Unified Communications Overview

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1 A CBTS White Paper Unified Communications Overview Craig Chavis Solution Architect, CBTS 10/5/2012

2 Table of Contents Unified Communications Overview...3 Unified Communications as a Solution What is Unified Communications..4 How is Unified Communications Delivered...5 Unified Communications Challenges..7 Planning Your Unified Communications Strategy. 9 References.. 10 Page 2

3 Unified Communications Overview The goal of this white paper is to provide a foundational understanding of the dynamic world of Unified Communications (UC). It includes an introductory overview of UC as a solution with a focus on its unique features, deployment, challenges and requirements. UC is a set of maturing technologies that automate and unify human and device communication. Its potential benefits to businesses include improved productivity and efficiency, better communication and customer satisfaction, quicker decision making, and possible cost reduction. We want to help our customers understand the basic concepts and figure out a base-line before moving down the UC path. While UC offers a lot of potential benefits, the solutions are varied and can include single or multiple vendors. Page 3

4 Unified Communications as a Solution What is Unified Communications? One point of confusion is identifying the difference between Unified Communications (UC) and Unified Messaging (UM). Both solutions unify a method or methods of communication; however, they are applied to two different contexts. The key difference lies in that UC is leveraged for real-time and UM non- real time communication. UC enables you to conduct real-time communication by leveraging the following products and services: Telephony Video & Audio Conferencing Presence & IM Scheduling Collaboration Tools Business process integration UM leverages the following non real-time communications: Voice Messaging SMS Fax UC can be categorized into two types of applications: UC-User Productivity or UC-U applications that users adopt to improve their experience and/or results UC-Business Processes or UC-B that includes tools explicitly integrated into defined processes, either via procedures or automation UC- U is primarily targeted at users to enhance and benefit the user experience. Its services and applications are designed to improve an individual employee s productivity rather than an entire company s. UC-B is intended for an entire organization as opposed to the individual. Its applications are designed to improve Business Process Integration or CEBP, maximize customer satisfaction, or enhance business processes. It is aimed at improving the bottom line rather than the productivity of an individual employee. Page 4

5 How is Unified Communications Delivered? UC is still evolving, developing, and maturing. It is delivered via multiple products that attempt to provide a consistent user experience across many media types and devices. UC supports a user sending a message via one medium and receiving the same message on another medium. You may receive a question via a text chat on a cell phone and respond to the question by launching a video call on a laptop. Key Components The following are the key infrastructure and application components commonly used in a UC solution deployment. Infrastructure: IP PBX LAN and WAN Audio and Video Endpoints Audio and Video Gateways/ Bridges Session Border Controllers Web and Communication Servers Fixed and Mobile Computing Devices Applications Presence and IM Unified Messaging Collaboration Apps Voice and Video Thick and Thin Mobile Clients SIP Session Management Page 5

6 UC Environment Deployment Models You can choose from one or more of the following deployment models: Private - Hosted entirely within your environment Hosted and Cloud Services - Hosted with a service provider and delivered through the provider s network Hybrid - Combination of private and hosted/cloud models Page 6

7 UC Solution Challenges UC can offer great benefits; however, you must work through some challenges to realize them. Some of the current challenges with UC deployments include: interoperability between different vendors applications deployed in your environment, consumerization of IT, support model, and security. Interoperability UC has evolved just like voice applications. Vendors have picked from a variety of standards to implement their UC solutions. This results in many disparate systems and devices, making the implementation of a single solution a challenge. Interoperability complexity is driven primarily by the following factors: What standards did a vendor choose when they went to market? How mature are the vendor s offerings across the UC product and service suite? Applications Many businesses have deployed applications to address a specific need, such as: desktop application, telephony, or video. In many cases those applications come from multiple vendors. UC promises to tie these applications together to increase productivity and efficiency. When choosing applications, the following issues must be addressed: What current application investments can you leverage to deliver the best UC experience in the most cost effective way across your computing devices? What possible new application investment do you have to make to cover UC functionality gap requirements? What is your potential application investment that you may be forced to make to meet a specific business need? Consumerization of IT The continuing consumerization of IT adds to the challenges of how you integrate businessprovided devices and end-user-owned devices with UC applications. At the same time, your business has to ensure the security of critical business and customer information. Support Model UC promises to deliver increased productivity, efficiency and potentially reduced costs. What does that mean to your technology support model? Do you have the skill sets to support it? If not, does your existing staff have the ability to learn how to support it? If the answer is no, what compensation is required to acquire the skill sets to support your UC solution? Page 7

8 Page 8 Security You have the potential of introducing two way customer communications via chat and video. Depending on your industry, you may have a business or regulatory requirement to record all two way customer communications. Now layer that on top of a wireless network for mobile users. It creates a confusing and challenging set of criteria, with which you develop a UC solution that works, but also protects the most critical business and customer information.

9 Planning Your UC Strategy Current State and Skill Gap Analysis The following is a list of questions to help get you started with the process of determining your business requirements, your current state, and your current organizational skill sets. This is not a complete list, but it is a starting point to clarify solution requirements for your particular situation. What business needs may require a possible UC solution? What are the business use cases? What capabilities do my existing vendors provide to meet the use case requirements? What capabilities do other vendors provide to meet my business use cases? What UC application licensing have you already purchased from your current vendors but have not implemented? Can you leverage the existing investment to meet your business requirements? What capabilities does my internal IT staff have for supporting UC? What is the investment required to acquire and/or expand the applications and/or infrastructure to deploy UC? What is the investment needed to build IT staff skill sets to support UC? How can CBTS Help? CBTS is a premium UC product reseller and solution provider. Our certified engineers deliver valueadded UC solutions by helping our customers design, configure, deploy, and manage their communication environment. We provide complete skill sets and experience from implementing UC solutions for enterprises to help your organization achieve the potential UC benefits. Page 9

10 References Wikipedia UCI Forum: The Unified Communications Interoperability (UCI) Forum was founded in 2010 as an effort by vendors to influence UC standards adoption. Page 10

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