10 Trends in Enterprise Communications & IT [Part Two]

nec-enterpirse-trends-uc-mobility-cloud-virtualizationIn part one of this series, we dug into top trends to help your business increase efficiency and reduce costs. As we dive into the rest of the list, we’ll show you how mobile apps, storage management, social media and other evolving trends can give you a competitive edge.

VI. Mobile Applications

When mobile apps first made their appearance, the offerings consisted of strictly general productivity needs and information retrieval; email, calendar, contacts and weather information for example. Fast forward a few years and driven by increased public demand developers have created advanced mobile apps with capabilities such as GPS and location-based services, banking, order tracking, and ticket purchases. Not only has this increased functionality created a rise in the popularity of mobile applications, but it has generated a shift in the desire for mobility from strictly personal to business and corporate use. According to an Appcelerator survey, 55 percent of companies ranked mobility at the top or near the top of their priorities list, and 66 percent plan employee-facing mobile applications.


VII. Contextual Data, Analytics and Interaction

Contextual data spans the last mile of personal and business productivity: ‘Meta-information’ accompanies voice, video, chat and text communications to provide more comprehensive context for our interactions. Analytics is increasingly delivered to users at the point of action and in context. With the improvement of performance and reduction in cost to develop and implement, IT leaders can afford to perform analytics and simulation on nearly every action taken in the business. This change will lead to greater flexibility and agility within the workplace. For example, mobile workers are most efficient when they have immediate visibility of team member status so they can reach others in a timely manner when they need to do so. Contextually aware presence gives these employees the ability to receive information on content, tools, and services based on contextual information, such as the geographical location, personal preferences, and current activities of group members. To take it a step further integrating mobile devices with Unified Communications (UC) software allows end users to use mobile devices for collaborations and to locate other end users, whether they are on-site or off. This can be essential in healthcare where patients may require immediate assistance from medical staff or colleagues.


VIII. Big Data and Storage Management

As businesses of all sizes begin taking advantage of the capabilities of big data and analytics, they are also encountering the inevitable downside; complications when trying to store, protect, and manage the growing pool of data and related resources. Current methods require them to constantly configure, provision and upgrade their servers and storage devices, all the while technology enhancements put on the pressure to undergo migrations. So how can this be addressed? First, analyze the value of the data you have. Enterprises are deploying Big Data projects to leverage their current data and drive better business intelligence, product development and customer service. The surge in data will drive storage solutions to become fore flexible and scalable without the need for users to have a refined skillset in order to manage.

IX. Smart Energy

Information and Communications Technology will play an increasingly vital role in an energy efficient society, particularly given how essential it is to automatically balance energy supply and demand. Smart Buildings will achieve enhanced environmental and economic performance by producing, storing, efficiently managing and optimally controlling energy. Building energy management systems will play an increasingly vital role in these Smart Buildings. Energy waste is in turn minimized by obtaining location information for individuals to enable automatically controlling air conditioning and lighting. This is of particular interest to enterprises and data centers that will place an increasing focus on energy-saving technologies such as virtualization.

X. Social Media and Interaction

Although seen typically as a customer-facing technology only, many businesses have begun utilizing social media as an integrated element in their business process to facilitate improvement in all areas. From product testing and validation, exerting market influence, prospecting and lead generation to customer care and retention, the value of social media activities is continually increasing and expanding. The value of this activity is being quantified and routinely measured as part of the regular business process.
Companies are also reinventing their customer engagement models to more quickly and effectively respond to customer care issues via social media. Promotions are the top drivers of consumer engagement through social media, so businesses need to build new linkages between marketing and sales. Furthermore, customer support services increasingly use social media sites to share information with customers and provide more interactive support for them.

Hopefully these 10 tips have given you an idea on how you can empower your workforce without having to sacrifice additional cost or efficiency. Don’t forget to start at post 1 for the first set of tips, or to see the complete list, download the eBook.


10 Trends in Enterprise Communications & IT

Part I

nec-enterpirse-trends-uc-mobility-cloudCompeting in today’s business environment is about meeting challenges, making decisions and innovating rapidly while using the best and most current technologies, tools and information.

Cloud services, mobile applications and virtualization are just a few components of a rapidly evolving technology foundation.  Check out this list of trends and technologies that we believe will drive productivity and provide businesses with superior customer service, a more flexible work environment and a competitive edge.

I. Unified Communications and Collaboration Reduce Latency and Drive Productivity

With organizations becoming increasingly fragmented, departments more flexible and employees more mobile, collaboration is a means of enabling them to work together in real time. Unifed Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) is a major breakthrough in enterprise communications, as it will drive productivity and increase flexibility across an organization. Latencies in all areas will be reduced as well, from development to logistics and customer response, thereby creating an informed and connected workplace. Advanced collaboration tools such as shared workspace, calendar coordination, and rich presence will support many business processes. As a result, collaboration between individuals and teams will intensify and improve in quality.

