Beyond VoIP to Unified Digital Communications

Posted on: 2019-01-15 | Categories:SIP

Any organization will have a multitude of communication channels. It doesn’t matter if your business is a small startup or a large corporation. Your employees will use a variety of communication means to get things done. You might have email systems and voice calling at the very least. Most also have instant messaging, texting, video calling, faxing, voicemail etc.

While some companies are only now beginning to explore the wonder of VoIP, others are already moving beyond it. What comes after VoIP? If you’ve been paying attention to the news, UC is where it’s at. Unified Communication – otherwise called UC – is the next innovative technology that will change business workflows. But what exactly is it and where does VoIP fit in?

What is Unified Communication?

When someone talks about VoIP, they’re referring to a specific type of communication channel that uses a particular technology. But UC is not like that. It’s more of a marketing term but it still refers to a suite of products and services. UC aims to bring together both real-time and asynchronous communication channels into a single, cohesive platform for enterprises. A UC suite will provide a consistent interface across applications and allow users to seamlessly switch from one to other.

Let’s break down the definition with real-life examples.

Real-time vs Asynchronous Communication

Real-time communication refers to things like voice calls, instant messaging, and video conferencing. Like the term implies, your messages are delivered instantly and you expect a reply immediately as well.

Asynchronous communication is the opposite – you send a message and the recipient can read it when they are free. They can also reply whenever they please. You don’t expect an immediate answer. Email and voicemail are good examples.

What about the rest of it? UC allows users to switch between different apps. They will see a similar interface across all the services. For example, you can message your entire team or only a few people within one application. Then you realize you need to talk to a couple of people. You click a button to start a call. In the middle of the discussion, you get an email from your boss. You can add them to the call and turn on the video feed for a face to face conversation.

The best part about UC is that you don’t have to open and close several apps to complete one task. You can initiate calls from within the messaging app. Continue a voice call from your mobile phone when you leave the office. You can pick up where you left off in an instant. Imagine the productivity and efficiency improvements for your business!

Parts of a Unified Communication Suite

Any UC suite will consist of several basic components. Let’s start with the single most important one – the IP PBX server.

IP-PBX

The IP-PBX server is at the heart of any UC system. It combines the power of different networks to bring data, voice, and traditional calls on the same connection. VoIP operators have already incorporated several features like video conferencing and presence information. The IP-PBX is where you begin.

Collaboration

What do you imagine when you say collaboration? Most people think of a meeting or conference room with a whiteboard. UC can bring together features like screencasting, whiteboarding, file sharing and markup for teams. It doesn’t matter where each of you is located. You can work together as if you were all in the same meeting room!

Presence

Some VoIP services already use presence information while others add it only in the UC apps. Either way, presence information allows users to show their fee/busy times. This information is combined across several servers and then sent to users and apps. This means you will no longer disturb a colleague in the middle of a meeting!

Mobility

This is an important piece of the entire puzzle. Even more so in 2019 when businesses engage customers in both real and virtual space. No longer do you have the luxury of bringing customers into your office. You go where the customers are. And that means working on mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, laptops etc.

Any worthwhile UC system will have mobile applications that allow employees to work on the go. Many mobile apps have the same features as their desktop counterparts. In fact, quite a few of these ‘apps’ are simply online services that users access from any device. You can switch between multiple devices depending on your workflow.

Are You Ready for UC?

This decision depends on your business needs. Some companies are not yet ready to explore the world beyond VoIP. Others are already beginning to hit the boundaries of what VoIP can do. Do your research before jumping in. But unified communication is here to stay and sooner or later, every business is going to deploy one.