What’s the Big Deal About High Availability Unified Communications?

Lately we’re hearing more and more about employee mobility trends and continuously accessible unified communications systems, about high-availability servers and the importance of staying connected at all times. So why is it such a big deal? Well, for one thing, the world has evolved into one huge marketplace where everyone seems to be on the move, and having answers and information at our fingertips, 24/7, has become an absolute necessity – or else!

With the growing need for employees to be able to access their work and collaborate with co-workers wherever they are, and at any time, unified communications applications are now commonplace. In fact, UC has become such a primary business concern that 56 percent of enterprise organizations recently surveyed by IDG Enterprise plan to upgrade or install new UC solutions within the next year, and 66 percent of small and medium sized businesses are also actively planning for upcoming UC improvements.

What’s driving the increase in UC investments?

With the increasing mobility of workforces today and a growing number of remote workers, it’s not surprising that the IDG Enterprise survey also reveals that 43 percent of the organizations reported their UC improvements were driven by the need for improved collaboration between their employees. The ability to resolve issues quickly, to share information, the immediacy of creative brainstorming and collaborative problem solving; these are some of the benefits of these powerful communication tools.

Similarly, 33 percent of the companies specifically attributed the upcoming upgrading of their UC to their need for increased flexibility for onsite employees and for mobile personnel. Enabling their employees to work from anywhere, and at any time, and to access and know when a co-worker is available and be able to quickly connect, these capabilities have serious value to businesses across all industries.

One of the top motivators for improving their UC was evident in the 42 percent of organizations who plan to install or upgrade for reasons of increasing their overall productivity—gaining the efficiency that results from streamlined operations and the immediate information share between departments and personnel.

What is High Availability anyway?

What does high availability of your unified communications have to do with the success or failure of an organization? Why is it so critical? Well, let’s look at what this term actually means.

*Gary Audin states that in the world of IT, the term High Availability refers to “a system or component that is continuously operational for a long length of time.” To repeat, that means constantly working, without any breaks or downtime, providing unified communications that are “continuously operational.”

Usually the ability of an employee to effectively do their job requires them to access the system to submit or alter their work. If the user cannot access the system, then it is termed “unavailable.” This kind of downtime impairs productivity, and causes workflow inefficiency and lost revenue. It has become critical for the UC system of any sized organization to be immediately accessible, with no disturbances or interruptions, for optimal business continuity.

What are some risks of being without a High Availability UC solution?

Your unified communications is mission critical, and accessibility is the very lifeblood of a successful organization, however these investments can suffer outages if not on a high availability infrastructure.  Without reliable redundancy and back up, you risk your people and your customers being cut off from information, workers from the workflow, and everyone from collaboration with each other. The loss of UC, for even a few hours, can mean a substantial loss to an enterprise.

What kind of losses are we talking about here? When your infrastructure fails for any length of time, along with lost productivity that obviously impacts revenue, businesses suffer the sharp decreases in customer satisfaction levels, the number of business relationships and customers lost, a damaged reputation, and the high costs of recovering that reputation.

In fact, the Ponemon Institute reported some interesting 2016 average costs associated with system outages:

  • Business Disruption – $256,000
  • Lost Revenue – $209,000
  • End-User Productivity – $138,000
  • IT Productivity – $62,000
.@PonemonPrivacy reported some interesting 2016 average costs associated with system outages. Click To Tweet

In Conclusion

So what is the big deal about High Availability UC? It becomes evident that the risk of incurring some of the losses that accompany broken communications and business disruption can become a very big deal.  For Smart Enterprises, UC has become a major focus for their strategic budget planning because it is a very big part of the success of their organization, and a critical factor for future growth.

Question: Do you have a true High Availability infrastructure that provides 99.999% UC reliability and prevents these kind of business disruption losses?

To learn more, download our Smart Enterprise eBook called “Achieving High Availability in UC” by industry expert, Gary Audin. This eBook takes a comprehensive look at UC and the importance of system availability plus examines the key components needed to build and sustain a UC-enabled environment.

(*Gary Audin has more than 40+ years of experience in computer, communications and security consulting and implementation, and is a well-known author of over 1000 blogs, articles, podcasts, white papers and webinars. Our quote is from the “Achieving High Availability in UC” ebook.)

 

Free Ebook: Achieving High Availability in UC

Free Ebook:

Achieving High Availability in UC

This eBook by communications and security consultant Gary Audin, president of Delphi, Inc., takes a comprehensive look at UC and the importance of system availability. Also examined in-depth are the components needed to put together and sustain a UC-enabled communications environment.

3 Questions Answered about IT Modernization in Government

Government-Mobility2014 marked the beginning of the Infrastructure Revolution for several industries, many of which are following in the pre-emptive footsteps of the national government.

