Sonus SBC AD Lookup Gotchas

I have recently been troubleshooting issues with a Sonus SBC 1000 doing call routing using AD lookups.

There are many blogs out there about how to do this, including the guide from Sonus themselves which is pretty descent.

Let me however, go into some of the gotchas that caught me by surprise, and are not well documented on the Sonus site…

AD Cache Lookup

There is a very clear note saying that it is “recommended” to have a USB stick attached to the SBC if you are going to use the AD Lookup in cached mode.

What there is no mention of, is the way the Sonus SBC uses the cache, and how it gets updated. This information was provided to me from Sonus TAC/Engineering, and is current as of the date of publishing this blog post; this applies to having the AD Configuration in “Updates” mode…

  1. All domain controllers configured are treated equally; i.e. if any one of them responds back with a successful query, then the cache is valid, even if all the other queries fail.
  2. The cache is dropped before the new cache is read; thus if the AD query fails, the system is left with “NO CACHE” unless you have a USB stick with a backup cache to be used.
  3. if “ALL” domain controllers fail to respond, the SBC switches to online mode, and tries to query the domain controllers in order for the user in question.
  4. The system will not try any failed domain controllers again until the next update cycle as configured in the “Cache Settings”

they have said that they are working on improving the process…

Case Sensitive Lookup

Again with AD Cache lookups; apparently the lookup is case-sensitive; while simply testing for “=msRTCSIP-Line=” in your transformation table may work most of the time, apparently, if an admin in Lync has decided to type “Tel:+xxxxx” instead of “tel:+xxxx” the query would fail to return a positive match.

To overcome this issue the recommendation is to use “(?i)=msRTCSIP-Line=” which would make the lookup case-in-sensitive.

Of course you can use the same “(?i)” in other locations too for matching without case.

Approach Unified Communications Like You’re Writing an Essay

“We’re just going to start by getting all of our hospitals and clinics on one, ubiquitous telecom platform. We don’t need to worry about training or communications at this stage – the users will only see a new phone.”

 
The biggest mistake a healthcare organization can make when it comes to the decision to deploy Unified Communications (UC), is to treat it like an infrastructure component that is transparent to the user community. There is nothing wrong with starting with the basics, but don’t make the mistake of assuming it will not matter to your customers. I believe the best path to UC in healthcare is to approach it like you were taught to write a well-organized essay: Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; and then tell them what you told them. Remember that?
 
Tell Them What You are Going to Tell Them
As it turns out, a new phone is a big deal, especially to nurses and clinicians whose primary focus is the care of their patients. To them, the phone just needs to work – getting it to do so should not be difficult. The surest way to make it difficult is to NOT tell them in advance, fail to state what is going to be different, and to assume that formal, in-person training would be overkill. 
 
Just as the first paragraph in a well-written essay needs to inform the audience what the body of the essay will be about, a well-planned UC deployment will begin with a solid communications plan. My experience has shown that a comprehensive plan must:
 
• Define groups of users, 
• Determine exactly what changes each group will see,
• Identify several methods for communicating to each group, 
• Determine the frequency of communications that work best for each group, and
• Decide whom best to deliver each communication to each group.
 
Tell Them
I have found that very few clinicians are interested in learning how to use a new technology – at least for the sake of using a new technology. They are, however, very interested in learning how that technology can improve their ability to care for their patients. More so in healthcare than any other industry, the value specific UC features bring to each role will vary, for example: 
 
Nurses will need to know how to program doctor’s pager numbers into the phones for quick dialing, how to park and pickup calls, how to transfer calls to patient rooms, and how to make overhead pages on the new system.
Doctors may want to use some of the more advanced features. For example, single number reachability in order to be reached at one number no matter if they are at their desk, at home, or in transit. While unified messaging may appeal to doctors, the reality is that there is not a solution available with enough built in privacy and (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) HIPAA compliancy to be integrated with electronic medical record (EMR) and patient portal messaging – which will leave them with two inboxes. Some may be fine with that, others may choose to pass on this feature.
The central business office, scheduling and service desk will be interested in more advanced features, like screen pops (which can display customized information specific to incoming or dialed customers/patients), click-to-call integration and advanced call center functionality.
Executive staff and IT may be the only users interested in features such as presence (indication of availability), instant messaging, unified messaging (one inbox for voicemail, faxes and email) and integrated web-, video- and tele-conferencing.
 
