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.
This section offers learning tools to help you plan your unified communications implementation.
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.
The Unified Communications industry changes daily. We keep track of it for you.
UCStrategies is an industry resource for unified communications enterprises, communications vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing unified communications arena.
A supplier of objective information on unified communications, UCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of unified communications since its inception.
Something pretty surprising is happening in the hosted communications market. Basically, hosted communications offers continue to be marketed that are not much more than a PBX/key system in the cloud with an IP phone.
This came to my attention in mid-July when Avaya announced availability of AvayaLive Connect. The self-provisioning offer had been mentioned by Brett Shockley in the Avaya keynote at Enterprise Connect 2012, so it caught my attention. As posted on the CIO Collaboration Network, the experience was delightfully easy. Within minutes, I had a personal direct inward dial number and a company "main number" which included access to an auto-attendant, dial by name or by extension, and a sizable voice conference bridge. Video calls and instant messaging are both supported, but only with people in my "company," not with any external parties or with any federated IM networks.
The feature that really caught my attention was unlimited inbound and outbound voice calling anywhere in the US for $19 per month. That’s a pretty good bargain for business calling. But, that is also a clue to what is going on. Just like a many other companies (see one list here), Avaya seems to be offering basic PBX/key system features as a bundle with long distance resale, at or below competing rates in the $20 to $29 per month range. I.E. the buyer is really paying for the local and long distance voice calling plan with a reasonable layer of PBX-type functions added on.
A similar phenomenon may be growing in the large enterprise market. Dozens of voice network carriers are offering various versions of hosted IP-PBXs in what appears to be a lead-in to their transmission services ranging from MPLS to SIP trunks to T1/E1 TDM services. For what appear to be reasons of simplicity, administration and cost, few of these hosted enterprise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offerings include a broad range of Unified Communications capabilities.
So, don’t be fooled. The term Unified Communications in most of these hosted VoIP offers may be just window dressing on a business VoIP service or may include a limited selection of UC features, but they are not fully featured UC systems.
In addition, it seems to me that customers could do much better than this, for often for less total cost. Here are two options:
1. Use Smartphones. Smartphones are already hosted telephony services. Sprint offers unlimited US calling for $19.99 per month. Verizon offers unlimited plans for $30 per month for a basic phone and $40 per month for a smartphone. Of course, the business plans are not unlimited and are more complex, but those still offer shared minutes and "friends and family" calling between users and to a selected set of public numbers. Sprint Mobile Integration goes even further by making the smartphone part of the Sprint MPLS network, which can eliminate any per minute calling charges within the enterprise.
In addition, the smartphones (and tablets) in these plans almost all offer some versions of "unified communications" features including messaging (SMS-texting, e-mail, and some versions of IM), voice mail, and call coverage (forwarding). Of course, the smartphones/ tablets are robust devices for collaboration (joining meetings, etc.), social networking (try not to have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype or more on your smart phone), and cloud services (Apple’s iCloud with the iPhone, Android’s Google Gmail and cloud with the Android, etc.).
2. Use Hosted UC Offers. To really get the benefits of hosted Unified Communications, go directly to the hosted UC offers. The offers here are based on the leading desktop software platforms which also incorporate voice communications. Examples inlcude Google Docs with Google voice for public network calling; Microsoft Office 365 with Microsoft Lync (with Skype and/or a voice partner for public network calling); Cisco WebEx and Jabber (the naming is still changing, but you get the idea); or IBM Social Business (with Skype for public network calling). All of these offers include suites of unified communication and collaboration and versions of social business features. Communication with users inside the organization and on many huge federated networks are accomplished via rich clients on PCs, Macs, tablets, and smartphones. Voice communication to and from the public network (when that is needed) is available either at very low rates (free in some cases) or for a fixed monthly fee (competitive with hosted VoIP) for unlimited calling.
So, in a world where most communications first moved to PC-based and mobile e-mail and have now moved on to texting and instant messaging with presence and peer-to-peer voice, video and collaboration, one has to wonder why enterprise customers buy the limited hosted VoIP solutions. The case studies call out a huge list of benefits and cost savings when UC (beyond VoIP) is implemented and applied to “optimize business processes.” Maybe it’s worth shopping across the three options (hosted VoIP, cellular for business, and hosted UC & C & S). You might find it possible to achieve breakthroughs to UC benefits that you’ve been reading about.
All Content Copyright © 2013 UCStrategies.com. All rights reserved.
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.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?