[washington post] Just about everyone in the technology industry expects 2011 to be the year of the cloud, with a mass migration of data centers to hosted Web-based services, accessed over highly secure networks.
As small- to medium-sized enterprises that already have made the switch are discovering, integration of voice and data into a single hosted communications platform provides access to new and emerging technologies and capabilities at lower investment and faster return on investment. Through cloud computing, businesses use one provider to manage their server, voice and data instead of three. The growing popularity of cloud-based services in 2011 will provide new opportunities for service providers to help fiscally cautious businesses extend their post-recession budgets and do more with less.
Here are five trends to watch:
1. Hosted PBX
Hosted cloud-based private branch exchange (PBX) over a managed Voice over Private Internet (VoPI) service helps smaller businesses communicate like Fortune 500 companies. People who are on the go can be reachable at one number -- by co-workers using direct-extension dialing, or by outside callers, who can be transferred within and between locations without ever experiencing a hard handoff. Remote access to voice mail, remote configuration of user features and handsets, content filters and wireless-based backup and recovery systems are features available now or on the way that will help make communications more efficient and cost-effective.
2. Hosted video conferencing amd telepresence
Videoconferencing using high-definition, IP-based, video telephony, 3D cameras and displays helps people feel as if they were present at a staff meeting, job interview, product demonstration or design conference taking place hundreds of miles away. Virtual video gatherings eliminate unnecessary travel time and costs, increase employee productivity and speed time to market by helping businesses make better decisions faster.
3. PC over IP (desktop hosting)
This year will see increasing virtualization of the desktop as organizations wake up to the savings and efficiencies of replacing hard-drive-equipped computers with thinner terminals and moving data storage to the cloud or Web. Virtual desktops can be set up quickly and accessed from any PC with Internet access. Hosted desktop virtualization is currently most popular with small- to medium-sized businesses and start-ups. But it's a practical solution for large organizations and individuals who want experienced IT support and 99.9 percent availability without the expense of a server.
4. Secure network-wide online storage
Security and cost savings will make cloud-based backup more attractive to more organizations. This rapidly maturing technology eliminates the need for a local tape infrastructure, keeps data secure and allows remote access from any Internet-connected device or location. Providers offer 24/7 monitoring, management and reporting features that many companies might not otherwise be able to afford. Working with a cloud provider, companies free themselves of infrastructure upkeep, allowing them to apply their savings to growing their business.
5. Converged communications
The value of converging -- or integrating -- data, voice and video communications over a single IP network comes in the improved ability of people to share, discuss and develop ideas with colleagues anywhere in the world. Voice itself can become a "killer app." The new standard environment integrates voice mail, global telephone network, directory, presence, unified messaging capability, text-to-speech, conferencing, online phone, address book and more. Enterprises adding voice to other IP-compliant applications really begin to see what the technology can do for them.
Five telecommunications trends for 2011