The Ultimate Guide to Unified Communications

Part 1
nec-unified-communications-ultimate-guide-ucWhether you’re thinking about deploying a cloud, premises-based or hybrid approach to unified communications, there are a number of factors to be considered. Gary Audin, president of Delphi Inc. has authored an eBook on the subject of how to evaluate which approach is right for you. We’ve summarized his recommendations and evaluation process, as well as provided a link to the full eBook below. As with most anything, there are pros and cons to each approach. For this evaluation, Gary focused on the items that make up the bulk of the expense and therefore, are most likely of greatest concern to you. Since communications technology is becoming more software driven, it should come as no surprise that IP Telephony and Unified Communications (UC) software expense makes up more than 40% of a solution’s total purchase price while hardware is becoming increasingly commoditized. As a result, for organizations to remain competitive, they need to consider today’s best practices in leveraging their software-based investments.
1. Realizing the importance of software architecture
PC’s, laptops, tablets, and smartphones have made their way into our daily lives as invaluable devices that not only enable access to personal information, corporate directories and email, but to specialized applications that facilitate communications in healthcare, financial services organizations, educational institutions, government operations and nearly every aspect of our lives. When you deploy the right communications software architecture you can enhance business agility by:

  • Easily growing to accommodate acquisitions, mergers and changing business environments
  • Providing common software services with multiple use cases
  • Leveraging pre-existing enterprise commodity infrastructure
  • Supporting the growing population of mobile workers and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend
  • Delivering tailored solutions
  • Offering multimedia conferencing and collaboration capabilities

2. Explore a software-based approach with UC
Unified Communications is all about multi-media communications and collaboration. A few benefits of UC are that it improves productivity, decreases costs, and can make your organization more competitive. Implementing a successful and attractive Unified Communications system can provide:

  • A rich, consistent user experience that streamlines business collaboration
  • Enhanced support for enterprise initiatives involving BYOD needs
  • A service-oriented distributed software design that delivers agility and scalability
  • A single business application that is easy to install, manage, upgrade, and support
  • A software-based licensing model, which grants high value features and capabilities that enable agility, reduce complexity and lessen costs

3. Servers in the communications architecture
Communications and collaboration vendors have migrated from proprietary, hardware specific solutions to utilizing generic servers. Doing so reduces the hardware cost, supports a wide range of scalability, and allows the vendor to focus on enhancing features and functionality through the implementation of software rather than the design of hardware. Proprietary hardware is becoming a thing of the past. Enterprises today are looking for flexibility without having to be tied to a single hardware solution vendor. Communications servers are general purpose in operation and offer:

  • Carrier-grade systems that can be upgraded in a non-disruptive manner
  • Flexibility that is scalable and designed to support added functionality.
  • Openness due to the fact that the servers are based on industry standards, allowing different applications to be implemented as needed

4. Data center consolidation and virtualization
In any organization, the data center typically always has room for improvement and optimization. With no wiggle room in IT budgets over the past few years, IT departments are facing technical as well as financial constraints. There is a continuous effort to consolidate systems, thus reducing the costs of both the purchase and operation of data center functions.

Virtualization is one answer to this effort. Virtualization is the use of software that allows a piece of hardware, usually a data center server, to run multiple operating system images simultaneously instead of a server dedicated to each function and operating system. Studies have discovered that single application servers are commonly underutilized, with as little as 5% busy. Virtualization allows data center operators to increase the processing utilization and efficiency of a server. One server can operate in the same manner as multiple servers, thereby reducing purchase and operating costs. Whether you deploy premise-based, cloud or hybrid solutions for communications and collaboration services, virtualization can benefit your organization.

5. Adopting standards; benefits and limitations
An IT standard is an agreed-upon document that defines the performance, operation, interfaces, interoperability and measurement of a device, software, hardware, protocol, or language. It is typically beneficial to adopt a standard, but remember that a standard does not define the implementation of the technology; therefore there can be significant problems of design and financial issues that were not anticipated. For example, the standard can include so many options that vendors could each adopt a different subset of those options, making all the products unique and not interoperable. This happened with SIP trunking, where each vendor chose a different implementation approach. As a result, the SIP trunking providers had to customize their operation to each vendor. The solution: the SIPConnect SIP trunking solution that is now common for these implementations.

6. Disaster recovery/business continuity for communications survival
In the days when communications systems were implemented using proprietary hardware, you could expect the cost of backup/failover systems to nearly double your expense. As a PBX backup, the second failover system needed to be co-located on the same site as the primary system. The move to IP-PBX solutions alleviates cost by allowing the backup/failover site to be remotely located, adding further protection against major primary system failures. A common server can backup communications and collaboration implementations, even while being shared with other applications.

While there is no right or wrong approach to implementing UC for your organization, you do want to be sure to implement the one that best improves productivity and decreases cost. Stay tuned for our second post where we will continue to summarize the pros and cons of each method. In the meantime, download the full white paper to learn more.