Markets are in a permanent flux and the product cycles become increasingly shorter. It is obvious that this is a tremendous challenge for global players as well as for small and midsize companies. Due to the increasing number of challenges, companies refocus on their core competences and start replacing their standard IT infrastructure with cloud services. Our recent study “Communication 4.0 - Communication and Collaboration in the Cloud” has revealed that this trend has already taken full effect in corporate communications. As a result, there are more and more reasons to go to the cloud.
No company wants to embark on a cloud migration project without being sure that the transition to the cloud environment will be a smooth one. The complexity of onboarding is often a reason why companies are reluctant with cloud projects even though they are convinced of the benefits of the cloud. Long-term success depends above all on doing everything right from the start during the migration. So what are the advantages that the cloud brings? What is onboarding and what does the typical process look like? Here are the answers:
Why migrating to the cloud can make sense
Scalability, i. e. to be able to easily gear services to changing needs, is a deciding factor for many companies opting for cloud solutions. Storage capacity, computing power, and the number of software packages can be selected accurately and adapted to actual requirements of the company. The cloud offers the flexibility to decide when and how to expand which makes it a valuable strategic asset.
Our cloud study from 2018 shows that costs are one of the most common reasons for companies to change their IT delivery model. Applications deployed in the cloud can help to reduce investments and operating expenses. No long-term capital commitment is necessary as the costs for all required services such as the usage of hardware resources or special application software are usually invoiced monthly and can therefore be easily calculated. The regular hardware upgrades required to keep pace with the latest technology are also a significant cost factor that is eliminated when using a cloud service as the costs are transferred to the respective provider. This also applies to costly preventive measures for failure protection. However, it should be noted that there are always initial costs in a cloud project that must be amortized first.
Mobile, location-independent access to IT resources as well as high availability and performance of IT services are also advantages of cloud services. As a result, cloud solutions can be implemented much faster than their on-premise counterparts and are therefore available earlier. Furthermore, in a cloud-based IT environment, new products can be brought to market faster and thus it is possible to react more quickly to customer requirements.
What is onboarding?
In the context of cloud migration, “onboarding” refers to the delivery of applications, data or both via the selected cloud infrastructure (public, private or hybrid). Basically, onboarding represents the final phase of the migration process. Successful onboarding hinges on a careful and thorough planning process. Comprehensive preparation is the recipe for successful onboarding.
Cloud Onboarding: An interview with ASC experts
Successful cloud onboarding is therefore all about prior planning and careful preparation. We regularly carry out cloud onboardings for our recording solutions. In the following interview, Uwe Kleinschmidt, Head of PreSales & Consulting, and Tamer Çalışkan, Head of Development Operations at ASC Technologies AG, explain us the process in detail and point out the aspects to pay special attention to.
Mr. Kleinschmidt, what are the basics that must be considered in cloud onboarding?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: There are two scenarios when connecting customers to our cloud. Either, we connect service providers hosting their own telephony solutions. In this case, we connect two data centers: The data center of the service provider with its unified communication (UC) or its PBX and our cloud. Or, we connect PBXs operated by end customers on their premises. In that case, we connect the on-premise PBX of the customer with our cloud.
And how do you organize cloud onboarding of a recording solution for a customer?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: Our customers are mainly our partners that market our solutions. These partners are either service providers or system integrators. If an end customer is interested in a recording solution, we first discuss the basic details with our partner and the end customer. This is crucial for a smooth process. Sales provides the customer with a list of questions that the customer is asked to answer in detail. After that, there is the actual onboarding including implementation, configuration, test runs, and live support.
Which are the questions that you ask the customer beforehand?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: The list of questions serves to determine the technical conditions - what we can take as given and where we have to provide the respective prerequisites first. First of all, we determine the type and the version of the UC system, the number of end devices, extensions, and users etc. required currently and potentially in the future as well as the need for training and the compatibility of the customer’s firewall with the VPN requirements of ASC. When customers use their own on-premise PBX, we additionally need to know the key figures of their Internet connection. This check list ensures that the partner as well as the end customer are ideally prepared for the next step. Once we have answers to all those questions, the end customer or the partner receives an offer.
Overview of the list of questions
Basically, the list of questions deals with six main issues that need to be clarified:
- Which type and which version of the phone system does the company use?
We compare this with an internal list to find out which types and versions are supported by our solutions.
- How many end devices, extensions, and users are required now and will be required in the future?
This number is a good indicator for us to calculate the bandwidth. It allows us to be optimally prepared for the project.
