Since the advent of Unified Communications I have been asking myself how long will it be before the lines between VOIP & UC are sufficiently blurred before we no longer can discern the two? Like Siamese twins joined at the chest, UC & VOIP share many “vital organs” and therefore enjoy the flexibility of technologies and services that traditional telecoms find hard to compete with. But that’s not all, where are these offerings headed along the technology highway?
What is UC?
Good question, difficult to answer. UC is a mix of various communications elements where the amount of these communications changes depending upon your specific business needs and goals. And like all businesses, no two are exactly the same. Businesses have a core set of communications needs; telecoms, internet, intranet, email, IM, fax just to name a few. UC delivers these tools but can also include a far greater range of applications and will continue to expand its offering as new technologies & business applications come to light.
Who is it for?
UC facilitates the business co
mmunications needs of the mobile worker. Access to information on the fly, being able to perform business activities without restriction to location and/or availability. UC also allows the tailoring of UC technology to an individual’s specific needs or job functionality therefore “freeing up” resources that would otherwise be “weighed down” by over-equipped applications or tools that would not always be efficient or pertinent to the specific mobile worker.
However first and foremost UC is a software communications application and here’s where things start to get interesting.
Because UC is a potentially powerful and flexible communications application, it also demands a flexible method of utilisation. Being able to connect to your most important business information and tools, no matter where you are, is where VOIP steps in.
VOIP provides a critical component of UC applications. Being able to communicate by voice and being able to do it from anywhere there is an internet connection. VOIP provides a huge saving in terms of telecoms costs and provides an extremely flexible medium of access. It also is a logical “fit” for UC platforms, providing other services such as voicemail, quality recording, lawful intercept, local number portability to name a few. Services that traditionally are located with an Operator.
Because VOIP is synonymous with telephony over the internet, it is extremely popular with a generation of users who are fast distancing themselves from legacy telecoms. The same “I want it here and I want it now” generation who expect telephony at their fingertips will expect to be able to access services and features, whether VOIP or UC, from the same source.
From here it’s only a very small logical leap to making these services and features available from a cloud-based source. And it’s a lot closer than you think.
So now imagine your traditional VOIP Provider/Operator not only offering you the flexibility of operating your telephony services and features online, at your fingertips, but also all the UC services your business requires.
Imagine a service focused on affordability, ease of setup and use, able to be equally utilised on any IP enabled & internet connected device, can be set up in minutes , works with your existing phones, mobile devices and requires no additional hardware or software.
What would such a service look like?
Cloud-computing and thereafter cloud-resources, cloud-software, cloud-applications, cloud-services, cloud-coffee? Is becoming a more and more popular concept across the web. More and more xSP’s are offering cloud-based access or hosting cloud-based services, applications and tools that any size businesses can benefit from.
It won’t be long before the lines are blurred between services being offered or accessed and who provides them. These are the next generation telcos. Companies that not only can offer you a connection, but the services that you demand from it. Cloud-computing is only a sneak preview into this brave new world.
Head in the clouds...
So what does it all mean? Well, the good news is immense savings and access to greater functionality for us all! Having a 1-stop-shop for all our latest business and telephony tools that is web-based and accessed from anywhere will provide us with even greater business power and control. Businesses will save money on expenditure normally assigned to infrastructure, resources, support and maintenance as well as the obvious communications cost savings.
Businesses will not only be able to tailor-make their own service portfolios but could even “sell” unused quota of services in similar fashion to the Kyoto Protocol (I’ll leave that topic for a separate article!) Wonderfully, businesses won’t be obligated to keep up to date with applications/tools/software, updates, upgrades, obsolescence and infrastructure. The Cloud Providers will.
...feet on the ground
The downside is that web congestion and web clutter could be the unwanted side product. What beforehand was managed and made available within a company’s own infrastructure, will now migrate to a managed location, the same location now being used by multiple other such companies. Ensuring that this access is available to everybody all the time is a challenge that data warehouses and hosted service providers already know all too well. And I haven’t even touched the topic of security yet!
Heavy SLA’s will have to govern this access to ensure business-critical systems, tools and applications are available 24 x 7 and heavy compensation terms agreed to in case they aren’t.
No matter what happens in the future of Unified Communications one thing is for sure, VOIP will play an integral role in providing telelphony no matter what the business model of communications platform. Unless of course Apple comes out with their own VOIP offering and we all start lining up to get our new i-VOIP ...now there's a thought!