While the above guidelines can serve as a good general rule, take the time to determine if it really describes the needs and interests of each group in your organization. Make a point of visiting with each defined group and take time to observe their work flows, in addition to asking about and listening to their pain points, including things about their jobs which they feel could be improved. Armed with the knowledge and understanding of what UC can and cannot do, set out to solve those pain points. Ensure your training plan focuses on solving problems, and not just on using the new technology. And then implement it.
 
Only after your detailed training plan has been implemented will you be ready to begin deployment of your UC infrastructure. It is during this stage that your user community will receive their new phones and begin to use the UC features and functionality that were promised to them.
As you have likely guessed by now, you will not just simply put the phones out and leave, but instead, as you do, you will once again tell them what you’ve already told them.
 
Tell Them What You Told Them
During this final stage of deployment, offer refresher courses and continue delivering frequent and targeted communications. I have found that having trainers and technical staff roam the floors to offer guidance and answer questions on the fly is very well received – especially visits to each nursing station. It is important to continue showing each group of users how the technology being deployed will help them to better achieve the overarching goal of the organization: improved patient care.
This article excerpt, by Michelle Kay, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1Lo2jqF

Enterprise Connect Day 2

Zig Serafin, corporate vice president of Skype for Business, showed during this mornings keynote the capabilities of Microsoft’s new Surface Hub which includes Skype for Business integration.  Serafin showed the audience just how easy it is to share and collaborate on content.

In a flash, he pulled up an aerial view of Orlando, zoomed into the Gaylord Hotel, rotated the image showing it in a front-on 3-D view even then marked up the image, pulled it into a digital whiteboard and inked it up to ask team members to zero in on a specific location. And then he ended the session, sending off his “meeting” notes, including the image and everything else he’d scribbled on the whiteboard, to live in a OneNote folder for later recall.

Cool stuff, to be sure, but this was not the real meat of Serafin’s keynote messaging today. That would be the news that Skype for Business is now here, as is clearly evident from branding you can see any which way you turn at Enterprise Connect. Skype for Business brings together the best of Lync with the best of Skype in a newly evolved client, Serafin said. That client is downloadable now for technical review, with general availability planned for next month.

Skype for Business includes the full Lync feature set, plus some enhancements, he said. But Lync now features a more adaptive, responsive, and familiar Skype experience, is part of the Office 365 cloud architecture, and has enterprise-grade high availability and disaster recovery for secure, compliant communications. And, of course, Microsoft has tapped into its Skype expertise to amp up the video calling experience from within Lync, Serafin said. The goal is to ease the ability for users to quickly and easily launch audio and video calls without losing any functionality of Lync.

The moves that Microsoft is making with Skype for Business boils down to the company’s goal of creating a “comprehensive productivity experience.” Toward that end, Serafin announced that the company is offering enterprise voice services, including audio conferencing in Office 365 and enterprise-grade PSTN connectivity.  And Serafin announced a slew of new or enhanced partnerships, including global carriers and Polycom for SMB video.

Content first appeared on No Jitter.

Enterprise Connect 2015 Update Day 1

Get seven big vendors on the stage, and the talk is always going to get around to interoperability pretty quickly. That’s generally been the case with the Monday Unified Communications Summit at Enterprise Connect, and this year was no exception-though the conversation took a markedly new shape.

With a standing-room-only crowd, this UC Summit was the first general session of a show that started out with jam-packed breakout sessions on Contact Centers, UC user adoption, WebRTC, and desk phones among others. The diversity of popular sessions suggests the breadth of challenges facing enterprise decision-makers-from that chunk of plastic on the desk to the standard that puts everything in a Web browser that the old workhorse deskphone used to provide.

When it comes to the topic that dominated the UC Summit, interoperability used to be about make Vendor A’s stuff talk to Vendor C’s stuff and then Vendor M’s stuff. But people are increasingly consuming communications applications in new ways, and some panelists suggested that this may make the solution to the interoperability challenge different-or maybe eliminate the challenge altogether.

