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Unified Communications

What is it?

Unified communications (UC) refers to a trend in business to simplify and integrate all forms of communications. It is typically a software program and infrastructure improvement. In general, it allows an individual to send or receive a message on one medium and received on another. For example, one can receive a voice mail message and then read it in their email inbox using a unified communications program.
The communications leveraged by this term can include phone, e-mail, chat, voice mail, presence services, and fax. The typical software program unifies these communication mediums so that any activity or message can be easily transferred to another. A successful implementation can automate and unifies all forms of human and device communications into a common user experience. Gains in efficiency can result through an optimization of business processes and enhancing human communications, reducing latency, managing flows, and eliminating device and media dependencies.

Unified communications also gives better control over important features like presence and single number reach, as we see below.

The Concept of Presence
Presence represents the availability and willingness of a person to communicate. A simple example is the list of buddies you have in your instant messenger. When they are online (meaning they are available and willing to communicate), your instant messenger gives you an indication to that effect. Presence can also be enhanced to show where you are and how (since we are speaking about integrating many communication tools) you can be contacted. For example, if a buddy is not in her office or in front of her computer, there is no way your instant messenger can have you contact her, unless other communication technologies are integrated, like pc-to-phone calling. With unified communications, you can know where your buddy is and how you can contact her... but of course if she wants to share these information.

Single Number Reach
Even if your presence can be monitored and shared with unified communications, contacting you might still be impossible if your access point (an address, a number etc.) is not available or known. Now say you have five ways to be contacted (phone, email, paging... you name it), would people like to keep or know five different pieces of information to be able to contact you anytime they want? With unified communications, you will (as at now, ideally) have one access point (one number) through which people can contact you, whether they are using their computer's instant messenger, their softphone, their IP phone, email etc.
What Unified Communications Encompasses
Since we are speaking of integration, just everything at the service of communication can be integrated. Here is a list of the most common things:

  • Unified messaging and multimedia services. This includes voice communication in all its forms, voicemail, email, fax and other types of multimedia elements like pictures, animations, video etc.
  • Real-time communications. Real-time systems involve getting immediate processing and response after input. Examples are conferencing, call screening, instant messaging, paging etc.
  • Data services. This includes information delivery like web data, online services etc.
  • Transactions. This covers transactions made online, through the web or otherwise, like e-commerce, enterprise applications, online banking etc.

Uses

Unified communications can bring nearly immediate cost savings to organizations. Travel expenses can be avoided by using Web conferencing. Expensive communications costs (such as long distance charges) can be reduced by using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and by consolidating communications infrastructure.

Reduced Travel and Training Costs
Web and videoconferencing, as well as other unified communications modalities, connect participants with meetings or "events" where they do not need to be physically present. Presales work, internal meetings, training, and staff performance reviews are activities that frequently require less travel once a company has deployed a unified communications solution. Using unified communications solutions to deliver training to employees through their desktops helps provide savings in areas of travel, specific training costs, and productivity, as employees can train on their own time rather than at set times.

Lower Real Estate and Facility Costs

Using collaborative technologies, such as presence awareness, soft telephony clients, and videoconferencing, some organizations can expand operations and geographic reach without incurring the costs of additional office infrastructure, reducing office space per employee and improving space utilization.

Reduce Telephony and Conferencing Service Charges
Traditional conference call services are expensive. Organizations could see significant reductions in the amounts paid for dial-in meeting services purchased from teleconferencing vendors by replacing them with IP network-based conferencing capabilities and routing their internal and external calls over their common network and internet infrastructure.

How it can help your business

Reduce Costs and Improve Business Results
With the economic crisis and unstable energy prices, corporations are taking a hard look at cutting costs, while maintaining their competitive edge by transforming ideas into value and delivering to their customers. Unified communications help organizations reduce operating costs of travel, telecom and IT, while enabling them to improve business outcomes in a more sustainable way.

Call our consultants to learn more and see how organizations like yours are cutting costs of telephony, voice mail, audio-conferencing and reducing travel costs by up to 40%.

Solution Components

Unified communications is a multi component system that is implemented on a company’s existing IP Network infrastructure. The components of a typical unified communications deployment include;

Components

IP Network An IP Network is a network of interconnected cables over which the Internet Protocol is run allowing devices connected to the network to communicate with each other
IP Telephony Server An IP telephony server is an appliance that replaces the traditional PABX system but instead of dedicated copper wires connected to each device the server makes use of an IP network such as your local LAN or even the Internet, to send and receive data packets to the connected device. The data packets can contain pure data or they can just a likely contain snippets of the spoken voice which have been digitized so that it can be transmitted over the network
Voice Mail Server A voicemail server is an appliance that store telephone messages. In legacy systems this device was usually limited in ways in which the end user could collect their messages. Primarily communications were over a voice network where users dialled a number to connect to their systems. Today this has changed and now messages can be collected from mobiles, email and even websites. Voicemail servers used in these solutions are typically Microsoft Exchange 2007 or Cisco Unity
Web Conferencing Server Getting together with a bunch of your peers who are spread all over the world is in essence what a Web conferencing server facilitates. A typical a web conferencing server resides in a central location and combines desktop sharing and voice sessions from participating users. Cisco Meeting Place Express is typically the software running on the server and providing this functionality
Presence Server A Presence server provides real-time reachabily information for any user on the server. You can see the users status (e.g. available, on the phone, in a meeting) and the best method to reach them (e.g. desk phone, mobile phone, email, instant messaging)
IP Phones IP Phones look much like traditional analogue phones but have one important difference. Instead fo been plugged into a dedicated copper wire they can be connected to any IP network. This means that you are not limited by the availability of your office network but can use this anywhere that you have access to the Internet. It also means that only one type of cabling i.e. cat 5 or cat 6 is required in your offices

Some of the products that we utilise include;

  • Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express (CUCME)
    • formally Cisco CallManager Express (CME)
  • Cisco Unity Express (CUE)
  • Cisco Smart Business Communications System (SBCS)
    • Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series for Small Business
  • Cisco Unifed Communications Manager (CUCM)
    • formally Cisco CallManger (CCM)
  • Cisco Unified Presence (CUP)
  • Cisco Unity Connection (CUC)
  • Cisco Unity
  • Skype for Business
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2016
  • Cisco Unified MeetingPlace Express (formally Cisco MeetingPlace Express)
  • Cisco WebEx
  • Cisco TelePresence
  • Cisco Jabber
  • Cisco Unifed Contact Centre Express (UCCX)
    • Previously Cisco IP Contact Centre Express (IPCCX)
  • Cisco Unifed Contact Centre Enterprise (UCCE)
  • Cisco Unified Customer Voice Portal (CVP)
  • Cisco Unified Expert Advisor (UEA)

 

 


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