Why Cloud Collaboration Tools Are Perfect for Governments

Feature-rich collaboration tools are more accessible and useful than ever.

Organizations often roll out ambitious and costly initiatives to optimize operations and boost productivity. But in the end, how well they do often comes down to simple, everyday human interactions.

Two of today's most popular technologies, unified communications (UC) and cloud computing, are uniquely suited to improve those interactions. A collection of dynamic collaboration technologies offered through the cloud as a service provides state and local governments with easy access to a set of performance tools that can improve overall performance and outcomes.

Collaboration and Cloud

Collaboration encompasses a wide variety of communication tools and technologies, including voice and voicemail, mobility, video, conferencing, contact center software and instant messaging and presence. Utilizing the cloud to deliver these rich capabilities addresses many of the drawbacks to a traditional UC rollout.

A pay-as-you-go model eliminates the need for a substantial initial capital outlay typical of UC rollouts. The implementation can occur much faster and entails little more than "ordering" services from the provider. "Speed to market is extremely valuable in today's business environment," says Andy Dignan, director of collaboration solutions for CDW. "Rather than a longer, drawn-out on-premises rollout, UC in the cloud offers a quick jump to new, valuable features."

Contracting with a cloud provider also offloads the operational and troubleshooting responsibilities. "You don't need a large staff to manage the UC system," says Dignan. "That staff can be refocused on core business opportunities."

CDW's Cloud Collaboration

CDW recently entered the fray of this evolving, competitive market with its Cloud Collaboration solution. This offering bundles Cisco's industry-leading collaboration platforms with CDW's premiere-class managed services — collaboration tools, managed for you, in the cloud.

While this is a new solution, CDW is not new to collaboration tools. "CDW has done 4,000 Cisco UC deployments over the past decade," says Dignan. "We have one of the largest bases of Cisco UC customers in the United States. Our staff is quite familiar with this technology."

A Tier III-IV, 485,000-square-foot facility hosts the CDW service. The data center runs 8.2 megawatts of power to support world-class virtualization, storage and optimization services. Our components are fully redundant and offered at four nines of uptime.

In terms of security, the cloud solution features a virtual private network core and secure customer edge components. "In the cloud, we take security very seriously," says Dignan. "We offer customers their own secure network built on VMware products. Their data never mixes or touches other tenants' data."

With all of this security and expertise backing its cloud collaboration service, CDW delivers peace of mind to organizations, allowing staff to focus on what really drives their mission — those individual human interactions.

Balking at the Carrier Bundle

Many traditional telecom carriers offer lots of features in their UC offerings. But is bundling all of these features always the best fit for an organization?

"CDW's experience has been that customers don't typically want to be locked into a single carrier [for all of their UC needs]," says Andy Dignan, director of collaboration solutions for CDW. "With our cloud collaboration solution, we're not bundling in everything. We can be carrier neutral."

If customers already have contracts, they don't have to rip out everything onsite and create a new infrastructure to accommodate a change in service provider. "We can integrate our solution with other providers," adds Dignan. "Customers like this kind of flexibility."

<p>Gary S Chapman/Getty Images</p>
Sep 18 2012