Rowan Trollope, GM of Cisco’s Collaboration business unit, quoted his CTO, Jonathan Rosenberg, who said: “Virality is the new interoperability.” By which he means that if you need to collaborate with someone and you don’t use compatible tools, you just agree to both get onto the same tool-presumably one that’s gone viral and acquired some level of credibility as a result. What this leaves you with is a situation like Rowan Trollope said he has-179 apps on his smartphone, 15 of which are messaging apps, some of those having only 1 or 2 people he regularly communicates with. And that’s just how things are in the new world.

Adam Swidler, Technology Evangelist at Google for Work, echoed this point, describing the “disintermediation of services” that’s happening, driven by mobile usage patterns. He pointed out that Facebook responded to user demand by splitting out its Messenger app, and said Google was following the same pattern in splitting Hangouts from Google Plus.

“The users have spoken, and what they want is very simple, very purpose-built apps,” said Swidler, whose appearance marks Google’s debut on the Enterprise Connect main stage-itself a statement of how things are changing.

Josh Haslett, VP of Systems Engineering at Mitel, said the game is changing for traditional vendors who have wanted to control the endpoint since the days of proprietary telephone signaling protocols. “I don’t think taking desktop real estate and branding it is going to be the answer,” Haslett said. “It’s not about branding, it’s about enabling.”

Gary Barnett, Senior VP and GM, Engagement Solutions at Avaya, agreed that, “The user interface is not what to us will be relevant. Instead, Barnett stressed that the role of platforms like Avaya’s will be to tie together various elements on the back end-a critical aspect that won’t just go away in a viral-app world of the future, for one key reason: Investment protection, aka the installed base.

A case in point came from Zig Serafin, Corporate VP, Skype Business Services at Microsoft, who pointed out that he and Cisco’s Rowan Trollope were meeting this week and had already reached agreements between the two companies to allow video from Cisco Telepresence endpoints to be dropped into Skype for Business (formerly Lync) video conferences. So if Cisco and Microsoft are talking interoperability-at all-it could be a sign that things are changing.

So whether you need interoperability among different vendors or different generations of products from the same vendor-and let’s face it, enterprises today still do-the UC vendors you’ve been used to dealing with are prepared to at least make some of the right promises and recognize that these challenges haven’t gone away even in the new world.

But Google’s Adam Swidler offered a harsh assessment of the pursuit of interoperability.  “The more you invest in interoperability today,” Swidler said,” the longer you’re going to be stuck with that legacy platform.”

This content first appeared on http://www.nojitter.com/enterprise-connect 

Australian Skype for Business Launch & Conference

I am pleased to announce the Australian Skype for Business Launch and Conference will be held in Sydney in May 2015.  Generation-e, as AsiaPac’s largest Microsoft UC integrator is driving this event with Microsoft as the Platinum sponsor and Keynote speaker.

The conference will deliver compelling content in both commercial and technical streams.  Commercial sessions will focus on taking advantage of the technology and the technical stream will focus on implementation, integration and migration.

The keynote will set the scene, then experts and customers will share their experience and knowledge.  You will leave the day educated, entertained, enthusiastic and enlightened.

Between conference sessions the vendors that support Skype for Business will provide live demonstrations of their solutions, allowing you to understand the end-to-end ecosystem.

Follow @AUSkypeBusiness on Twitter for real-time updates and don’t forget to register your interest at www.skypeforbusinessconference.com.au.

 

