Unified Communications is a relatively new term to describe the full integration of communications services including real time communications, mobility features, fixed mobile convergence and non-real time communications services. These are services we use everyday in both our personal and business lives. As the lines blur between business and personal, (especially as they do within remote working atmospheres) the need for a single locality of keeping track and linking these communications becomes necessary. If sent a faxes then asks for a response by email or if a document is uploaded and you receive a call asking about the document; you no longer must check multiple places for multiple forms of communication. The possibility of scenarios are endless . Having a unified communications system allows for a “one system to rule them all” world where digging for information across various platforms is a thing of the past.
Check this link to see ShoreTel's award fro Best Unified Communication Platform of 2016
This award winning unified communications platform combines the following attributes:
Real Time communications:
- Instant messaging (Chat)
- Presence information
- Voice/ IP Telephoney
- Mobility (Including extension mobility and single number reach)
- Audio, Web and Video Conferencing
- Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC)
- Desktop Sharing
- Data Sharing ( Includes Web connected electronic interactive whiteboards)
- Call Control
- Speech Recognition
Non- real time services
- Unified Messaging Solutions
In many cases this link is not just one single product but with many. However Comworx and ShoreTel have found a way to partner all these communications into one single product that will make communications within the business easier than ever before. ShoreTel Unified Communications allows for a single platform with a consistent user platform, appearance and user experience of multiple devices and media types.
The most important function of unified communications is to boost the productivity of its users. By unifying all of the users communications in a single place, time spent searching and relaying information from one place to another is ultimately lost. By decreasing the complexity for where communications are stored and found, time is saved and simplicity is gained. Information can even be integrated into several third party apps and off the shelf tools such as Thunderbird, Outlook, Lotus Notes, Dropbox, Salesforce.com among many others. There are also many ways to customize the unified communications platform to function within specialized applications for marketing, healthcare or other adaptable programs with a simple API.
Many companies are beginning to use the unified communications system to transmit voice as opposed to relying on traditional telephone network circuits. Avaya Unified Communications created circuit packets or cards for the PBX systems that allow their IP network and communications systems to interconnect. Nortel Unified Communications systems are also based on the same principal. Cisco Unified Communications however, created their own equipment that could be placed in routers to transport voice calls from site to site across a network. Any way it is done, these Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) networks are rapidly taking the place of traditional PBX circuits.
Voice over Internet Protocol is quickly becoming the way of new business due to its’ lower cost of initial startup as well as it’s low cost of upgrade. Because this system is a software, there is less need for hardware and upgrading becomes as easy as downloading and installing a new software. The customer site needs very little change and makes switching hardware a thing of the past. The removal of the legacy PBX or key system is now called the IP telephony solution and is becoming the trend in businesses small and large.
With this change in hardware and methodology of transmitting voice, the possibility of mobility has also lead to a revolution in communication. No longer are we forced to sit at our desks with a copper wire and speak though a grounded PBX system. Our handset can be anywhere we can dial into our network. The handset is any computer,tablet, devise or mobile smart phone. This makes the system ideal for working from home, remotely, or just stepping outside the office on a sales call. It matters not what device on has because any and all devices that can connect can transfer these communications. Without the need to be attached to a desk, the worker is free to get more accomplished from literally anywhere in the world.
As we progress further into the world of unified communications solutions we are realizing the full potential of these solutions. Open source communications allows for any and all devices to connect to these systems. The aim of these software is to allow developers to created a single solution for all communication devices, without discrimination to connect to a single platform that provides a unified look and feel as well as contact capabilities as any of the other devices.
COMPONENTS OF UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS
Flexibility of System-
Currently Comworx and ShoreTel have the only complete Unified Communication solution that delivers the same user experience regardless of deployment type. Businesses may have a Cloud telephone system, an Onsite telephone system (PBX telephone system) or a Hybrid of both systems and still use the same platform for unified communications. Regardless of the system ShoreTel can integrate all the following features into a single, scalable solution.
