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What is unified communications?

TrueConf offers self-hosted and secure unified communications solutions for any-sized company or organization. Read our article to learn more about unified communications and discover how this technology may help streamline your business workflows.

What is unified communications?

An introduction to Unified Communications (UC)

Unified communications is a general definition for a variety of interaction tools combined within a single platform. Such tools may include audio and video conferencing, messaging, address book and presence statuses, screen sharing and slideshow, etc. The main goal of any UC platform is to make remote communications easier and create a consistent experience for teams connected from anywhere, on any device, without the need to use multiple tools for each separate purpose.

Unified communications solutions can often integrate with third-party tools (e.g. enterprise-grade platforms, marketing or team management software) for customers to be able to centralize their workflow and eliminate traction between different solutions for meeting and chatting.

Modern offerings usually combine both synchronous (real-time), such as IM or VC and asynchronous communications which allow users to exchange ideas when they feel fit. The latter has become possible with the rise of persistent messaging - personal and group chats or channels available both inside and outside of video meetings. With channels, users are not bound to a specific schedule: they can send and answer messages when they have time or resources without the need to distract from their work timetable. With general availability of advanced collaboration tools, such as content sharing or recording, UC systems are gradually turning into UCC (Unified Communications and Collaboration).

Unified Communications

Although the popularity of such solutions has been on the rise already for a decade, UCC has really become an essential part of any business during the COVID-19 pandemic, when all companies and organizations were required to move their business communications online. UCC systems help facilitate remote workflows and organize effective collaboration.

How does unified communications work?

UC systems may have different deployment scenarios: on-premises, cloud or hybrid. Although cloud-based systems also called Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) are gaining popularity thanks to multiple integrations with other cloud services and ease of use, security-conscious organizations and businesses still prefer hybrid or on-premises UC systems to comply with privacy policies and ensure safety of the information and data exchanged.

To add video conferencing to their systems, a number of UC vendors are using WebRTC technologies to provide meetings in browsers. However, browser-based meetings do not provide some important UC features such as presence statuses and team messaging, which help immediately check on a user's availability and exchange messages. This is why video-enabled client apps with built-in presence and persistent chats are preferable when looking for a UC system.

UC platforms are best known for integrating the tools a business needs in an all-in-one solution. However, sometimes customers also need additional integrations (e.g. calendars, marketing tools, other video conferencing services, etc). Some vendors are working on providing multiple integrations with third-party services, others deliver APIs and SDKs which help customers create their own integrations.

What are the benefits of unified communications?

Unified Communications bring a number of benefits for any business with distributed and remote teams:

Collaborate on shared projects

Collaborate on shared projects

Meet from any geographic location

Meet from any geographic location

Reduce travel costs

Reduce travel costs

 Be flexible with an ability to work from anywhere

Be flexible with an ability to work from anywhere

Store all your communications in one place

Store all your communications in one place

Integrate with other business processes

Integrate with other business processes

Boost customer and employee satisfaction

Boost customer and employee satisfaction

Follow social distancing rules

Follow social distancing rules

What are technologies related to UC?

One of main spheres that are directly connected with UC include omnichannel communications and contact center technologies that integrate special tools such as automatic call queues, automated voicemails, auto attendants, live chats etc. The use of UC systems in customer care has proven to improve customer engagement and satisfaction, automate sales processes and reduce costs for hiring dedicated call agents or company representatives.

Another technology that goes in line with UC is Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), a set of technologies that let you add communication capabilities into your existing offerings and applications via APIs. Voice, video and chats can be embedded to your business applications to enrich customer communication channels.

Features of a Unified Communications System

Messaging

Exchange messages in personal and group chats, communicate in persistent group channels to discuss ideas within your associates.

Video conferencing

Run face-to-face meetings or large-scale video conferences. organize webinars and product demos for partners or customers and reduce your travel costs.

Presence management

Quickly check on your colleagues’ availability.

Collaboration

Share your screen, show slides, record meetings, and collaborate on shared files.

Audio conferencing

Call mobile and landline numbers, PBX or PSTN subscribers. and invite them to conference calls.

APIs for custom integrations

Connect systems and data to unify communications, increase data exchanges, and improve business intelligence.

So why choose unified communications?

The UC system can enhance your daily business communications with easy-to-use, performance-boosting technologies and tools that drive results and ensure effective digital transformation. With unified communications strategy, your company can complete tasks with minimal context switches within a single interface.

Unified Communications

UC technology puts you in the same room with your employees no matter where they are located. Remote participants can be provided access to the information they need without ever having to get on a plane, bringing you closer towards effective digital transformation.

TrueConf

Why choose TrueConf?

TrueConf is an all-in-one enterprise-grade unified communications solution that integrates audio and video conferencing, team messaging, presence statuses, meeting scheduling and collaboration tools. Self-hosted and secure on-premises deployment guarantees that your communications will always stay on your company’s servers, in your own control.

TrueConf supports a number of use cases and provides a lot of features and tools for efficient team collaboration:

Work in LAN/VPN.

Work in LAN/VPN.

Gain complete control over communications without the need for an Internet connection.

Video conferencing.

Video conferencing.

Run video conferences for up to 1,000 participants.

Meet on any device.

Meet on any device.

TrueConf provides native apps for desktops, mobiles, rooms, browsers and even Smart TVs, allowing you to be online literally from anywhere.

Collaboration tools.

Collaboration tools.

Collaborate with your colleagues thanks to slide show, screen sharing, meeting recording and much more!

Compatibility with SIP/H.323 endpoints.

Compatibility with SIP/H.323 endpoints.

Dial into TrueConf meetings or call out any third-party, standards-based audio or video device via SIP or H.323.

Compatibility with video conferencing services.

