With new technologies emerging and customers’ demands shifting, the number of choices for businesses to communicate continues to grow. Which is why now is the time to seriously consider why unified communication support should be included in your IT budget.
All Hail The Rise of Unified Communication
Unified communication is the convergence of data, voice, and video services in combination with software communication applications to streamline business processes, achieve greater collaboration, and increase productivity.
UC integrates all business communication tools and components into a single unified system. It enables interconnectivity between computers, telephones, wired and wireless communication devices, email, video and audio conferencing, instant messaging, and presence technologies, allowing them to communicate with each other in real time.
While unified communication is rising, the degree of use differs from company to company, often depending on their IT budgets. West Unified Communications Services surveyed more than 250 IT managers.
They learned that about half of the companies with IT budgets between $26,000 and $100,000 only use basic UC solutions such as audio and email. Among the companies with annual IT budgets of over $5 million, 89 percent implement UC tools beyond voice and email.
Audio is communication king with web conferencing coming in as a close second. Video conferencing is still an underutilized tool even among big enterprises. 36 percent of the IT managers surveyed expect to expand their video capabilities in the next three years.
Here’s a summary of the West findings on UC tool preferences:
Audio conferencing – 79 percent
Web conferencing – 76 percent
IM/presence -73 percent
Video conferencing – 68 percent
Screen sharing – 67 percent
Social collaboration – 43 percent
Migrating UC to the Cloud
The concept of "office" is shifting, with fixed cubicles and desks slowly fading away into the background. Mobility is compelling modern workers to do their jobs wherever they are as long as they have a Wi-Fi connection.
Cloud computing has opened the door to the “everything-as-a-Service” delivery model. Unified communication is one further example of this trend.
Modern companies are exploring the benefits of adopting Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). Scalability, flexibility, and affordability are the most attractive features of UCaaS.
For a small business the cost savings make UCaaS especially attractive. Choosing only the UC services your business needs, putting together a collaborative communication suite a la carte helps cut down cost and confusion. You would be paying only for the things you use, yet still avail of the specialized services of your UCaaS provider.
You can choose from two primary UCaaS architectures: single-tenancy and multi-tenancy. The single-tenancy model allows you exclusive use of a software platform and is, thus, considered more secure and reliable, but more expensive.
The multi-tenancy type can accommodate two or more tenants in a single platform hosted in the UCaaS provider’s data center. It is more cost-effective and comes with more support, software upgrades, and redundancy. However, it is less flexible and customizable than a single-tenancy design.
Why Unified Communication Support Should be Included in Your IT Budget
UC boosts workplace collaboration and productivity by enabling employees to carry on their tasks faster, more efficiently, and from virtually anywhere.
The West survey established that the primary motivation for investing in a new UC solution is to increase productivity. For instance, workstream messaging is popular not just among employees across organizational boundaries but with customers as well.
Well-utilized tools like messaging make the case for UC support as an important part of your IT budget. Mobility is a reality in business.
Modern workers are more comfortable working with their own devices. A comprehensive UC system should include an array of mobility functions to help save on travel costs, time, and other related IT expenses. This should enable employees to attend meetings, seminars, or company announcements from anywhere.
Protecting Your UC System
When budgeting for UC support, IT leaders should assess the growing threats that could put their network at risk. They must not forget to allot an adequate amount in the IT budget to maintain and secure the enterprise UC to minimize downtime and prevent major hacks.
Most organizations are moving to pure IP-based UC and BYOD is a growing trend among the modern workforce.
The Internet is a large enough vector for potential attacks. BYOD and mobility make the attack surface even larger if the proper security measures are not put in place. A lost or stolen device that contains critical corporate data, for instance, may result in major financial losses and undermine brand reputation.
No single solution can completely secure the enterprise UC. Regular firewalls are a good first line of defense on IP data. But they lack the capability of protecting complex SIP voice and video calls from application layer exploits. Session border controllers (SBCs) are robust UC firewalls that have inherent security features.
Features include protocol filtering, encryption, topology hiding, per-session state awareness, and dynamic blacklisting when an application is abused. SBCs are capable of shutting down questionable sessions and passing on information to other devices down the security chain to be on the lookout for similar anomalous activities.
UC adoption has been rapidly growing in business, healthcare, education, government organizations, and across almost all industries. Thanks to UC’s widely available features, even small businesses can now access the benefits of unified communication.
Now is a great time to take a closer look at budgeting for UC support.