What is Unified Communications?

In a world of communications app overload, there's a unified solution . . .

Consider all the communications applications you’ve used recently, and your list may look something like this:

  1. Skype for VoIP

  2. Zoom or Go-to Meeting for conferencing

  3. iMessage text messaging

  4. Facebook for social media

  5. Outlook for email

  6. Local carrier for voice mail and fax

Six applications is a lot just to communicate. How did this state of affairs come to be?

All of these useful tools did not pop up overnight. Rather, they incrementally crept up on us, so that we all slowly acclimated to a communications clusterjam.

The truth, however, is that disparate communications platforms is inefficient and costly, especially on an enterprise scale. 

 

Unified Communiciations to the Rescue

Although most people may not think about how much their communications habits are costing their business, the proliferation of new technologies has lead to unified communications, a time-saving, cost-cutting consolidation technology.

Gartner defines unified communications (UC) as “equipment, software and services that facilitate the interactive use of multiple enterprise communications methods. This can include control, management and integration of these methods. UC products integrate communications channels (media), networks and systems, as well as IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.” Hosted Unified Communications (HUC), or UC-as-a-service, is when a third-party manages the system.

The cloud-based PBX and range of related technologies are favored by businesses that want to spend the as little time as possible managing communications, from hardware procurement and maintenance all the way down to user provisioning. All UC solutions differ depending on the provider, but often bundle the following functionalities:

  • Presence
  • IP Telephony
  • Instant Messaging
  • Desktop/Screen Sharing
  • Voicemail
  • E-mail
  • SMS
  • Fax Social

Benefits in Brief       

UC is an encompassing technology, and the primary benefits largely depend on the situation. In general, however, businesses value UC for the following reasons:

Efficiency. Communication latency between employees and customers is reduced, allowing information to flow easier through all levels and business departments.

Scalability. Business growth, seasonal volume shifts, and service ramp-up/ramp-downs are easily manageable under a UC system.

Reduced IT Burden. Consolidated systems are easier to mange, update, and control, especially under a UC model, where the provider maintains the system.

Cost Savings. UC can save money by eliminating costly voice trunks, consolidating standalone vendors, and lowering long-distance rates. However, there are other benefits to UC that are better explained in context rather than a bulleted list.

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