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Nine nifty steps to unified communications

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For modular and evolutionary growth, unified communications (UC) application platforms is the way to go.

Bennie Langenhoven, Managing Executive, Tellumat Communication Solutions (image: Tellumat)

Perhaps you are already using a form of it, rudimentary or maybe quite advanced. Or, maybe you do not know where to start. Chances are you could use some help in realising the benefits of using this collection of collaborative and communication technologies.

1. Start with IPT – Internet Protocol-based Telephony, otherwise known as IPT or Voice over IP (VOIP), is considered by many to be the basis of UC. In truth, VOIP is just one of many UC applications, but an IP PBX is an easy platform on which to start building a UC environment. With VOIP, you will need IP phones, from Polycom, Snom or another vendor of your choice, and your data network or LAN will have to be voice-ready. With most of new data switches, this is no problem at all.

2. Next you want a form of unified messaging – voice mail to email, fax-to-email, or fax from your desktop. This is a rudimentary form of UC, maybe even a precursor. There are low- or no-cost current consumer-grade email solutions, such as Gmail. For a better long-term corporate image down the line, try solutions providing custom domains, mailboxes and service level agreements.

3. At this point you may consider desktop productivity integration of your messaging solution. Benefits include identifying incoming calls and responding appropriately (available, voicemail etc).

4. Basis, remote and home extensions come into play with an IPT basis. Workers can make or receive calls from their extension, as if they are at the office. Incoming calls ring simultaneously on their desk phone and laptop-based soft phone, smartphone-based soft phone client or remote IP phone.

5. The next layer of UC would be directory integration. Whether on iPads, notebooks or office phones, users can find colleagues and transfer calls to them remotely.

6. Since many laptops have integrated webcams or allow for USB webcams, the company could consider instant messaging (IM) and peer-to-peer videoconferencing.  Desktop collaboration, like sharing of documents while working remotely or from regional offices, can increase productivity. There are consumer-grade solutions for this, but to guarantee quality it’s best to procure a solution architected properly.

7. Presence management becomes the next logical option, allowing users to set and see someone else’s availability and location. With calendar integration, it is also possible to see if someone is in a meeting.

8. Conferencing participants can log into the conference bridge, allowing the organiser or participants to share video, desktop or server files and so on. Should the customer be smaller in size, a one-to-many solution may not be what is called for.

9. Finally, mobility allows users to manage their presence on their PC, laptop and smartphones. Basically any network. They can walk into and out of the corporate or home wireless LAN, and their call in progress will hand over seamlessly between the public GSM network and the WiFi network as required. With presence and directory integration, the smartphone warrior can transfer calls, set availability and otherwise enjoy all the other UC features that desk jockeys do.

Bennie Langenhoven, Tellumat Communication Solutions Managing Executive

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