II. Mobile Connectivity is Key

In today’s fexible and fast-moving business environment, employees are never in one place for very long. Workers can be just about anywhere: at the offce, between appointments, on business travel or working from home. In many business settings, it has become more important to reach a specifc person regardless of their location. Additionally, more employees need a mobile device that supports all business telephone features and provides access to the Internet as well as business applications. Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) capabilities offer communication services independent of the access technique. With FMC, employees can use smartphones anywhere in the world as an integrated extension of the company network, enabling access to the central directory and switching from a cellular network to a Wi-Fi network. In addition, personal devices can be used in conjunction with enterprise security credentials – securing enterprise information and supporting ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policies.

III. Open Architectures and Standards (such as SIP) provide Greater Flexibility

Globalization of business and technologies leads to solutions being comprised of components from multiple sources. UC&C solutions should be built on an open architecture that lets organizations leverage existing technologies. SIP is the foundation for integration of media modes, network devices, and applications across a common infrastructure to deliver advanced services and applications. SIP is a core communication component, which integrates with other advanced protocols to support a multimedia architecture and supports advanced communications across any device. It also enables virtual applications to be delivered from the cloud to support conferencing, messaging, voice, and collaboration.
The move to SIP trunking is signifcant because it enables organizations to reduce costs and offer new services. SIP trunking is beginning to replace local PRI lines and route external traffic to centralized data centers, allowing enterprises to lower the operating costs of IP technology while using their existing network resources more efficiently.

IV. Beyond Virtualization

Many organizations are turning to virtualization as the solution to their IT challenges. Virtualization accelerates deployment of new capabilities without needing to acquire new hardware. A virtualized infrastructure can improve your business through the minimization of capital expenses and operating costs.
It also helps reduce application testing requirements and compatibility issues while simplifying disaster recovery and mission critical solutions. Virtualization provides components to address end-to-end scenarios, like datacenter consolidation, business continuity and virtualized desktop solutions – ultimately providing you the benefits of a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

V. Hybrid Clouds

There is a bright future in the midst of hybrid clouds. Cloud computing is changing the enterprise’s approach to IT and communications, with more fexible architectures and cost structures. Modular applications enable you to pay for only those applications your business needs for a specifc period of time. These on-demand services allow businesses to better manage costs. Businesses are also turning to the cloud to enable more scalable and flexible business processes. While they use public clouds for less sensitive tasks, they prefer to use private clouds for their most vital processing tasks.

Then there’s hybrid clouds, which are designed to quickly scale to a company’s needs. It makes it the ideal solution to load heavy projects, which cannot be easily handled by a company’s in-house servers. Hybrid clouds can be operated at all times, from any part of the world.

In part two, we’ll cover additional technology trends.  Download the eBook now for more details on empowering your workforce with these leading technologies.


Adding Additional Value to your Virtualization Strategy

nec-virtualization-unified-communications-strategyFor years we’ve talked about voice as an application and the possibility of running voice communications in a virtualized environment. The age of Virtualized software-based communications is now here.

Virtualization continues to be a leading trend in IT, so long gone are the days when unsupported hypervisor technology prevented real-time applications such as voice from being virtualized. In today’s world, voice virtualization removes the barriers between real-time and traditional line of business applications, enabling your Unified Communications (UC) applications to work to their fullest potential on a virtualized platform – without the risk of delays compromising system effectiveness. When voice applications are virtualized, your telephony hardware can be consolidated right alongside your computing infrastructure, further streamlining your communications network with simplified voice platform administration. With virtualization, your benefits come packaged in a cost-effective flexible infrastructure that allows you to meet capacity and deliver effective disaster recovery methods to ensure business continuity.

Perhaps the most compelling reason for virtualization is a reduction in overall hardware distribution and energy footprint, leading to capital expenditure cost savings. Additional benefits, such as simplifying administration and remote console access from a common hypervisor management system are powerful tools. Virtualization provides the simplicity of centralized access across all communication servers and eliminates the need for discrete hardware platforms traditionally used to support telephony, voice mail, call accounting, and more.

So what are the additional benefits of virtualization, and how can they add the most value to your current strategy? We’ve put a list together of a few key advantages you can yield from a virtualized infrastructure:

1. Reduced number of servers – this can help lower your hardware costs significantly – by as much as 50-70%

2. “Green” adoption methods of VoIP/UC, which results in:

a. Less rack space in the Data Center
b. Lower HVAC requirements
c. Lower electrical requirements
d. Reduced number of server outages

3. Helps expand and promotes the number of applications throughout the enterprise at a relatively nominal cost (primarily for licensing)

4. Enables a cloud-computing model – servers can reside just about anywhere

5. Encourages open standards

6. Allows applications to be centrally run for an entire enterprise

7. Expands redundancy possibilities at a relatively nominal cost

8. Flexibility/Scalability: Apps can be added as needed in less time

9. Less maintenance, less hardware failures

10. Ability to manage voice, unified communications and collaboration just like any other application in your virtualized data center.

