The previous article “Unified Communication – A Layman Understanding” gave an overview about unified Communication at a very basic level. Now, this article explains about the various features and applications, to an understandable level.
Some extraordinary features in today’s Unified Communication solutions are:
The predominant methods we adopt in today’s life style to communicate in official as well as personal lifestyle are:
- Mobile phones
- Landline phones
- Soft Phones (Installed in PC)
- Chat Clients (Yahoo messenger, Gtalk, Skype, etc.)
- Video conference
We will now discuss the above mentioned Unified Communication features in details.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
VOIP is a transmission technology which converts voice to packets and transmits over IP networks such as LAN, WAN, etc. The voice communication in UC solution is predominantly based on the VOIP. Based on the voice server (PBX) we use we can communicate between IP and TDM (analog and Digital) phones.
All Voice servers (PBX) in today’s market have the capability to support VOIP protocol for extensions as well as private and public trunking.
Contact Center Services
A contact center is a single point of contact for customer or clients to reach a specific product or service related assistance, information or deliverance. Many of us buy some products and call the specified contact number provided by the manufacturer or distributor for any source of information or issue, where the contact center agents will help us in meeting our requirements. In today’s enterprise market customer satisfaction is the key and the contact centers provide an easy way for customer to reach for any issues, queries and information. This makes the customer more satisfied as well as help enterprise to meet customer requirements more effectively.
These contact centers may be of an Inbound, outbound or both. This feature is also available with most of the voice servers (PBX) integrated and also in a standalone server options.
This is one of the very basic features available with all the voice servers (PBX). When we receive a call and unable to attend the voicemail facility helps us to store the voice message, so that we can retrieve it later and respond. Though predominantly used for storing voice messages when away from desk or on other call, voicemail can also be used for providing information to the caller, forwarding a message to a group etc.
Click to Call / Conference
This is available today with any voice server (PBX). When you want to call a person you can just right click and select call either from you mail, digital fax, softphone or even from your chat window. The call can be established through normal telephony or by using a VOIP connectivity based on the client we use.
Same way when you want to add somebody to your ongoing conversation, its just a click away. Select the person and say join the conference.
This makes things simpler, easier, sophisticated and also time saver. Though this feature is available in simpler forms in most of the voice servers (PBX), UC utilizes this feature more effectively and efficiently.
Find Me – Follow Me
Find me – Follow me a glossy term given for connecting to person though any available resource he is available with. Now a call lands at a office desk while the person is away, the call can be diverted to any other number in the office or to his mobile phone if he is out of office or to his softphone if he is out of the state / country. This can be preconfigured on a standard basis if it is a planned outing or can be traced on a round robin way on an unscheduled outing.
Ultimately the call reaches the person even when he is away which makes things simpler for the caller as well as the called person.
In today’s world of communication E-mail has become a part and parcel of personal as well as official life style. Email which just started as a communication of words has expanded its service with lot of internal features to make it easier for the users. With UC coming into picture E-mail communication is now a key feature with the integration of fax, voicemail and voice servers.
The E-mail is available with many players in the market starting from Microsoft, Lotus Notes and also open source like thunderbird etc.
The status indication of a person’s availability is called as presence. When a person is connected to the network through any means of communication like chat client, mobile, etc, a visible indication intimates the availability of the person to the other members of the group or network. This feature though was developed for chat clients; it was used later in a broad way for the availability. And UC requires the feature due to the integration with many servers.
Few years back Fax was considered only for sending a printed document from one machine to other using telephone lines. But in today’s world when a Fax is sent to a number it can be digitally converted and sent to the respective person’s mail from which he can take a print if needed. This is possible simply because of Unified Communication.
Fax feature is currently available with most of the voice (PBX) server applications.
Web tool is basically the front end management of the integrated products. Earlier servers were maintained through command lines. Later these proprietary softwares were developed to manage the individual tools. Now a common management tool is being developed to manage all the servers in a single window. This not only makes the configuration part easy but also helps a new person to learn the configuration easily and manage it in a much better way.
