What are unified communication platforms?

Unified communication platforms: All your business communication tools in one fully-unified platform

Unified communications(UC) is a blueprint for integrating various real-time Communication and asynchronous tools for enhancing business communication, productivity, and collaboration. Unified communications do not portray a singular technology: instead, it describes an interconnected system of enterprise communication devices and software that can be used successively.

Some companies communication tools such as video conferencing and Internet Protocol (IP) telephony facilitate real-time Communication. Real-time Communication is also known as synchronous Communication. Other business communication tools, such as email, facilitate unified Communication, which facilitates Communication that occurs at a person’s convenience.

Due to advances in technology, team collaboration tools have emerged to offer messaging-centric workflows and near-real-time Communication. Such tools also provide voice and video capabilities, API integrations, and expound on instant-messaging services by providing more advanced unified communication features.

The main aim of unified communications is to integrate the software that supports asynchronous and synchronous Communication so that the end-user can have easy access to all tools from whatever device is in use.

Hows do unified communication work?

A unified communication platform is supported by one or more back-end systems, often known as UC platforms, that enable integration among services and front-end clients that offer access. For instance, a web conferencing system would utilize an audio conferencing system, which in turn, would be designed on an underlying IP telephony platform, and a unified messaging client would click to talk (CTC), click to video functionality or click to chat.

Unified Communication also supports users moving from one mode of Communication to another within the same session. For instance, a user may begin communicating through email but then decide to build up the interaction to real-time Communication, changing the session to a voice call with a single click and then video conference with another click without any interruption.

UC communication systems and their components can be deployed on-premises, in a private or public cloud, or a combination of all three. Cloud-based unified communications are also known as UC as a service (UCaaS). An open-source project is known as WebRTC allows real-time Communication to be embedded into web browsers.

Single-vendor UC platforms have demonstrated the tightest integration and affinity. Interoperability among vendors remains a continuing challenge in Unified Communication, but it has been alleviated, in part, by common protocols, partnerships, and open APIs.

What is included in unified communications?

Common components of a UC system

Depending on your business needs and structure, a Unified Communication software can be deployed in multiple scenarios, from on-premise, in public or private cloud platforms. Cloud-based Unified Communications, or UCaaS- unified communication as a service, is prevalent today. Besides, WebRTC, the open-source project has enabled businesses real-time Communication within web browsers such as Firefox, Google Chrome, and many more.

The components of Unified Communications tools

  • Collaboration(File sharing, messaging, screen sharing, joint workspaces and calendaring)
  • Real-time presence
  • Video services (Video conferencing, broadcasting and telepresence)
  • Voice applications(audio conferencing, voice mail and telephony)
  • Web conferencing (interactive whiteboards and virtual meeting rooms)
  • Text-based communication (chat, email, and SMS)
  • Collaboration platforms and enterprise social networking

Under these user-facing components, other underlying elements of Unified Communications 

  • Video bridge or multipoint control unit (MCU) for video conferencing with multiple(three or more) endpoints
  • Multi-vendor or single Unified Communication platforms or server
  • Business communication gateways, like session border controllers(SBCs)
  • IP, a traditional, or cloud-based private branch exchange(PBX)
  • Endpoint devices such as cameras, softphones, desk phones, headsets, microphones, and others which are also user-facing tools

To obtain the best results with Unified Communication, companies need to implement these tools into their existing software, business goals, and procedures. UC and collaboration tools overlap significantly. Collaboration tools frequently include communication features, such as integrate with external UC systems, or team chat for those functions. UC also overlaps with technologies and contact center. For instance, in the form of automated call distribution(ACD), video chat and messaging capabilities and interactive voice response(IVR) systems.

In past years, a significant challenge for many Unified Communication vendors has been interoperability. More companies today are looking for Unified Communication strategies that can develop on top of their existing communication strategies. Luckily, Unified Communication as a service, open APIs, consolidation, and other evolutions have started to mitigate this problem.

How are unified communications evolving?

The evolution of Unified communications

Unified Communication can assist a business in various ways by improving efficiency, productivity, and agility. For example, in the traditional office platform, Unified Communication ensures employees can use the tools that are best of them, for mobile devices with cloud-based software to softphones and desk phones.

As the business industry keeps on evolving with new trends such as remote working, globalization and artificial intelligence, Unified Communication evolves with it. The concept, referred to as communication-enabled business procedure has evolved into a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) and the use of communication APIs. It involves integrating services such as presence, telephony, and chat into enterprise software. For instance, enabling subscribers to launch a voice call directly within client relationship management(CRM) software.

Unified Communication has natural connections with other parts of the business environment. For example, Unified Communications and Collaborations are starting to overlap more presently, as businesses realize that they need their employees to be able to work together on projects and communicate in the same streamlined environment.

Moreover, Unified Communication is starting to overlap with technologies for the contact center as consumer experience becomes a vital differentiator in the company space. With contact center technologies integrated into the Unified Communication stack, employees in a contact center can access support from their co-worker, unlock vital information, and even collaborate on customer issues.

Even though Unified Communication has already changed the communication environment, there is more to discover about the real potential of Unified Communications.

Why are unified communications so important?

The benefits of enabling Unified Communication

Let’s discuss how unified Communication can improve your business daily.

Unified Communication can improve business efficiency and productivity

Unified communications make it easier for employees to do their job by saving them time on simple work tasks. The ability to have incoming calls route wherever you are: your office phone, phone application on your computer and mobile phone. This decreases the probability of missing that important phone calls.

Today fax and voicemail are outdated. Instead of manually retrieve the paper from a fax machine or listen to a voicemail by dialing up a number, blue face delivers both these kinds of messages directly to your email in PDF form and audio file respectively.

Moreover, Unified Communication allows employees to work remotely without the need for any special set-up from their IT division. A desk phone connects back into the central business cloud PBX phone system.

Unified Communication helps to reduce business costs

Unified Communication utilizes Voice over IP technology to integrate different communication platforms. This diverges from traditional telephony which has historically depended on the rental of analog phone lines from the service provider. The line rental costs do not need to be on your bill, substantially reducing the recurring operating costs of your phone system.

With Unified Communication, you will offer better customer service

In case a customer contacts your business, they want to be directed to a particular person or a department, and they want this to be done as fast as possible. With unified Communication, even though you are away from your desk or out of the office, you can still be available to your clients by redirecting your fixed number to your mobile device.

In case you cannot answer the call, ring groups can be configured to send the call to the next most suitable recipient. Ring groups configure conditions for incoming calls. For instance, you can configure your phone system so that in case your main sales line is not answered; the call can be forwarded on to your sales manager naturally. Probably we have all experienced being put on hold only to be told that the agent we were looking for is not available. With unified communications, you can view the presence of if the person is available or not.

Another feature of Unified Communication is a rich presence; with this feature, you can see the availability of colleagues. Therefore the customer does not need to be placed on hold if they are unavailable. 

In case you are transferring calls, short internal number dialing makes call transfer easy. A good unified communications provider will let you sync contacts from a central portal across your corporate network.

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