- 3. What speed and data throughput does the customer’s Internet connection have?
To assess at an early stage whether the bandwidth will be sufficient, we need to know how fast the customer’s Internet connection is. As a result, we can estimate whether the customer’s infrastructure is likely to live up to the customer’s plans.
- Does the partner of the end customer need a special training?
ASC sets up the cloud platform for the respective partner and configures a connection, but in everyday business it is the partner who is responsible for operation. This requires a training which will enable the partner to implement changes such as configuring new employees, new extensions or changing names autonomously.
- Do customers’ firewalls support the VPN requirements of ASC?
If the customer has an on-premise PBX, we establish a VPN tunnel between our cloud and the environment of the end customer. The corresponding technical prerequisites are always evaluated in advance and summarized in detail in a separate document. Based on this document, we can assess whether the customer’s firewall meets the VPN requirements of ASC.
- Is the customer’s IT involved (VPN and SIP)?
It always facilitates matters when there are direct contact partners. That way, operational questions can be answered without detours.
Mr. Çalışkan, are there minimum requirements in terms of bandwidth for a successful cloud onboarding?
Tamer Çalışkan: The minimum requirements in bandwidth are relatively easy to calculate. The data transmission rate usually is about 100 Kbit/s for one call. That means for ten calls you need 1 Mbit/s etc. This is exactly the reason why we ask such things in our list of questions to clarify in advance whether the customer's infrastructure is equipped for the required bandwidth.
Mr. Kleinschmidt, what do partners learn in your training?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: Our training mainly focuses on two core topics: Administration and troubleshooting. For a start, participants learn to configure their components of the cloud environment and act as administrator for the end customer. By the end of the training, the partners know how the end customer has been connected and how the system has to be monitored from their point of view. The approach to troubleshooting is very systematic to prepare partners to solve any issue that may occur. So, when there is a problem during operation, end customers can directly approach the partner who will act as first-level support. Anything that goes beyond that, can be forwarded to us and we will solve the cause of the problem.
What happens then?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: Once the technical, organizational, and administrative basics have been settled, the actual physical connection of the end customer or of the service provider to our neo cloud is established. This involves a project kickoff first, of course. During this, we present the project, discuss further procedures, and introduce all involved parties. This way, all project participants develop a common understanding of the project and get to know each other.
What is the very first step in an onboarding process?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: First, we configure the connection between the UC system and the ASC neo cloud (VPN tunnel or IPSec via dedicated lines). Then, we configure the UC or the telephony system within the ASC neo cloud as well as the customer-specific environment. This can also be done on a dedicated test system within the ASC neo cloud before productive operation.
And what happens next?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: Once the connection has been established, we support the customer or partner with connection and functionality tests on the ASC neo cloud system. At this stage, the partner receives login data and is thus able to administrate its section of the cloud platform. The test period takes a maximum of two weeks.
How do you conclude the project?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: With what we call the “go-live support”: In the following two days, we are on hold around the clock to answer any questions that may arise or additional information that is required. The go-live support period is the culmination of a successful cloud onboarding.
To the cloud in five steps
- Installation and configuration of the telephony system in the ASC neo Cloud test system
- Test period with connection and functionality tests
- Changing from the test system to the ASC neo cloud live system
- Go-live system
Mr. Çalışkan, how much time does this usually take overall?
Tamer Çalışkan: Connecting a service provider is clearly more complex than connecting an end customer. For a training, we schedule three days; for preparations and planning two to four weeks. For the installation and configuration of the system we calculate with one day. The test phase usually covers two weeks. After that, we may need another day to change from the test system to the ASC neo cloud live system. After that, we offer one to two days of live support, depending on the needs. All in all, from the first contact to productive operation, we calculate with a period of about four to seven weeks.
And how do you guarantee the protection of data during the onboarding process?
Tamer Çalışkan: For a start, we provide end customers with a site-to-site VPN. A site-to-site VPN protects the connection by means of IPsec (Internet Protocol Security). That way, the entire data traffic can be encrypted and is sent to the respective VPN gateway via a secure VPN tunnel via the Internet. This tunnel blocks external effects and malign content. All security requirements for our customers can be found in the document “IPsec Requirements”.
Mr. Kleinschmidt, which measures are indispensable for a successful onboarding process?
Uwe Kleinschmidt: The better the preparation in advance, the smoother the configuration and installation will be. But of course, each step itself is decisive for a successful onboarding. But a clearly defined, unified process coordination in cooperation with the partner and the customer from the word go definitely facilitates matters.