Unified Communications: Defined
Unified Communications (UC) is commonly defined as the integration of real-time enterprise communication services with non-real-time communication services like unified messaging (email, fax, integrated voicemail, and SMS). These real-time services can include tools for:
- Audio, video, and web conferencing
- Desktop sharing
- Instant messaging or chat
- Mobility features
- Voice over IP (VoIP)
Unified Communications is the conglomeration of products that provide a consistent user-interface and experience across multiple devices and media-types. These bundled products are an intelligent and scalable way to deliver integrated services like conferencing, email, and voice to clients – from one central location, to optimize business communications.
Unified Communications as-a-Service (UCaaS)
UCaaS distributes unified communications across a hosted platform, so that all UC functionality resides at the service provider’s location. The ideal UCaaS solution incorporates all key business communication components into one complete package – so that all your enterprise communication needs are covered, 100% of the time.
UC or UCaaS can also be integrated with some business tools, such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems and Microsoft Office business productivity programs. With this capability, companies are able to improve and accelerate the general decision-making process. Moreover, in a recent Gartner survey of 300 midmarket companies, 44% reported that the biggest benefit to implementing UC was the improved speed of communications across their business. Other benefits of UC usage included: 39% reporting better communications for distributed sites, remote workers, and/or mobile workforce members; 29% listing collaboration improvements; and, 26% identified that using UC gave them a competitive advantage.
Application Aware Networks
West IP Communications UCaaS is delivered by a state-of-the-art network foundation called Maxxis Application Network. Maxxis is composed of the latest networking components and layers on easy-to-use network management tools and Unified Threat Management through MaxxSecure. Maxxis also provides flexible customer-defined Quality of Service (QoS) Management, ensuring that your applications will run on a secure, centralized platform, delivering optimized communications performance.
With West IP UCaaS you have a comprehensive enterprise voice solution. Everything you could possibly want from a hosted voice solution is provided – from advanced call management and routing features to reduced costs and increased functionality provided by SIP trunking via our VoiceMaxx, VoiceMaxx CE, and MaxxConnect IP Trunking products. Mobile Integration and support is provided through West IP’s Mobile Connect, enabling one touch access to the enterprise communication network and the convenience of one number reach. There is even a complete contact center available through ControlMaxx, merging enterprise call routing and management capabilities with sophisticated contact center tools.
A full messaging solution is an integral part of the complete UCaaS solution offered by West IP Communications. IM and Presence (announcing availability) is handled through Cisco Jabber or Skype for Business. Email correspondence is handled through our incorporated Microsoft Office 365 and Lync applications. Even faxing is covered through our DirecFax application, so you can receive those transmissions right to your Inbox. Additionally, our Messaging piece of the West IP UCaaS solution includes a Voicemail option that also allows Voicemails to come as emails, straight to your messaging Inbox, so that you have to manage only one repository for all messaging communications – truly a unified messaging portal.
Conferencing & Collaboration
And choosing West IPC’s UCaaS means that any type of conferencing is possible – whether it’s audio conferencing through Unified Meeting, video conferencing through our integrated Microsoft Skype for Business option, or full web conferencing through our Cisco WebEx partnered solution – you’ll be able to communicate almost anywhere, anytime, to share documents, offer feedback, and collaborate with colleagues, customers, and vendors. Using West IP’s UCaaS conferencing solutions means that you’ll be able to accomplish your business goals more quickly, with optimized efficiency.
Benefits of Unified Communications (UC)
Employees across every level and position in the enterprise can benefit from UC. The advantages are many, such as:
Improved communication – This means simplifying voice services and enabling mobility and scalability from home offices to high volume contact centers. Today’s employees need the ability to communicate quickly and effectively. They can accomplish these tasks through UC tools like presence (knowing availability of another party), instant messaging, and unified messaging (unified inbox for email, fax, and voicemails), whether they work from the main office or from a remote location.
Better collaboration – UC allows employees, clients, and vendors to collaborate from anywhere, through virtual meetings, voice, video & web conference calls and file sharing. With these UC tools, corporate decisions can be expedited, saving the enterprise time and money.
Business process integration – Time is money, as the saying goes. And time is saved through integrated email, fax, and voicemail, accessible in one unified interface.
Cost-effective – All businesses are looking to save money, and through cloud-based UC, savings can be realized in a variety of areas, including – fewer equipment and hardware costs, and lower overhead and support costs.
