Oct 12 2012

Unified Communications at Your Service

New CDW Cloud Collaboration solution lets campuses adopt unified communications tools at their own pace — paying as they go.

All organizations — from colleges and nonprofit groups to businesses and government agencies — regularly roll out ambitious and often costly technology initiatives with the aim of optimizing operations and boosting productivity. But in the end, the success of these efforts typically comes down to one thing: simple, everyday human interactions.

Two of today's hottest emerging technologies for improving collaboration and optimizing the infrastructure are unified communications and cloud computing. When paired, UC and the cloud are uniquely suited to improving human interactions. A collection of dynamic collaboration technologies offered through the cloud as a service can provide campus IT departments access to a set of tools that can improve overall performance and outcomes.

A New Path

Collaboration encompasses a variety of communication tools and technologies, including voice and voicemail, mobility, video conferencing, contact center services, instant messaging and presence. The cloud provides a mechanism for delivering an integrated mix of these capabilities while addressing drawbacks that are common to traditional UC rollouts.

The cloud's pay-as-you-go model eliminates the need for the substantial initial capital outlays associated with UC rollouts, says Andy Dignan, director of collaboration solutions for CDW. Implementation also can occur faster because procuring UC services entails little more than ordering them from the provider.

"Speed to market is extremely valuable in today's work environments," Dignan says. "Rather than a longer, drawn-out on-premises rollout, UC in the cloud offers a quick jump to new, valuable features."

Contracting with a third-party provider also offloads the operational and troubleshooting responsibilities for these tools, reducing the day-to-day management burden on the IT team.

With a cloud delivery of UC, "you don't need a large staff to manage the UC system," Dignan says. "That staff can be refocused on core mission objectives."

Combining Strengths

CDW recently entered this evolving and competitive market, introducing the CDW Cloud Collaboration solution. This offering bundles UC and collaboration tools from Cisco Systems with CDW's managed services. "These are collaboration tools, managed for you, in the cloud," Dignan says.

Although this is a new solution, CDW is not new to UC or to hosting collaboration tools. "CDW has completed more than 4,000 Cisco UC deployments over the past ­decade," he says. "We have one of the largest bases of Cisco UC customers in the United States. Our staff is quite ­familiar with this technology."

CDW hosts the service at its own Tier III-IV facility. The 485,000-square-foot data center runs 8.2 megawatts of power to support world-class virtualization, storage and optimization services. The components are fully redundant, offering four nines of uptime.

As for security, the CDW Cloud Collaboration features a virtual private network core and secure customer edge components. "In the cloud, we take security very seriously," Dignan says. "We offer customers their own secure network built on VMware products. Their data never mixes or touches other tenants' data."

With this security and expertise backing its UC in the cloud service, CDW can deliver peace of mind to organizations, he says. And that's ­really what matters to people, more than the technology itself, Dignan says, because that peace of mind means staff can focus on what really drives their mission — those individual human interactions.

The Right Mix of Tools

Many traditional telecommunications carriers offer lots of features in their unified communications offerings. But is bundling all of these features always the best fit for an organization?

"CDW's experience has been that customers don't typically want to be locked in to a single carrier" for all of their UC needs, says Andy Dignan, director of collaboration solutions for CDW. "With the CDW Cloud Collaboration solution, we're not bundling in everything. We can be carrier-neutral."

Additionally, the new CDW offering isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. A campus doesn't have to immediately rip out everything onsite and create a new infrastructure to accommodate a change in service provider or to add services.

"We can integrate our solution with other providers," Dignan adds. "Customers like this kind of flexibility."