Virtualizing applications such as voice and related communication software services will certainly add additional value to your virtual infrastructure investment. With increased efficiencies, significant savings, multi-licensing capabilities and UC now more affordable than ever, virtualization is no doubt here to stay. What’s more, Unified Communications (UC) features such as conferencing, IM, and Presence, can now be deployed alongside other virtualized business applications in your software-based private or hybrid cloud solution. Virtualizing UC, contact center and software-based communications is nothing new for NEC.

We’ve provided you with 10 benefits of a virtualized environment, but the list goes on. Click below to see how NEC incorporates features such as enhanced video and contact center functionality to enhance productivity for your end users and give added simplicity to your IT staff to ensure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck in a virtualized environment. Ready to learn more about what you can add to your virtualization strategy?

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CapEx vs. OpEx: Which way is your budget shifting? Part 2

nec-uc-opex-vs-capex-2The internal debate on hosted versus on-premises might continue, which means, you’re still faced with the challenge of how you will acquire a unified communications solution without breaking your budget. In our last post we introduced financing, now let’s take a deeper look at your options and the best ways to apply them.

Leverage your financing options

OpEx financing models allow many organizations to leverage all the benefits of predictable monthly payments traditionally found in hosted solutions in an on-premises solution. For many, this can be the best of both worlds: a service-oriented model found with a hosted solution with none of the concerns some organizations may have with security and availability of a hosted service. What’s more, a $25,000 on-premises collaboration and audio conferencing solution may be a difficult solution to get approved, however, an on-premises solution with all of the capabilities of hosted for less than $400.00 per month can be a powerful internal conversation. Are you more comfortable paying out a lump sum or breaking payments down into a monthly scale? Regardless of where your preference lies, there is a financing option for you.

You don’t always have to spend money to make money. Sound too good to be true? Take a look at the following example:
ABC Company has identified that upgrading their current infrastructure provides an opportunity for significant cost savings. But there’s one problem: with no funds left in this year’s budget, their IT Department will pay more for their existing inefficient infrastructure until funds are available; not to mention the risks associated with operating an outdated system.

With financing, there’s another way.

Financing companies in the technology industry work to solve this common customer problem by offering plans that reduce up-front acquisition costs. The plans and programs come in the form of OpEx or CapEx with deferred payments (90-120 days is typical although longer deferments are available), step payments (increase or decrease over time) or seasonal payments (payments due during times of increased revenue for the customer). Bottom line, leverage a technology financing partner who offers the most accommodating (and cost reducing) structure for you.
So wherever you are in the process, you have options in choosing a solution that can be tailored to your specific needs without waiting until the approved budget kicks in. If you leverage the tools available to improve the communications services you deliver, you’ll reduce the risks associated with continuing to operate an outdated system. Just remember that with financing,you have options – the key in obtaining maximum value from these options is in how you leverage them.

CapEx vs. OpEx: Which way is your budget shifting?

nec-uc-opex-vs-capexWhen it comes to system upgrades, several IT funding initiatives are shifting their focus to cloud technology; what will you do when you need to upgrade your existing system, but don’t have the funds available in this year’s (or even next year’s) budget?  This is an opportune moment to examine your organization’s budget in regard to capital expenses (CapEx) versus operational expenses (OpEx), as implementing new technology will likely require you to switch a majority of your spending from CapEx to OpEx. Where does your primary focus lie? Respondents to an InformationWeek Analytics IT Budget Survey report that they are increasingly focused on calculating per-transaction service costs and implementing charge backs.
What you have vs. what you need

Are you paying monthly audio/web conferencing costs plus licensing fees for each user on your staff? If you answered yes, and that works best for your existing budget, then you might favor a hosted system versus a premises-based solution. A Frost & Sullivan report via TMCnews, notes that budget pressure and increased adoption of unified communications are driving demand for integrated web conferencing. While some look to hosted providers, the report also noted that as functional needs grow, organizations are expected to move to on-premises deployments. So who is best suited for a hosted system? If your organization can gain from the following benefits, then a hosted system may be right for you:

  • low up-front costs (made possible through monthly billing)
  • standard software on a per-seat basis
  • greater ability to free up internal support staff

Additionally, the move from CapEx- to OpEx budget focus has driven cloud-based UC offerings and workplace virtualization. We have evolved to replacing stationary desk phones with virtual, mobile alternatives such as soft phones, instant messaging (IM) and video features. Still in all, this move isn’t feasible for everyone. Economic downturn has forced organizations to reduce overhead, thereby increasing mobile working and the need for consistently evolving UC solutions.

What are your options?

There are pros and cons for both hosted/cloud based approaches as well as on-premises solutions. The shift from CapEx to OpEx funding is driving demand for hosted solutions, but IT departments accustomed to on-premises technology sometimes point to security and availability concerns as part of their reluctance to transition completely to a cloud alternative.

We’ve touched on the pros and cons, and for some, the consistent service delivery, on-demand scalability, and standard suite of UC options available with a hosted solution is most beneficial, while others will look to hybrid models as a compromise.

The good news is there’s still another way to get all the benefits of an OpEx acquisition and an on-premises solution without breaking your budget. We’ve got one word for you: financing. In the next post we’ll look at the different options that are available.  To learn more about your options, check out the video below.