Getting it Together with Unified Communications

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Unified communications is one of those terms which has been bandied about in telecoms circles for some time now. However, ask someone to pin down a definition for you and they’ll often (ironically) struggle to communicate a satisfactory one.
Let’s end this pattern, then, with our quick guide to unified communications, so next time you’re asked to define it, you’ll be well prepared.

In a (slightly unwieldy) nutshell, unified communications is a way of operating. It is a philosophy for communications within a business or other organization. Unified communications represents a framework which integrates a range of tools with one another, with the ultimate goal of enhancing communication, collaboration, and productivity. Unified communications does not, however, refer to a single technology or platform, but rather an interconnected system of devices and applications which facilitate better communication.

Asynchronous and Synchronous Communications
Synchronous communication refers to those times when all parties involved in a conversation are present in real time. Telephone calls, video conferencing, and face-to-face, are all communication methods which are synchronous in nature. Inversely, asynchronous communication refers to those methods where individual parties are not required to be live in the conversation and are able to respond at a time convenient to themselves, such as with email, or direct mail.

Clearly there are elements of these two schools which are mutually exclusive, and pose significant challenges to efforts to unify communications. However, unified communications seeks to integrate those platforms – both digital and physical – which make all these methods possible, so the user has all the tools they need, regardless of where they are and the device they are using.

Features of Unified Communications
A typical unified communications setup would likely involve all or many of the following technologies.

User-facing Components
• Text-based tools, such as email, text messaging, and chat
• Voice-based applications, such as telephone, voicemail, and audio conferencing
• Video-based services, such as desktop videoconferencing, room-based videoconferencing, and telepresence suites
• Web conferencing platforms, virtual meeting spaces, and interactive whiteboards
• Real-time presence
• Enterprise social networking and collaboration platforms

Back-end Components
• A single- or multivendor platform or server
• A traditional, IP, or cloud-based PBX
• Physical devices such as phones, headsets, cameras, and microphones
• Business communication gateways, such as session border controllers
• A multipoint control unit (MCU), or video bridge, for video conferencing with three or more endpoints

Clearly, some of these technologies overlap, with some, such as phones, headsets, cameras, and microphones, operating in both user-facing and back-end situations.

Benefits of Unified Communications
In empowering employees with more flexible and intuitive ways to communicate with one another, unified communications can facilitate and improve collaboration and boost productivity. Added to these benefits, technologies such as cloud-based videoconferencing cut down on the need for face-to-face meetings and the associated travel costs.

Whether working from a traditional office, or as part of a mobile workforce, unified communications can help people work better, faster, and smarter. If you’re looking to unify your communications with an intelligent cloud-based PBX system, then net2phone can help. Contact us for a free demo!

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