Once largely restricted to large enterprises, Unified Communications has evolved to provide powerful and affordable business communication capabilities to small businesses.
Typically, when people use the term Unified Communications, they are referring a set of six specific capabilities.
Various phone devices (desktop phone, soft-phone, mobile phone, remote desktop phone) are available so you can communicate anywhere, anytime.
It is possible to define a single number where you can be reached. When this number is dialed, all specified devices will ring - either simultaneously or via the sequence you choose. You can even specify rules as to how calls should be handled based on the time of day, caller ID or your calendar.
You do not have to remember phone numbers of people you are calling. Four-digit dialing has become zero-digit dialing – calls can be initiated by selecting party’s name on the computer. You can even use your computer to manage calls in progress – transfer, conference or hang up.
Presence allows you to share your availability and see the availability of others. Usually, availability will be shown next to your contacts list. For example, if you are on the phone, your status will automatically change to “on the phone”. Unified Communications can integrate your status with a calendar, such as Microsoft Outlook, so your status will automatically change to “in a meeting” if there is a scheduled meeting on your calendar.
3. Instant messaging.
Integrated chat provides a quick way to communicate with team members, either individually or through a group chat.
Collaboration allows two or more individuals to interact using audio, video and online/Web sharing as if everyone was in the same room. For example, small businesses can discuss deals with their suppliers or customers using audio conferencing while sharing a proposal document or a Power Point presentation in real time using Web sharing capability.
Businesses of all sizes typically use conferencing to reduce travel costs, as well as encourage greater collaboration between employees, customers and partners who may be at different physical locations.
5. Unified messaging.
Through this feature, all your emails, faxes, voicemails come to one location, such as your Microsoft Outlook email.
6. Communication-enabled business processes.
Unified Communications platforms are moving toward tighter integration with business applications for higher productivity and superior customer service. For example, ShoreTel’s call control is integrated with popular customer relationship and sales force automation applications, such as Salesforce.com, allowing you to dial contacts, make notes, transfer calls, conference in other parties, and automatically log calls to clients – all from your integrated salesforce.com Web page.
Businesses who selected ShoreTel as their Unified Communications platform use the capabilities described above to gain a competitive edge, increase employee productivity, improve customer service and reduce operational expenses.