The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
UCStrategies.com defines unified communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The definition of unified communications narrows significantly when you can read and hear about real-world examples that other companies are implementing right now—and apply them to your situation.
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This section provides a practical, vendor-independent service to any Enterprise that is seeking the benefits of Unified Communications. How do you pull everything together to implement unified communications? Use the tools in this sequence to define unified communications for your business.
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It’s good to be a small business. That may be true for lots of reasons, but I am referring to the current telecom environment. The choices for telecommunications solutions have never been greater, more powerful, or so reasonably priced. It’s a buyers market too! VoIP technologies eliminate geographical limitations, so service providers across the country are vying for Main Street business. But selecting a provider isn’t simple - not only are they difficult to compare, but offer wildly different approaches to voice and unified communications. Hosted voice services have been on the market for about eight years. The services basically run $30-$50/month/user and typically involve key features geared at SMB users. Most services offer unlimited calling in the US and Canada, voice mail, and a variety of advanced features available through a web portal. The providers generally do not include the actual bandwidth required - that is businesses will need to obtain quality, high-speed broadband separately in order to use a hosted voice service. Hosted voice solutions offer SMB users a number of key compelling advantages:
These are the reasons why hosted voice is gaining in popularity. The sector is growing and many expect significant growth to continue over the next few years. Cloud services are more popular than ever, broadband bandwidth has never been more ubiquitous or cheaper, and hosted voice is no longer unproven. There are no shortage of service providers; it seems like you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting at least four hosted voice providers. At UCStrategies, we just took a hard look at Fonality, Vocalocity, 8x8, RingCentral, and Aptela. All of which offer nationwide services at competitive rates. As mentioned, comparing hosted voice providers can be tricky. Here are some helpful tips to avoid some common pitfalls that can interfere with a positive hosted voice experience.
In addition to the hosted voice model, I should mention two other hosted alternatives worthy of consideration. The emerging virtual number space and a pure Skype solution. Virtual numbers are similar to hosted service, but don’t include dialtone. The cloud service essentially forwards calls to other numbers which could be regular analog phones, VoIP phones, cell phones, even home phones. Virtual number providers such as Ringio, Google Voice, Phonebooth.com, and Grasshopper.com offer some unique benefits. Most hosted providers also offer virtual number services, but not all virtual number service are created equal. Most likely over the next few years, these services will consolidate. Virtual numbers, illustrate how many of the features are now independent of the phone; so much that an actual phone isn’t even needed any more. They are great way to complement basic phones or cell phones with more powerful business features such as unified messaging, conferencing, recording, etc. See my earlier post The Other Voice Channels. Skype is in a category by itself. There is nothing quite like it and if you think you know Skype, but haven’t checked them out for a few years, you probably don’t. First off, be sure to look at Skype for Business - which involves a Skype Manager account. This allows central administration of multiple accounts - the biggest pitfall of many consumer services. A business needs to control its numbers to minimize customer turnover resulting from inevitable employee turnover. Skype has numerous services including SkypeIn, SkypeOut, mobile integration, robust video conferencing, and a feature rich desktop client. Skype Connect allows for interconnection of the Skype network to a phone system. Skype’s portfolio is so broad that it can be used in lieu of a phone system. However, despite ongoing ease of use improvements, don’t consider this path unless you are comfortable with the technology. Skype is a bit more complex than the other alternatives and offers the least amount of assistance or support. Hosted voice can make a lot of sense. The providers will all look similar at first, but they actually vary quite a bit. It takes quite a bit of effort to compare providers, far more than it should. In fact, proper due diligence can be more work than buying a phone system. But if you have the patience to work though the research and evaluations then the benefits can be enormous.Dave Michels, Principal of Verge1, has a personal telecom blog at PinDropSoup.com.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
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