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The Future of Unified Communications

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - 16:00
Future of Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) is defined as the integration of real-time enterprise communication services like instant messaging/chat, presence, voice/VoIP, mobility features, audio, video, and web conferencing, desktop sharing, and more, with non-real-time communication services like unified messaging (integrated voicemail, email, SMS, and fax).  

UC is the conglomeration of products that provide a consistent user-interface and experience across multiple devices and media-types.  With more and more enterprises adopting BYOD policies, UC has found a surge in utilization over the last couple of years, and the uptick in usage is set to continue.

According to IDC, the worldwide UC market is set to grow from $26.2 billion to $38 billion between 2014 and 2016.  And with this growth, enterprises will expect solutions that provide real business value.  Therefore, Unified Communications providers will have to offer customized UC products and services tailored to meet these individualized needs.  

As we head into mid-2015, what are some of the UC products and services that are gaining popularity with today’s companies?  Following, we delve into some of the UC trends that are gaining momentum through their rates of adoption.

Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS)

In fact, in 2014, 63% of companies had a least one UC app in the cloud, according to Nemertes Research – and the most popular product: web conferencing.  UCaaS has also been implemented through cloud-based email and calendaring platforms.  

The rise in the percentage of companies adopting VoIP is one driver toward UCaaS; another is the scalability of these services based on organizational needs.  One example is VoiceMaxx CE, a Cisco-based hosted collaboration tool layered with additional functional features and services from West, a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for UCaaS.  Products like these are gaining popularity since they can drive down communications costs for enterprises and enable employees to collaborate more effectively and productively.

Cloud-based Video Conferencing

As more and more companies find themselves interfacing in less formal settings or while traveling outside the office, large dedicated video conferencing systems are losing their appeal.  As a result, cloud-based desktop and mobile systems are gaining in popularity for their ease of use across a variety of devices and settings.

Cloud-based video conferencing systems allow employees to connect effortlessly and securely to their customers for better interfacing, resulting in more effective overall communication.  Cloud-based collaboration solutions are the fastest way to bring geographically–dispersed colleagues, partners, or customers together in a virtual meeting, conference call, or instant chat to help efficiently meet business objectives.

Unified Communications companies that can provide this type of flexible interface will find themselves forerunners in this arena in the coming months.

Comprehensive Collaboration and Social Media Tools

Enterprises are clamoring for collaboration tools that can combine messaging, file-sharing, and all audio, video, and web conferencing into an integrated, easy-to-use interface.  One example from West is called Unified Meeting 5.  This product puts you in complete control of all aspects of your meeting – including scheduling, managing, and securing your meetings.

Best of all, it’s completely integrated with Reservationless-Plus audio conferencing, for an enhanced, seamless audio and web meeting experience.  And integration with Outlook means you have one-click access to start your meeting, from either the Outlook-populated meeting invite, your desktop or smartphone.  Moreover, you are always one-click away from sharing and showing content with your participants.

Companies are also in need of instant messaging and presence tools that can easily integrate with their voice systems.  Whether your company is considering a product like Cisco Jabber or Microsoft Lync, vendors who have the ability to weave together various multi-vendor solutions will find themselves in a position to produce the most customized client solutions.  For example, if your organization is considering using Cisco Jabber, it is beneficial to know that it effortlessly integrates with a product like VoiceMaxx CE from West Unified Communications Services, which is built on a Cisco platform.  Additionally, a product like Lync can work as an extension of VoiceMaxx for instant messaging and presence.

Audio and Video Conferencing by leveraging Web Browsers

As WebRTC has emerged as an industry standard from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), more UC vendors are incorporating this standard into their products and services. This standard enables all kinds of real-time communication, like audio, video, and text, over browser interfaces.  

It allows for ease of use for clients, operating independently of any additional applications or plug-ins.  It also improves the level of security at that level of interface by enforcing the use of encryption for both the media and signaling.  The IETF hopes to settle all codec-related disputes across all browser developers.  Whether or not that occurs, this standard must be considered by today’s UC vendors.

Monitoring UC in the Enterprise

Once UC tools are implemented in a company, management and IT staff expect to be able to monitor the tools for any issues that could arise.  ControlMaxx from West UC offers such tools within a single interface.  ControlMaxx is a next-generation web-based portal that monitors and manages a company’s unified communications infrastructure and services.  Tools such as these from UC vendors like West UC provide enterprises with monitoring features so they can identify in real time any possible issues with voice or video traffic.

Across the board, while the package of UC products and services may change, companies will expect the ability to deploy a unified user interface and experience across any corporate device using a single client.  Teaming up with a top Unified Communications vendor like West IP Communications can ensure that your enterprise will achieve success in their UC strategies both now and in the future to come.

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