An Overview of Unified Communications

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NLDC Monthly Newsletter

Welcome to our November Newsletter

We aim to provide you with a brief digest of IT information that you will find useful and informative.

Please let us know if this newsletter has been helpful to you. Any feedback will be gratefully received. If there is anything you would like us to address in future issues, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Please email or use the Contact Form on our website

About NLDC?

NLDC was formed by Neil Davies in 2002 to provide independent IT advice to businesses in the North West. We provide the services of an in-house IT Director, but only when you need it.
We pride ourselves on our integrity, competence, value for money and flexibility. To learn more about the kind of things we do, why not take a look at our website or give us a call on 0161 654 4155, we'll be more than happy to discuss any IT or Telecommunications related queries you may have.

What is meant by Unified Communications?

The term “Unified Communications” or UC, describes a concept rather than a product. In essence it is the unification of various methods of communication so that the user can access them all via a single interface. UC brings together real time communication modes, such as Voice calls, Video calls, Desktop sharing, Instant Messaging and Presence, with none real-time communications such as eMail, Fax and Voicemail.

A simple example would be to “upgrade” an instant message chat to a voice call and then to a video call simply by clicking the appropriate call control icon on your PC. Another example would be, when transferring a call to a colleague, the system would indicate immediately if the colleague is:-

- in a meeting (it has checked their Outlook diary)
- on their mobile (the App on their smartphone has updated the system)
- away from their desk (their PC has been idle for 15 minutes) or just
- engaged on the phone

Because UC is the integration of so many different forms of communication, every vendor has their own take on what comprises UC. When investigating possible solutions, it is imperative to compare and contrast each vendor’s approach to UC. Those vendors who come from a Voice background, such as Mitel and Avaya, focus their UC on the voice element of communications and hang the other applications off that. More data centric suppliers, eg Microsoft, would focus more on the data side, ie focussing everything on Outlook.

As the market matures, the distinction between the various vendors reduces. Mitel et al provide solutions that integrate with Outlook, whereas Microsoft integrate with Lync (their voice and instant messaging solution).

If you are considering implementing UC in your business is it important to understand which communications modes you need access to now, and what is actually available currently and at what cost. Most, probably all, vendors will say that all communications modes will be available “soon”, but soon is never soon enough when it is a function you need. It is also very important to cost in the professional integration fees that would be required. For most SME’s, it is likely that the external resource required to move from the non voice version of Lync (included free with hosted Exchange) to voice enabled Lync (which would replace an internal phone system) would be prohibitively expensive. Building a UC solution based on an up to date implementation from Mitel, Avaya, Shoretel and the like would probably provide a highly usable solution.

Whilst mentioning MS Lync, it is important to note that hosted Lync does not provide viable access to the PSTN, ie it cannot establish voice calls with the outside world. At the time of writing (October 2014) there are only 12 SIP providers worldwide that can provide this capability, only one of which is based in the UK. Third party products do exist, but given the small number of suppliers, their services may be expensive.

The benefits of UC increase with the size of the organisation. A large multi site business would benefit from having “presence” information for a colleague who works 1000 miles away. Smaller businesses who use remote workers and disparate project teams could also benefit significantly from the right mix of UC components. The key point is that if you are looking to replace any part of your technology mix, you must always try to do it with an eye to the future. This means that the choice has to keep your options open so that more capability can be added in the future when a need is identified.

NLDC can help identify your needs, based on your business strategy and required benefits, such as collaboration, knowledge sharing and flexible working. We can help you to identify the most appropriate mix of technologies that can give your business the flexibility it needs at a price it can afford.

We can help with… Technology 

We provide a range of services to businesses that help them obtain the maximum advantage from their technology spend.
Strategy  - Develop a road map so that your IT systems can help to drive your business.
Budgeting – Plan your IT expenditure to avoid surprises.
Cloud, On-premise or hybrid – Make the right choice so that your business will flourish. We ensure all the options are considered correctly.
Product Selection – It can be difficult to evaluate different offerings. We make sure you are comparing like with like to get the best result for your business.
Telecommunications – How you communicate internally and externally is vitally important. We can ensure you upgrade to the most appropriate system for your business, or get maximum value from your existing system.
Resourcing - Sometimes you just need an extra pair of hands to help with a particular project. We can supply that resource.

Please either look at our website for more information or contact us for a free, no obligation chat.

And finally...

Don’t kill the messenger – well Microsoft have done exactly that, on the 31st October to be precise. MSM Messenger will cease operating in its final region, China, on the 31st. Messenger lost favour once Microsoft bought Skype for £5B in 2012. Messenger was launched in 1999 and by 2009 had over 330 million active users. However, it was soon overtaken by Skype once MS bought it in 2012 and by 2013 Skype had over 300 million users.

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