What is cloud collaboration?

When Cloud collaboration happens in an unregulated environment that can’t be audited, where intellectual property can’t be protected, and where data and network security can’t be guaranteed, that’s why there’s a growing interest in a Cloud service that can directly address these issues and ensure collaboration is done the right way.

Cloud collaboration is a lot more than just the creation of a secure collaborative environment where colleagues can access, share, work on and save a single instance of a document. After all, applications have existed for some years that have enabled this sort of interaction, although not always effortlessly and intuitively, and increasingly, not always safely as users have switched to slicker ‘consumer’ apps and inadvertently moved from the security of the corporate network to the altogether more risky world of shadow IT.

Cloud collaboration goes further, in that it provides an affordable, accessible, configurable toolset for users to interact, exchange, cooperate and communicate across the full suite of communication channels – and for IT managers to know that this is always happening within an authorised, properly regulated system. Typical tools within such a system include: HD voice and video calling, with typical enterprise telephony functions; instant messaging and presence; group chat; application and document sharing; video conferencing; and unified messaging.

The Features of Cloud Collaboration

Cloud collaboration technology offers a wealth of user-centric features that can transform the communication experience:

  • Universal user access – The full suite of collaboration tools can be made available anywhere, anytime, anyhow, with applications for desktop, mobile and tablet.
  • IP voice and video – A feature rich alternative to face-to-face meetings and traditional audio conferences, with support for HD voice and video calling its all its forms on all devices, from smartphones to room-based set ups.
  • Sharing and conferencing – Collaboration can happen in real-time thanks to the ability to easily connect and share content wherever and whenever, with the freedom to share applications and desktops, white boards and annotations, regardless of device.
  • Rich presence – This gives users the option to select the optimum way of communicating with colleagues dependent on their presence status.
  • Instant messaging – IM is a platform designed for quick questions and fast responses, using presence indication and one-to-one and group chat functionality to transform communication speeds and accelerating decision-making.
  • Group chat – Group chat replicates the ease and speed of the messaging medium but for multiple parties across diverse locations.
  • Unified messaging – A single inbox for emails/voicemails/text/messages streamlines communications handling, boosting personal productivity and efficiency.
  • Single number reach – The ability to be reached via the same number regardless of end device increases personal effectiveness and overall responsiveness.
  • Click to dial audio and video calling – Users can make audio calls using ‘click to dial’ from Outlook or a web browser, with the option to seamlessly upgrade to a video call.
  • Group video conferencing – Users can benefit from full video conferencing capability from the comfort of their desks or via their tablets or smartphones.
  • Call pull, park and retrieve – The ability to pull an ongoing call from one device to another, or to answer a call, park it and continue the call from another device, unlocks greater flexibility and mobility.

The Benefits of Cloud Collaboration

The benefits of improved worker collaboration are well-documented, from increased productivity to faster decision-making, greater mobility to improved morale, reduced travel time/costs to a smaller carbon footprint. The challenge has always been how to create the necessary framework to bring workers together, and to do it cost-effectively, dynamically, seamlessly and most important of all, securely.

What type of business would benefit from Cloud Collaboration?

Any business that feels that it could connect, communicate and collaborate more efficiently and effectively should consider the various technology options. Those with multiple geographical locations, or an extensive mobile workforce, might benefit in particular as cloud collaboration successfully ‘shrinks your world’ and brings everyone closer together, even if only virtually. For the smaller organisation, commoditised Unified Communications solutions delivered out of the Cloud and managed by a service provider offers a highly affordable, fast track route to a collaborative future.

Bespoke Cloud collaboration services are a better fit at the enterprise level, typically 500+ seats, because they allow for the requisite degree of tailoring and customisation within an individual, non-shared environment, something that a commoditised alternative just doesn’t allow. Only with a multi-instance Cloud solution can you create the scope for the inevitable tight integration needed and also make allowances for the particular mode of migration, for example, if an organisation wanted to adopt a hybrid rather than full Cloud deployment. Either way, the endgame is all about giving users their desired levels of flexibility and freedom to do what they want to do – but with all the appropriate safeguards in place.

The bespoke potential of the service is typically evidenced by a choice of service packs, to ensure provisioning is aligned with actual functional need and driving further cost-efficiencies. Plus, there is always the option to respond to emerging operational requirements with the addition of extra services, for example call recording and contact centre services. Self-service portals and rapid solution delivery underscore organisations’ commitment to agility and responsiveness in the creation of enabling, rich, collaborative environments.

What to Look For in a Collaboration Provider

Collaboration is such a fundamental enabler that you need to be diligent in your search, taking care to tick the financial, security, operational integrity, standards and adaptability boxes. Partnering with a specialist managed service provider gives you a significant head start. The Opex model removes the cost barrier, eliminating the need for heavy upfront investment in both kit and skills. You can add into that cost certainty, as mix and match licensing not only eliminates waste but gives you total transparency and predictability.

The solution served up will live in multiple state-of-the-art data centres, accredited to ISO standards, monitored 24/7 and supported to a very high service level – that gives you the resilience, security and availability that are fundamental to any successful hosted collaboration solution.

The scale of a provider also gives the customer the reassurance that they can flex the service in line with day-to-day need, not just in terms of user numbers but capability too. Having their own instance of a collaborative Cloud platform means that the customer is always in control, with the power to customise and refine the delivery of user-centric environments that will encourage workers to stay within the authorised framework.

For the organisation that leverages Cloud collaboration packages, there’s certainly the reward of quicker time to value too – but ultimately the biggest prize is creating a bespoke, safe, compliant, highly functional, thoroughly regulated collaboration environment for thousands of users, regardless of location.

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