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5 features to look for in any unified communications solution

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5 features to look for in any unified communications solution

A unified communications (UC) solution should be like a Swiss Army knife – versatile, unobtrusive and easy to use. Today's UC platforms often roll many functions, from video conferencing to hosted VoIP calling, into one architecture to deliver exactly this kind of experience.

However, it can be daunting to navigate their complex, feature-filled spec sheets when evaluating the wide range of potential options. There's also the issue of finding a solution that not only delivers the necessary top-line features but also has a strong underlying architecture, whether it's hosted on-premises or in the cloud.

Just as you probably wouldn't purchase a car for its paint job before ensuring it also performed well in a road test, purchasing UC software requires similarly comprehensive due diligence. So which attributes should you really focus on when making a selection? Going through every last one is beyond our scope, but here are five that stand out – three that are user-facing, and two that are behind the scenes:

1. Hosted VoIP telephony with auto attendants

VoIP's use among businesses predates the rise of today's UC platforms, but many organizations still rely on legacy voice solutions, such as on-prem private branch exchanges (PBXes). There are significant drawbacks to sticking with a PBX, including the substantial costs of periodic maintenance, the complexity of adding new lines/users and the major risks to local infrastructure in the event of a disaster.

Upgrading to hosted VoIP solves all of these problems by delivering high-quality, reliable and secure networked voice services. VoIP service providers like Telesystem maintain the critical supporting network architecture in their data centers and can quickly respond to any technical issues. Plus, customers benefit from extra features such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection for application traffic, visual voicemail and auto attendant.

The last feature in particular is useful for ensuring that you never miss any calls. An auto attendant seamlessly routes calls without sending anyone through a receptionist. Instead, an intuitive menu gives callers options and can forward their calls to VoIP endpoints, including mobile devices.

2. HD video conferencing

High-definition video conferences were once the stuff of science fiction, being featured in a "Picturephone" sequence in the 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey." More recently, they were included in a memorable scene in "Silicon Valley" involving a glitchy holographic projection. The concept of truly lifelike video chat has long fascinated both technologists as well as consumers, and it has finally become a reality this decade.

Video codecs have greatly improved, resulting in better picture quality and more efficient bandwidth utilization over time. More reliable video conferencing solutions can enhance productivity in several ways, including:

  • Less multitasking than traditional conference calls: When a meeting is audio-only, it's easy for attendees to tune out and complete other tasks since no one is watching them.
  • Easy-to-follow presentations: Video allows for detailed walkthroughs and discussions (such as product demos) that would be a little abstract if done strictly over audio.
  • Engagement for remote employees: With crisp video, even faraway teams can feel like they're in the same physical space with colleagues and clients.

3. Modern security mechanisms

A UC suite is only as beneficial as the security measures that keep it safe from malware infections, DDoS attacks and other threats. Since the communications that occur over UC are often highly sensitive in nature, it's essential to always shield them from prying eyes.

Cutting-edge security features can provide the necessary multilayered protection:

  • Content filtering mitigates the risk from the numerous compromised sites and assets across IP networks.
  • Access controls such as two-factor authentication and Active Directory integration prevent unauthorized users from easily accessing the UC platform with a stolen/guessed password or compromised account.
  • Data encryption ensures that messages cannot be intercepted in transit or at rest.
  • Anti-DDoS measures allow your critical apps to stay up and running, even if someone's trying to flood you with meaningless traffic.
  • Antivirus software helps flag and isolate known threats to your applications and data.

4. A software-defined WAN

Software-defined WANs (SD-WANs) and UC suites are like salt and pepper – a natural combo. SD-WAN can deliver improved application performance and quality of service, even for the highly demanding applications within a UC suite.

An SD-WAN constantly monitors network connections for quality metrics such as jitter, latency and packet loss, and uses these assessments to make real-time decisions about where to send traffic. Encrypted direct-to-cloud connections also make SD-WAN a major security upgrade for many organizations as they become more reliant on SaaS and IaaS solutions, in addition to hosted VoIP.

 Finally, SD-WAN greatly simplifies branch deployments, since it supports zero-touch provisioning and can also harness inexpensive broadband links instead of MPLS. Such flexibility is reminiscent of hosted VoIP's benefits for easy user/line additions.

5. Dedicated internet access

UC in general and hosted voice solutions in particular require dependable network connectivity. Dedicated internet access (DIA) can provide the reliable level of service and customization your organization needs for long-term success.

Telesystem guarantees bidirectional bandwidth and offers multiple tiers that can be matched to your current requirements. DIA can be paired with hosted VoIP and SD-WAN to support a scalable, high-performance and cost-effective UC implementation. To learn more about how you can get started with these solutions, contact a Telesystem team member today.


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