Compatibility with video conferencing services.

Join any meeting held on third-party video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Cisco Webex, BlueJeans Meetings, Lifesize Cloud or GoToMeeting.

Address book with presence.

Address book with presence.

Quickly check on your colleagues’ availability.

Unified communications

Modern world is quite impossible to imagine without telecommunications. Communication system is not only essential business applications for management or communication tools, but rather a critical factor reflecting the march of civilization. Today, it is not enough for us to simply hear each other over the phone. We are used to other means of communication: chats, messaging, video conferencing and social networks, while when it comes to business negotiation process, we turn to collaboration tools. Users would obviously want to have all those features conveniently stored and united in a single device, where they are free to use it anytime: at home, in the office, at a remote site, or during business trip. However, different types of communication evolved in their own way, thus the process of bringing them together was not a piece of cake. Efforts to collect video conferencing and all other communication tools in a single united solution system gave rise to Unified Communications (UC) phenomenon.

The Evolution of Unified Communications

“Unified Communications” can be defined from two interrelated points of view: operator’s and user’s. In the first case, UC solution is a modern data network based on international open standards, which supports all popular technologies and protocols (H.323, SIP, MGCP, IMS, MPLS, etc.) with high-level security. Unified communications ensure the implementation and management of any communication services, business applications and supports compatibility of equipment by various vendors.

However, this article examines UC from the user’s side as this aspect is the closest to the wide audience. In this context, unified communications represents a single self-hosted or cloud-based software platform that allows one to promptly render all possible communication and collaboration services on a single device (PC, tablet, smartphone, etc.). Unified communications aim at ensuring that companies’ employees are permanently available at any time (or, as an option, during business hours only) and in any place.

At various historical stages of development, unified communication platforms included different features that expanded as communication technologies developed. The term “unified communications” arose in the mid-1990s, meaning the unification of voice communications, text messages, and presence within one communication platform. This became possible thanks to active development of digital communication channels and PBXes. However, the solutions were strongly connected to the equipment of a specific vendor, while communications were nearly always limited to offices.

As IP technologies developed, new functions emerged and software solutions were gaining popularity. At the time, users sought to get rid of hardware PBXs and opted for more flexible software products for home, management and business. The further evolutionary process is associated with spreading of Internet technologies, broadband mobile networks, and video conferencing platforms for mutual collaboration. Unified communications finally went beyond business offices and turned into high-scale management global systems with no georeferenced users.

Two Sides of Unification

Evolution of Communication Technologies:
New Methods of Communication and Information Exchange Emerge Every Year

Today, the UC set comprises the following basic functions:

  • Digital telephony (Mobile, IP);
  • Audio and video conferencing;
  • Instant messaging;
  • Web conferencing;
  • Calendar integration;
  • Presence statuses;
  • Corporate address book or Active Directory;
  • Team collaboration tools (screen or video sharing, slideshow);
  • Data exchange.
Basic functions Unified Communications

Basic Elements of Modern UC System

A modern unified communications system can function both online and offline, so your message won’t disappear if your colleague is not currently connected. One of the most important unified communications features is a “single phone number”. Thanks to this feature, you should not search for a phone number on all channels to call a user — just dial a phone number, and a system (or a called user) will choose the best method to connect. With the help of cross-platform compatibility, you can implement all communication services in various software environments and on all sorts of hardware platforms without reference to a particular vendor. At a higher level, unified communications should be integrated into the company’s business processes and management, including support for ERP and CRM systems. For example, UC solution may be integrated with enterprise video content management systems (EVCM) to enable recording upload directly to the EVCM system for streaming, storing, and sharing your meetings with internal and external audiences.

Two Sides of Unification

Most In-Demand Functions of Unified Communications.
Data by West, One of the Largest UC Providers in the USA (2016)

UC solution should be certainly protected and easy-to-use on any modern device. Cloud-based unified communications are becoming increasingly popular, which reflects the overall situation in IT sector: for a customer cloud systems are easier to implement and maintain. In addition, they tend to offer a more flexible use and payment model as compared to on-premises software.

It should be noted that systems combining only a few of the functions described usually do not belong to unified communications. For example, modern video conferencing endpoints allow for voice and visual communication, sharing documents and presentations. However, they do not provide group chats, team collaboration tools, and, most importantly, a “single phone number”, cross-platform compatibility and sufficient mobility, and therefore can not enable a customer to unify communication properly.

Chief Executive Officer at TrueConf

Dmitry Odintsov

Chief Executive Officer at TrueConf

With modern unified communications systems, you can set up weekly or daily video meetings, share your content or show slides, annotate documents and photos, record your conferences or take notes - and don’t be afraid to adopt modern technologies.

If properly used, unified communications can produce tangible economic benefits for management and companies. Thanks to unified communications, companies can significantly reduce costs for business trips, phone calls and legacy video conferencing systems, as well as enhance the efficiency of employees and decision-making processes. UC have been and remain an important business solution for management that keeps on evolving. More recently, it has been thought that unified communications are becoming a thing of the past. This is not quite true: the term is becoming obsolete, but the idea is evolving, and it can barely fit to a former, rather out-of-date, name. As a result, Meeting Solutions are replacing Unified Communications.

In the U.S. IT sector, Meeting Solutions are already being treated with close attention. For instance, Gartner puts Meeting Solutions in a separate quadrant that includes such solutions as Microsoft Teams (formerly Skype for Business), Cisco Webex, BlueJeans, TrueConf, Zoom, Huawei, ZTE, Enghouse (formerly Vidyo), etc.

Evolution moves on and, of course, there will come a time when Meeting Solutions will have to be replaced with a new and more advanced concept that meets the demands of modern management and business environment.

Get started with enterprise unified communications system!