THREE DEPLOYMENT OPTIONS:
ShoreTel Connect is unique. One common platform and user experience that ShoreTel delivers as a service or as a product that the customer can choose to deploy in one of three ways:
ShoreTel Connect ONSITE
ShoreTel Connect ONSITE™ is an end-to-end UC solution that customers own, maintain and control. It includes IP PBX telephony services, ShoreTel desk phones, the ShoreTel Connect client app, mobility application, a collaboration suite, softphone functionality, browser-based administration portal, and more.
ShoreTel Connect CLOUD
ShoreTel Connect CLOUD™ is a fully hosted and managed end-to-end UCaaS solution. The platform includes IP PBX telephony services, ShoreTel desk phones, the ShoreTel Connect client app, mobility application, a collaboration suite, softphone functionality, browser-based administration portal, and more.
ShoreTel Connect HYBRID
ShoreTel Connect HYBRID™ enables onsite customers to have applications delivered via the cloud. Hybrid apps such as ShoreTel Fax and ShoreTel Scribe (voicemail transcription) are available now.
Deploying a unified communications system is not always as simple as installing it may be. Employees create habits based on past and current systems. These usually take some time to adapt under most circumstances. The Comworx and ShoreTel system, however, delivers a more natural way to integrate the current systems. The connect Client is simple in design and delivers intuitive, frictionless communications. The desktop clients allows for simplified call handling with an easy to navigate interface.
ShoretTel Connect- This is ShoreTel's user interface. This is the most important aspect of increased efficiency for users. ShoreTel connect saves time by allowing for all types of communication in one single client application. With one click, users can take an Instant message (IM) to a call, and a call to an online meeting or to collaborate on a desktop by viewing someone elses' screen. There is no need for Plug-ins, multiple applications or passwords; the browser based application is an all-in0-one communcation experience. The new capabilities of ShoreTel Connect include:
- Personalized call handling and call routing for both office and mobile devices
- Advanced collaboration tools including instant messaging, audio and web conferencing, point-to-point video and desktop sharing
- Seamless feature integration and collaboration apps for smartphone, tablet and wearable devices
- Richly featured integrations with CRM systems including Salesforce®, Zendesk®, Microsoft Dynamics® CRM, Desk.comTM and NetSuite®.
- Many specialized apps like voicemail to text, emergency notification, integrated call recording, and enhanced paging.
Ease of Startup:
The system is easy to deploy and manage beginning with a plug and play ease.
The dial tone and switches with ShoreTel is 99.99% reliable meaning downtime is less than .001 %. With that said, if at any point one individual piece of the system fails or is offline, only that individual or small subset of users will be affected. Any affected users can be moved away from the faulty component to an operational one with little or no implace to the rest of the system.
When designing the system ShoreTel Connect ensured its platform would be build end-to-end secure. Connect uses a remote transport protocol (SRTP) that is encrypted with a 128-bit AES voice trafficking and signaling. This means that all communications are secure and encrypted. All components are encrypted incluing, voice, media and internet. Even voice mail, contact center and collaboration are 128bit encrypted.
Automatic Call Distribution – ACD
Programmable call routing, call queues and ring groups that can be directed to designated departments or call centers. These can even route to personal devices or to individual account managers based on 3rd part software credentials or other routing techniques.
Call Accounting Software (Call Reporting)- Knowing when your employees are busiest can help for staffing and also help to support languages or departments in ways that we wouldn’t have been able to image years ago. Managers can see when call volume is the heaviest, wait times are significantly longer or when staff needs to be reduced based on the number of incoming calls. This can also help with determining the best length of call times and employees that are most effectively using their time. In many ways, call reporting can be used to track employees as well as customers.
Bring your own device- (BYOD)
Allows employees to use their own mobile device or tablet to use. This reduces the up front cost of equipment while also saving on training time for employees who already know how to work their own devices. Over 35% of employees currently use their own device for work. This is only a fraction of the 89% of employees that use their personal device for work emails. A unified communications system allows employees to access all f the information at their fingertips from their own devices.
