Unified Communications Defined
Unified communications is the integration of communication services such as e-mail, telephony, instant messaging, calendars, and directory services. Unified communications solutions that are hosted and delivered as a service can bring the capabilities of unified communications to small and midsize businesses. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Jonathan McCormick explains how unified communications improves collaboration while reducing the cost of communications that are vital to the operations of small and midsize businesses.
Unified communications defined
UC is the integration of key communication services such as e-mail, voice, calendars and instant messaging (IM) into a single, more cohesive communications system. UC unites the following five core capabilities:
1. E-mail: A UC system should give you the ability to access e-mail via Outlook or a similar interface.
2. Voice: UC can amplify standard telephony capabilities by allowing calls to be made via desktop handset or an Internet-based software program where voice mails can also be accessed quickly.
3. IM: Businesses small and large rely on impromptu conversations between employees and fast decision making to ensure business operations and functions are being carried out well throughout the day. Because the IM program is built within the UC solution, SMB users no longer need to use consumer IM programs (where there are greater security risks involved).
4. Calendars: Schedules of SMB owners and employees revolve around work, specific work-related projects, as well as personal lives. UC solutions help SMBs combine all of these calendars and enable them to easily maintain multiple calendars.
5. Directory services: Directories such as lists of employee telephone extensions or key contacts are critical. UC solutions, which already allow for multiple calendars to be shared, allows SMBs to support various directories.
While most SMBs desire the capabilities just mentioned, many don't know that they can get them under one roof via UC. To further clarify, UC solutions don't require businesses to revamp their entire IT infrastructure or make drastic changes to the systems they have in place-all that is needed is an Internet connection, computer and IP phone.
But the combination of various critical communications systems isn't the sole benefit. There are other benefits that have larger impacts on the short and long-term success of a SMB.