Hybrid cloud computing and communications has been increasingly top of mind for companies of all sizes.

Cloud is often a strategic business initiative, and many see hybrid as a safe stepping stone to solutions that are 100 percent cloud-based. This year at Enterprise Connect — a long-running conference and exhibition for enterprise communications and collaboration in North America — hybrid cloud was very prevalent in the conversations, with a significant shift in opinion on the topic of cloud in general.

It’s fair to say that 2016 may be the year many CIOs take a serious look at the cloud model and start to modernize their business communications. But the biggest question for most CIOs likely remains: Do I go all in or stick one toe in at a time?

All, Nothing or Just a Little Bit?

When organizations start looking into cloud communications deployments and what it would mean for their business, a hybrid solution sounds like a reasonable, safe way to start the move — a way to keep existing infrastructure and over time move pieces to the cloud.

What better way to keep risk at bay? It’s not going all in, but definitely dipping a toe or two in the water. These companies will find that the vendor for their premises-based system wholly agrees with this plan, as they likely see it as a way to lock the customer into their next release and keep them on board for another three to four years.

Hybrid offerings generally consist of a dedicated instance of an application setup for a company’s specific use, either in the cloud or private infrastructure.

This instance can be used to add functionality or capacity to current implementations and allows the company to keep using existing configurations and applications, thereby allowing them to take a phased approach to the cloud, transitioning one function at a time, or perhaps simply have the cloud available for overflow.

Best - or Worst - of Both Worlds?

Those who champion the hybrid model in the business communications industry see this as the best of both worlds, seemingly making it possible for businesses to have their cake and eat it too. It certainly enables companies to move to the cloud slowly, letting them add capacity without making it necessary to build their own infrastructure.

In addition, organizations can keep sensitive customer data onsite, while still having infrastructure in the cloud. But is hybrid the right move, and do you ever come out ahead?

Hybrid cloud solutions benefit companies most by enabling the move to the cloud without dramatic changes.

Organizations can keep their custom systems the same, avoid change and move infrastructure off-premises.

This may work for some back-end applications like data storage, but organizations need to really weigh their options when looking at transitioning something as visible and mission-critical as business telephony infrastructure or global contact centers. In these cases, moving to a hybrid solution can ultimately be very limiting.

Below, are a number of issues that appear when moving from an on premises call center or unified communications system to a hybrid cloud model — a move which has the likelihood of underperforming and potentially compromising your system:

Painful Upgrades

This is one we are probably all familiar with.When deploying a customized hybrid cloud, any upgrade to the software necessitates significant testing and regression work to ensure all moving parts work well together.

Integrations Get Really Complicated

Integrating two custom built systems requires a considerable number of services to combine, and oh don’t touch it once it works! When you compare this to a pure cloud model, it’s a no-brainer. Vendors have pre-defined APIs to make integrations quick, consistent, and straightforward.

Adding Features or Functionality Doesn’t Get Any Easier

If you lock your company into a hybrid solution, you end up with a similar amount of work as an on premises system. Even though a hybrid option may seem like an easy way to add functionality, you will still need to go through the same level of integration into your infrastructure to add a custom function onsite as you would with a hybrid cloud-based solution.

Are You Really Optimizing Staff and Resource Availability?

This is likely hybrid cloud’s biggest promise: Simply transition the cost and effort of system management to the vendor and let your IT team focus on more critical tasks. But when you really look at this proposition, how real are the savings if your vendor is managing a one-off implementation, and you are still left to staff and manage what is on premises?

This sounds like unnecessary additional IT cost and overhead – it’s just now, instead of managing it with more of your IT team’s time, you are sending a check to a vendor. A pure cloud solution, empowers vendors to take advantage of the economies of scale – something you simply can’t get with the private, hybrid deployment approach.

All-Cloud Communications

The chief concerns that hold businesses back from investing in the cloud are security, reliability and control. It’s true: You should not move to the cloud without understanding the implications around these concerns or any others.

However, the conversation around hybrid deployments seems to be stemming directly from customer realization that cloud is actually happening. And it’s already happening in the contact center and unified communications markets.

Don’t let the move paralyze you. Go all in.

To benefit from some of the biggest advantages of cloud implementations — seamless, rapid integrations, latest software releases, constant additions to portfolio breadth and functionality — organizations must jump in with both feet.

Once you do, you can truly set yourself up for success in the long term. There are many large enterprises and SMBs making this move to drive their business forward and reap the numerous benefits of cloud.

There’s a great big pool out there, so take a dive into the deep end. As as you know it is always harder to go in one toe at a time.

Title image by Kelly Sikkema in the public domain