Access4 | Jul 30, 2020

Defining cloud-based unified comms

Unified communications describes a business phone system that combines phone and digital communication channels, including your central business number and extensions, direct-in-dials (DiD) and your digital communications. Unified communications systems integrate contact directories and calendars, offering a holistic user experience for both employees and customers. Unlike personal communication solutions, enterprise unified communication requires specific features to enhance customer experience, fulfil compliance requirements and ensure departments and offices located all over the world can quickly and simply manage files, communicate, and collaborate.

Adding the cloud into the mix

Traditional unified communication solutions required on-premise hardware to run the PBX component, but today, we see a mix of ‘hybrid solution’ cloud-based unified communication systems, using cloud applications for digital interactions and physical PBX hardware for public calling to and from the network. Complete cloud setups are also increasingly popular for their robust and cost-effective solution, minus the hardware.

The main components of unified communications for businesses

Communication requirements for businesses are significantly more complex than personal communications. The right solution demands an understanding of business needs and a technical strategy to provide the right solution. Non-negotiables to create a premier customer experience include:

  • Call routing
  • Voicemail
  • On hold music
  • Call queuing
  • IVR
  • Call analytics
  • Call centre services
  • Virtual meeting rooms
  • Instant messaging
  • File sharing

For employees, necessary features include anything from connected email services, calendar integration and instant messaging, to audio and video calls and shared file depositories. In addition to these demanding feature requirements, organisations must ensure that they invest in infrastructure, networking and hardware solutions that are capable of coping with the volume of communications and have a reliable and stable connection to avoid customer and employee disruptions.

Enter Cisco

Cisco offers a carrier-grade solution that delivers all of the components listed above in a single solution for companies worldwide. Establishing a name as an industry-preferred enterprise solution for organisations with large and complex communication requirements, Cisco’s unified comms solution is robust and detailed, providing guaranteed services by using proprietary components in everything from hardware (such as routers and switches and even handsets) to certified technicians.

In successfully delivering these systems, Cisco paved the way for more and more organisations embracing unified communications to offer the same customer and employee experience—but without the high investment, high performance requirement needed to make it successful.

The birth of BroadWorks unified communications

While Cisco conquered the enterprise market, BroadSoft was steadily building its own SMB and mid-market solution to similar acclaim. In 2018, when Cisco acquired BroadSoft, the merging of these two players aligned Cisco’s existing portfolio of calling, meeting, messaging and contact centre solutions with a flexible, mobile, unified cloud-based solution suitable for organisations of all sizes. Together they hit the mid-market and kicked off a communication revolution for SMBs. Cisco has since taken the power of BroadWorks from strength to strength, and with the launch of WebEx for BroadWorks, Cisco continues to be a leading innovator in the UC industry.

Strategy for cloud-based unified communications

As with any business technology platform, unified communication cloud services should account for the business requirements and strategy of an organisation. Typically, a solution will include:

  • App-based voice, video, video and file management.
  • Seamless calling across the public network and internally via DiDs.
  • Syncing across mobiles, tablets, PCs and office phones.
  • Hardware integration with industry-preferred devices.
  • Contact centre services and advanced telephony features.

End-to-end vendor support

By selecting a cloud-based solution, organisations can rely on the vendor to supply and maintain the technical resources and expertise required to support high-volume business communications, reducing overall customer costs without any sacrifice in experience. Additionally, by combining cloud-based collaboration widely used in the industry such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, organisations are able to align to industry-standard technology and provide a seamless customer journey.

Peace of mind with backup networking

Geo-redundancies are another significant factor involved in cloud-based unified communication services. Suppliers ensure they can provide a robust business continuity solution with multiple data centres and seamless switching in critical situations to ensure continued business operations. In combination with a carrier-grade network, this ensures that cloud-based unified communication services can offer the same level of reliability and security to organisations as their hardware-based predecessors.

Moving forward with UC

Forward-looking businesses are already surfing the wave due to the change in technological needs and as we embrace a variety of platforms as office-standard tools. With cloud-based unified communications evolving from a mere calling, meeting, and communication system to modular collaboration platforms integrated with cloud voice and video, customers now have the freedom to select their software of choice.

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