If iIt were 2008 or 2007, how would you watch video on a regular basis? Perhaps you would connect a DVD or Blu-ray Disc player to your TV for physical media, hook up an antenna for local stations and broadcast, use a cable or satellite subscription for premium channels and link your computer to your TV's HDMI port for videos you found on the internet (if you didn't just watch it on the laptop/desktop itself). It was a fragmented experience at the time, and it has since been superseded by more streamlined workflows.
For example, today it's possible to watch almost anything you want, from pay TV to YouTube to your own collection, via streaming boxes/sticks or mobile apps on a smartphone or tablet. In other words, there's substantial consolidation and convenience, with nothing lost in terms of video quality, either. A similar evolution has occurred with enterprise communications, which have been transformed from discrete, outdated systems into more synergistic solutions combining essential capabilities such as video, voice, presence and chat. These unified communications (UC) platforms have produced enormous efficiency gains along with reduced costs across everyday business operations.
Unified communications: The one-stop shop for telephony and more
Legacy private branch exchange (PBX) systems are like old TVs saddled with expensive cable/satellite packages: They work, to a degree, but the cost outweighs the benefits. The overall experience is far behind what is available from more up-to-date alternatives that's it usually not worth sticking with them.
With PBX, you pay a lot for a relative little. Your phones are mostly isolated from your other communications tools, which is a suboptimal experience for internal users as well as a possible red flag to external customers and partners who might perceive small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs) in particular as disorganized.
In contrast, UC solutions tie everything together into a cohesive platform that enables easier operation in addition to the presentation of a more professional image to the outside world. There are many domains in which UC excels, but a few stand out and deserve more attention:
1. Straightforward initial configuration and ongoing change management
PBXes are expensive to install and maintain. Plus, if they ever require any significant modification, the process can be arduous.
More specifically, the original vendor may need to schedule an on-site visit to help with the addition of new lines and users. It's a very throwback experience, akin to needing to make a long drive to a store to get a new music CD instead of being able to just pull up the song on a streaming service.
The typical PBX also limits the maximum number of users and may be governed by a service contract that does not even cover user additions. With a UC suite from a trusted partner such as Teo Technologies, there are no such limitations. Configurations take mere minutes to complete, while changes affecting the entire enterprise can be executed in only seconds.
2. Extensive system maintenance and technical support
With standalone communications tools, service agreements usually cover parts and labor for the life of the contract. That might sound like a good deal on the surface, but it is much less comprehensive than the coverage you get with a proven UC platform.
With UC solutions, you have complete peace of mind that if something breaks or needs a critical upgrade, you're in good hands. UC providers will assist with software updates, equipment relocation, moves/adds/changes (aka MACs) and specific feature adjustments.
"Your UC suite will scale alongside your organization."
Accordingly, you can be confident that your UC suite will scale alongside your organization. You won't be left hanging, in need of extra lines or help with site expansions. Think of it as an on-demand approach to communications, similar to the numerous cutting-edge cloud computing services that are now central to the IT environments of many organizations.
3. Deep and broad integrations with other applications
The "unified" in unified communications isn't meaningless: It signifies the integration of multiple major business applications into one interoperable system. The voice, video, messaging and presence components of UC are well-known, since they constitute the core of every worthwhile solution. Beyond that, UC suites may also include integrations with other common apps including:
- Microsoft Outlook
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM
- Salesforce CRM
- Skype for Business (formerly Microsoft Lync)
- Popular email clients
- Major web browsers
These deep integrations and many others make UC the perfect hub for the interconnected world. It brings together all of the tools your team will use each day, saving them the effort of having to constantly jump between different disconnected interfaces, each with its own siloed data set needing to be pulled up and worked on separately.
4. Multiple deployment options
An overlooked drawback of traditional phone systems is their strictly premise-based designs. With all core equipment located in a server room within a company building, redundancy and backups are essential, despite the various complications and extra costs they create.
Environmental controls are necessary to ensure server stability. Meanwhile, disaster planning has to account for the potentially catastrophic effects of a flood or fire. Finally, an entirely separate phone system may be required for sufficient redundancy.
To work around these risks, UC vendors offer flexible deployment options that take advantage of the scale of cloud computing. Premise-based systems are still available, with the added protection of multiple, geographically dispersed nodes connected via a dedicated private network. Our cloud equivalents use Teo's own R3ND technology for similarly multi-layered geographic resiliency that scales to preserve all critical items passing through your UC platform, from voicemails to call recordings.
The on-prem and cloud setups can even be blended into a hybrid approach. Teo offers this route in our Cloud Plus package, which pairs cloud-based UC infrastructure with a local R3ND node that preserves resiliency even in the event of an ISP disruption in the last mile of the network. The cloud components enable low startup costs, predictable monthly costs (since the bulk of all assets are included in a subscription) and professional vendor management.
5. Superior mobility and cross-device support
The days of desk phone dominance are in the past. Today's UC systems look beyond the office phone and offer compatibility with the mobile endpoints that have become integral to the workplace.
Employees can easily configure call forwarding to their smartphones or to PC/Mac soft phones, or even use their tablets to screen share via a simple HTML5 interface in a web browser. The possibilities are vast and largely unrestricted by the specific type of device you're on at a given moment, as long as it has IP network connectivity.
The upshot is enhanced collaboration across the organization, not to mention a more cost-effective, scalable and flexible approach to communications. UC has evolved over the years into much more than a next-generation phone system: It's become an entire way of doing business without being constrained by differences between applications or rigid PBX implementations. Learn more about how you can upgrade to a best-in-class UC implementation by contacting Teo Technologies today.