It’s hard to believe that less than a decade ago many traditional contact centres’ sole function was to act as a switchboard for customer enquiries. Limited to normal office hours and operating only from fixed landlines, call centre staff were tasked with directing incoming callers to specialist customer service representatives.

Fast forward a few years and those inflexible ways of communicating have been revolutionised. New technologies and ways of working have spurred businesses to employ far more efficient communications practices that cut costs, and, at the same time, transform their customer service standards.

Cloud is one source of innovation which has revolutionised the contact centre industry. When this new hosting option first moved on to the horizon businesses were quick to recognise the cost saving benefits, however the main concern focused on the perceived lack of data security. The most successful cloud providers have had to respond by offering solutions that address the barriers preventing a wider migration to the cloud.

In the last twelve months there has been a significant rise in the number of UK companies with contact centres taking the decision to move to the cloud. A clear indicator of the changing perceptions in the industry has been revealed in a recent OnePoll survey, conducted on behalf of Interactive Intelligence. This shows that almost three quarters (73 per cent) of UK contact centres already have cloud-based operations, or would like to move their operations to the cloud during 2013. The results demonstrate the greater demand and rapid uptake of cloud-based contact centres across a wide range of sectors.

The OnePoll survey, which questioned 500 directors and senior managers, also determined that the main reasons cited for moving to the cloud were to reduce capital expenditure, aid the growth of their business and allow faster deployment in their contact centres. There continues to be some areas of uncertainty, with almost half (43 per cent) of the business managers surveyed still highlighting concerns over security issues, while nearly a quarter said they were uneasy by the lack of onsite support.

The overarching message from those companies looking at moving to the cloud is the need for a trusted solution that will provide enhanced security and reliability. A range of other considerations were also raised, these included scalability, as well as cost and customer service. Evidently, when it comes to a cloud solution, it is clear a one size fits all approach will not work for most businesses.

The key to strong security has to be flexibility, and companies need specific solutions that can be moulded to suit their individual infrastructures. There are solutions on the market that provide several elements of enhanced security for customers. Portals that offer dedicated virtual machines in the cloud can open up further options for companies to customise their solutions. In addition, models that use VoIP combine all of the advantages of a hosted solution, while providing businesses the reassurance, control and security of a premise-based solution.

There are still specific sectors, such as financial services and healthcare, which have particular concerns around the storage of sensitive customer data. Addressing data integrity has been a priority for many cloud providers and customers need to look for solutions where the physical storage of data, such as voice and audio recordings, remain on their own site inside their firewall, thus maintaining control within the corporate headquarters.

During the last few years there has also been greater protection brought by measures such as encrypting stored voice recordings. These concerted efforts by the industry to address concerns for the security critical sectors appear to be paying off. The survey results demonstrate perceptions are changing and there has been a rise in the uptake of cloud-based contact centres in both the financial services and retail sectors.

As the OnePoll research suggests, this year looks set to be the busiest yet for UK companies moving their contact centres to the cloud. Many of the initial security fears are being allayed by the range of sophisticated solutions on the market, and more and more businesses can reap the benefits of cloud-based operations with a level of protection that rivals many premise-based solutions.