Navigating the Unified Communications Murkiness
(This article was originally featured in INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.)
Everyone is talking about UC these days. But what is it? And why hasn’t everyone deployed it yet?
First of all, UC is a murky topic. Unified communications at its most basic level is voice, email, and presence/IM capability in an application. And some companies are very particular about saying they have UC apps because they have the basic ones.
But UC can also mean voice conferencing, video conferencing, text messaging, collaboration/document sharing, and fax. And this contributes to different price points and target market fit. By the way, fax is not normally identified with UC, but in my mind, it is critical for UC. Fax continues to be integrated into health care and legal verticals, so fax will be important for UC in those environments.
Enterprises like to use UC because it can save employees time. For instance, I hardly ever use voicemail anymore. I can see if someone I want to talk to is online/available, and if so, make the call. It saves both of us time. I also schedule internal conference calls using our UC system. During these conference calls, we can share documents on screen, and I can seamlessly do this when at work, at home, or on a business trip in a hotel room. All in all, compared to 10 years ago, I can safely say that UC has certainly enhanced Dialogic’s (News - Alert) work environment, and hopefully has made us more productive.
However, like most enterprises, this has been a journey for us. We didn’t just move to UC overnight. The main driver for us many years ago was our main PBX (News - Alert) becoming end-of-service. It made economic sense for us to move to a new IP-based system, and so we did it in stages.
But many enterprises have not yet moved to a UC system. The reason being that the current environment is there, is paid for, and it works. So, like I mentioned in a blog on gateways and SIP trunking and existing environments, a migration will continue for a long time. While most of us think the move to IP in the enterprise is over because it looks that way in our everyday, the reality is that there is quite a long way to go before this PSTN to IP migration is over. Thus, there will continue to be opportunities for various forms of UC in the enterprise.
Now, let’s say that you as an enterprise have determined the time is right to move to UC. Should it be premises-based or cloud-based? Some enterprises are worried about losing control and want on-premises equipment. But for many enterprises UCaaS is the way to go, as long as they are satisfied with their quality of service and security. And by now, so many enterprises have moved to cloud-based UC that there are more than enough use cases and proof points that QoS and security issues have largely been overcome.
UCaaS is a good way to go because adding features can be done as required. Let’s say the basic UC features of email, voice, and presence/IM are in the system. But there is a separate conferencing system to be migrated. If the conferencing system works, you can keep using that as long as you want. Then, when the time is right, you can move the conferencing system to the UCaaS environment. Some UCaaS providers may also provide differentiation in the form of, say, video voice mail or some other adjunct apps that may be useful for your business.
UCaaS could also be less expensive for your enterprise. Various subscription pricing options are available, as are per minute plans. So, it could end up being cheaper for sure. But you should have an idea of your needs because you sign up for a price plan. UCaaS could also bring a different mix of players than on premises. Data center providers/cloud providers such as Google (News - Alert), Amazon, and HP could offer alternatives not available in CPE.
As I mentioned, the definition of UC and its features are not set. So, when it’s time for your company to finally migrate to a UC system, be sure to know the features you need and your price point.
Jim Machi is General Manager Converged Communications Division at Sangoma(www.sangoma.com).
Edited by Erik Linask