What is Unified Communications?

Author: Kelley Donald - MarCom/Tuesday, April 30, 2024/Categories: Unified Communications

What-is-Unified-Communications

Communication is at the core of every business operation. In the current fast-paced era of the Internet, businesses require fast and efficient ways to communicate across short and long distances alike to ensure proper collaboration and high productivity. Unified Communications covers all of that.

UC leverages the use of tools like instant messaging and voice calls to bring people together and elevate the user experience. If you’re still wondering about UC and its uses, we’ll help you define unified communications meaning.

Evolution of Unified Communications

The concept of Unified Communications collaboration across long distances has been around for many years. During the 1990s, private branch exchanges (PBX) started growing in popularity, allowing people to talk over the phone like never before. Over time, other systems appeared, like e-mail, voice mail, and fax.

The UC concept evolved after the industry shifted its focus to the Internet. During the 2000s, codecs made communication through digital devices easier and smoother by decoding compressed audio signals efficiently. When codecs and RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) were coupled together, a shift to communication through the Internet began.

After the shift, software applications and servers played a central role in enhancing communication with features that go beyond regular telephony. Nowadays, people can easily share audio messages, files, videos, and images quickly and efficiently through the internet, all thanks to UC.

Key Components of Unified Communications

The key components of Unified Communications consist of several communication and collaboration tools that complement each other. These tools play multiple roles, each with its own function.

  • Voice: Voice communication is the foundation of UC. VoIP allows for voice calls across many different devices, like smartphones, computers, tablets, and more.
  • Call control: Managing calls through call forwarding, transfer, hold, and automatic call distribution can greatly optimize communication and productivity.
  • Presence: The presence system allows people to share in real time their status through the network to let others know if they’re online, busy, away, or offline.
  • Instant messaging: IM is the core of many businesses and the preferred communication method for many. Real-time text communication is quick and efficient.
  • Unified messaging: This system integrates tools like email, fax, and voicemails into a single interface, streamlining usage and improving productivity.
  • Collaboration tools: When a group of people need to work on the same thing, using collaboration tools to share files and brainstorm ideas can save a lot of time.
  • Mobility: Since UC works over networks, people can stay connected even while traveling.
  • Business process integration: CRM and ERP system integrations can significantly improve communication efficiency.
  • Security: Security provides confidentiality, reliability, and the availability of other tools and systems. 

The Importance of Video (VOIP) and Messaging in UC

Instant messaging evolved as a casual system that people used to chat around, and it became a central part of communication in businesses. Due to the fast-paced nature of businesses, having a way to quickly and efficiently communicate through text is crucial. UC allows people to share files, documents, and links easily.

Meanwhile, VoIP became the pillar of communication for businesses, even more so after the shift to work from home. Calls provide a way to communicate faster than text while also facilitating communication through nonverbal cues through video.

Types of Unified Communications and Their Uses

There are two main UC models: on-premises and UCaaS. Let’s dive into their key differences.

On-Premises UC

Having on-premises UC means you have all the software and hardware infrastructure hosted internally within your company. This lets you decide how to customize every aspect of your UC, giving you full control over all systems and functions. However, setup and maintenance costs can get expensive, particularly for larger operations.

Unified Communications as a Service

The UCaaS model outsources services to a provider that manages everything over the cloud. Since the infrastructure is kept in a separate location and everything is managed on a central server, it’s a great, cost-efficient solution with high scalability.

Communications Platform as a Service

There’s also a third model that helps complement the other two, known as Communications Platform as a Service. 

CPaaS allows developers to use APIs (Application Programming Interface) to easily implement audio, text, and video into communication interfaces. It adds a lot of value on top of what UC already brings to the table by streamlining system integrations.

Choosing the Right UC Solution for Your Business

When picking a UC solution for your business, you should consider many things to avoid issues during the implementation and during usage. After you identify your needs, consider a company’s integration capabilities, customer support, user experience, mobility support, and scalability.

There are many popular and reliable UC solution providers, each with their own focus. Although many fill a niche or focus on their own tools, most have collaboration tools to help with project management as well as communication tools with audio, video, and text messaging. Here are a few to help you make your decision:

  • Microsoft Teams: Many companies already use Windows and Office 365 tools. Microsoft Teams offers seamless integration across their Office tools, along with other communication and collaboration systems.
  • Cisco Webex: Cisco offers an integrated system with its networking tools and added security. They have both communication and collaboration systems.
  • Zoom: Zoom focuses on having an easy-to-use interface to improve the efficiency of businesses when conferencing. It has both communication and collaboration systems.
  • Slack: Slack offers many third-party integrations, making it versatile and flexible. It has a strong focus on messaging and team collaboration.

After you find something that might fill your needs, contact the company and evaluate your needs with what they’re offering. Some might even offer trial periods for you to test the tools.

Unified Communications Security

UC integrates several tools together for a seamless user experience. However, every tool can add its own challenge to security, particularly since they can be on different devices. When you add them all together, it can become difficult to manage access, secure data, and safeguard against attacks.

To mitigate security risks and improve reliability, you should focus on some best practices, like:

  • Granular access control
  • Encryption
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Regular security audits and updates
  • Network segmentation
  • User training and awareness
  • Secure configuration management
  • Backup and disaster recovery planning
  • Vendor risk management
  • Continuous monitoring and incident response

Consolidated Communications

By implementing UC in any business, you can improve communication and collaboration among people across long distances. Adding ways for people to communicate in real time can significantly improve productivity, making jobs faster and easier for everyone.

Consolidated Communications leads the UC industry with several Unified Communications solutions that can improve any business. Learn more about Consolidated’s Unified Communications.

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