Back in January of 2013, we created a list of three technology trends that we felt would be game-changers throughout the year. The first was the adoption of mobile technologies as the primary means of communication.  Users have found ways to mobilize just about everything in their lives, empowering them to be more productive, efficient and flexible on a daily basis.  The second trend that we anticipated for the year was a noticeable shift in the way businesses budget and plan their communication strategies.  Unexpected disruptions such as Superstorm Sandy reminded business owners why it’s so important to create and maintain a business continuity plan before it’s too late. 

The final trend that we predicted for this year was the significant development in Cloud technology, allowing software, infrastructure and platform “as a service” offerings to emerge and flourish.  Whether you realized it or not, the “as a service” trend became a part of everyone’s everyday existence this year, both personally and professionally. 

Simply put, the “cloud” is a shared-consumption model for delivering IT services over a reliable, on-demand network, providing the user with a collection of configurable resources.  Today, nearly any type of software, hardware, or IT process can be offered as a cloud-based service, creating an everything “as a service” economy where users can access all of these resources on demand, without having to build or maintain any of the technology infrastructure themselves. 

While this “as a service” phenomenon has taken off tremendously in the past year, the idea originated when IT specialists realized that they could access and use software applications in the “Cloud” (SaaS).  This idea has since expanded to include solutions such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), information technology-as-a-service (ITaaS), and communications-as-a-service (CaaS). 

Software-as-a-Service, the most widely deployed Cloud technology today, is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, such as the Internet.  Traditionally, your IT vendor is responsible for purchasing, installing, and maintaining software on each and every computer in your organization.  Software-as-a-Service allows organizations to access all of their business applications for one monthly fee, eliminating the cost of purchasing individual, licensed applications, software updates, and any additional hardware.  Utilizing SaaS in your business communications strategy can allow for automatic updates, easier collaboration and compatibility, and routine upkeep and maintenance. 

Infrastructure-as-a-Service is the concept of organizations outsourcing the equipment that they typically use to support their operations, such as their servers, storage, and networking components, to the “cloud.”  This leaves the service provider with the responsibility of owning, housing, running, and maintaining all of the equipment.  With Public Cloud providers driving down prices in the past few years, this “as a service” model is becoming increasingly commoditized. 

Information Technology-as-a-Service is a technology delivery method that presents IT, or information technology, as a commodity.  For one monthly fee, organizations are provided with the hardware, software, and support they may need.  This approach provides the customer with scalability options, minimal upfront IT costs, and around-the-clock expert support. 

One of the biggest advantages of obtaining IT support “as a service” is the implementation of Desktop Virtualization into your business communications strategy.  Desktop Virtualization is a technology that separates the desktop environment and any associated application software from the physical hardware itself.  Users can gain access to their desktop from any location on any device, while administrators can support and deploy those devices from a centralized location.  This technology reduces the total cost of desktop ownership by almost 70% through remote troubleshooting, ease of deployment, and the overall extended life of older equipment. 

Communications-as-a-Service is something we here at ETA have discussed and helped our customers implement a great deal over the past year.  In its broadest sense, CaaS encompasses a wide range of communications, applications, and technologies, accessed over the “Cloud,” including Cloud based VoIP, Cloud-based IVR, and Cloud-based contact centers. The most common and widely implemented application within the CaaS silo is Cloud-based VoIP, a method of communicating over the “Cloud” using either fixed or mobile devices.  In this model, the IP phones, switches, and routers are housed on the customer’s site, while the system’s “intelligence” sits in the “Cloud.”  As opposed to premise-based communications, Cloud-based communications provide survivability, low total cost of ownership, and protection against technology obsolescence all without an on-site system administrator. 

As the idea of scalable and virtualized resources that were otherwise once local and isolated continues to spread, we are now seeing the possibilities of completely transitioning to an “as a service” economy.  Based on the anticipated explosive growth in mobile technology, significant boost in planning strategies, and the major shift to an “as a service” market in 2013, we expect to see even more rapid and expansive growth in these areas during 2014.