The tools that fall under the unified communications umbrella, including video conferencing, Voice over Internet Protocol and instant messaging, tend to take up most of the headlines these days - and for good reason. Vendors and developers are coming up with far more impressive and advanced options every year, and companies have aggressively adopted the latest and greatest devices and software out there to optimize their collaboration systems.
However, the actual gadgets are from from being the only important components of UC, especially as they all rely on IT systems, unlike the traditional approaches to communication that would simply demand a landline. Networks, infrastructure and other aspects of IT will tend to make all the difference between a successful UC strategy and one that is overly at risk of disruptions, outages, inefficiencies and poor user experiences.
Additionally, technology itself is one matter, and the types of skills that are involved in deploying, integrating and managing the solutions are another - though still just as important. When discussing virtually any modern trend in communications or IT, the focus needs to be placed on managing the entirety of the frameworks and strategies comprehensively, leaving no stone unturned that could eventually spell disaster down the road.
This is one of the main reasons why small business owners will often be best served by using the solutions of a managed service provider that can help with the intangibles, working to alleviate strain otherwise caused by maintenance and general oversight. With the right MSP, the important backend-related requirements of enjoying optimal UC functionality will be less likely to fail due to mismanagement and poor monitoring.
Let's go through some of these components of UC that cannot be ignored.
NetworksSmall business owners have likely already begun to see just how challenging network management can be in today's workplace, as so many devices, apps and users are reliant upon these systems to get their jobs done. With respect to mobility, mobile VoIP, gadgets that comprise the Internet of Things, mission-critical apps and other assets will likely be reliant upon high network bandwidth to function properly.
Without enough power in the network, a wealth of strategies that fall under the IT and UC umbrellas will be at far greater risk of outages, which can quickly hemorrhage productivity and frustrate the average user. Small business owners must ensure that they are monitoring their networks regularly and accurately to gauge traffic, then scale up the systems as demand dictates over time.
PlatformsApps are certainly becoming more common in the UC arena, with mobile causing this shift toward software-centricity in collaboration channels. For example, unified messaging, VoIP and video conferencing apps are popularly integrated into desktop computers and mobile devices today, allowing employees to access the solutions from a wider range of endpoints and effectively modernizing the delivery of these services.
However, when the company's platforms are not ironed out, the apps will be less likely to function well, as these are the environments in which apps will tend to reside. Additionally, should the firm want to deploy customized apps, or go back in and adjust the existing software it currently uses, it will rely on platforms to do so, which is why this part of the infrastructure is growing in importance across the board.
Cloud-based platforms and hosted apps provided by MSPs can often help to streamline management internally, while also granting the comfort of knowing that these assets are being properly handled.
Training and awarenessSome companies will invest in an exciting new UC solution, implement it, and simply tell employees that they are free to use the service whenever they please, without any explanation of how it works. This is one of the more common ways in which companies go wrong with all types of UC and IT technology today, as user awareness will tend to dictate the return on investment a business can expect from new deployments.
As such, entrepreneurs should have tutorials and other training programs in place for staff members to digest before they begin to use each of the UC tools implemented, which will help the company hit the ground running. In that same vein, UC solutions are becoming a bit more commonly targeted by hackers and other threats, and one of the most promising ways to defend an organization from breach is to ensure that staff members understand their responsibilities.
Again, small business owners who do not feel entirely comfortable in their abilities to properly and comprehensively manage UC should consider leveraging the support of a qualified MSP, as this can reduce so many of the threats that lead to outages, damages and financial setbacks. Especially when scaling these projects up, an MSP that offers cloud-based options might be best.