What is Unified Communications?


In today's fast-paced technological world, a variety of communication methods are used to get work done. For instance, a team may switch between email, video conferencing, phone calls, and other formats to finish a given project. There's no "right" way to communicate in business, but a mixed approach often provides the best of all worlds.

In this practical guide, we've explained exactly what is unified communications and how it can benefit your business.

Essentially, unified communications (or "UC") refers to a communications system that unifies multiple communications technologies in an enterprise. These services could be things like instant messengers, telephony, video conferencing software, conference room hardware, etc. When these communication methods are all working together seamlessly, your team can stay focused on the task at hand, instead of worrying about technical difficulties.

How Does Unified Communications Work?

When it comes to understanding UC solutions, it can be difficult to narrow down exactly how these integrated systems function. At a basic level, unified communications brings together synchronous (ex. video conferencing) and asynchronous (ex. email) tools for collaborating with teams remotely. These interconnected devices are built for enterprise use at scale, so small businesses can stay on the same UC network as they continue to grow.

Typically, a UC platform is structured with at least one back-end system that synchronizes the various communications services. For example, a messaging platform may have convenient "click-to-talk" or "click-to-video" buttons that launch your team's preferred conferencing service. Likewise, the conferencing app may have a chat window where you can share important files. It all works together without a hitch.   

Jumping between devices and apps can be frustrating, but thankfully, UC platforms unify the most important communication tools in one intuitive system. Whether you're using a mobile device, a conference phone, or a laptop, you can quickly access the UC environment and keep the conversation going. By merging conferencing and messaging features, UC platforms make team collaboration more of a real-time experience than ever before.

What are Some UC Technologies and Features?

At Yamaha, we're excited to offer hardware that works with UC systems to synchronize audio and video at a professional level. Often, what you see is not what you get when it comes to unified communications. To that end, here are some of the features and tools that you should come to expect when investing in a UC platform:
  • Real-time chat that integrates with your conferencing services
  • Other text-based tools, like email and text messaging
  • Voice-based services, including audio conferencing and phone chat
  • Video conferencing services design for multiple use cases, such as at a desktop, in a huddle room or in a large conference room  
  • Screen sharing and virtual meeting rooms
  • Enterprise chat and productivity services

Meanwhile, IT departments should come to expect these back-end features when investing in a unified communications platform:
  • A private branch exchange (PBX), with a traditional or cloud-based design
  • A multipoint control unit (MCU) that allows the UC platform to operate with more than three endpoints
  • Embedded enterprise communication tools—also known as communications platform as a service (CPaaS)—which allow users to quickly launch chats within enterprise services

All in all, UC technology is a excellent investment for your business, and the integrated features will only grow more useful with time.  

What are Some Key Terms in the UC World?

Before investing in a new UC system, it's important to understand a few basic terms that are often used in the industry. Here are three of the most common terms in the business communications space:
  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): Syncing an assortment of personal and business devices can be an IT nightmare, but UC platforms make it easy. BYOD refers to a feature where any team member can use their personal mobile device or computer to access the secure UC system. With BYOD, there's no need for company-issued devices that live in the room, so the feature can save a lot of money on unnecessary technology.
  • Mobility: This term refers to a seamless UC experience, whether you're at the office or traveling. For instance, you can use the same phone number on your mobile device, office phone, and home phone if desired. You can also transfer calls between phones without losing the connection, so that you're not stuck at your desk. Mobility is all about having flexibility with your communication tools, so that they suit your lifestyle.
  • VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): Instead of relying on a standard phone line, VoIP makes a voice call using your Internet connection. This is often a less costly option when making long-distance and international calls. It also reduces a company's monthly network expenses, because it can rely on the Internet network for calls that would normally require a separate landline.   

How Can My Business Benefit from Unified Communications?

Every conferencing space has unique needs. For example, some microphones perform better in large auditoriums, while others are designed for small huddle rooms. This is also true for UC technology. However, it's clear that unified communications solutions provide a clear advantage for businesses that need an all-in-one platform to manage their communications.

When every team member is on the same UC platform, productivity and collaboration tends to increase. It's a far more intuitive solution than relying on a variety of disjointed apps and services. Meanwhile, there's less of a need for in-person meetings and business trips, because the video conferencing is so effective. This saves money on travel expenses that simply aren't necessary when virtual conferences get the job done.

Likewise, UC platforms improve and update over time. Since a UC system mainly integrates digital services, companies don't have to worry about their communications investment being obsolete in a few years. It's a more future-proof solution than other technological fields.

Finally, businesses that can adapt to a variety of environments will always have a competitive advantage. The traditional office space is one environment, but how do your employees stay productive when they're working from hotel rooms or co-working spaces? With a UC system, the same features are always accessible, no matter where you are or what device you're using. It's anything you need it to be.

Ready to transform your business communications with a cutting-edge UC platform? Click here to explore the Product Finder and see which Yamaha UC products are best for your business. Then, contact us with any questions you have about unified communications. We're excited to hear from you.