Why UC Will Go Mainstream In 2015

Last year around this time I posted an article on UCStrategies “Why 2014 Is the “Perfect Storm” For UCC Adoption.” I believe that in this past year UC has been recognized as that next step progression and now drive Unified Communications to the next level. UC has been available to the enterprise marketplace for over eight years. In my experience it takes up to 10 years for a new technology to go mainstream, and in 2015 we will move well beyond the “hype cycle” for UC and, in my opinion, UC will go mainstream.
This past year we have seen a migration of emphasis from Telephony to UC. In fact, the conversation with any enterprise user we have had discussion with, including all clients and projects we serve, has been centered on Unified Communications, the game-changing elements of UC, and how it impacts the user communities they serve. The conversation around Telephony has virtually gone “extinct” and has completely been missing from the discussion. Telephony is a required component, yes, but any value statements and perceived value associated with Telephony-only are simply no longer there.
As mobility continues to gain ground (just look at Apple’s recent announcement around worldwide iPhone sales and associated profitability), elements of UC are also growing in the consumer space. Consumer elements of UC have been around for some time, including ad-hoc video conferencing (Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts), IM/chat (texting), and presence (aka friends lists and availability on Facebook). UC clients are available on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) with all of the tools available in a desktop UC client.
Now it’s the enterprise’s turn. All of our clients are embracing UC and its entire suite of tools. They want a more robust environment; they want the ability to work from home and remotely from anywhere; they want one number reach to any device; they want desktop mobility (working from anywhere as though working from your desk); they want to collaborate and share documents and get consensus on a topic together; they want to get all email, voice mail, and faxes in a single InBox (Unified Messaging); they want to call one another by name and not by number any longer (corporate directory); and they are beginning to show great interest in having video conversations one-on-one and in groups.
Drivers for UC Adoption in 2015
So why will UC go mainstream in 2015? In my opinion they include:
1. The Hype Cycle Is Over – The hype cycle for UC is over, period, and interest in UC and UC adoption will be at the forefront of the real time communications conversation
2. Consumer Components of UC Here - Consumer components of UC are already here (as noted earlier)
3. Millennials Want It - Millennials will make up a full 50% of the workforce in less than five years and recently have surpassed baby boomers as the largest segment of the domestic US population. Millennials embrace all of the elements of UC and not just tolerate it – in a word, they want it (see my December 5, 2014 post “Planning for the Best UC Experience? Follow the Millennials”).
4. Telephony Is Dying – Telephony, and the interest in it, is for all intents and purposes, “dying” or even “dead.” Of course TDM has been dead at the enterprise level for over 60 months, and that part is obvious. The less obvious is that, although Telephony is not actually dead, the interest in it as a necessary component of real time communications is more than just irrelevant, it no longer carries any perceived value. The emphasis and conversation is now on UC and how UC and collaboration can connect everyone in real-time. The UC suite of tools brings so much more to the user experience than Telephony alone could ever bring by itself.
5. Enterprise’s Interest in UC Is Greater Than Ever - Enterprises have shifted and are now showing more interest in UC than at any other time. And they want to be creative with it. One of our clients is interested in adding UC clients for all Board members, providing them their own DID number, and holding a virtual Board call that can be recorded, in the event that a critical decision is necessary quickly or in the event of inclement weather. Another client is interested in providing all students with a tablet and adding a UC mobility client for each. This will provide faculty members the ability to notify students of a change in class venue, or hold a class “virtually” via collaboration or videoconferencing or both in the event of inclement weather. This will provide a richer, more connected student experience on or off campus.
6. Front Line Business Units Are Asking for UC Components – Many Contact Center leaders are now requesting multi-channel components, including IM/chat functions, responding to emails, phone calls, social media integration, and even video calls (Amazon Kindle Fire has been doing so over 15 months now). Some customers are planning on video kiosks for virtual specialists to work “across” multiple branch sites in any given day, a feat virtually unattainable if that specialist were physically required at all sites in a single day.
7. The Cost of UC Continues to Plummet - Pricing alone per UC license / end point has dropped close to 20% in the last 24 months, in our experience. Price consistently drives adoption in any industry, in this case UC. And UC offers huge ROI opportunities, from SIP trunking, working from anywhere (reduced real estate), reduced maintenance costs, and reduced end points (as desired), among others.
8. Next-Gen UC and Collaboration Is Here – New entrees are offering (some or all) feature and functionality including ease of use tools, “like” interfaces across multiple devices (desktop, tablet, smartphone), moving a single “conversation” among multiple devices, adding device awareness, geo-location presence for location-based identification, and powerful search functions for referencing multiple discussions. These new features and functions are creating new “buzz” surrounding UC. A single “like” user interface across multiple devices minimizes any extensive learning curve (in some cases nearly zero) and will be another key enabler to driving UC adoption this year.
Summary and Conclusions
So if you are a channel partner, gear up with appropriate manufacturer certifications to successfully implement UC day one for your enterprise customers.
If you are an end user organization, embrace UC as a core, key component of real time communications for your community going forward.
Note that the acceptance of UC in your organization relies heavily on a strategic deployment of UC, carefully constructed and rolled out for a high user acceptance rate. Without such an approach, your organization’s acceptance level will be less than stellar and even a possible failure.
So to be prepared, in my opinion this is the year for UC to go mainstream. If you don’t place UC into the pipeline as one of your next major projects for 2015/16, the level of adoption by competitors will begin to surface. The clock is ticking and you have 12-24 months before you will have to catch up to your competitors; now is the time to embrace the full UC suite of tools for your organization.
This article excerpt, by Stephen Leaden, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1L5MktO

