Sep 22 2022

5 Benefits of Cloud Communications in Higher Education

From flexibility to collaboration to cost savings, cloud communications offer many advantages for colleges and universities looking to upgrade their phone systems.

The telephone revolutionized the way we communicate, but as anyone who has lived through the past three years already knows, communication involves a lot more than phones these days.

So, as colleges and universities around the country take a closer look at their cumbersome landline-based phone systems and the challenges they faced trying to keep them relevant during the massive shift to remote work and remote learning, many are making the move to the cloud.

Cloud communications were already in vogue before the pandemic, but there has been an explosion of interest and an evolution in the technologies that support it since then. Today’s cloud communications tools offer more than just a way to make phone calls using an internet connection and a router; most now include video collaboration tools, text messaging integration and a whole lot more.

Click the image to learn more about one college's transition to cloud collaboration.

Here are five big reasons why our team at CDW is seeing colleges and universities move their communications to the cloud:

1. Cloud Communication Means More Than Phones

Today’s leading cloud communications providers, including Microsoft TeamsZoomCisco WebexRingCentral and others, can provide the basic phone service that was common back when we used to call each other from our offices across campus.

But it’s clear today, in the era of remote learning and working from home, that users need to be able to communicate in more than one way. Cloud communication tools make that possible in one platform.

Video collaboration, text messaging, voicemail service and call recording can all be incorporated into the same tool rather than needing a different application for each service. Some tools like Microsoft Teams go beyond that and include integrations with Office 365 and OneDrive.

We’re also seeing more cooperation among what once might have been rival companies, which are now more than willing to make their tools play nicely with others. That’s because interoperability has become more important to end users who still want choices in how they communicate.

2. The Cloud Offers Unparalleled Flexibility

One of the primary benefits of using cloud technology for any service is flexibility. Users are no longer tethered to an onsite network, and that means they also have more mobility when it comes to performing their work.

In cloud communications, that flexibility extends even further. Users have options for how they want to interact with the communication platform. They can still have a physical phone (like the ones offered by PolyYealink and others) that is tied into the cloud network through a USB desktop connection.

But for others, especially younger users who may have little to no experience or interest in a desk-bound phone, cloud communications providers offer desktop and mobile-friendly applications through nearly every platform.

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3. Cloud Communications Require Less IT Management

Transitioning communications offsite means no longer having members of the IT staff fully dedicated to managing phone communication and server rooms, freeing them up to focus on more pressing tasks at colleges and universities. And with higher education institutions reporting staffing shortages and struggles in hiring new employees, particularly in areas like cybersecurity, having IT experts with more time on their hands can only be a good thing.

On the infrastructure side, cloud communications require little more than a strong internet connection, and preferably a redundant connection in case of an outage, along with a quality switch to route communications correctly. As for the cloud providers themselves, most offer a 99.99 percent uptime promise for their service, so interruptions should be rare if not eliminated entirely.

4. Limited Hardware Means Cost Savings Now and Later

Traditional phone systems involve many wires running from desk to desk and into a large phone server in a backroom somewhere. Cloud communications mean no more on-premises servers and, for those users who ask for nothing more than a headset to make their calls, no more physical phones. Even for people who still want a traditional on-desk phone, communications run through a switch, and connections are most often made to a computer via USB or Bluetooth.

That means there’s not only less for IT departments to maintain, but also little upfront equipment to buy and fewer capital expenditures. As for the cloud communication service itself, most providers charge on a per-user basis, so unused desks no longer continue to rack up phone bills when they sit empty.

READ MORE: How to set up a cloud-based telephony solution in higher ed.

5. Prepare for the Future with Cloud Communications

The flexibility that is a major selling point for cloud communication tools can also apply to future planning.

As collaboration tools evolve, there are sure to be new features that colleges and universities want to incorporate. With cloud communications, it will be as easy as updating a piece of software. That also goes for security updates as they are rolled out to keep cloud communications protected.

Cloud communications systems are also easily scalable, both up and down. So, if your communication needs expand, it’s as simple as adding any number of new users, or vice versa when users need to be retired.

The future in cloud communication is already here, but the vast number of options can be overwhelming to sort through. To find out which platform might be best for your college or university, a CDW expert can conduct an assessment of your current infrastructure, break down the pros and cons of every option, and recommend a solution tailored to your needs.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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