As new technology has brought forward new methods of communication, it has also introduced complexity and communications silos. By treating communications as data, unified communications can bring it all back together – and open a whole new world of collaborative possibilities.
For many, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) was their first introduction to the world of unified communications. Sometimes also referred to as IP telephony, VoIP has come a long way over the years in terms of call quality and functionality. The cost savings of using IP telephony to route communications services such as voice, fax and SMS over the broadband network are considerable. It’s why most new Private Branch Exchange (PBX) lines installed in businesses today are VoIP.
By running both data and voice communications over a single network, businesses can realize significant infrastructure savings. As VoIP switches typically run on commodity hardware, expensive closed architectures can be avoided. It’s also cheaper to add features, such as extensions.
However, voice is just one piece of the modern world of communications. Treating voice as data brings cost savings, but perhaps as importantly, it brings the ability to integrate voice with all your other communications channels. While voice has been and still remains a key communications channel for business, it’s far from the only one. Today, your users are as likely to email or instant message a colleague as they are to pick up the phone.
And fax still has its place too. I haven’t been asked for my fax number in years – and for the last few years that I was, my default answer was no – in some professions such as the legal and medical verticals, fax remains an essential business tool. By treating a fax as data over your network you can eliminate your fax machine and users can receive faxes as an image they can choose to print from their PC – or not.
Possibly the greatest benefit of unifying your communications as data on one platform is the introduction of both presence and single number reach. In the analog world, you would have to try calling someone at their desk, at their home and on their mobile if they weren’t answering. And there may be no answer anyways.
In the digital world, presence lets you see at a glance if someone is available and open to communications and, depending on how it’s enabled, where they are. If they’re at their desk, you may want to instant message them or, if they’re nearby, walk down the hall. Or maybe they’re in a meeting and so open to an IM but not a phone call. And if you do decide to pick up the phone (metaphorically if you’re employing a softphone), and a single number reach is configured, you can reach them at the endpoint of their choice automatically. No more trying all those different phone numbers – one click and your call will route to their softphone, IP phone, softphone or wherever they want it to go.
Unified communications is also a great enabler of remote working, allowing an employee to work from home yet be just as connected to the office and available through their laptop and softphone as they would be at the office.
Service providers such as Rogers can help you find the right unified communications solution for your business. And, once you begin treating communications as data, outsourcing or cloud-based hosting also becomes an option you can explore, freeing up your IT team for more strategic endeavours.