Unified Communications Forges Ahead in 2015

Collaboration is the most tangible form of digital transformation multinational companies are undergoing in 2015. The nature of doing business has spread across more regions as China, the Middle East and Africa become major hubs of commerce and trade. This requires communication tools that are smarter and integrated, moving beyond just voice and video. It involves more than just opening a clear channel between two points on a globe and hoping for the best; it’s all about leveraging a company’s full intellectual capital in the service of its people. That is the evolution of collaboration in 2015.
Coming out of 2014, the enterprise market for unified communications (UC) and collaboration has undergone a massive shake out. The days of operating voice and video in separate silos have given way to converged tools that marry voice, video, Web conferencing, desktop and mobility as features on a single, unified platform for employees to use. In 2015, businesses are demanding multi-functionality on one platform which impacts how UC providers operate, the tools that are made available and the very nature of workplace collaboration itself.
#1: CISCO AND MICROSOFT DOMINATE THE COLLABORATION MARKET
In 2015, the only two major UC providers that matter are Cisco and Microsoft. The startups that we saw in years past offering customized tools for voice, video and Web conferencing have fallen to the wayside as Cisco and Microsoft offered the same rich functionality on a common platform. Cisco’s value proposition is providing end-to-end connectivity across all touch points. Microsoft, owning the majority of all desktop applications, is pushing its core competency with its Lync client and relying on partners like Polycom to come onto its platform and build out unique offerings. Integration is a key element in both platforms, providing an opportunity for integrators like Orange Business Services. Customers are relying on integrators to balance UC priorities with their legacy system investments and general unfamiliarity with these new tools. So far the demand for Microsoft and Cisco solutions has been quite good. Instead of debating the issue, customers are moving forward with deployment.
#2: THE MATURITY OF THE CLOUD DELIVERY MODEL
The concept of cloud-based UC solutions will become a very attractive value proposition in 2015. Businesses are under a lot of pressure to lower their day-to-day business costs, so they are turning to opex-based cloud solutions to get economies of scale and being able to pay as they go. We can already gauge the popularity of such as services with the sizable number of voice deployments occurring on either a hosted or managed platform. So far the uptick has been most felt within the borders of single regions than outside of them but this disparity should gradually even out over time. Again, demand will be tempered by the need to balance a hosted model with previous investments in legacy equipment.
#3: COLLABORATION IS NOW MORE THAN JUST TELEPHONY
The parameters of what we mean when we say “collaboration” has expanded beyond voice to become a broader IT discussion involving the entire desktop. Video conferencing, along with interactive, online white boards offer a more detail-oriented functionality to collaboration. These are quite popular when communicating with really remote offices where the lack of interpersonal contact and cultural differences may impede productive collaboration. This is not to say that voice no longer matters. We still see strong demand in that side of the business, particularly audio conferencing in support of Web conferencing, but the signifiers of what goes into a collaboration solution are definitely shifting.
#4: UBIQUITY POWERS VISUAL COLLABORATION
Demand is also shifting from immersive solutions like telepresence to ubiquitous offerings that provide easy access for visual collaboration on either a desktop, smartphone or tablet. Customers want flexible video conferencing which is quite feasible through WebEx or a managed cloud service. Either solution can easily deliver that experience across any type of device.
#5: SIP TRUNKING TAKES HOLD
Telco-based voice services are rapidly fading from the scene as customers opt for end-to-end solutions delivered over IP. SIP trunking is an easy sell to customers when they realize that it delivers a cost-savings of nearly 40 percent over a traditional telco solution. Less infrastructure is involved by consolidating connections and eliminating the need to juggle multiple service contracts. SIP trunking customers also gain centralized billing and reporting for a pinpoint view on how much they are spending on voice. Industry figures from Infonetics Research estimate that nearly 58 percent of enterprises will be using SIP trunking this year.
#6: MOBILITY IS A FACTOR IN ALL UC DECISIONS
In 2014, 60 percent of employees were already using their own personal devices for work. BYOD is a reality and all IT decisions must factor it in as a consideration. Any UC wish list must include cloud-based solutions that can readily service such distinct end points, solutions that add an extra layer of security on top of unprotected devices, and enterprise-grade mobile applications for collaboration.
#7: GAINS IN THE ACCEPTANCE OF SOFTPHONES
New UC deployments are moving towards software-based phones instead of dedicated hardline phones on a desk. The costs are cheaper and the reality is that the workplace of the future is more than just a desk in an office. The way things are going the demand for softphones will reach 100 percent uniformity across all enterprises. Even among our own customers, those who were fond of dedicated hardline phones had a complete change of heart after sampling softphones, deciding in the end to shift to an all-softphone deployment.
#8: SECURITY IS THE PRIORITY
The worldwide news of the cyberattack against Sony Pictures that saw corporate communications leaked to the Web will likely cause an uptick for email and mobile security solutions at the beginning of the year. Even though day-to-day communiques might not rise to the same level of importance as social security information or bank account records, the incident proved that such communications can be turned into a weapon to embarrass and expose a company. The sophistication of this attack will also raise a green flag for stronger security solutions. It will be on integrators to balance the need for security with the need for open, unhindered collaboration.
Taken together, UC is naturally evolving into a more comprehensive market with tools that are more powerful, diverse and easily accessible via any medium. Integrators will be the glue holding these unified platform together.
This article excerpt, by Sean Burke, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1IFDchY