In February 2010, the Department of Defense created the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) to reverse the historic growth of Federal data centers. The FDCCI has been seeking to curb this unsustainable increase by reducing the cost of data center hardware, software, and operations; shifting IT investments to more efficient computing platforms; promoting the use of Green IT by reducing the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers; and increasing the IT security posture of the government.

Since then, the government has launched an IT modernization effort across departments which includes acquisition and deployment of more secure, collaborative, and mobile technologies—along with their associated skill sets and capabilities—to replace legacy environments.

By shutting down and consolidating under-performing technologies in the Federal inventory, taxpayers stand to save billions of dollars because of curbed spending on underutilized infrastructure. The smartest enterprises will follow suit, carefully architecting their path to modernization, leveraging key partners and modern technology architectures to create a more agile, secure IT environment.

What opportunities does modernization offer?

Legacy networking, communications and applications have become a significant IT and business problem in most industry IT departments. Not only do they require consistent maintenance from someone with a skill set that fewer and fewer people possess, they also carry a high cost of ownership and are difficult to modify when meeting ongoing business demands. Worse, with little leverage across these technologies, they are often forced to remain siloed instances, providing separate benefits to converging infrastructures.

IT modernization represents an opportunity for the evolution of government organizations’ (and others as well) existing application and infrastructure software, the goal being to align IT with forward-looking business strategies.

What are the immediate benefits of modernization?

While the government is actively modernizing its IT infrastructure, they will begin to find that they can react more quickly to the ever-changing environments (business, economic, political, etc). There are many results the public sector can expect from the process of modernizing. Namely:

  1. Intelligence – with converged infrastructures, including SDNs, virtualization, and distributed applications, leading to complete software-defined data centers with virtualization from desktop-to-network-to-applications.
  2. Agility – via improved standards for infrastructure programmability, data structure interoperability and fast infrastructure provisioning, leading to a more agile IT organization
  3. Alignment – by enabling IT practices that are more in line with business objectives.
  4. Responsiveness – as business changes create flux in organization size, location, and performance, IT is continually challenged to adapt at the speed of your business—a modern infrastructure puts IT in good stead to align with these changes.
  5. Flexibility and resilience – with systems that adapt automatically and recover from failure more quickly.
  6. Energy efficienciency – with technology and systems designed to reduce energy consumption.

To get the maximum strategic benefit from modernization, it is important to base your improved system on an architecture that is built on open standards and deployed on open systems. Just as important, is seeking holistic architectural thinking among your vendor suppliers that help you consider how a converged infrastructure can benefit your business.

What are the long-term benefits of modernization?

The success or failure of a consolidation/modernization initiative achieving long-term ROI depends on each organization’s goals. For many public sector businesses, long-term goals include: enhanced security, consolidating the infrastructure, and enhancing mobility.

Enhanced Security

Streamlining IT processes creates an agile IT infrastructure more capable of leveraging existing organizational vehicles for rapid delivery of tasks/orders. But none of this matters without a strong security platform that can withstand the stresses of and better respond to today’s cybersecurity threats.

A modernized IT platform must be hardened and able to detect, respond to, and report information security incidents, as well as developing situational awareness, utilizing authentication, reinforcing reciprocity, and leveraging automated assessments.

Infrastructure Consolidation

Today’s workforce demands applications that are always accessible and work consistently from any device.  Public-sector organizations that consolidate their enterprise networks—ultimately standardizing IT platforms, consolidating data and network operations centers, and optimizing architectures—create an infrastructure that is easier to manage and more secure in order to help support active user involvement.

Mobility Enhancement

As with most other industries, there is a significant push for both central and local government and associated not-for-profit agencies to move towards more flexible modes of working. Providing location agnostic access to data is a hot topic for the public sector as is the desire to provide better standards of service to employees and customers. Transparent communication has the potential to accelerate productivity and help realize mission requirements—provided it can be achieved in the face of the escalating austerity of ever-changing security measures.

Modernizing and consolidating IT infrastructures helps address unique resource challenges surrounding public sector enterprise mobility. Consolidation also enables government agencies to implement scalable enterprise mobile management solutions that extend to users, devices, applications, content, data, email and networks.

JITC Certified Unified Communications

Defense agencies are under increasing pressure to bring their disparate web technologies together.  That’s why the DoD has created the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) certification, so all IT investments—including collaborative communications solutions—can be protected.

NEC’s UNIVERGE®3C solution has been thoroughly vetted by the JITC against the highest government standards, and has been added to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Session Controller Approved Products List (APL) for Unified Capabilities.

The APL is a single, consolidated list of products that have been certified and approved for use in DoD networks to provide end-to-end unified capabilities. UNIVERGE 3C is certified as a Local Session Controller, referred to by NEC as Unified Capabilities Session Controller (UC SC).

