By now, you’ve probably heard the term Unified Communications (UC) used in conjunction with voice over IP (VoIP), unified messaging and enterprise social networking platforms. But what are the main components of UC? And how does it relate to video conferencing, instant messaging, desktop sharing and more? In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the main components of UC, as well as some business use cases that make the most of these technologies’ benefits.
What is Unified Communications (UC)?
UC is an umbrella term for both internal and external communication methods that seek to connect everyone in a business, from individuals at their desks to people in distributed offices and other remote locations. One company’s UC efforts might include tools like videoconferencing, instant messaging (IM), presence management and enterprise social networks, while another company might have completely different needs that dictate completely different technologies.
In general, however, UC refers to unified communications capabilities delivered via one or more servers – hence unified. These servers use software to enable users to send IMs or hold group video conferences; they also route messages between various communication channels so that participants can easily respond across platforms.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR TRUE UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS NEEDS
To understand what exactly a unified communications system is, and how it works, you must first understand your company’s needs. You need to know if you have specific communications requirements, such as Internet connectivity for mobile devices or fax capabilities or videoconferencing.
These may be must-haves for some companies, but maybe not for others. Before you begin shopping around for unified communications systems, take a moment to consider your company’s real needs—not just wants! (More info on understanding these needs can be found in our full guide to UCC.)
Using voice calling on a phone system is no different than calling an individual person. The only difference is that it allows for collaboration via technology. There’s two main types: one-to-one, and multiparty conferencing. Multiparty conferencing allows users to simultaneously place calls, receive calls, or listen in while others take part in a conference call.
This component offers integration with email, instant messaging (IM), or presence capabilities to make it easier for businesses to collaborate virtually across departments and locations. It can be integrated through click-to-dial functionality that places calls without requiring any more effort than clicking a link in an email message or another software application—eliminating dialing completely in some cases.
Whether you work in a small business or large enterprise, messaging is an integral part of most employees’ day-to-day workflow. For example, a sales rep might start her day by sending a link to an interesting Forbes story to all her leads. At lunch, she may check out Facebook and respond to friends’ updates on her brand new tablet.
In all likelihood, she’ll end her day writing emails from home—dinner plans with friends maybe—and then continue working after dinner at 10:30 p.m., when it’s convenient for her schedule and lifestyle. Regardless of how technology has evolved, email is still ubiquitous and important today.
Web conferencing is a powerful tool for collaboration, even if your team members don’t work in offices next door to each other. This technology allows you to meet online and share screens, download presentations and communicate via text chat or voice. The best web conferencing tools allow up to ten participants in a meeting, including from different locations around the world—making it an ideal choice for employees working across time zones. You can also record meetings so that they can be watched later, or set notifications so that participants will be told when a meeting starts (if they aren’t already on their computer).
Finding the right solution
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a UC solution. There are three main components: Collaboration, Contact Center and Desktop/Mobile. When looking at different solutions, it’s also important to ensure they have a flexible deployment model – meaning they can be deployed quickly and easily in your existing network while maintaining interoperability with all your existing communications tools such as fax machines, telephones, conferencing systems, etc. Finally,
When you do find the right vendor, make sure they offer exceptional customer service. After all, this is what you’ll need if you want any downtime or glitches in the system to be fixed quickly and efficiently.
WHY UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS (UC)?
This is what we’re going to dive into today. It’s important to lay out these foundations before we delve into Microsoft’s UC stack. Why does it matter if you can take a call on your mobile device? Why is voice and video conferencing valuable? What exactly do features like IM and presence have to do with UC, anyway? We’re going to provide insight into each of these questions (and more) as we move through Microsoft’s three main components: Presence, Instant Messaging, and Conferencing.
Keep reading. The world has changed since the first days of telephony. Where voice communications were once valued for their ability to deliver clear and concise messages across long distances, today communications apps offer numerous additional benefits: communication in multiple modes over any distance via any channel; rich media; real-time collaboration – so users no longer need to schedule meetings weeks or months in advance; community/social networks that enable people from all over an organization to work together; and integration with other office tools such as email, phone directories, and calendars so that data can be shared seamlessly among users regardless of which application they happen to be using at any given time.
Of course, there’s a lot more to unified communications than just these three components, but if you start with them, you can’t go wrong. Your first step should be determining how your organization uses these components and how they work together, since no two unified communications solutions are alike. Do you think adding a fourth component would be helpful in explaining how your company implements UC? Let us know