Cloud migration is a top priority for federal agencies, making for a rising demand for As-a-Service offerings. Meanwhile, agencies are still trying to plan and budget for cloud strategies, often from scratch. This creates a unique challenge for federal IT teams: Agencies can’t simply wait until they have that strategy in hand for migrating workloads to the cloud. This is especially true with cloud collaboration and communication technologies.
Today’s workforce more team-oriented than ever. Sharing ideas is critical to day-to-day operations and to driving the mission forward. The result? Agencies are still making large investments in traditional, onsite communications systems, with purchases ranging from specialized hardware to software licensing, endpoints and network architectures. And therein exists the problem.
These traditional solutions typically have short lifecycles, limited capacity, no interoperability, and they lack advanced features. Purchasing the wrong solutions today can severely impede an agency’s future cloud migration.
So, how can agencies avoid hampering their modernization efforts and make the right cloud collaboration and communications decisions? Here are the top 4 ways to start investing in your cloud collaboration future.
1. Move away from specialized hardware
Among the most common purchases with limited returns are private Branch Exchange (PBX) telephone systems based on Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology, along with video conference bridges leveraging Digital Signal Processors (DSPs). This kind of specialized hardware was built for a single purpose and ties together both hardware and software into a single platform.
As customers look to upgrade or expand these technologies, it’s not uncommon to completely replace these products with the latest generation of “special hardware.” This can be an extremely costly and time-consuming endeavor.
Server and application virtualization emerged well over a decade ago. This technology allows for the decoupling of hardware and software. Agencies rely on virtualization today for everything from directory services, database servers, business applications and even disaster recovery. Many agencies already have virtualization solutions available, along with the personnel and technical know-how. This makes moving your collaboration services to a new or existing virtualized infrastructure much easier. Virtualizing your communication and collaboration technologies’ environment is the first step towards gaining the flexibility necessary to consume these services from the cloud.
2. Look into flexible consumption models
Traditional software buys are perpetual: You buy a license, pay for annual maintenance, and it’s yours forever. This is how on-premises communication systems have always been purchased and consumed. But what happens when a perpetual software purchase no longer meets organizational needs? How do you account for future growth and different types of users with varying communication requirements? When moving to the cloud, do you just throw these perpetual licenses away and repurchase the next-generation solution?
New and flexible software models are arising to address these challenges. They provide one simple, organization-wide subscription with a mix of on-premises, cloud and hybrid collaboration. You pick the services you want to deploy, choose how you want to deploy them, and grow at your own pace. Depending on your agencies size and requirements, varying subscription options also exist. Ready to go all-in? An enterprise agreement will cover every single employee and deliver maximum solution value. Not quite there yet? Active and named user models offer a cost-effective starting point for determining collaboration needs and usage across the organization.
3. Know the security landscape
When considering any hosted solution, understanding the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) requirements is paramount. FedRAMP is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. To lessen the costly and inefficient process of traditional risk management, they operate using a “do once, use many times” approach.
FedRAMP categorizes cloud service offerings into one of three impact levels; low, moderate, and high. Each impact level brings increasingly stringent security controls based on Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 199. The impact levels are defined by how the loss of data confidentiality, integrity and availability would affect an agency’s mission and assets. For Department of Defense (DoD) cloud services, additional provisional authorizations (PA) and security controls/enhancements are often required, sometimes referred to as FedRAMP+.
The wide range of cloud security requirements raises important questions for agencies investigating cloud collaboration as a service. How do you balance pervasive, anywhere communication with an increase in security controls and visibility? To ensure the integrity of communications, endpoints must meet FedRAMP specifications for security algorithms and ciphers. Additionally, providing critical communication services in the event of network downtime and interoperability with systems outside of the cloud security boundary must be considered.
4. Prepare your network
Agencies on legacy PBX systems and dedicated voice-only networks have not addressed the challenges of converging voice, video and data. As the need for anywhere communication continues to extend beyond traditional borders, a reliable IP-based transport must be in place. When combining voice, video and data on a single network, issues such as packet loss and jitter can wreak havoc on real-time communications. Assessing your network’s ability to handle increased traffic loads and ensuring a proper Quality of Service (QoS) implementation is key to preparing your network for any collaboration solution.
The increase in cloud-dependence makes Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity even more important. Existing circuits are typically saturated and cannot easily handle the addition of voice and video traffic. Do you bring in new connectivity methods to serve these purposes or expand your existing transport? How do SIP trunking and public switched telephone network (PSTN) connectivity come into play with this new model? Redundancy of these connections are equally as critical. By eliminating single points of failure, you can increase the accessibility of communication services agency-wide.
Joseph Lazzaro is a collaboration solutions architect at Force 3. Contact us to learn more about cloud collaboration solutions from Force 3.
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