First comes VoIP, then comes UC

First comes VoIP, then comes UC

In the realm of telecommunications, VoIP is quickly becoming the standard choice for businesses of all kinds – and with good reason. VoIP can deliver major across-the-board improvements to an organization's communications abilities. But for any firm that has yet to make the move to VoIP, arguably the biggest benefit is not actually inherent to VoIP itself. Instead, the most compelling reason for companies to turn to VoIP is often the fact that it can lay the foundation for a robust unified communications platform, which can then lead to tremendous business advantages.

VoIP advantages
That's not to say that VoIP's straightforward, direct benefits should be overlooked. Even before UC enters the picture, VoIP adoption is a compelling option. 

Perhaps most notably, VoIP can significantly reduce costs. Once a VoIP system is in place, the vast majority of companies will see major dips in their telecommunications bills. This is thanks to a number of factors, but perhaps the most significant is the fact that there are no long-distance charges, since every call is carried over the Internet. A business that makes a lot of international calls will see a huge, positive impact following VoIP adoption.

"A VoIP system will be much more scalable than a typical legacy option."

VoIP also delivers better call quality than virtually any other option. And finally, a VoIP system will be much more scalable than a typical legacy option. This means that a business can easily add new users without incurring large costs or experiencing delays.

The UC side
That being established, many would argue that the real motivation for firms to embrace VoIP systems is to then move on to UC deployment. 

For example, PC World recently asserted that "UC is the ultimate goal with IP-based services because that's when the big benefits kick in."

These benefits are both expansive and transformative. By adopting a UC system, companies can provide their employees with a wide range of options for both internal and external communication. Typically, these channels include video conferencing, fax to email, find me follow me, instant messaging, SMS and more. 

Immediately, the introduction of these options can have a powerful impact on how workers in every department conduct their daily job responsibilities. Employees will have the freedom to choose the best available channel for any given task, allowing them to maximize efficiency and productivity. Without a UC solution, on the other hand, workers will frequently be forced to rely on a suboptimal means of communicating and collaborating with their colleagues. 

Customers want options when it comes to support.

This becomes even more important when it comes to client engagement. Consumers are becoming more demanding when it comes to customer service, and they expect to be able to choose their preferred contact method when seeking technical, financial or any other form of support. Companies with UC systems in place can offer this level of service, while those lacking UC cannot.

And ultimately, VoIP is essential for enabling these capabilities. Only by selecting and implementing a VoIP system can a business support an integrated platform featuring video, audio and other mediums. As contributor James Gaskin put it, you can look at a UC systems as "tools that rely on a VoIP foundation."

Taking advantage
All of this goes to show that VoIP should be seen as a stepping stone to UC implementation. However, getting to that point is a more complex matter. To gain the best possible advantages from these resources, firms cannot just choose and deploy any given VoIP system or UC platform – they need to find the right options for their unique needs and long-term goals. No two VoIP solutions are identical, and the same is true for UC, as well. The available options will vary in a number of ways, from cost to security to scalability and beyond. Choosing a less than ideal solution in either case will lead to a disappointing return on investment. 

To avoid this outcome, any company leaders eager to move to VoIP and UC should look for trustworthy industry partners to help guide them through every step of this process. With the right support, decision-makers can accurately identify their company's needs, both now and for the future, and adopt the tools that will best allow the firm to meet its objectives.