Cloud communications: enabling a sustainable, hybrid working environment

Bill Gates recently predicted that “over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office” will not return. Many businesses will be aware that the changes we experienced in 2020 are not short-term. For many others, this prediction will come as a wake-up call.

However, a third fewer days in the office means that two-thirds of employees’ time could still be spent in this setting. Rather than a shift to 100% home-based working, what we’re looking at instead is an agile, hybrid working environment. If they’ve not done so already, firms must make moves to support this, and ensure that it’s a sustainable way of working and doing business for the long-term.

This is our new normal. However, it’s not without its challenges. Companies must adopt new communications and connectivity services which will support this agile, hybrid working environment. They also need to be ready to scale up – and scale down – operations and communications. The faster they can do this, the less negative impact there is on their bottom line.

Taking traditional approaches to doing both of these things is complex and costly.  As such, businesses should look to cloud communication and collaboration services. 

The four c’s of cloud comms: conferencing, contact centres, e-commerce and unified communications

Even before COVID-19, the demand for cloud-based toll and toll-free numbers for conferencing services and contact centres was high. We’re now seeing growing demand for these numbers for two reasons. Firstly, to support communications & collaboration among employees, customers and vendors, and secondly to support the increase in consumers relying on digital services and seeking engagement with brands.

This first scenario is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future, as work-from-home orders are expected to continue until long after a COVID-19 vaccine is found. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), recently updated a report in which it stated, ‘Teleworking is likely to become much more commonplace post-crisis’ The implications of this for businesses, it continued, ‘include the requirement for further technological investment in connectivity and network security, as well as greater scheduling and operational complexity.’ For this set-up to be sustainable, cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions must form a core part of the agile working environment. Cloud numbers in particular must be affordable for businesses, and for end-users calling these numbers, cost should remain comparable to that of a local call.

The cloud is also integral to brand communication. During COVID-19, we saw peaks in demand from sectors such as travel, hospitality and ecommerce. Just look at Black Friday: consumers in the US alone spent $9 billion on the web on November 27th, up 21.6% year over year, according to data from Adobe Analytics. More sales means more engagement with brands. In addition to talking to contact centre staff, these engagements also involve other channels of communication, such as application-to-person (A2P) messaging for package delivery notifications, one-time-password for applications and alerting on new business norms. In January, business spend on A2P messaging worldwide was predicted to grow from $27 billion in 2019 to $40 billion in 2024, due to the increasing demand for A2P messaging services in all regions.

Finally, our new normal means an increase in demand for capacity services. Whereas once infrastructure was hosted on servers on-premise, it’s now being shifted to the cloud.  At the moment, most of these enterprises are requiring point-to-point connectivity to a single cloud provider. However, momentum is growing behind multi-cloud infrastructure, with different traffic allocated to multiple cloud providers.

As such, in the near future we’ll see a shift from point-to-point to multi-point connectivity. Part of the multi service traffic will be distributed to cloud platforms such as AWS or Azure, while some will be in Google Cloud. Enterprises will require connectivity that allows these cloud sites to ‘talk’ to one another as part of a holistic cloud infrastructure.

A sustainable solution

These ‘four c’s’ aren’t passing trends; they’re fundamental elements of our new normal. Using Zoom ad hoc or boosting additional capacity as and when needed won’t cut it in the long run. What’s needed is a cost-effective approach to communications that works for enterprises, their employees and their customers.

BICS has, for a number of years now, been supporting the shift to the cloud. In doing so, we’re helping our customers connect to the cloud and digitalise their communication. Securely, economically, and at speed.

As an international communications enabler, we’re well placed to support our customers’ digital journey. We’re connected to a large number of cloud service providers. As an aggregator, we enable our customers – many of which are local, national ISPs without international network – to connect directly to whichever service provider they choose, whenever they want.

Our global reach and presence also provides us with a deep sector knowledge at a local level, always acting in line with local regulations. This means our customers don’t have to put the time and resources into establishing local partnership agreements, secure in the knowledge we will ensure adherence to regulations. Our anti-fraud capabilities also provide customers with peace of mind that their network security is robust against any attempts of abuse.

The shift to home working and remote collaboration in 2020 highlighted the need for cloud-enabled communications and unified collaboration solutions. During this period, with changes in consumer behaviour and business operations, it became clear that these solutions weren’t quick fixes for the short-term. The world has made a giant move to an agile, hybrid working environment, in which the cloud plays a central role. At BICS, we’ve been developing our cloud communications solutions for several years now. As such, we can act as the bridge between traditional telco and the new cloud domain. With our global network and telco heritage, we’re ready to support businesses and their employees for the long-term.