claims" and a perceived low level of security.

However, the UC cloud outlook is not all gloomy. Of those who say they will not deploy public cloud UC services, nearly half (48 percent) would opt for a private cloud deployment, which is perceived as a more secure option. Hybrid clouds, tapping both public and private cloud infrastructure, were perceived as an option for 45 percent of respondents. The possibility of using hybrid cloud architecture boosted the responses of those planning to move within the next year from 10 percent to 26 percent.

Office 365 Implications
The study results don't look promising even as Microsoft gets ready to launch its Office 365 services, which include UC technologies. The study flat out says that "if decision makers had to choose a public-cloud unified communications provider, only one-third would choose Microsoft BPOS or Office 365."

Data security and fears that the services aren't yet mature typify the concerns, according to the study.

It's all good, despite some IT skittishness about the public cloud, according to Scott Gode, Azaleos' vice president of product management and marketing.

"I believe it is going to be an exciting thing," Gode said of the Office 365 launch, in a phone interview. "At the end of the day, no matter how strong or weak the perception of that offering is when it comes out of the chutes, the fact that Microsoft is bringing a lot of marketing muscle and a lot of attention focusing on the cloud -- and particularly unified communications in the cloud for e-mail and SharePoint and linked-up applications -- is good for partners overall because it encourages businesses and the IT decision makers in those business to take the pulse of what's happening."

The study cited some common objections to using Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Services (BPOS) and Office 365, its successor. The online services are perceived as having some "limited functionality and features." Areas of concern, according to the study, include:

  • Lync's PBX integration,
  • Active Directory Federation Services 2.0 security with regard to single point of failure,
  • SharePoint integration and
  • "inadequate support for BlackBerry Enterprise Server."

IT pros want a "de-migration" possibility to bring capabilities back in-house. They also want service-level agreements that include response time, as well as service availability.

Azaleos, which commissioned the study, specializes in Exchange e-mail, collaboration and UC technologies, along with managed services, for Fortune 500 and midmarket organizations. According to an Azaleos spokesperson, the study "was a broad US survey of 100+ enterprise IT executives conducted in May 2011. All respondents were/are knowledgeable about and decision makers relating to their companies' UC systems."

The 11-page study can be downloaded for free from Azaleos' whitepaper site here (requires sign-up). A more optimistic survey about the prospects for cloud-based UC was conducted by CDW-G in February, as described here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.