From Inside the Cloud: What Commitments Does Microsoft Make When You Subscribe to Office 365?

If you have been following the From Inside the Cloud series, you know we regularly bring you an insider’s view from the people behind the services on how we operate and manage Office 365 for security, privacy and compliance. We thought we’d focus our first edition of the New Year on outlining the commitments Microsoft makes when you subscribe to Office 365 services.
Watch
for more details and examples around the overall process. 
Moving to the Cloud can be a paradigm shift, requiring additional assurances to help you make the decision for your organization. We know that you need to have trust and comfort knowing that things you used to operate locally may now be run by Microsoft on your behalf.
We’ve established our service commitments to align to what matters to you and your organization. We invest in the design and operations of our services worldwide, which means contracting for core principles versus technical specifics that can change.
You can see the full list of our commitments in our new online services agreement. It’s a long list including things like physical security, access control and security incident management.
There are a number of inputs and drivers influencing these commitments.
First, we look for patterns in the requests and requirements of our customers across industries and geographies.
We’ve also built an evolving control framework to help support customer compliance with industry regulations. Notably, Microsoft was the first cloud services provider whose contracts have been approved by the Article 29 Working Party, a collective body of all data protection agencies in the European Union. The means that the contractual commitments we offer to customers are considered compliant with Europe’s most stringent data protection requirements.
And we have a dedicated legal and community affairs team working with government bodies globally to monitor ongoing changes to legislation and regulation. As part of that dialogue, we sometimes receive direct requests from regulators on operational requirements. (See the From Inside the Cloud episode, “
” for an in-depth look at customer compliance.)
Whether originating from the request of a single customer, or in response to a new regulatory standard, enhancements to our service commitments ultimately benefit all Office 365 customers. In fact, we encourage industry leaders who are interested in moving to Office 365 to engage with us on their specific needs so that together we can solve for the right things contractually at a sector level. For example, we recently organized a consortium of leading financial institutions, which greatly influenced the basis for all contracts with financial institutions globally.
If you fear the complexity of contractual discussions, you’ll be happy to know that we recently published a new online services agreement that covers all of Microsoft’s enterprise services. We have eliminated links to contract terms that can change at will—a common practice among cloud service providers. You have peace of mind that you are signing up for the terms written in your contract, pure and simple.
Please let us know if you have further questions or ideas for future topics we can cover in this series—and of course, you can access additional resources at the Office 365 Trust Center.

