The Basics of Unified Communications

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May 30, 2014 9:08:00 AM

The Basics of Unified Communications

New technology continues to proliferate at a breathtaking speed, and small business owners have been tasked with keeping up or running the risk of falling behind the competition quite quickly. In the realm of unified communications, many of the tools that are available today have been around for more than a decade, including standard Voice over Internet Protocol business phone services and video conferencing tools. 

However, the market for these solutions has accelerated relatively quickly in the past few years, as each of the components of UC have become far more advanced, feature-rich and diverse in a short period of time. With communications and IT tools and services evolving so quickly, it can quickly begin to be difficult for the average business owner to keep up with the basics of each, such as what they can do for an organization and how they function. 

As such, it is good to get a strong foundation in the specifications of each UC tool from a rudimentary standpoint, and then keep up with the progression of the tools over time for maximum coherence in the provisioning process. The four most common components of UC today are VoIP, video conferencing, instant messaging and, more recently, mobility, while each is becoming more intertwined with IT service management and delivery with the passing of each day. 

Here is a brief refresher on each of the main components of UC. 

VoIP
Business phone services have experienced a rapid evolution in the past 15 years, going from a simple piece of voice equipment that will carry communications through the Internet to ones that are robust and filled with various features. VoIP leverages the Internet to reduce the overall costs associated with voice communications, all the while improving call clarity and providing the user with a more integrated experience when other types of advanced technology are involved. 

Video conferencing
In terms of cost reductions, certain industries have been most interested in the power of video conferencing, especially those that would traditionally have to send their employees to other regions or nations regularly. Video conferencing is often transmitted over the Internet, and can act as a platform for meetings, sales pitches, client relationship management and other mission-critical aspects of operations. The tools involved often include software and, of course, a digital camera. 

Instant messaging
Although America Online had instant messaging services more than two decades ago, the world of this type of communication has transformed rapidly. Now, instant messaging services are commonly used by businesses to connect employees for regular collaboration purposes. As these communications will sometimes be sensitive or private, business leaders also have to ensure that they are covering the security aspects of instant messages. 

Enterprise mobility
Likely the hottest trend in corporate computing today, enterprise mobility has become one of the more important components of IT and UC in the modern workplace. The use of smartphones for general communications, as well as Web-based functions, is relatively common in the private and public sectors, and with UC strategies in place, these programs can really excel on a case-by-case basis. 

Mobile devices can now use many of the other UC tools that were once reserved for the physical office, such as mobile VoIP, video conferencing and instant messaging services.

Closing considerations
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember going into a new UC strategy is cohesion, as the most holistic and organic combination of the services will tend to yield the most positive outcomes over time. Many companies will excel in these pursuits by using a single-vendor model for all UC support, as this will inherently maximize interoperability and coherence. 

Topics: Voice and Phone