Unified Communications: What Is It?
By Mike Hanks, Director, Managed Cloud Services
For those of us who live and breathe the unified communications (UC) industry, it can be easy to forget that not everybody knows what UC is.
In fact, 42 percent of US and EU IT managers report that their understanding of UC technologies is limited, according to a recent Frost & Sullivan survey of more than 1000 IT decision makers.
As part of our company’s mission to deliver communications infrastructures that help meet a business’ goals, we—as a trusted technology partner—must educate and lead IT decision-makers.
Let’s take a closer look at UC
What is Unified Communications?
Unified communications is the integration of communications products, systems, and applications that support a business’ goals by enabling employees to effectively communicate and execute.
For the 42 percent who understand that much, it’s important to add that UC is not a single application, not one-size-fits-all, and that every UC integration partner will probably have a different approach and toolset.
Components of Unified Communications
Let’s simplify unified communications by identifying 6 components of UC that you can relate to your business today:
- Voice/Telephony: Think fixed (land lines) and mobile voice, softphones, and peer-to-peer video sessions. This is how you make your voice calls.
- Messaging: This component involves email, voicemail, unified messaging (UM), instant messaging (IM) and presence—which gives you location information from multiple sources.
- Security: Managing and mitigating security threats in the UC environment are just as important to an enterprise as managing traditional IP and data network-based threats. Security, such as network access control, must be integrated into the user access network, regardless of the location of the customer.
- Conferencing: Today’s conferencing capabilities include audio, video, and web. UC conferencing also includes meeting room technologies and integrated desktops solutions with application-sharing capabilities.
- Collaboration: Applications in a UC environment contain tightly integrated communications functionality. Key areas include consolidated administration, reporting, knowledge-sharing, emerging social media, and other communications-enabled applications.
- Networking: UC implementations must be built upon a solid foundation. Network designers must prepare the WAN and LAN for the growing demands of real-time connectivity because applications like video conferencing increase bandwidth requirements by more than 30 percent annually. Deploying the right network with the right network optimization technology is a huge UC necessity.
Which of these components is your business already using? Perhaps your voice and data networks are already converged through an IP system solution. Maybe you utilize Skype for Business (Lync) for presence and WebEx for conference calls.
As IT decision-makers explore UC further, we advise them to work with a trusted UC managed services provider to handle the complexities of multi-vendor integrations and infrastructure management. After all, unified communications is really about putting a business’ goals first by enabling employees to effectively communicate and perform more effectively using all of the tools that UC has to offer.