The evolution of communication and information technology has made the conventional systems of communication converge into something called Unified Communications (UC) Systems.
The basic idea behind the UC System like Microsoft Teams is the seamless integration of different enterprise communication services. However, saying that a popular UC System like Microsoft Teams only manages the integration of varied communication services solely does not even cover its extensive capabilities or outline the role it plays in the modern business communication systems.
So, let’s take a closer look today at what UC is, the way it works, the benefits it offers, and more. You’ll want to get a UC System for your home and office by the end of this!
Overview of Unified Communication Systems
Before getting into further details about the history and the way of working at UC, let’s try to understand what makes UC systems different, or even better than the other communication systems!
UC is not just one product, but rather a host of technologies that offer a complete user experience. It comes with services like:
Communication through various services gets seamlessly routed using the UC platform. For instance, a user can make a phone call from the traditional desk phone, mobile application, or their laptop, while simultaneously getting voicemails through email and continues their chat with others in the company, all using the same system.
History of Unified Communications
Back in the 1980s, businesses mostly relied on a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) telephone system. Local telephone companies provided and handled these systems, and these usually needed analogue lines that routed calls to the customer from the central office.
By the mid-1990s, email was being widely used and businesses began deploying IP (Internet Protocol) based networks, and voice technology started evolving. Advancements in communication technology ensured the development of VoIP (Voice over IP) phone systems that can transmit voice traffic through data networks.
With the growing popularity of VoIP deployments during the 1990s, there was a decline in the conventional PBX system, as the former was way more cost-effective because of the use of data networks and the widespread availability of internet.
Advancements in IP telephony let the phones use a similar network as the computers opened up possibilities for greater integration between phones and computer applications. The concept of Unified Messaging came from here. It streamlined fax, emails, voicemails, and other text messaging systems.
Then in the 2000s, the demand soared for IP telephony, and more manufacturers started to modify the conventional PBX phone systems by making circuit packs to connect the IP network to a system. The tools were developed to place voice calls across business communication systems and connect multiple locations. Throughout the 2000s, Unified Communication solutions developed by integrating real-time communication services like:
Microsoft came up with Lync in 2010, which was the successor to Office Communicator. Lync influenced business communications in a significant way. Lync integrated seamlessly with Microsoft Active Directory and Outlook, which is used widely by organisations.
The evolution of cloud technologies in the mid-2010s led to the emergence of Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS). As UCaaS became mainstream, the provisions of UC services moved to the cloud. Cloud-based UC eliminated the high capital expenditure usually associated with conventional on-premise Voice over IP systems.
Industries with high demand for UC at present
In terms of sectors deploying UC, the service market is segmented clearly into:
Among these, the retail sector is expected to generate maximum revenue for the market. The retail industry is increasingly adopting UC technology for streamlining business processes by ensuring real-time, quick services and fast closures for the transaction. So, the noticeably booming retail growth is also going to have an impact on the growth of the UC market.
Parts of a Unified Communication System
UC is the kind of enterprise-class platform that integrates all of the latest digital collaboration and communication tools into one unified offering that uses software and hardware that remains in the cloud.
Most businesses approach the implementation of UC from the information technology aspect, and thus, fail to take into account the elements of human collaboration underlying UC.
The successful implementation of UC is only possible if the organisations focus on all the parts of the System as given below:
Advanced components are also offered by some UC Systems, which includes Interactive Voice Response Interfaces, Automated Notifications, Call Centre Functionality, Virtual Personal Assistants, and so on.
When any of the parts mentioned above of a UC System is compromised in quality, an organisation will not receive its desired outcome. For instance, when the infrastructure is not stable, or the user experiences video latency or poor call quality, the user experience goes downhill. Thus, it is crucial to look at UC implementation from the approach of human collaboration to make sure there is always technical consistency.
As it is with all technology implementation projects, the factors to consider while preparing for the Unified Communication System implementation include a precise understanding of business needs, developments in the organisational culture, and of course, user training.
Unified Communication System installation process
For a UC System to function, the environment needs the support of multiple backend systems called UC platforms. The platforms let you integrate several communication services to facilitate the frontend interface for the organisation. Think of it like those web conferencing services that use audio conferencing systems that need a VoIP platform for facilitating audio calling.
Fees for installing a UC System
The price range of installing a UC System varies widely according to the industry and the user license. As a rule of thumb, expect to spend more money if you are working in a highly technical sector.
The price range of installation also depends on your user license, i.e. whether you are an option for an on-premise or a cloud solution. On average, it is noticed that users have to pay more to get a user license for cloud solutions, compared to on-premise systems.
It is important to mention in this regard that the long-term benefits of UC systems far outweigh the costs of installing the System.
Preparations needed for the installation
Two crucial components are needed to make a reliable UC System, which is a feature-laden and user-faced technology platform and a robust backend communication system.
Steps to follow for installation
Installing a UC System is carried out by following the steps given below:
- Assessing your network
Unsatisfactory performance of UC Systems is usually related to the insufficiencies in the network infrastructure. You might have latency or call quality issues due to insufficient bandwidth or when you try to rely on public internet connectivity for the system.
The vendor will help you in understanding present traffic patterns and carry out security assessments in determining the amount of bandwidth required for the new UC to work seamlessly and securely.