The JITC evaluation process is highly respected by commercial organizations because JITC testing meets and frequently exceeds enterprise security levels. With Security Officers confident in the solution, the deployment process can be accelerated.

JITC certification requires compliance with hundreds of security measures as well as the ability to withstand extreme attacks on the software. Being JITC accredited means that we fully meet US DoD requirements and often surpass the security best practices of global commercial customers.

Visit us at Enterprise Connect booth 1121 to learn more about NEC’s JITC-Certified UNIVERGE 3C solution.

4 Crucial Steps to Implementing a UC Cultural Shift

7K0A0129The advent of unified communications (UC) technology has transformed the business landscape for companies that successfully adopt and use it.

These days, email, instant messaging, and social media combined with the myriad types of mobile devices can work together to create an incredibly versatile and productive work environment. But this environment, known as unified communications, is only successful if a business devotes the time, energy, and resources to implement both the physical UC solution as well as a UC-oriented cultural shift.

It’s estimated that roughly 80 percent of companies never “fully realize” their UC implementation.  Why?  Well, while the physical implementation  of a new technology is often planned for, it’s typically assumed that users will accept the new communications system out of the box and will automatically understand its features. More often than not, this isn’t the case.

Here is the problem stated as blatantly as possible: either plan for the culture shift or reap the consequences that unrealized ROI can bring.

Whether your business is thinking of making the UC transition or  if you’re just upgrading to a new iteration of your current communications system, there are steps to follow to make sure that everything goes both physically and culturally smoothly.

Here are our 4 Crucial Steps to Implementing a UC Cultural Shift.

1. Involve the Entire Team
The first critical step in implementing a UC initiative is obtaining the needed buy-in from everyone in the company (not just the management team). The need for buy-in warrants a process that ensures consultation of all department leaders and requires they come to the same understanding in regard to the implementation. This process makes it so all stakeholders can work and learn together—helping define what the vision for the UC implementation will be.

But developing a clear-cut picture of the UC initiative is just a small part of this step. Once upper-management has communicated the needed information to the department leaders, these key players must then take the time to energetically and continuously communicate with their subordinates. This portion of the implementation process is the time to cull departmental knowledge—on the current technology’s best practices and failings, and to get employee opinions on the tools that they think would increase productivity.

Topics discussed should include all of the opportunities that UC offers, even those that may not directly affect most people’s daily work. Case in point: a good UC solution can help businesses realize more timely interactions (that means more revenue) and can help them implement a Capex/Opex shift.

While Capex/Opex isn’t something that even I think about on a daily basis—I more than realize the need for more revenue. And if a new affordable technology is the way to achieve that, then I can more readily get on board with the technology change than I could if I didn’t know anything about the change at all.  And, when I get a look at the full picture, I begin to feel included in the actual decision-making process (which also makes me more likely to be at least interested in the new solution, if not a little excited in anticipating it).

 

2. Test for User Acceptance

While your IT department will lead the technical aspects of the implementation, departmental leaders, and other key personnel will need to be and should be included in the piloting phase. The role of the latter is to ensure that the software is usable in a practical, real-world, day-to-day scenario.

This step should include demo sessions for both senior executives, who can give “big picture” recommendations, as well as front-line employees. These employees are your best resource when testing new UC solutions because they can explain and highlight specific difficulties with certain tools—giving you the opportunity to take note and the company to tailor the solution appropriately.

Even if this project is your responsibility—i.e., you are the one who knows more about it than anyone else in the company—you must remain open-minded to any recommendations or criticism. In the end, a new UC solution will have to both accommodate the needs of everyone in the company more easily while also helping achieve new business objectives.
3. Market Internally

There are many enterprise-level software products that are remarkably robust and dependable. The failure of a UC-oriented one is rarely the fault of the technology. Instead, the more common cause is implementers failing to impress upon their team the importance of embracing the new “initiative.” Everything must be planned for, and everything must be explained.

The vendors, however, can’t do all the explaining themselves. The department leaders mentioned in Step One should “champion” the initiative, developing the messaging and communicating directly the benefits the new solution will bring to their direct reports, co-workers, and other staff.

But you can’t force change. You have to win over your converts. And that requires marketing. The language and materials that you use to market your UC initiative internally can have a dramatic effect on user acceptance and can potentially win over converts. The choice of the word “initiative” instead of “project” is not accidental. The word “initiative” denotes more powerful and compelling reasoning than the word project, and better conveys the all-encompassing nature of a UC implementation.

That vocabulary choice that we just made is actually called marketing. And when you market appropriately to the majority of your end-users, the stragglers will inevitably follow.

