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What Is Unified Communications?

Unified Communications

Turning your phone system digital with VoIP adds a lot of capabilities, but it's just the beginning. Once conversations go across the local network or Internet, you can combine them with any kind of data to produce a richer experience.

This combination is known as unified communications. It allows not just conversation but real-time collaboration between people in different locations.

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The "unified" aspect is the key. To collaborate efficiently, people need not just a grab-bag of sharing tools but a system with a single interface. A UC system lets people add a sharing mode in mid-discussion without having to reach for another tool. They can access these capabilities whether they're at their desks, on their home computers, or in the field.

You may also see the term "unified communications and collaboration." There's no strong line between UC and UCC; the latter simply emphasizes the support for collaboration tools.


Unified communication features

Unified communication includes features like these:

  • Video calling and conferencing. In these times of remote work and personal isolation, video conferences have become commonplace. Seeing a face adds a personal touch, and it's easier to keep track of who is speaking when participants can see each other. Video is a central component of any unified communications system. Cell phones, tablets, and desktop machines easily become conferencing devices, forming the basis for additional capabilities.

  • Automatic forwarding. A unified communication system can reach people wherever they declare their presence. There's no "phone tag" if they aren't at their desks. As long as they have a device connected to the UC system, they're reachable.

  • Messaging. People can't always take the time away from their work to hold a conference. Messaging is valuable when they need to update others or ask a question. UC systems include messaging capabilities that are more flexible and secure than old-style SMS and work smoothly with recipient lists. The turnaround is quicker than email, and messages are less likely to be lost.

  • Screen sharing. The ability to show a spreadsheet or slide to someone at another desk can be a huge help in clarifying issues. The person seeing the screen can ask questions immediately or present another screen in response.

  • Document collaboration. Sometimes it isn't enough to show a document. People working on a project want to edit and expand it while talking with each other. Document collaboration tools let all authorized participants work together on a document in real time. When they're done, they all have immediate access to the updated information.

  • Calendar integration. Scheduling a busy day is a challenge. Unified communications includes the ability to propose scheduled times and get an immediate response on whether they fit in everyone's calendar.


Internal and external communication

The scope of unified communication can be a business's internal network or any locations on the Internet. MPLS and WAN technologies let different facilities share an internal network with high-speed connectivity. The growth in remote work has made connections from home increasingly important, and employees can participate remotely by connecting to a VPN.

Another approach is to use a cloud-based service. This lets authorized people connect from anywhere, and it is easy to scale as the volume of communication increases. The cloud provider takes care of maintenance and software updates. Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) is a fast-growing part of the digital communication market.


Moving to unified communications

A good UC system is easily integrated with business software, including both desktop and cloud systems. A business selecting one needs to make sure a UC system works with the software it uses regularly.

The process of adoption will be a gradual one as employees discover new ways to communicate and collaborate. Over time, they'll discover uses that no one had anticipated. The result will be smoother workflows and improved productivity. To learn more about how we can help you to move into unified communications, get in touch with us today.

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