- Understanding the UC needs of the organisation
A reliable vendor works closely with the IT experts of an organisation to assess the requirements for UC System features and help in planning a smooth implementation procedure. Vendor alignment is an essential step during the installation process in ensuring that you have a plan that fits your organisation, work culture, and regulatory criteria.
The vendor would help you in choosing the right features, like the integration of remote management tools and back-office systems, and put up a clear idea of what the UC System is slated to look like.
- Creating the statement of work
After the vendor guides your organisation through the right design procedure for UC, it’s time to start project planning. The vendor delivers a complete statement of work to get your approval, and this statement has the following things outlined for the new UC System that you are about to get:
- Project scope
- Number porting
- On-Site setup
- Employee training
- Implementation timeline
- The location for the transition
- Cost estimate
- Follow-Up support
- Managing the change of address
To achieve success with the migration of UC, the employees should have the willingness to use a new system and the knowledge about how to make the most of the system. The statement of work has to concentrate on change planning and management, and that involves.
- Addressing technical skills: Users who need specialised training, such as your selected internal ambassador, contact centre employees, and IT administrators. Addressing individual technical skills is also an important step.
- Approaching communications: Decide how you will communicate with the users at the time of installation and whom they should direct their questions to during this time of the transition.
- Supporting and monitoring: Getting on-site support from the vendor right after the installation and the duration of that support.
- Installing fibre optic internet connection
Installing a fibre optic internet connection is a sub-project within the UC installation. Based on the organisation and the kind of space being used to work, planning for the fibre might need a landlord’s approval at many business sites. Installing fibre optic successfully involves the following factors:
- Getting signed access and approval agreements from the management or building owner
- Letting the vendor carry out a survey on the site
- Approving the official installation plan by your organisation and property management
- Installing the fibre optic connection
- Connecting the building fibre to office, for multi-tenant or very large buildings
- Testing the UC System on the data connection
Some business organisations might not need this step. However, for the organisations that need to make considerable network changes, like getting fibre connectivity for installing UC successfully, additional testing might be necessary at this point. Pre-installation testing helps in delivering a seamless transition and might involve the vendors carrying out application performance and network monitoring.
- Considering the porting number
Porting number is a process that needs one business day after the old vendor of the organisation gets notified, and the new vendor gets the information needed to carry out the work.
The suggested approach is to go for single-batch porting. But, in some cases, the needs and business models of an organisation might dictate whether the porting is done over a number of days and in batches. You will have your communications going while porting, and the vendor will spend his time to make sure that the numbers had a smooth transfer.
How Does Unified Communication Systems Work
The UC environment is usually supported by a single, or multiple backend systems called UC platforms to facilitate service integration, and it gains access through frontend clients. UC also allows the users to move from one communication mode to another in a single session.
Making and answering audio calls
There are multiple options available for making calls. The function can be used through communication buttons, by inputting numbers to dial for voice calls, or by clicking on the dial pad option. You can choose any of the methods to make the call because the quality of the call is not dependent on how you choose to make it.
Making and answering video calls
To make video calls, you have to select the contact by hitting the contact icon and right-click to start the video call. The process is pretty much the same as that of making audio calls. You will get options to accept or decline a video or audio call using your smartphone.
The answer to how does unified messaging work for businesses does not differ much. The ease of use across all setups is one of the main reasons for its popularity.
Benefits of Using UC systems
Businesses benefit from UC Systems in so many ways. It can significantly improve communications between the clients and the company, along with simplifying organisation and collaboration within the project teams.
Here are some critical benefits of relying on UC Systems for an organisation:
UC Systems can save a lot of time by enabling the employees to communicate with the right people and gain access to relevant information at any time from anywhere. It leads to considerable improvements in productivity by letting employees increase their mobility through effective communications.
Reduction in costs
It has been proven that UC is highly cost-efficient. When businesses end up integrating the communications into one system, it ensures higher employee productivity, and thus, increased sales.
It eliminates unnecessary fees related to legacy systems. It does away with the reliance on obsolete technologies when relying on a cloud-based system that sees periodic upgrades with the latest features.
Many organisations face the challenge of not having smooth internal communications between departments. To bridge this gap by ensuring seamless employee communication, UC can be deployed. It comes with the promise of greater teamwork and better collaboration across the departments.
It lets organisations respond readily to situations and help departments that attempt to work together as one team. An organisation has a competitive advantage when all the departments start functioning holistically as one team.
In fact, by switching from a traditional phone system to UC Systems, schools get to communicate more freely with the parents and update them about the status of their children’s progress.
Data security is one of the biggest concerns for any institution and business in this digital era. The security features that come as a part of the UC System is data encryption across the networks to prevent sensitive information from getting intercepted by the unscrupulous third parties. Furthermore, trusted UC providers ensure that the installation and operations are completely safe and secure.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that the benefits offered by the UC solutions are incomparable to the conventional communication models. The growing demand has made it easy to afford and implement UC Solutions. It is a communication model that helps your organisation have greater productivity, become even more efficient, get a competitive advantage, and thus, become highly profitable. The organisations also get to reinvest the profits that they gain due to better communication.
So, do you want to enjoy the multitude of benefits held by UC Systems? Get your monthly subscription of Microsoft Teams today and make your communications as seamless as ever. Hurry up and get in touch with us now for further details.