The key responsibility of the CIO is to ensure an organisation has the technology it needs to function cost effectively, while at the same time remain a competitive force.
Nowhere is this more relevant than in the contact centre industry. If a contact centre does not have technologies, such as interactive voice recognition (IVR), multimedia queuing or real-time speech analytics, then it risks not being able to meet customer expectations of service.
However, buying-in all of these solutions can be an large capital outlay for an organisation. This can be a major drawback to a company that prefers the agility and flexibility of OpEx over CapEx. The alternative is to look at moving some or all operations to the cloud.
It’s not all or nothing
The first consideration for the CIO is: how much IT infrastructure should be transferred to the cloud?
Some might think that moving all telephony to the cloud would save money. Indeed, as there is no carrier relationship onsite, due to services being accessed through a public network or a VoIP, capital expenditure costs are eliminated. However, it is worth noting that if the VoIP connection is lost then so is all access data or calls.
Those who have a lot of cash to spend and want a cast-iron solution, might consider creating a private cloud by purchasing and installing an infrastructure on the premises. However, for the more budget-conscious the best option is a hosted hybrid model: infrastructure operated by the vendor is deployed on a company’s local network with voice and data kept on the premises, ensuring continued access and security, while the logic and routing is in the public cloud.
In this case, what a CIO needs to be mindful of is who owns the onsite equipment? Some vendors might just rent out the equipment for a monthly tariff that could be supplementary to the service charge, while others will offer the opportunity to buy the equipment for a lump sum or a payment plan spread out over a certain period. Again, it is worth checking how these are priced.
Data and the data centre
What about data? Businesses are producing increasing amounts of data that needs to be kept, and storing this in the cloud is being seen as a realistic solution by many.
While it can be a cost effective solution, CIOs must be aware that even though cloud providers can mitigate some of the expense of providing storage through economies of scale, they will encounter similar overhead constraints and data costs as an in-house solution.
Not only do CIOs need to think about the cost of storage, but also the physical location of the data centre where the data is stored and how that might affect the information they store there. For instance, if the data centre is outside the EU, the information kept in it could be subject to different laws and regulations, which might mean a business loses control of who has access.
It is also worth checking who actually owns the information stored in the data centre: is it the customer or the vendor? Also, what happens to that information if the contract is terminated? A key piece of advice is to actually visit the data centre to check its location, security measures and ask questions of staff.
The type of hardware a service provider uses is an important factor to consider when moving to the cloud. Some providers offer dedicated hardware for each customer which, although very secure, is very expensive. The cheaper option is multi-tenant hardware. This is shared by multiple customers so costs are reduced, but these can be less secure and the provider is unable to provide strong service level agreements. A further disadvantage is that if something happens to the hardware, such as a virus, it affects all customers that are using it.
The newer way of offering cloud infrastructure is through the use of virtual machines. This method enables several completely separate hard drives to run virtually on the same hardware. The benefits for the customer are that they have a high level of security and integrity comparable to dedicated hardware, yet the lower costs of the multi-tenant model.
Finally, before signing on the dotted line, it is important to consider the length of the contract. Some cloud providers will offer long-term contracts that on the face of it, seem to be cheaper than shorter ones. However, CIOs need to be aware that these longer-term deals tend to be tied to location, so that if an organisation moves it ether has to terminate the agreement, which often involves costly cancellation fees, or it has to keep the contract going, while paying for a new one.
Getting a clear view
At Interactive Intelligence, we are the number one choice for cloud-based communications in the contact centre, and we know that moving to the cloud can be great for a business. However, this is so long as the CIO has carefully considered all the implications and looked at what type of solution would be best for their organisation.