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Five unified communications trends that change the collaboration game

October 9, 2013 | Telepresence Options

network evolution 2013 cover

Story and images by Irwin Lazar / Search Unified Communication

Unified Communications is poised for rapid change that will be driven by a perfect storm of mobilized workers, innovative technologies and a changing vendor landscape.

On the vendor front,�Microsoft Lync is challenging Avaya and Cisco�for market dominance, while new�cloud-based providers�promise to allow IT to scrap its own servers, disband centralized technology budgets and assign spending to specific lines-of-business.

Meanwhile UC technologies are evolving to enable new kinds of communication through a wider variety of endpoints.�WebRTC�offers the power to democratize UC by extending features like voice and video into any desktop or mobile web browser. Additionally, UC vendors are integrating wired and wireless worlds to better serve the growing base of unwired workers who spend more time on tablets or smartphones than at desks. Finally,video isn't just for conferencing anymore, as consumer services such as YouTube and Vine drive enterprise video collaboration and content sharing in the enterprise.

The following five trends are changing UC with the potential to forever alter how companies deploy technology and how business professionals communicate:

  1. Cloud-based UC: How SaaS will change the way we spend

More than 90% of companies now use Software as a service (SaaS) applications, according to the Nemertes�2013-14 Enterprise Technology Benchmark.

Enterprises are turning to SaaS partially because they lack in-house expertise and need speedier deployment. But even more important, SaaS allows enterprises to be flexible with IT resources and spending.

Specifically, buying cloud-based UC applications allows IT to eliminate capital spending and move to an operational cost model in which companies only pay for what they need, when they need it. What's more, SaaS allows IT teams to push service costs directly out to specific lines-of-business.

Cloud UC isn't for everyone, however. The larger the user base, the more likely it is that cloud services will be more expensive than on-premises UC, according to Nemertes Research. The tipping point for IP telephony, for example, is about 2,500 users. Moreover, cloud services don't allow for the customization that some organizations require, and the cloud may not be acceptable if security regulations dictate that companies must store all data on premise.

The solution may be in deploying a mix of cloud and on-premises applications, but that requires integration using middleware from vendors such as�Esna�and NextPlane to allow presence federation between applications. That means additional cost and complexity. But integrating services from multiple cloud providers (e.g., one vendor's Web conferencing with another's video), is even more problematic.

Despite the challenges, most companies will take cloud services into consideration as they evaluate UC technology.

  1. Mobile UC: Enterprises must deliver UC to a multitude of devices

Enterprises have learned quickly that the BYOD trend can benefit them if personal and enterprise-issued devices are used to improve worker productivity. So they're moving to support mobile workers across a wide range of devices and mobile operating systems, and enable�mobile UC applications.

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