This article excerpt, by Robert Dring and Vijay Kumar, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1CGjuLr

Why Unified Communications Are So Important Yet So Difficult

Most people in the world today are familiar with Skype or other low-cost or free voice calls made via the Internet. Many businesses of all sizes rely on this concept of IP-telephony.
What Unified Communications (UC) does, however, is expand into other communications, too, and provides benefits, which are numerous.
As techradar.com wrote back in 2012: “By combining telephony and business data on the same network, it gives firms the ability to combine and use voice, data (and video) information in their common business applications, saving and forwarding whole instant message streams, faxes, e-mails, voice phone calls or videoconferencing sessions as chunks of data.”
Clearly the benefits of UC are many. Put simply, the need to be able to communicate face-to-face across any and all mediums on any device at any time is paramount for brands wishing to survive and thrive in today’s world.
Defining & Challenging
Before we get to the challenges that are present with Unified Communications, it might be a good time to define it, for many may not be aware of just what the term actually means.
There are no shortage of definitions but I prefer this one from Gartner, who define it as “those (communications) that facilitate the interactive use of multiple enterprise communications methods. This can include control, management and integration of these methods. UC products integrate communications channels (media), networks and systems, as well as IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.”
Their definition was defined further to summarize the term: “The primary goal of Unified Communications is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes.”
Okay, so now you know, if you did not already, just what Unified Communications is all about. And clearly you should see the benefits inherent in it.
So, why then, is it so difficult to implement?
Well to start, there are no shortage of players in the UC space. There are big name players such as Cisco, Microsoft and Polycom while there are also some exciting upstarts such as Starleaf, who specializes in both cloud based video conferencing services and offer a comprehensive range of video endpoints for meeting rooms, desktops and mobility.
Then there is the issue of legacy systems, many of which simply do not integrate well, if at all, with new UC technology. There is of course an inherent cost associated with transitioning from a legacy system to one that is unified. However, as previously noted the benefits are numerous.
And make no mistake about, essentially every business and company and organization can benefit from UC. Like, for example, one of the world’s oldest institutions of higher learning.
From an article appearing on esi-estech.com, the aptly-titled article says it all: University of Oxford modernizes with unified communications.
“A three-year contract was recently signed to replace the school’s aging telephone system with a UC suite that would provide staff and students with the ability to better collaborate, work remotely more efficiently, and fully embrace the benefits of bring-your-own-device policies.”
Clear Expectations Lacking
In a July 2014 piece on their blog, Logitech wrote of InformationWeek’s 2014 State of Unified Communications Report. In the piece they touched on the fact “2014 marked exciting growth in UC. Out of the 488 respondents, 70% have or plan to put systems in place. Of those, 34% will roll UC out to 76% or more of their user base.”
However, the article closed with a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed.
“Despite these advances in UC technology and adoption, network services aren’t keeping the pace to meet the needs that increased connectivity demands. 17% of the participants worry over their network capacity and list a lack of WAN bandwidth—and the cost to upgrade it—as their most pressing concern.”
But the most pressing need lay elsewhere as “the analysts at Information Week believe that the biggest problem plaguing UC is an inability to create clear expectations in both technology and business buyers’ minds of exactly what it delivers.”
So what sayeth you on the topic of Unified Communications? Does your company currently provide it or a reasonable facsimile thereof?
This article excerpt, by Steve Olenski, originally appeared here: http://onforb.es/18P3f68

