Picture unified communications (UC) as the passing lane: a fast-driven convergence of technologies and applications that reduce the typical roadblocks to efficient communications. Now picture your business accelerating into this new digital space with a strategy that automates common business practices to let your workers do their jobs better and faster – regardless of where they happen to be.
The key to life in the fast lane is creating a secure, seamless, well-scaled, mobile office environment that transforms the way people keep in touch.
Vehicles for the Digital Highway
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP): One of the primary building blocks of UC, VOIP is a method for transporting voice communications over an IP-based network. It allows voice to travel across a network like data, eliminating the need for signals on wires and radio signals within computing workloads.
Before the creation of VoIP, voice and data required separate networks. Now thanks to the ability to manage traffic along IP-based networks – a single network can support multiple traffic types.
Voice was problematic because it is sensitive to latency and delay diminished its quality. Now the IP protocol can identify voice traffic and manage it in a way that allows it to travel ahead of other traffic types – like data, which is not impacted by latency. A synchronous, expedient way to connect, VoIP is the autobahn for voice traffic.
Presence Technology: An integral component of wireless networking, presence is a location application that identifies devices, and thus users, on a network. It allows for the uninterrupted connection of various device types on a network for collaboration.
Widely available on laptops, cellphones, pagers, fax machines, and PDAs, it works within the UC platform to simplify business communication by determining which individuals are available and how they can best be reached, whether by desk telephone, mobile phone, web conferencing or instant messaging. One click is all it takes to turn an email into a phone conversation.
Unified Messaging or Integrated Messaging: When it comes to voice messaging there are two models which can be used: Unified Messaging (UM) and Integrated Messaging (IM).
With UM, the voice mail system answers the call, takes the message and packages the call into an email format. It drops the message on your email server and it shows up in an inbox alongside all the other emails. With IM, voicemail and email are stored separately. There is a mailbox just for voicemail which allows the user to know right away when they have a new voicemail.
The all-in-one-place UM solution is great for disaster recovery, redundancy and storage purposes. There is only one mailstore to manage, and or the user, the ability to retrieve all communications in a single inbox, can mean greater efficiency and more productive collaboration, especially when time is of the essence.
It can, however, pose a challenge for those who struggle with email management: voicemails may get lost among an influx of emails.
Dan Jordan, a Unified Communications engineer at Cisco, says regulatory factors regarding the storage of electronic records may come into play when considering deployment. With UM, technically everything is email. As IM does not store voicemail on email systems, he cautions a different storage or retention policy may be involved.
Collaboration and Conferencing Tools
Web conferencing uses an Internet connection to allow workers to “attend” conferences on their PC screens and view presentations in real time. Interactive whiteboards, a collaboration and conference tool, allows users to share PC, tablet or other device screen in a way that simulates the meeting experience, extends the range of shared information, and allows distributed users to collaborate on a single project.
Other UC applications allow workers – particularly those separated by geographical location – to “meet” regularly, co-habit virtual workspaces, and access each other’s data and files. The only thing missing at the end of a meeting is a sink full of dirty coffee cups.
The 2015 CanadianCIO Census identified organizational redesign as a continuing priority for business, citing the importance of mobile, collaborative tools in transforming the workplace. With fewer than 20 per cent of those surveyed claiming a company-wide UC strategy, there is work to do.
Depending on your organization’s existing infrastructure and the demands of your staff, it may not be practical to simply upgrade what you’ve got. A reliable UC-as-a-service provider can offer cost-predictable infrastructure improvements, but leave you quite comfortably in the driver’s seat.