What to expect from cloud collaboration in 2013


As the number of mobile workers goes up and as businesses increasingly look to leverage their communications solutions for growth, the popularity of and the services offered by hosted collaboration services should rise accordingly. Eric Schoch, general manager of Cisco’s Hosted Collaboration Business Unit, wrote in a recent Channel Partners guest blog post that industry observers can expect a number of significant changes to occur, including the greater proliferation of flexible hosted solutions such as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).


“Business agility can only be accomplished through leveraging an increasing set of collaborative technology, and exposing the most relevant data across the traditional mediums of voice, video and chat,” Schoch wrote. “Cloud accelerates the rollout of this technology.”


The rise of video and hybrid approaches

According to Schoch, one technology that will likely be more popular than ever over the following months is video within a hosted unified communication solution. As improved software services bring down the cost of video and web conferencing, more organizations will realize the benefits of these tools and look to leverage them further.


Adoption of such tools will also help companies reduce travel expenses and better support mobile devices, as video services can easily replace in-person interactions. Schoch said that as 4G networks become stronger and more widely available and as more thoroughly intertwined UCaaS solutions are used, video may become the default communication method for companies.


“In the coming years, the Internet of Everything will connect people and ‘things,’ allowing for contextual collaboration, enabling new work styles and empowering people to accomplish the extraordinary,” he wrote. “Currently, a knowledge worker may enter an online and video meeting and not recognize another attendee’s name. Today, scrolling over that person’s name may bring up recent email exchanges, providing a small amount of context going into the meeting. Now imagine a meeting solution that provides even more contextual cues such as a LinkedIn profile or enterprise or consumer social software profile.”


However, as UCaaS and hosted collaboration becomes more popular, businesses will more earnestly seek out compliance solutions that take the type of data being shared into account, Schoch wrote. In particular, the type of communication used will more frequently dictate the cloud computing solution needed. For example, sharing sensitive documents like financial forms will necessitate the use of private clouds, while more general data can be hosted by a public or hybrid solution.


In order for these types of UC solutions to become more popular though, managed IT services providers will need to step in to explain and implement UCaaS and hosted collaboration tools, Forrester Research analyst Dan Bieler wrote. Frequently, enterprises are intimidated by newer forms of communication, and it will increasingly be the role of IT consulting services to implement these tools and explain how they can best be leveraged.


Still, Schoch suggested, as the year goes on, more and more organizations will realize the many benefits that they can get from cloud hosted collaboration systems and will adopt these solutions in even greater numbers.