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What is Unified
Communications (UC)?

Definition

Unified Communications (UC) refers to a phone system that integrates (or “unifies”) multiple communication methods within a business.

For example, your business probably communicates in a number of ways: Phone calls, video conferencing, instant messaging, email, SMS, fax - the list goes on and on.

Well, a Unified Communication solution brings together all the ways your business communicates and lets them “talk” to each other so they can work together in one system - making your business much more efficient.

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Unified Communications - IP Phones Icon Think of Unified Communications as a business phone system on steroids.

Just like your smartphone is a single device that performs many functions, a UC solution combines your:

  • Business phone system
  • Voicemail
  • Instant message
  • Chat
  • Fax
  • Conference call bridge
  • Video conferencing
  • IVR
  • And more.

A Unified Communication solution can also integrate with:

  • Email
  • web applications
  • social media
  • Business tools like your customer relationship management (CRM) system.
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Many Methods of communication, All Under One Roof Image

With Unified Communications, all of your methods of communication are under one “roof” and they’re all sharing information, which makes your business smarter and more productive.

See how UC can improve customer experience and help with marketing.

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What are the benefits of UC?

Unified Communications offers a competitive advantage for businesses that need a single system to manage multiple tools and platforms.

Many businesses are choosing Unified Communication solutions over a traditional phone systems because it's a better way to future-proof their investment and keep pace with advances in technology.

More specifically, here are a few of the main benefits Unified Communications has to offer businesses:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Reduced costs
  • Increased revenue
  • Better customer service

Go here to learn more about each of the benefits of Unified Communications.

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“...greater employee productivity, reduced costs and a means to improve customer engagement.

What terms do you need to know when looking at UC solutions?

Before you go out and start looking for a new Unified Communications solution for your business, there are a few things to know in order to avoid confusion when you’re talking to tech vendors. Understanding these basic industry terms is essential for evaluating your options and determining what your business really needs.

So here are the top terms you’re likely to see when shopping for a new phone system:

PBX (Private Branch Exchange)

The term "PBX" stands for Private Branch Exchange. A PBX is simply a phone system for your business.

A PBX takes in all of the calls your office receives from the outside world and directs them to your various employees' desks. Therefore it eliminates the cost of leasing multiple phone lines from a telephone company.

A PBX also connects the calls from one employee to another within your office, so you don't need an outside telephone line for internal calls, which saves even more on your monthly phone bill.

 

IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

Interactive Voice Response, or IVR, might also be referred to as an "Automated Attendant,” and it’s one of the most popular phone system features today.

When you call a business and an automated attendant answers:

"Thank you for calling ABC Distributing. If you know your party's extension, you may dial it at any time, or press "0" to speak to an operator."

That's an IVR.

This phone system feature saves you money by handling repetitive tasks that would otherwise take the time and attention of a human. Just think about how much you could increase office productivity simply by eliminating the need to answer and transfer calls.

 

UC (Unified Communications)

As mentioned above, think of Unified Communications (or UC) as a phone system on steroids.

Just like your smartphone is a single device that performs many functions, a UC solution combines your:

  • Business phone system
  • IVR
  • Voicemail
  • Instant message
  • Chat
  • Fax
  • Conference call bridge
  • Video conferencing
  • And more...

It can also integrate with:

  • Email
  • web applications
  • social media
  • Business tools like your customer relationship management (CRM) system.

If you’d like to learn more about how Unified Communications and VoIP can help improve your business, take a look at our free guide How Can a VoIP Phone System Improve Your Business.

 

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the transmission of phone calls over the Internet, instead of using traditional telephone landlines.

VoIP (typically pronounced "voyp") is more affordable, especially for international and other long-distance calls. It also allows businesses to reduce their IT infrastructure by eliminating the need to maintain separate voice and data networks.

 

FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence)

Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) is a term for integrating your fixed desk phone with your mobile phone. Basically, it creates a seamless communication experience whether you are at your desk or on the road.

With FMC, you'll never miss an important call again.

Using one phone number, customers can ring you on your desk, mobile, or home phone based on how you set your call rules or preferences.

When you call a customer or vendor, your office phone number appears on their caller ID, regardless of the phone from which you are actually calling. This creates what is commonly referred to as a "unified" view of your business.

Plus, you can transfer a call from your desk to your mobile phone in mid-call, so you are no longer tied to one location.

All of this translates into a professional experience for your business when communicating with customers, and allows you to work where you want and how you want.

 

BYOD ((Bring Your Own Device)

The term BYOD is slang term that has been modified to one of the hottest trends, and biggest IT challenges, in business communications.

Let’s say your company's sales director is attached to his/her iPhone, but several of your engineers prefer using their Android phones - and they all want to use the devices for both personal and work use.

No problem! The days of issuing a dedicated corporate mobile device are over.

Modern UC solutions can securely operate across a variety of mobile platforms, tablets, and even home phones. This mobile flexibility enables your team to access business-critical applications from their preferred personal devices.

When you’re able to integrate with your team’s favorite gadgets, it helps work become more flexible and productivity goes up.

Plus, your employees will appreciate not having to carry around multiple cell phones or other devices, while you save on technology costs.

 

API (Application Programming Interface)

An Application Programming Interface (API) allows you to customize your phone system, and therefore may be one of the most important features to consider in your next phone system.

An API allows a software developer to extend the functionality of your phone system by integrating it with other third-party business applications, such as your preferred CRM software like Salesforce or SugarCRM.

Ultimately, this means you can increase employee productivity, improve customer service, and get more life out of your phone system investment.

 

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