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7 Key Terms: Understanding Unified Communications

Friday, December 4, 2015 - 15:00
Understanding Unified Communications

When researching available options for an enterprise phone system, it helps to have a handle on the terms and options available.  Moreover, understanding what choices are offered as part of today’s Unified Communications (UC) solutions is a crucial part of the evaluation process.  Following are some commonly referenced UC terms that often arise when discussing business phone systems and unified communications.  As these terms are further explained, it should help to clarify the differences and identify which parts are necessary for completing your company’s UC solution.

1. PBX

A PBX refers to your phone system.  It stands for Private Branch Exchange and can be located either on-premises or hosted offsite at a service provider’s location.  The purpose of the phone system is to route all calls both to and from employees’ desk phones.  You’ll want to determine whether an on-premises PBX or hosted PBX is right for your organization.

A hosted solution like VoiceMaxx (from West) can transform the way enterprises use communications technology, through their suite of cloud-based, on-demand services like: full PBX functionality for voice communications control; advanced call-management tools; comprehensive UC features; and services that can be fully integrated with an existing IP or legacy TDM infrastructure.

2. VoIP

This is another term you have probably heard many times in the last few years.  VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, allows voice signals to use the internet for transport.  Not only does VoIP allow for improved call quality over traditional POTS lines, it also generally costs significantly less to implement and is far more flexible.  With VoIP, there is no need for a separate voice network as it can run converged with the data network, saving on hardware and support infrastructure costs.  Also, the cost of international and long-distance calling is less with VoIP.

Hosted, or cloud-based VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is another term for Hosted PBX. “Hosted” means the hardware and PBX functionality reside off-site or are housed separately from where the VoIP telephone service is being used.  Hosted VoIP solutions are quickly becoming the solution of choice for enterprise business phone systems. Industry leader West  can help customize and implement the right hosted VoIP package to fit your evolving enterprise, beginning with a comprehensive hosted VoIP solution like VoiceMaxx CE.

3. UC/UCaaS

Unified Communications (UC) or Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS a.k.a. hosted UC), is commonly defined as the integration of real-time enterprise communication services with non-real-time communication services like unified messaging (email, fax, integrated voicemail, and SMS).  UC is the assembly of products that provide a consistent user-interface and experience across multiple devices and media-types.

One UC and UCaaS service provider, West, differentiates themselves by offering cloud-based UC solutions that enable customers to thrive. They utilize a hosted, cloud-based service infrastructure that scales to accommodate any changes within the business. West offers all the communications tools your enterprise needs to work efficiently and effectively – each hosted and managed by West and delivered as a service over any MPLS network connection, like West’sMaxxis.

4. Presence

Boiled down, presence technology is a type of application that makes it possible to locate and identify a person as soon as that user connects to the network.  Instant messaging (IM) is paired with presence capability.  Furthermore, email clients like Microsoft Outlook can now show real-time presence information.

Cisco Jabber provides presence, instant messaging (IM), voice, voice messaging, and screen sharing capabilities for desktop and mobile devices – making it easy to find and connect with contacts, and collaborate across numerous devices.  Its consolidation of capabilities drives down communication costs while offering users advanced feature packages designed to enhance accessibility, mobility, and productivity.

5. Conferencing/Collaboration

On any given day, the typical enterprise has dozens of workgroups tackling of any number of complex projects.  Those teams are often comprised of vendors, clients, mobile, international, and local employees. Bringing them together in a productive way requires solid audio, web, and video conferencing tools for effective collaboration.  Employees demand clear audio with the ability to share and interact with various types of files.  Finding UC collaboration tools that will meet your employee, client, and vendor requirements is a must.

A logical solution to the collaboration quandary: partnering with a service provider that has all of these conferencing and collaboration tools available and can customize them to your business.  Not only are West companies the only providers to offer the full suite of Office 365 services along with integrated audio conferencing, they also offer Skype for Business and Lync on your terms – fully hosted, hybrid, or on-premises.  And the collaboration gamut is completed through Reservationless-PlusUnified Meeting 5, and WebEx, all of which work to enable and enhance conferencing and collaboration to their fullest extent.

6. UM

Unified Messaging (UM) is a term that is used to describe the integration of electronic messaging and communications media such as email, SMS, fax, voicemail, and video messaging, into a single interface.  Although messaging can be managed through one app or interface, it can still be accessed from a variety of devices.  Sometimes UM is also referred to as “Unified Inbox” since emails, faxes, and voicemails can all be managed by an email client using UM.

Comprehensive UM solutions are offered through West via their voicemail to email solutions and DirecFax product.  West’s voicemail service converts the voicemails you receive into digital sound files sent to your inbox as email attachments, so you can manage them from your PC.  And DirecFax enables faxes to be sent and received directly from and to your computer.

7. BYOD/Mobility

The arrival of Bring your Own Device (BYOD) and the increasing need for mobile communications in the enterprise is one driving reason for the growth and expansion of Unified Communications.  Modern employees want to be able to transfer their desk calls to their smartphones at the end of the day or when heading out to a client meeting, so that conversations can be continued and productivity is maximized – even on the go.  The best UC solutions enable employees to utilize mission-critical business apps from their mobile devices secured by IT through the corporate network.  

To be effective, our tools should be as mobile as we are. The best solutions are those that translate well across devices so that any user on the go can access audio and web content, simply. In addition, today’s businesses want mobile applications that allow for control over call-routing management and unified messaging – bringing voice and text messages together for easy retrieval and management.

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