 

4. Mandate Training and Measure Afterward
Here’s a fact. People hate “training”. When you’re in the process of implementing any new technology, you’ll find that most of your co-workers will balk at the idea of attending when the training sessions start.

In the same vein, many businesses are also hesitant to make training mandatory. Regardless of how your employees will feel about it, training provides valuable information on how to shift to the new solution and gives you another opportunity to champion your new solution. So they need to be there. And if you have to incentivize it with something awesome to keep everyone happy, then that’s what you should do. Making UC training fun and valuable—and it is imperative that you have your vendor’s help during this period—is the key to getting ultimate buy-in.

BUT, before you count the implementation as “complete”, you need to measure the adoption rate. Analytically speaking this is your one chance to determine whether the UC implementation initiative was truly successful. It’s also an opportunity to identify the last pockets of employee resistance.  If you want to overcome any and all lingering objections to the implementation—measuring the adoption rate is the way to do it.

Keep these tips in mind as you plan your UC implementation. They will make the whole process simpler and really will raise your overall chances of success.

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Unified Communications as a Service Re-Coups Losses for Businesses during Cold Weather Outbreaks

nec-unified-communications-as-a-service-winter-stormIt’s that time of year again. Blizzards like Winter Storm Juno are ravaging the North-Eastern United States. People are snowed in and can’t get to work. The effects of the storm will be felt across seven states this year—meaning more SMBs and Enterprises will grind to a screeching halt in 2015 than did this same time last year. Businesses across the country will take a hit in sales and service departments, delayed by loss of employee manpower and lack of customer activity.

So now seems like the right time to continue the discussion on enterprise technologies that facilitate mobility and remote work during bad weather and emergencies. The market for UCaaS is growing rapidly, and UCaaS is seeing widespread adoption in organizations of all sizes. If you’re at home right now thinking “maybe it’s time I start thinking about facilitating remote work environments for our team,” then I suggest you take a look at last year’s article, published in it’s entirety, below.

 

Winter Storms Ion and Hercules, followed by a polar vortex, are spreading a swath of heavy snow across the American Midwest and ushering in dangerously cold temperatures throughout the United States. As of Monday, there were more than 100,000 people across six states without electricity, with temperatures continuing to fall. Flights have been canceled nationwide, and people are staying indoors.

It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in parts of the Midwest and Southeast, and businesses across the country are feeling the weight of the storm hit their bottom lines.

What many people don’t know is that having Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in place means that businesses can actually stave off some of the sales losses seen during cold weather outbreaks.

Inclement Weather and Remote Workers

Firms that have adopted UCaaS or cloud-based communications could find that it curbs the amount of revenue lost from storms during the winter. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimates that cold weather snaps can seriously affect small and medium sized businesses. While places reliant on foot traffic are most at risk, any business can be beset by weather delays.

Working remotely, or in the cloud, is increasingly feasible and beneficial thanks to services like UCaaS. Tools like softphones, instant messaging, and audio and video conferencing can keep your business up and running even in the worst weather conditions.

How UCaaS Solutions Can Help

By giving your employees access to cloud computing services such as remote desktops and softphones that can be accessed from home or at work, organizations can ensure that employees are continuously able to do their jobs even if they cannot physically get into the office. This allows you to keep employees safe when conditions are too dangerous to travel without losing, what many times can end up being multiple days of, employee productivity.

UCaaS is one of the few services that can offer the tools required to help keep businesses communications running smoothly.  This is critical for organizations that rely on communication for their revenue. In the normal course of doing business, or remotely during inclement weather periods, Unified Communications Solutions can:

  • Integrate email, voice and instant messaging into a cohesive communications system so all employees can stay in-touch as needed.
  • Provide access points to all data used by your organization, so users can communicate with others inside and outside their organization more easily and more quickly.
  • Lower overall IT and telecommunications costs, particularly for labor, because of the inherent economies of scale available with an integrated communications platform.
  • Provide access to carrier-grade communications that deliver consistency with easy-to-use functionality.

UCaaS solutions are just one of many cloud-based solutions businesses can utilize to protect themselves during inclement weather.

In the event of a cold weather snap, the right UCaaS solution can easily adapt to your changed situation without any extra spending on your part. These services house your businesses data in centers that are part of global networks. This ensures that once your data is backed up, it is mirrored in multiple data centers across the globe, meaning that there is more than one copy of your data to rely on in the case of a disaster or emergency.

With these types of disaster recovery options, it becomes easier to see how UCaaS and cloud-based services can help create a safe and secure solution to protect your businesses applications and data, helping to insure your businesses against losses caused by winter weather storms.

Contact NEC representatives today to learn more about our cloud-based solutions and their disaster recovery benefits.

 

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