What is unified communications?

What is unified communications?
What is unified communications? blog header

As businesses navigate the maze of digital communication tools, the need for a comprehensive solution becomes increasingly apparent. In this blog, we will explore what Unified Communications is, examine its components and discuss the benefits and potential challenges that they bring to businesses. Drawing a distinction between unified communication and collaboration, we aim to clarify the often-misunderstood relationship between these two concepts and shed light on Unified Collaboration as a Service (UCaaS).

What is Unified Communications?

Unified Communications (UC) represents a phone system that incorporates multiple communication methods within a business. As the name suggests, it brings together real-time communication services such as instant messaging, voice, mobility features, audio, web & video conferencing, desktop sharing, file sharing, call control, and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services like unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS, and fax). UC is not merely a new term for a business phone system; it’s a whole new approach to business communications that exceeds the traditional dial tone.

What are the potential components of unified communications?

Unified Communications is a complex ecosystem with various elements working in harmony to deliver a seamless communication experience. The components of a UC system typically include:

  • Instant Messaging
  • Video Conferencing
  • Telephony and Voice Services
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Recording Capabilities
  • CRM Integration
  • Presence Information
  • Content Sharing Tools
  • Calendar and Email Plugins
  • Customer Experience Solutions

These components are integral to moving beyond the simple voice calls of the past, offering a richer, more connected experience.  

How does unified communications work?

Behind the user-friendly interfaces of UC platforms, there’s a sophisticated network of technologies at play. Unified communications works on the principle of convergence, bringing together previously disparate systems and software into a single, unified user experience under one vendor. This flexibility allows users to access their communication tools from a range of devices, including desktops, tablets, and mobile phones, using softphone technology or traditional desk phones. 

Integrating UC systems with in-house applications such as Microsoft Teams, Gmail, or Salesforce further enhances this flexibility. This integration means that users can have a unified inbox for all messages, click-to-dial from contact lists, and have easy access to customer information during calls, streamlining workflows and saving time.

What are the benefits of a unified communications system?

The benefits of a Unified Communications system are various:

  • Enhanced Customer Experience: UC enables businesses to respond to customer inquiries swiftly and effectively, regardless of the communication channel.
  • Improved Employee Experience: With tools that facilitate easier communication and collaboration, employees can enjoy a more streamlined work process.
  • Better Productivity: By reducing the time spent switching between different communication platforms, UC allows employees to focus more on their tasks.
  • Improved Collaboration: With real-time sharing capabilities, teams can work together more efficiently, regardless of their physical location.
  • Reduced Costs: UC can lead to significant cost savings by consolidating multiple communication tools and suppliers into one platform. 

What are the drawbacks of unified communications?

While the benefits of UC are significant, it’s also important to consider potential drawbacks. Implementing a UC system can require an initial investment in terms of money, time, and training. Additionally, as with any system, there can be challenges related to compatibility, network requirements, and ongoing maintenance. Security is another critical consideration, as the integration of multiple communication tools can potentially increase the risk of cyber attacks if selecting the wrong vendor who does not prioritise security and uptime.  

Despite these challenges, the strategic value of unified communications in today’s fast-paced business environment is clear, offering a compelling blend of flexibility, efficiency, and collaboration.

What is the difference between unified Communication and collaboration?

As an IT leader, understanding the distinction between unified communication and collaboration is pivotal in choosing the right technologies for your organisation. Unified communication (UC) refers to the integration of various communication methods within a business. This can include telephony, video conferencing, instant messaging, email, and voicemail. The goal of UC is to streamline all these methods into a single, user-friendly interface, making it simpler for employees to connect and communicate with one another using their preferred method, regardless of their location or device.

On the other hand, collaboration refers to the tools and platforms that allow employees to work together on documents, projects, or ideas simultaneously, regardless of their physical location. This encompasses file sharing, real-time document editing and workflow solutions. Collaboration tools are designed to enhance teamwork and productivity by allowing multiple people to contribute to and edit work concurrently.

While unified communication focuses on the seamless integration of communication tools, collaboration zeroes in on the cooperative work aspect, facilitating a more interactive and productive working environment. Both are crucial for modern businesses, but they serve different purposes within the organisation’s communication and work strategy.

What is Unified Collaboration as a Service (UCaaS)?

Unified Collaboration as a Service (UCaaS) is a delivery model in which a variety of communication and collaboration applications and services are outsourced to a third-party provider and delivered over the internet. This model encompasses voice and telephony services, including VoIP, instant messaging, video conferencing, and presence information. It combines the direct communication features of UC with the collaborative functions of teamwork software.

UCaaS is typically hosted in the cloud, which means that the infrastructure and software are managed by a third-party provider and accessed securely over the internet. This allows for flexibility and scalability, as well as reducing the need for on-premises hardware and maintenance. System updates should be managed by the provider, with minimal disruption to the end users. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are important in a UCaaS system, as they outline the provider’s commitment to uptime, performance, and support. These SLAs should include details on response times, resolution times, and compensation for any downtime or service interruptions. 

The subscription element of UCaaS is particularly transformative, as it shifts the financial burden from capital expenditure (CapEx) to operational expenditure (OpEx). This shift is driving change in businesses by offering a pay-as-you-go model that scales with the needs of the business, allowing for more predictable budgeting and the ability to stay up to date with the latest technologies without significant further investments. This subscription-based model not only provides financial flexibility but also ensures that businesses can quickly adapt to changing technologies without being tied down by outdated equipment—thus staying competitive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

How Red Rose Technologies can help 

In conclusion, a unified communications system is a crucial tool for businesses to streamline their communication and collaboration efforts. It integrates various communication channels into a single platform, making it easier for employees to connect and work together. 

Red Rose Technologies is an independent consultancy that specialises in telephony change and can support clients through their entire journey towards implementing a unified communications system. We are energised by clients who view UC as important as us and welcome the opportunity to work together to help them achieve their communication goals. With our expertise and support, businesses can effectively adopt and leverage the benefits of a unified communications system. We also offer audits, telephony consultancy and UC procurement. Contact us to discover how we can help you!

Interested in learning more about us? Schedule a consultation and discover how we could help.

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