Earlier all the servers like voice servers (PBX), voicemail servers etc had their individual management tool for every product. But now common tools have come up to configure a single vendor product. Now these tools are available with plug-ins to support inter vendor products also. So this makes the product more user friendly.
Instant Messaging is a real-time communication between connected individuals through text messages. For instant messaging we need messaging clients which need to be installed in computer of supporting devices. The client helps to connect to the other members in the network to have a real time chat. This is totally controlled and monitored by a messaging server sitting at some part of the network or world. The instant messaging has really made revolution in the communication between individuals since it is easier and also a real time.
Though this is available as free service currently with some clients like yahoo, g-Talk, etc not many of the voice servers (PBX) in the market haven’t integrated the messaging services. Only few have included in the product package recently. UC integration will really make it more useful since it will be used for chatting and passing messages internally reducing the voice traffics.
Audio / Video / Web Conferencing
Conferencing is to perform a scheduled live meeting, presentation, training and knowledge sharing etc to a group located at a single or different location. When a conference should is needed, a virtual room is created with authentication where somebody can join and view the conference though the video. Also they can post their queries vocally. This makes them feel that they are located together at same place even though they are physically located at different location. We can also create an open conference where anybody can join the conference using a common authentication method.
When a conference room is created and joined though a telephone, where people are united by voice and share knowledge it is called audio conferencing.
When they have a web camera facility they can initiate a video conferencing where they not only hear the voice but also see people on their computer screen. This gives more lively feeling for the conference and also clearer picture to the participants. This is said to be video conferencing.
The Audio and video conferencing can be performed with a voice server (PBX) also, since most of the popular voice servers support audio video conferencing.
Rather when the conferencing is enabled though internet websites, where many websites provide paid web conferencing services, it is called as a Web conferencing.
With UC integration solution we can have a more effective and efficient conferencing methods which can support all.
Text to speech is a feature which can read out a document vocally for us, to hear. This is a feature which was just a fun few years ago, is used to read out greetings, information and even mails. When we want some messages or information to be delivered to a called person we can have the text-to-speech feature enable which can make our works easy. The message may change frequently and so recorded greetings may not be that effective.
Also recently, when a person is away from his work location without any communication tool he can call his desk number and using his credentials can hear his important mails using this feature.
UC which is basically an integration solution, the Text-to-Speech feature can add more value to it.
Integration with 3rd Party
In current scenario every enterprise and individuals use different devices or components from various available vendors in the market based on their requirements. But everyday a new technology added device hit the market and the user cannot keep changing the devices every time. So he needs the device to talk with his existing device so that he can enjoy the new technology also. This necessity has derived the Integration with 3rd party concept.
Every enterprise has a voice server, Email server, etc. But he cannot invest a huge amount to replace everything to implement a UC Solution. So the UC devices should have ready-made plug-ins which can help the existing system to talk with the newly added UC solution. This can be possible by adopting a common protocol by all the vendors or a plug-in has to be developed between the vendors to support the customer.
In today’s market many UC providers have started to collaborate and release plug-ins to support the major market players of various domains, which make it easier for the customer to implement a UC solution in their enterprises.
In today’s world of entire IP and data networks, we are coming across various network threats because of which security is a major concern in the growing VOIP network, since it is using the same data network for call establishment. In VOIP scenario we are frequently coming across issues like registration problems, VOIP call session breakdown, non availability of required services and viruses which creates a threat to the voice network security, and also to the data network security of all the enterprises.
So we need to ensure that the UC products offer enough security measures to ensure that all the server transactions are secured, which is a uphill task for the UC products.
High Availability (HA)
With increasing dependencies on critical applications in enterprise level redundancy is becoming a mandatory aspect. This redundancy need is taken care by the High Availability (HA). In UC which is a integrated solution will definitely need a High Availability option integrated is mandatory. Also we can implement a cluster based High availability to avail the facility of load sharing also.
Hope the above briefing of the UC features would have enriched the knowledge and added more push towards moving Unified Communication (UC). Will discuss on Unified Communication on a Business perspective soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!