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Unified communications improves connections with your customers, prospects, and workforce

UCA comprehensive UC solution helps you enhance customer experience and team collaboration while reducing travel costs, speeding product development cycles, and simplifying IT administration activities.

For more than a decade, unified communications (UC) and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) have been seen as ways businesses can reduce telecom and infrastructure costs by merging voice and data into a single network.

Today’s on-premises and cloud-based UC platforms take savings and efficiency to a higher level, going beyond voice, email, web chat, and instant messaging to include multimedia collaboration capabilities as well.

As UC adoption soars, traditional platform-specific walls are breaking down. Now a Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business user can join a Cisco, Polycom, or Lifesize video conference from within his or her native user environment. This makes UC an attractive solution for connecting with people outside the organization.

Not only are these advanced UC solutions transforming internal and external communication and enabling new ways of doing business, they’re affecting every part of business itself.

Using a variety of technologies from top-tier manufacturers such as Cisco, Microsoft, and Polycom, Zones is helping organizations implement UC solutions that scale from network-based PBX systems to integrated voice/messaging/video collaboration suites, to those including multi-site telepresence systems.

Where do I start?

Zones takes a prescriptive approach to enterprise collaboration, delivering capabilities that enable you to realize immediate gains in productivity and enhance relationships inside and outside the organization.

The end-to-end architecture we design incorporates high availability for critical applications, and a consistent user experience for rapid user adoption. The architecture also supports an advanced set of collaboration services that extend to mobile workers, partners, and customers through a combination of the following key services:

  • Voice communications
  • Instant messaging and presence
  • High-definition video and content sharing
  • Rich media conferencing
  • Enablement of mobile and remote workers
  • Business-to-business voice and video communications
  • Unified voice messaging

The Zones UC ecosystem

The UC landscape continues to consolidate, with larger companies acquiring niche players. The smart long-term play is to work with one of the category leaders, knowing that they will continue to leverage internal resources and acquisitions to continue to enhance system capabilities.

Zones partners with four of the most influential vendors of unified communications and collaboration solutions: Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, and Polycom. Each is a strong presence in a competitive environment.

Mapping it out

After assessing an organization’s business goals and existing infrastructure, Zones solution architects and systems engineers go to work optimizing your current data network to support both voice and video calls.

The optimal architecture also provides a holistic approach to bandwidth management, incorporating an end-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) architecture, call admission control, video rate adaptation, and resiliency mechanisms to ensure the best possible user experience for deploying pervasive video over managed and unmanaged networks.

In mapping out the right architecture, several factors will need to be addressed:

Interoperability – With so many solutions available, it is important to understand what your partners and customers may be utilizing when communicating with your business. Voice interoperability is not an issue, but video and collaboration tools are often proprietary and will not work together seamlessly. Zones will help you secure the proper tools for enabling interoperability between disparate video and collaboration systems.

Security – One of the leading reasons for organizations to stick with on-premise video conferencing, UC, and collaboration solutions is the need to comply with stringent regulations and data protection; specifically, within the healthcare sector, financial services, and large organizations, who may not put their trust in third party data centers and service providers. Zones cloud-based UC solutions utilize end-to-end security for signaling and media, ensuring a secure compliant solution.

Disaster Recovery and Resilience – An earthquake, hurricane, major power outage, or anything that forces your employees to work from an alternate location can be extremely disruptive to your business. Every company needs a business continuity plan to ensure that your customer calls do not go unanswered when disaster strikes.

Hours of missed communication and online downtime can lead to a significant loss of revenue. Even a short period without communication could jeopardize thousands of future sales and leave you seen as unreliable by your customers.

Zones solution architects can design a hybrid cloud environment that gives your business the stability and resilience you need, no matter where you are.

Where should a UC solution live?

An important part of planning a UC solution is determining where it will run.

The cloud presents a number of advantages in terms of scalability and mobility, and many organizations benefit by pushing all their communications into the cloud. But that’s not always the case. Some organizations require a highly secure and private in-house solution to protect sensitive information. There are also scenarios where a hybrid of both – with connectivity between the private and public worlds – creates the best solution.

You should be aware that certain solutions on the market may favor the strengths of either the cloud or on-premises models, so you need to be wary to avoid falling into a vendor- or supplier-biased trap. As both a cloud and on-premises integrator, Zones can help you determine the most appropriate solution for your specific business and infrastructure needs.

By following a disciplined methodology that takes into account the assessment, design, implementation, and management of the UC infrastructure, you’ll come away with a robust, feature-rich, and flexible communications platform that combines voice, video, and data to create new ways to communicate and collaborate across and outside the organization.

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This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Solutions by Zones magazine.
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