On-premises or cloud? That question has been facing organizations as they seek to deploy unified communications (UC) solutions. In previous posts we have discussed some of the factors you should consider in choosing an on-premises or cloud-based UC system.

Rather than taking an “either-or” position, many organizations are finding that a hybrid UC solution makes the most sense. Gartner defines hybrid UC as a combination of deployment models that enables the seamless integration and delivery of UC services. On-premises and cloud-based UC are mixed and matched to support different functionality, locations, user roles or security requirements. This could mean, for example, that an organizations uses an on-premises IP phone system at headquarters while deploying cloud-based solutions at smaller remote offices.

Another application of hybrid UC involves connecting a cloud-based UC service to an on-premises appliance that is designed to support various types of communications equipment. This solution can be used to handle SIP trunking or to combine cloud IP telephony with traditional landline connections for redundancy and failover.

With hybrid UC, organizations don’t face the tradeoffs associated with on-premises versus cloud solutions. While many organizations have embraced the cloud, many others remain hesitant to move their vital communications to a cloud environment. A hybrid model gives them the best of both worlds. It also enables organizations to transition to the cloud at a measured pace while enhancing business continuity.

A primary driver for cloud UC adoption is cost. Organizations can take advantage of the latest UC features without capital investments in on-premises equipment. Management and upgrades are the responsibility of the service provider. That’s why cloud UC makes so much sense for remote locations and certain workgroups.

Cloud UC also provides rapid scalability. Organizations can quickly add more workers and devices to support business growth or seasonal fluctuations.

Despite the proven benefits of the cloud, on-premises UC offers undeniable advantages. IT retains control over the IP communications system, and sensitive business data remains behind the firewall. On-premises solutions can be customized to better support business processes, integrate with key applications and provide more sophisticated call-handling functionality.

It’s important to note that “hybrid UC” doesn’t mean simply using on-premises and cloud-based platforms simultaneously. It refers to a tightly integrated solution that delivers unified management and a seamless user experience across the organization.

ShoreTel is taking the hybrid model to the next level, enabling organizations to combine cloud and on-premises solutions in ways that best meet their unique needs. ShoreTel 14.2 allows customers to deploy the ShoreTel Unified Communications system in a virtual environment, bringing greater flexibility and cloud-like characteristics to its on-premises solution. ShoreTel Connect is a gateway that integrates ShoreTel’s on-premises phone systems with cloud-based applications.

In the coming days, look for an important announcement from ShoreTel about its common platform for on-premises and cloud UC. The common platforms will enable organizations to utilize the same ShoreTel features and applications regardless of deployment model. IPC stands ready to help customers take advantage of the ShoreTel hybrid cloud solution.