Cloud on cloud: Call-centre-as-a-service provider finds efficiencies in IaaS

BlueCloud Australia leverages public cloud for agility, growth

Call-centre-as-a-service provider BlueCloud Australia has managed to cut its hosting costs in half by shifting from managed hosting to infrastructure-as-as-service.

However, the company's chief operating officer, Morten Blomfeldt, says that the decision to host its own cloud-based service within Amazon's public cloud was more about providing a framework for national and international expansion of BlueCloud's call centre service than cost efficiencies.

BlueCloud provides telephony and productivity tools designed for call centres and in-house sales teams. The company's value proposition is near-instant setup for a client's team while eliminating the large capital expenditure associated with establishing a call centre.

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"It's in many ways replacing a lot of technology that was previously provided by large [vendors] such as Genesys or Cisco or Avaya.... it's moving it all to cloud and of course by doing that changing the business model upside down," Blomfeldt says.

At the moment, BlueCloud has mainly signed up customers running 10-15-seat operations, but the sectors covered by clients span the spectrum from not-for-profits conducting fundraising campaigns to energy services. "The whole thing about the BlueCloud is it's meant to be a very generic tool for any phone-based team really," Blomfeldt says.

BlueCloud focuses on outbound calls and its clients are mainly SMEs, but the company is working on adding inbound capabilities and moving towards offering an enterprise solution that will suit larger call centres.

The company charges on a per seat per month basis. The technology behind it was developed by one of the founders who operated an outsourced call centre.

"He needed a technology that was simpler and cheaper and better and more flexible to use so he started developing it for in-house use originally," Blomfeldt says.

Blomfeldt came on-board with the company about 14 months ago, around the same time as the company was pondering how to take BlueCloud's service global. Part of the strategy for expansion was shifting from managed hosting to a public cloud service, which would give the Sydney-based company global reach and the ability to scale its infrastructure as its initial client pool grew.

The company signed up for Amazon Web Services, shifting its infrastructure to EC2 and S3. Blomfeldt says the choice of cloud provider was based on his perception of Amazon's lead in the cloud space as well as the strength of its brand, which would offer reassurance to BlueCloud's customers over the security of the service. BlueCloud now has no in-house infrastructure.

"That, actually, is a lot of headaches gone right there," Blomfeldt says.

Hosting BlueCloud is a "relatively small cost component" for the company, compared to customer acquisition, and amounts to around 20 per cent of total costs, Blomfeldt says. However, the shift to cloud managed to slash a welcome 50 per cent off the hosting bill.

The COO adds that even if there was cost parity between managed hosting and cloud for BlueCloud. "To be honest I would have done it even if we didn't save that 50 per cent because of the flexibility and the scalability alone," Blomfeldt says.

Part of the appeal was getting access to a geographically dispersed global network of regions for hosting. BlueCloud has established pilot programs in Indonesia and the Philippines, and sees significant opportunities for international growth.

"We're starting up in a very serious way in the Philippines now," Blomfeldt says. "I'm very confident that we have an extremely good product match to the Philippines market, which is a very cost-conscious market, and also a market that needs very light applications like this that they can deploy easily."

For overseas operations, BlueCloud is leveraging multiple AWS Regions to minimise latency. In the Philippines and Indonesia, the provider is running part of its service in the Singapore Region while still running the main application in the Sydney Region.

In addition to offering geographical reach, using infrastructure-as-a-service means that BlueCloud's compact IT team of three is able to quickly set up new clients.

"For a small business like us, if we have 50 new seats being set up tomorrow – we have to design our whole infrastructure in a certain way to allow us to do that without causing a major disturbance on our own side," Blomfeldt says.

"I have to confidently go out to sell to new clients and then have them set up that fast because that's the whole value proposition of BlueCloud – we will have you up and running the same day if you need to.

"That's why having a solution like AWS actually is almost a requirement if you want to have that ability, as a provider like us, unless you have the funding to put massive infrastructure in place from the beginning."

"There are very few industries out there that are as hardware-intensive as [the call centre industry] and that makes it fit like a glove to cloud solutions because of that high capex," Blomfeldt says.

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