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What is Unified Communications?

August 28, 2018

5:58 am

If you’ve been looking into business telephone systems for your company, you’ll have noticed the term ‘Unified Communications’ popping up a lot. We take a look at what this is, and what it means for your business.

Unified communications isn’t a product or one feature. It’s a catch-all term for synergising a collection of tools that can assist your company in communicating with both clients and employees.

So how can it help you and what is the best way to utilize it? We explain.

Unified Communications Explained

Unified Communications (UC) is the term for the system that allows integration between all the communication forms and devices within a business, such as voice messages, online communications, data and even face to face contact.

A good unified communication setup will allow for various types of dialogue and workflows to all exist and be available on the same platforms. This could mean telephone calls on a computer (easily achievable with a cloud phone system), or a video conference call with participants able to dial in on a phone handset, laptop, mobile or desktop device.

UC aims to join up all the streams within a business, saving employees and customers time and money.

Use cases for Unified Communications

As an example, let’s say that a business owner wants to check in on their voicemails, but they are in transit without access to their deskphone. A good UC solution will allow for the voicemails to be collected and listened to on a seperate cell phone. To go even further, text transcripts could be viewable on a laptop or tablet.

Another example on a wider scale could be how a large company communicates important messages with its clients. Email is typically the preferred method, but relies on employees pro-actively checking their email app. With UC, the same method could be sent by email, but also a messaging service directly to cell phones and desktop/laptops, ensuring that everyone sees the same message at the same time.

A third example relates to employees working at home. A good UC will give them access to all the platforms and utilities that they would have in the office, such as their deskphone, full access to the network and files, all accessible from their own or company provided laptop.

In all businesses, communication is important. UC removes the barriers of equipment and services not communicating, resulting in serious time and money saving.

Which platforms can integrate with Unified Communications?

Unified Communications should be compatible with popular platforms such as SalesForceDepending on your provider, the sky’s the limit when it comes to integrating your essential business apps into a UC system, and providers are constantly working on adding more as they become popular. Some of they key programs you can expect to be compatible are:

  • SalesForce
  • ZenDesk
  • Google
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Sage
  • NetSuite
  • Microsoft Dynamics

Check that the providers on your shortlist are able to cater for your company’s most used apps.

Unified Communication terms

Good Unified Communications will grow with your business - tech.coIn the world of UC, there are a lot of acronyms to navigate when understanding the world, one of which you’ve learned already (UC). Here are some more key ones that will be important:

PBX: This stands for Private Branch Exchange, and refers to the phone system in your company. It’s the method through which external and internal calls are routed to individual call handlers.

BYOD: Bring your own device. With the advancements in UC, there is less and less need to use specialized equipment. It’s more than possible to deliver UC solutions to existing office equipment or even employees own personal devices, easily and securely.

VoIP: An integral part of UC, VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol – essentially making phone calls on the internet. This system, replacing traditional calls over copper wire, makes it easy for UC solutions to marry all communication services.

IVR: Interactive Voice Response is a virtual smart assistant that can respond to callers and route their calls accordingly, depending on the callers requirements.

FMC: Fixed Mobile Convergence is the term given to picking up calls to your deskphone on a mobile device, and vice versa. By combining the two pieces of equipment, calls can easily be answered no matter where they were originally routed. It’s even possible to change from one to the other, mid-call.

Is there anything I should know when looking for a provider?

When scouting for a UC provider, it’s worth keeping in mind the following:

Scale: Your business is most likely looking to expand and increase not only its customer base but its employee count too. Make sure to opt with a provider who is able to meet your demands down the road, and not just today.

Failure: UC systems are heavily dependent on technology, which can sometimes go wrong. A decent provider will have a back up system in place should its primary systems go down, meaning your business won’t suffer.

Internet provider: UC relies on a fast internet connection. Check that your provider will be able to keep up with the demands on implementing such a system, and that additional costs to upgrade your plan are reasonable.

Packages: Make sure the package you are interested in can fully provide the solutions your business needs. Some providers will offer full packages, while others will let you build your own depending on what you need. The very best will be flexible as your business needs change.

Equipment: Depending on your current office setup, you may need to upgrade some equipment to make it UC compatible. Most providers can recommend and supply this themselves.

A business with a Unified Communications system in place is well geared to deal with today’s challenges, and beyond, faster and more cost effectively than one that doesn’t. A good UC doesn’t need to be expensive, but the change it could make to your business will be invaluable.

Get a quote today for a Unified Communications system for your business

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Jack is a senior writer at Tech.co with over a decade's experience researching and writing about consumer technology, from security and privacy to product reviews and tech news.

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