BENEFITS OF UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS
Unified Communications simplifies communications by allowing for less programs, less time spent searching for messages and with one simple to manage user interface a substancial amount of time can be saved. NO longer do we have to open up several programs to gather email, texts, phone messages, and chats. Knowing where everything can be found and harboring all these communications in one place is invaluable to time and organization.
It is increasingly important for your team to access their information outside of the four walls of the company. Whether it be a sales person that attends an outside meeting or the ever-increasing remote workforce that may have never stepped foot in the corporate office; the ability to access the same phone system features as those in office is imperative to staying connected. The flexibility of unified communications in managing and monitoring additional workers ensures productivity across any given distance or time. Important aspects of mobility are:
- Mobile applications
- Fixed mobile convergence with a find/follow me capability
- Access to company directories
- Access to company files with security
- The ability to make calls from your device as if it were an office extension
- The ability to transfer and/or record calls as if you were on your office extension.
As mentioned earlier, due to increased efficiency and productivity another benefit results. Customer service dramatically increases from productivity but also from the many technological features that help staff better do their jobs. Staff knows more about the incoming call and calls are appropriately directed to the correct staff member from the initial call. There are less missed calls due to acll routing and increased visibility with the call reporting. Call reporting also makes it much easier to staff for phone calls during peak/busy hours and curtail staff during off hours. Automatic call disctibution all allows the system to prioritize callers by specific qualities of the customers. If the system receives as call recognized as a priority customer Based on previous input, the system will ensure it is routed to the proper staff member. Using a drag and drop interface, calls can be easily passed from one person to another all while chatting and passing information and assigning instructions about the call.
The ShoreTel Connect Phone unified communications systems seamlessly integrates with most any Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) from salesforce to SugarCRM, calls can be tracked, monitored and recorded. These CRMs can also determine how the calls are routed throughout the queue.
Beyond the current benefits, ShoreTel Connect also has the ability to scale with the growth of business. Adding additional users is incredibly simple. Along with adding users, moving the system is as easy as unplugging and repluging in the system. It can be used anywhere and moved anywhere.
With all the time users are saving with communications, productivity makes an upturn.
Recently many studies have emerged showing the need for flexibility in the workplace. The need for work-life balance and the need of employees to work from home, mobility of office communications gives employees the flexibility they have long desired.
With a software based system, capital expenses are drastically reduced. Upgrades are mere software upgrades so no additional equipment will need to be purchased. By essentially “bundling” all of your communications needs you will see a true savings not having to spend additional set up fees and overhead for all the multiple vendors.
To place a hard dollar amount to the reduced costs, one must first add up the total current costs of the multiple applications being used, including subscription and non-subscription services. Phone services alone have PBX systems, end point hardware, phone connection, local access (numbers) and long distance charges. If you have many locations, this cost multiples. Now when you take the time and resources to manage all of these vendors and locations the costs can exponentially rise. Another benefit of the ShoretTel unifed communications and voip technology is called pooled concurrent call paths. To avoid wasting resources on a number for every user instead allowing the customer to only require as many numbers as may be used at once. Through SIP Trunking calls are moved to open lines and allow minimizing the amount of lines in use at any time. This doesn’t mean you have to skimp on phone numbers; every user still has their own number. Pooled Concurrent Call paths shares call capacity and saves on resources to ensure that you don’t spend excess money n lines and resources you don’t need across locations and users.
Additionally companies see the following benefits:
- Long Term ROI from increased productivity
- Admin Staffing savings from auto attendant and Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
- IT staffing savings from management of the technology and maintenance.
- Savings on long distance and extra data services
- Eliminating need for travel with video and voice conferencing
The unified communications systems have evolutionized the way busineeses communicate. Communication is now more efficient, easier and at a lower cost than ever before. These communication systems take virtually no time to set up and little if any cost to maintain. When using ShoreTel Connect and Software as aservice all the maintiance, service and support is done by our professionals leaving you absolutely nothing to worry about in-house.
Click here to see a unified communications solutions compairison.