Unified Communications in The Cloud vs. On-Premise

By: Matt Kanaskie
July 22, 2022

Unified Communications (UC) can help you get so much more from your phone system. If you’ve already decided that UC will be the best communication system for your organization, you’ve made a smart choice. However, you have another big decision headed your way — UC can either be hosted on-premise or in the cloud, where it’s commonly known as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).

If you’ve spent some time researching upgrading your business phones, you’ve already done quite a bit of work. In this blog, I’ll try to save you some time by laying out the pros and cons of on-premise UC and UCaaS, so this next decision can be easier.  

Pros and Cons of UCaaS and On-Premise UC

Responsibilities

If you choose on-premise UC, you can set it up how you like, but you’ll need an experienced IT technician to do it. As the system is yours to maintain and upgrade, your IT staff will also be responsible for doing both.

If you choose UCaaS, the provider is responsible for keeping the system running and up to date. You won’t have quite as much freedom to customize your setup. But you’ll still get to select features you’d like and choose some settings within your customer portal.  

ON-PREMISE UCAAS
CON - more responsibility CON - fewer options
CON - professional IT skills are needed PRO - easy setup
PRO - can customize your system PRO - no maintenance required

Budget

With on-premise UC, you will need to invest in your own equipment and take care of maintenance. Your investment may offer tax advantages, and depending on the size of your organization, you’ll probably pay less over time. However, you may have surprise expenses down the road when your equipment needs to be maintained or upgraded.

With UCaaS, you’ll have minimal upfront equipment costs, as this service is hosted on the cloud. Instead, you’ll pay for a monthly subscription to this service. You’ll pay based on your organization's size and the features you’d like to access.

ON-PREMISE UCAAS
CON - significant upfront investment CON - potentially pay more over time
CON - will have additional costs when equipment needs to be upgraded PRO - no significant upfront costs
PRO - potential tax advantages PRO - no surprises

Remote Work

If you go with on-premise, you will need to be in the office to get much use out of it. If your staff needs to communicate frequently while working from home or on the road, on-premise might not be the best fit.

If you go with UCaaS, users can access features from any smart device. For this reason alone, it’s easy to understand why UCaaS subscriptions have skyrocketed in the past few years.

ON-PREMISE UCAAS
CON - most features designed for use at the office PRO - can accommodate hybrid and remote work scenarios
CON - additional networking needed to enable remote connectivity  PRO - can accommodate business travel

Flexibility

With an on-premise system, you’ll be somewhat locked into the system you choose. Adding a large number of users quickly will be difficult. But if your organization is relatively stable, you may not need to do this often. If you often need to scale staff up or down, or you anticipate doing so in the next few years, on-premise might not be the best option.

With UCaaS, scaling up or down quickly is easy, and you can add or subtract users quickly through your customer portal.  You can add or remove features as needed so that you can save money in lean times. You will also have access to the latest and greatest technology sooner as your provider continues to advance their offering.

ON-PREMISE UCAAS
CON - difficult to add or remove users PRO - can add or remove users quickly and easily
PRO - lower cost of ownership if you invest in a solution you'll grow into PRO - can scale along with your organization
  PRO - new features can be added at any time

Quality

If you invest in an on-premise system, you’ll have a lot of options about what to buy and can invest in high-quality equipment. However, keep in mind that the pace of technology has accelerated, and your call quality might suffer if you rely on older infrastructure and tools.

If you partner with a UCaaS provider, they are tasked with keeping their equipment up to date, so your call quality will remain high.

ON-PREMISE UCAAS
PRO - can choose equipment PRO - reliable quality
CON - call quality may suffer if other systems aren’t up to date CON - call quality may suffer if other systems aren't up to date

Dependability                              

If you choose an on-premise system, if your workplace is affected by a natural disaster, your system will likely be destroyed along with the rest of your on-premise equipment. Odds are, this is something you won’t have to worry about. But if something does happen, your system will be unrecoverable.

If you choose UCaaS, you will be able to communicate seamlessly, even in the unlikely event of a natural disaster.

ON-PREMISE UCAAS
CON - vulnerable to natural disaster on-site PRO - on-site natural disasters won’t affect service
CON - extensive design work needed PRO - providers typically have additional safeguards in place to preserve service continuity

Cybersecurity

If you’re still considering purchasing an on-premise system, it’s also important to note that your IT team will be responsible for configuring its cybersecurity. Your team may have the specialized skill set required to do so. But it’s not uncommon these days for internal IT staff to be overwhelmed, understaffed and under-skilled. Their time and skills may be put to better use elsewhere.

With UCaaS, you will benefit from your provider’s enterprise-scale cybersecurity tools. They know that if their system fails to keep their clients’ data safe, they’ll have to answer for it publicly. Therefore, they have a powerful incentive (as well as the means) to safeguard your data. While it’s natural to have a certain amount of instinctive distrust for off-site cloud solutions, they’re typically much safer.

ON-PREMISE UCAAS
CON - your team must provide cybersecurity PRO - enterprise-scale cybersecurity provided automatically
PRO - can customize your cybersecurity posture CON - must trust the provider for cybersecurity controls

Conclusion

If your organization is relatively stable in terms of its size and needs, your staff doesn’t work remotely, and you have a highly skilled internal IT team with the time to configure and manage an additional system, an on-premise solution might be the right fit. As an added bonus, while you’ll need a higher upfront investment, you may pay less over time.

However, for most organizations, it makes more sense to choose UCaaS for the peace of mind, ease of use, greater accessibility, and budget transparency it provides.

Finding the Right UCaaS Provider

Some UCaaS providers can sweeten the deal even further. For example, Marco’s UCaaS gives organizations access to the latest integrated applications, like real-time web and audio conferencing, mobile applications, softphones, contact center, presence, and secure instant messaging. Subscribers can also access potential savings through our Stax Program.

UCaaS isn’t the right fit for every organization. So if you’re still on the fence about which UC solution is right for you, feel free to reach out to one of our communication specialists. We’ll ask in-depth questions to get to know your needs and goals so we can make a more custom recommendation.

Learn More About Hosted UCaaS Contact a Marco Rep

Topics: Phone & Collaboration