Written by Will Morey

First things first: there isn’t really a clear “first day” for cloud. So, I’m taking a bit of a liberty with the “20 years” in the title.

It took a combination of things to make cloud possible. The spread of internet connectivity was one factor. The emergence of large data centres in the early 2000s was another, via the likes of Amazon and Google.

This created the ability to host applications offsite at scale. The term “the cloud” took off and gained currency, and different hosted services like Skype and Dropbox provided proof of concept. In short, the development of cloud was more a process than an event.

What we can say is that the cloud as we know it is roughly 20 years old. With that in mind, and with Pragma’s year end in the recent past, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on how it’s going. Spoiler alert: it’s going well.

Cloud: Global growth

Cloud services are growing and growing. According to research by Gartner last year, end user spending on all public cloud services was over $490 billion worldwide in 2022. The same report predicted that this would grow to nearly $600 billion by the end of this year.

The market research varies, but most estimates have the global value at well over $1 trillion by 2030. In short, for a market that didn’t really exist at the turn of the century, cloud has grown spectacularly and will continue to do so.

That’s the global context for all cloud services. What about telecoms in the UK? Let’s bring it closer to home.

Cloud communications in the UK: where we are

There’s a lot to be proud of here. Roughly 40% of UK businesses now use some form of cloud phone system. It’s worth mentioning that this is exceptional as far as the global picture is concerned. In most countries, the number is nowhere near that, either due to lagging infrastructure or a reluctance to leave on-premise behind.

We see this in microcosm at Pragma as an Ericsson-LG partner. We provide iPECS Cloud to the UK channel, and uptake here has been greater than in any other country. This is a huge point of pride for us here at Pragma.

So, the UK has the infrastructure to support cloud, and huge numbers of UK businesses have been willing to take the leap and embrace it. Lockdown sped the process up by creating a need to enable remote working, but lockdown is a distant memory and cloud communication is still growing.

This has changed our industry. Still though, 40% of businesses is less than half. This hints at the next point: there’s huge room for growth.

More opportunities to win

Cloud has already transformed the channel. Resellers used to live day to day from one-off sales. Now, it’s all about recurring revenue. And with so many businesses yet to switch to cloud, there’s enormous potential for new cloud business.

As the ISDN/PSTN switch-off looms and fibre infrastructure spreads, more of these businesses will be able to migrate.

Of course, I’m talking about migration from on-premise to cloud here only – i.e. the more or less 60% of businesses that haven’t adopted cloud. Those who have are also potential customers for competitors. After all, it’s not complicated to switch from one cloud phone system to another.

This brings me to my final point – a look to the future, and how we’re helping partners retain customers.

What’s next in Cloud Communications?

It’s quite clear that cloud adoption is set to grow further in the UK. And even more than the on-premise era, this puts a huge emphasis on customer retention. Contracts are often shorter with cloud than on-premise, and switching providers is simpler.

I think that’s a healthy thing. We should be providing great ongoing service to end users instead of putting all focus on the one-off sale. So, how are we using cloud technology to help our partners achieve this?

I could cite many factors that make a difference, including our sales, operations and marketing support. But in keeping with the theme of this post, I’d like to highlight technical developments.

Different businesses have different needs, and it’s increasingly clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all way to meet them. That’s why we’ve been developing new products that other providers can’t offer – to help our partners win and retain more business.

The next generation of cloud technology

These include CONTACT for iPECS Cloud, which enables an omni-channel contact centre. This means voice, email, social media, SMS and Web Chat in one management portal, alongside analytics and recording. So, CONTACT doesn’t just help businesses offer better-quality service to customers – it does it in a way that’s easy to manage and incredibly efficient. There’s also PCI for iPECS Cloud, which automates PCI DSS 4.0 compliance with taking card payments over the phone.

Most recently, we’ve launched CONNECT for iPECS Cloud. This is a browser-based UC app that we can integrate with any other cloud services that have an API. It comes with the option of either Google or Microsoft integration built in, and we can develop bespoke integrations too. This takes the logic of unified communications one step further. It’s not just all communication channels in one place – it’s all productivity tools in one place.

Frankly, no one else can offer this as fast, or with the development service as part of the package.

The rationale is simple. If what we offer is useful, we’ll win more business. If it’s also unique, we’ll retain more business. As cloud continues to grow, customer requirements will only become more specific and technically demanding – and our partners will be able to meet those requirements.

Here’s to the next 20 years

I’m proud of how far we’ve progressed in such a short time. In the on-premise era when we started, Pragma was a distributor of hardware. Now we’re a cloud service provider, breaking new technical ground.

I’m even more proud when I look at the contribution of the whole EnableX group. Candio is helping telecom resellers find new sources of recurring revenue, while Techland manages large-scale cloud migrations better than anyone.

This doesn’t mean we’re resting on our laurels. Our new product range is just the start of what’s to come as this technology spreads and develops. And while the cloud market has grown to an impressive size, its room for growth is even greater. In many ways, the cloud era is only just beginning. So here’s to the next 20 years, and the part we all play.