What is Unified Communications and why is it important?

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Most people in business use more than one form of communication, be that telephone, email, voicemail, chat or fax. The concept of unified communications is that all forms of communications are more converged. For example enabling voicemails to be opened and listened to in mailboxes and vice versa.

The key drivers of this technology are the Telephone System manufacturers who are working closely with Microsoft and other software developers to ensure common protocols are used which encourage interoperability.

Telephone systems used to be PBX systems that would have digital or analogue end points, but in recent years telephone system manufactures such as Avaya have realised that connecting to a companies IP network meant that software to support and compliment handsets could be produced and that this would provide them with a USP.

Over time other manufacturers have caught up with Avaya and each has their own suit of supporting software. Although each manufacturer has their own ‘flavour’ of software the concepts are similar allowing users to see real time if another user is available and on what device. In other words it enables all the systems that a person might use to work together real time.

How will this benefit my business?

A key benefit of unified communications is reduced latency. Messages are delivered quicker and therefore actioned quicker. By using a unified communications enabled Telephone System in environments where workers are often on the road or not at their office desk it allows other users to see where a user is working and if they are available.

What’s the future of unified communications?

As data connections including broadband get faster and more reliable, more applications and uses will be added to the unified communications theatre. Video technology is the latest newcomer and is already being rolled out in larger organisations as a standard feature. Both Avaya and Cisco have made large investments in video technology believing this is where the future of communications lies. It is only a matter of time before this technology becomes a more common feature in the software sets available to smaller organisations and home users.

Where can I get this technology?

Telephone system manufacturers tend to sell their equipment and software through value added resellers who can offer line and call packages as well as training and peripheral products. Manufacturers differ in their options for unified communications products and in their ability to integrate with 3rd party software and equipment. Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, Alcatel and Shoretel have the best options and Panasonic, NEC, Siemens and LG have very limited options.

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