Scalability – Cloud-based Unified Communications systems are scalable in myriad ways, through:
- Adjustable cost models
- Customizable feature packages
- Quick and easy changes via web portals
- Easy expansion requiring few hardware changes
Reliability – With cloud-based UC, systems are hosted in world-class data centers using redundant equipment and failover capabilities, for business continuity if a failure or disaster were to occur.
UC Prerequisites and Requirements
Whether you have an on-premise PBX or no existing phone system, Unified Communications can be established for any organization. Utilizing a cloud-based system, it is possible to deploy global voice services without a large investment in an on-site PBX. Alternately, it is also feasible to expand the usability of your existing hardware without adding costly new infrastructure equipment.
UC Deployment and Key Components
To ensure a successful UC deployment, it is important to start with a solid foundation that contains redundancy and monitoring. Make certain that your UC platform includes the following:
- Network Infrastructure – The transmission of voice and data reliably, and with appropriate prioritization, requires a top-flight network. Running voice over the public internet typically results in a loss of quality and reliability. That might be acceptable for a small business, but for today’s enterprise, that’s not an acceptable outcome.
- Appropriate phone system components – A base unit and handsets, cabling/wiring, routers, switches, SIP Trunks, backup UPSs, and any other necessary hardware such as Session Border Controllers, etc., must be considered.
- Management Tools: monitoring should include all facets of the network, including –
- Quality of Service (QoS)
- Managerial reporting and data analysis tools
- Threat management
- Voice services
- Advanced Voice Services:
- Mobile Integration
- Contact Center (if appropriate)
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery capabilities
- Enhanced UC Features:
- IM and Presence
- UC Integrated Voice Mail
- Comprehensive Collaboration Features:
- Audio Conferencing
- Video Conferencing
- Web Conferencing
- Management Tools: monitoring should include all facets of the network, including –
UC Implementation Challenges
As with any new implementation, there are challenges or roadblocks that can occur. However, these issues tend to be fewer and more easily resolved with a cloud-based UC rollout. Types of issues that may be encountered could include: inter-operability problems with existing onsite equipment (due its age); or the inability to establish enhanced services with older hardware lacking advanced capabilities.
UC Vendor Offerings
Following are typical service offerings from leading Unified Communications vendors:
According to recent research by leading market research analysts, Frost & Sullivan, West IP Communications stands out as offering the most complete and comprehensive Unified Communications solutions for today’s enterprises. Some of these enterprise-class offerings are detailed below.
Powerful Unified Communications (UC) tools from West IP Communications:
- VoiceMaxx – a suite of cloud-based, on-demand services that include full PBX functionality for voice communications control and advanced call management tools. These services can be fully integrated with an existing IP or legacy TDM infrastructure.
- MaxxConnect – a single SIP trunking solution backed with industry-leading business continuity tools, advanced call-routing capabilities, and expert support. MaxxConnect can be deployed over almost any MPLS provider’s network in more than 8,000 rate centers.
- ControlMaxx – a powerful set of tools that put your enterprise in total control of call-routing across the enterprise. It’s a cloud–based utility, with unlimited scaling for both users and call-handling capacity. ControlMaxx provides administrators and agents the tools they need to ensure excellence in customer service.
- Unified Meeting – puts companies in complete control of scheduling, managing, and securing their meetings. It integrates with Reservationless-Plus audio conferencing for an enhanced, seamless audio and web meeting experience.
- Cisco Jabber – provides presence, instant messaging (IM), voice, voice messaging, and video calling capabilities for all desktop and mobile devices – making it easy to find and connect with contacts, and collaborate across numerous devices.
- Maxxis – offers network solutions combining the very best network connections from Tier 1 carriers for a redundant and reliable network solution. It provides a comprehensive toolset that includes: intelligent application-based routing, sophisticated management applications, and unprecedented network performance in a single MPLS solution.
- MaxxSecure – guards networks against spam and viruses, intrusions, and inappropriate web content, as well as single points of failure. It is a completely managed security solution optimized to protect your network from a variety of current and future threats.
How UC is working in today’s businesses
Unified Communications does exactly what it claims to – it unifies each employee’s communication tools, allowing these tools to be accessed through a single interface. For instance, when emails are opened through an email client like Microsoft Outlook, the contact’s presence information is available at the bottom of the email. Therefore, the user can decide to follow-up on the email via chat, phone, or meeting request depending on how the issue should be handled. Unified Communications fosters efficiency and improved communication by connecting employees, customers, and vendors in a shorter time frame, allowing for faster response times that result in quicker decisions.