Regarding UC’s Future: Toss Out What You’ve Known

The industry is undergoing phenomenal, unprecedented and extraordinary change. Twenty years ago, vendors competed on speeds and feeds. Imitations happened more than innovation, and declaring a leader was as fruitless as announcing varsity leapfrog.
The buzzword for unified communications continues to be transformation, though the term now applies more to the industry than the technology’s use. Presence/instant messaging, mobility and video are table stakes. In flux now are all the things we previously considered rock solid and predictable. Here are eight examples.
1. Globalization: The old rules favored local players — Ericsson did well in Scandinavia, Siemens in Germany and Mitel (via BT branding) in the U.K. Nortel and Avaya dominated the Americas. NEC, Toshiba and Panasonic were strong in Asia. IP flattens the world. Ericsson ended up in Dallas via Canada, China Huaxin is the leader in France, and Huawei is doing well in Canada. Global players have always existed, but globalization is eliminating the home court advantage. This represents more of a threat than an opportunity. The largest smartphone maker in the world quite possibly will soon be Xiaomi.

2. Brands: Quick, recite a UC tagline. If you had trouble, it’s understandable why so many brands are undergoing makeovers. Brands are much less important. Loyalty is fading coincidentally along with capital commitments. Unify rebranded in 2013. Mitel relaunched in 2014. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is expected to rebrand this year. 
Microsoft will drop one of the fastest growing enterprise brands (Lync) and expand/create a new brand — Skype for Business. Customer retention is becoming as important as new sales. Portfolios are expanding into uncharted (unbranded) areas.
3. Complexity: For decades, complexity sold. Anyone could build a simple solution, but advanced solutions required years of evolution. The three most powerful attributes of an enterprise communications system were: features, features, features. 
Somewhere we hit the complexity threshold. Customers are demanding simplicity. The small and medium are flocking to the cloud for outsourced solutions. Enterprise accounts are asking solution integrators to figure it all out. Forget offsite training, webinars and manuals — intuitive is all that matters.
4. Channels: Historically the key attributes of a successful channel partner included skills, inventory, ladders and trucks. But now that industry-standard boxes dominate the hardware business, trucks, ladders and inventory are liabilities. Even when a channel partner makes a big win, it still displaces many more partners due to centralization. The keys to channel success now include services such as project management, licensing expertise, training, vertical specialization, design and savviness on interoperability.
5. Disruption: Yes, somehow this new term became an old term. But disruption isn’t going away, it’s getting worse. The real competition isn’t coming from the usual suspects but rather the next big thing. The barriers to creating new companies or new communications solutions have never been lower. WebRTC is spawning all kinds of new ideas.
6. Security: A general sense of helplessness surrounds information security and integrity, with frightening examples of how weak the mechanisms are that protect our interconnected lives. Everyone wants, and is generally getting, your private information — be that medical records, location or shopping habits. Intruders lurk everywhere — smartphone apps, email, paper mail, websites and elsewhere. The same is true for businesses; many visible breaches took place in 2014, including those at Sony, Target, Home Depot and literally hundreds more. The problem is getting worse, not better. Accountability is easier to control and manage than the thieves, so expect slow and big changes.
The Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act of 2002 (Sarbanes-Oxley) was the direct result of financial mistrust and abuses at firms such as Enron and WorldCom. Over the next few years it’s quite likely that IT security will follow suit. I expect to see an increase in liability, even prison sentences for IT and corporate leaders, as well as vendors, for negligent behavior regarding information security.
7. Video: Video cameras are everywhere, but still on the periphery of enterprise communications. Video will rapidly expand beyond just conferences and into workflow. How and where we use video will radically expand — without headphones and with better lighting, improved graphics and alternatives to YouTube for recording.
8. Collaboration: Since the PBX transformed into UC, collaboration has been the coveted outcome. The initial problem was adapting in-person activities, such as meetings and water cooler chats, to accommodate distributed teams. Even if you personally work in an office, other team members likely work elsewhere. UC technologies such as voice over IP, IM/presence and video are certainly key enablers, but not the end-all. Effective collaboration requires new methods, practices and disciplines. We have more Inboxes — not only for our multiple email accounts but also for our social, SMS, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and IM accounts — than ever before, and this is placing enormous pressure on prioritization and communications. As a result, expect a major migration toward workflow-based communications (sometimes referred to as communications-enabled business processes) and improved solutions for conversation management.

This article excerpt, by Dave Michels, originally appeared here: http://ubm.io/1yWhOid