From CRM, help desk through accounting small business has been a leading adopter of the Cloud. Cloud advantages of easy implementations, low or no up-front costs, scalability, richer features and baked in backups and security are simply too hard to ignore. The Cloud also significantly reduces the need for IT resources to support all these applications. So why is taking UC to the Cloud different and more challenging?
Unified Communications – What is it?
It’s probably best to define UC, before getting too deeply into the challenge of taking it to the Cloud. The term unified communications arose in the mid-1990s. During that time IP networking emerged and messaging and real-time communications began to combine.
Today, the definition of UC typically includes voice, instant messaging/presence, video conferencing, mobility and email integration. UC offerings are continuously evolving and include multiple endpoints (such as phones, softphones, IM and mobile clients) and broad media support (including voice, video, text and messaging).
UC Isn’t Like Other Cloud Apps
UC has much more demanding networking requirements. If you’re considering taking UC to the Cloud you need to make sure your network infrastructure can support IP-based voice and video. Unlike other Cloud apps you’ll need to deal with on-premises equipment, address quality-of-service requirements and network traffic management. This IT burden can be very challenging for small businesses.
Many vendors tell you Cloud UC is just plug and play. They’ll send you phones in a box and provide phone and email support. Most small businesses find this a really challenging experience. In reality, you’ll likely need an implementation partner. Having a vendor that knows network infrastructure and can trouble shoot initial network challenges ensures success.
Mobility is Key to Unified Communications (UC) Success
Mobile devices have become the center of most small business owner’s world. In many businesses, this is also true of their most valuable employees. Many businesses choose to forgo desktop devices and simply use their mobile devices for all communications. For these reasons, mobility becomes a key to UC success.
Communication mobility has many benefits including:
- Ability to answer, ignore or release calls from a smartphone’s lock screen
- Text and email notifications for missed calls and voice mails
- One business phone number with the ability to route it where/when necessary
- Ability to easily rollover calls initiated or received on mobile or desktop phones.
- Current status and availability of users
- Intuitive browsing and search of contacts and call logs
Collaboration Apps Are Essential
Another important development in business communications is the emergence of collaboration applications. These apps combine instant messaging, video conferencing, file sharing and presence to improve collaboration and communication between employees. These apps have rapidly gone viral. Employees like the ease and efficiency of communicating with each other. Knowing when someone is online and available and having an efficient way to conduct short business conversations really makes this a business essential.
These apps also support mobility enabling workers to remain in constant contact with one another in case problems arise that require their assistance. This extends the workplace to wherever employees are at the moment. It also allows businesses to get more out of employees as they move around and in their off hours.
Most businesses can’t, or are not willing, to live without these apps once they start using them.
Taking unified communications to the Cloud is harder than other applications, but it’s worth the effort. Before you start it is important to make sure you have the network infrastructure support to ensure success. Find a reliable partner and build a plan.
Plans should include both mobility and collaboration as these are important aspects of today’s successful UC implementations.