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The search for increased flexibility and enhanced collaboration is driving increasing numbers of organizations to migrate their communication services to the cloud. A cloud communication environment creates a single platform for integrating unified communications, contact centers and workplace collaboration solutions.

This integration produces compelling benefits. By providing single-pane-of-glass access to all voice, video, data and mobile services, a cloud communication platform can reduce costs, improve scalability and boost productivity. Analysts with Frost & Sullivan predict that cloud communications adoption will grow by 27 percent annually through 2021.

However, moving business communications to the cloud does create some challenges. One involves connecting the cloud calling platform with the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN), which remains the primary network for connecting voice communications around the world.

Although most cloud providers include PSTN connectivity in their subscription plans, that’s not always the most advantageous approach for organizations. Instead, many organizations choose to use their own SIP trunking services for such connections. Based on Session Initiation Protocol, SIP trunking enables phone service providers to deliver IP phone services and unified communications over the PSTN.

Conventional wisdom held that organizations would no longer need to provision their own SIP trunks when they moved to a cloud service such as Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS). Providers have already invested in the infrastructure needed to connect with the PSTN and typically include local and long-distance calling services as part of their subscription bundle.

However, a recent Nemertes study of workplace collaboration technology trends found that a surprising number of organizations continue to use SIP trunks even when adopting UCaaS. Nemertes suggests five reasons for this trend:

Cost. Providers typically bill PSTN connectivity through bundled minutes built into the subscription plan. That usually makes good financial sense for smaller businesses, but a self-managed approach is more cost-efficient for enterprise organizations. Large enterprises can get a better rate with self-managed SIP trunking services from one or more providers, coupled with policy-based routing to minimize toll charges.

Control. Using a provider’s PSTN access services requires transferring your phone numbers to their domain. Enterprise organizations with thousands of phone numbers may not want to give up that control. In addition, the transfer process introduces significant complexity that increases the chances of disruption or downtime.

Flexibility. Moving phone numbers to a cloud provider also creates provider lock-in. It’s much easier to move from one cloud provider to another if you maintain your own SIP trunks with control of your PSTN numbers. It also makes it easier to utilize multiple cloud providers.

Contracts. Very often, an organization will have a long-term contract with one or more SIP trunking providers. These can be costly to break. It is usually more cost-efficient to fulfill the terms of an existing contract rather than pay penalties to shift PTSN connectivity to a cloud provider.

Features. SIP trunk providers often offer features not available from cloud providers. These may include APIs for phone number provisioning, emergency services call routing, mobile texting services and “virtual” phone numbers for call forwarding in remote markets. Some providers offer automated toll fraud protection systems that can suspend international calling in the event of suspicious calling patterns.

There is a measurable shift toward cloud-based communication and collaboration services. Gartner predicts that by 2021, 90 percent of organizations will no longer purchase new on-premises unified communication hardware. While the “as a service” model offers significant operational and budgeting benefits, self-managed SIP trunking is often a better choice for PSTN connectivity.