I really liked Dave Michels’ “Cloud Series”, especially part 5, titled “Hosted Voice – Just Say No“. If you’re a novice to Cloud Computing, I strongly recommend the first 2 parts, but it’s the last part (so far) that got me thinking.
In this part, Dave discusses hosted voice services, such as Vonage, and shares his concerns. His conclusion, despite the flaming nature of his title, is that hosted voice services “can make sense in several situations for many organizations”, especially for small offices where “hosted solutions can create a virtual PBX across locations seamlessly”.
Dave concludes his post with a few sentences I really liked:
I think the cloud is going to change things dramatically…
Bottom line? Hosted voice is great – it has a little risk and solves a lot of problems. Of course, the same can be said about arsenic. The right answer depends on the question…
The best scenario of hosted voice is continuous increasing (for growth) payments for technology you will never own or control.
A Technology You Will Never Own
It’s funny that Dave discusses the ownership of technology, because just the other day my good friend Dan and I were discussing our music listening habits. In case you haven’t noticed it yet, I’m an avid music lover. As such, I have an extremely large collection of albums in CD format, occupying too much space (at least, according to my wife) in my apartment.
My album collection (partial view)
Dan, who is not only an avid music lover just like me, but also a very digital-friendly guy, converted his collection to digital format, and his collection is now occupying a lot of hard-drive space on his Popcorn Hour media tank.
Left: Dan’s Popcorn Hour (under the cats collection). Right: Dan’s “digital” album collection
Both Dan and I are holding on to our music, because that’s what we used to do in those old days, which the romantic would call “good” and the technology-savvy would call “dark”. If you wanted to listen to your music (and by “your” I mean the music you like, when you like, and as you like), you had to own the music. And it doesn’t really matter in which format, digital or analog.
But these days the reality of music listening is changing. Streaming services, such as blip.fm (which I personally LOVE), allow you to listen to your music for free from anywhere and at any time. Recently announced tuberadio.fm even supplies you with a slick interface to turn YouTube into iTunes. Yes, they don’t have ALL the music. Yes, like any cloud service, they have their down time. Yes, they require a reasonable amount of bandwidth. But other than that, they give me the music experience I require 99% of the time, up to a point where I – looking for a song to play while I write my posts – search blip.fm and not my local personal collection.
Which brings up the question of ownership – apart from a few romantics (Tsahi would say dinosaurs), who still enjoy holding on to such old relics as album covers and leaflets, do we really need to own the music? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to enjoy streaming services, assuming they would have everything available, at great quality and a reasonable price?
A Technology You Will Never Control
E-mail is another good example for a cloud service that gained huge success. I am using my Gmail mail address ever since I got the initial invite (back when Gmail, and not Wave, invites were the coolest thing ever…). It’s my primary e-mail address, and it serves me extremely well.
Again, I know all about the downfalls: security, down time, yada yada yada. The bottom line is that I don’t feel I need to own or control my e-mail account. And in return I get a free, very large, very accessible e-mail service, which simply gets the job done. And I guess no one can argue with the success of Gmail (or hosted e-mail services) any longer.
And Now For Video Conferencing…
So now add one and one, and take the whole discussion to my primary interest (other than music) – video conferencing. Today, organizations – be it small offices or very large enterprises – feel they should own and control the technology. Assuming endpoints are a necessity – either hardware or software, you need it on your desk(top) – they either buy the infrastructure necessary, or pass on the whole idea because of setup costs. And while it makes sense to own the technology for many, for small and medium businesses, hosted video conferencing services – which means that the infrastructure sits “on the cloud” – make a lot of sense.
Hosted Video Conferencing, just like any hosted services, offers several key benefits:
- Endpoints can be deployed faster and simpler.
- There are no upfront capital costs (for the infrastructure).
- Cost is (basically) related to use, so small business will pay a rather small sum for their on-going use.
- Users can use it between offices and with partners, clients, etc.
These benefits can definitely be the difference between adopting and using this technology and totally dismissing it. There is no doubt in my mind that a mass deployment of video conferencing depends on the adoption of it in the SMB market, and for those “cloud” video conferencing offers the best solution, just like other “cloud” services are the best solution for other communication and IT aspects.
The Cloud is Going to Change Things Dramatically
Of course, hosted video conferencing is not trivial. In fact, the current state of the technology is not really ready for “cloud video conferencing”. Dave Michels summed it well in his 3rd post, dedicated to “Cloud Computing for Telecom“:
Telecom though isn’t as clear [as "classic" cloud computing - SBZ]. Telecom is a real time application and that creates a challenge for virtualization. Telecom latency (host and/or network) can be mili-seconds away from being non suitable. Plus few telecom applications are available for the cloud, particularly since so many are tightly integrated to hardware…
Cloud computing will indeed profoundly impact telecom. Additionally, there will be plenty of mistakes made and reasons not to embrace the cloud. But voice is in the process of integrating with many other IT applications that may indeed be destined for the cloud – this includes email, presence, collaboration, and other many more.
Paraphrasing on Dave’s words, which originally made me write all this, I think the cloud is going to change things dramatically, video conferencing included. For many, hosted video conferencing would solve a lot of problems and provide little (if any) risk, thus enabling a mass deployment and usage, which we are all waiting for (and hoping for, and I’m not saying it at all as a video conferencing infrastructure manufacturer).
Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it before – for hosted video conferencing to work, we need great infrastructure and management products, to solve all the problems Dave complains about (and he’s talking Voice. Video is even more demanding…). But this is really a topic for another post.