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A hybrid approach to deploying unified communications can be viewed as a stepping stone on the journey to the cloud. Mainly, hybrid UC deployments are about minimizing risk when migrating from on-premises systems to the cloud. Hybrid allows IT teams to stay in their comfort zone on site, while also dipping their toe in the cloud. If they stub their toe and find that cloud doesn't work for them, it's not that difficult to revert to a premises-based model for UC.
In that regard, hybrid UC should be viewed as a means to an end rather than a final outcome. We are past the point of wondering whether cloud can provide business-grade performance for communications platforms. The challenges around scale, which primarily affect large enterprises, have been addressed and shouldn't be obstacles for SMBs.
The main merit of a hybrid approach is providing a best-of-both-worlds scenario, where the familiarity of premises-based technology is maintained and cloud applications are deployed at a pace IT can manage. Most businesses are likely using cloud applications without issue more than they realize and may find UC more cloud-friendly than initially expected. In this case, the path to a full cloud UC deployment is clearer.
At the heart of the issue is control. On-premises UC offers IT broader control over how UC platforms are monitored and managed compared to cloud-based options. Maintaining that control has been key driver for keeping UC on premises. Even though IT knows cloud-based UC offers attractive cost options and provides richer features to make workers more productive, IT still faces uncertainty when it comes to management.
The effect on IT is a key driver when considering a UC deployment model, and IT control is the fundamental trade-off with the cloud. If IT's thinking remains rooted in the command-and-control model common with legacy technology, hybrid UC will be a stalling tactic used to assess what IT's role will look like in an all-cloud deployment.
Conversely, if IT teams align more with current trends, they will see hybrid as a way to validate the cloud for UC. For them, hybrid won't be a long-term option, as they have already recognized that at some point UC will be all cloud for their organization.