What is Unified Communications?

November 13th, 2018 by

“Unified communications” (UC) brings together disparate business communication applications – voice, chat, email, text messaging, fax, audio and video conferencing, collaboration tools, presence and more—across desktop and mobile devices to simplify and streamline user interactions. Common reasons businesses adopt UC include:

  • Improving employee productivity
  • Enhancing collaboration among geographically dispersed teams
  • Improving the customer experience
  • Minimizing downtime
  • Reducing capital and operational expenses

Diverse technologies give rise to the need for unified communications

When it comes down to it, the “U” in UC applies to applications and devices. Technology innovation, designed to improve workers’ lives and add convenience, can have the unintended consequence of increasing business environment complexity. This increase in dissimilar services and devices can create communication disconnects and productivity gaps.

Diverse Applications. Different communications methods are ideal for different situations. Real-time services (i.e. synchronous), such as video/audio/web conferencing, chat and, of course, traditional telephony enable live interaction. Store‑and‑forward services (i.e. asynchronous), such as email, voicemail, workflow management and a vast suite of offline collaboration tools are better suited for tasks that require individual contributions at convenient times.

Multiple Devices. The devices that access these services have also grown in diversity. Traditional desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones with inconsistent access to applications and services can disrupt productivity and decelerate business.

Unified Communications: voice, messaging, conferencing, presence, fax, email mobility, contact center

Unified communications corrects these issues by interconnecting both real-time and store-and-forward communications services and making them available on all communications devices. This enables, for example, call or contact center agents to have instant access to all of a customer’s previous call recordings, emails, and voicemails when that customer calls for support, and for mobile workers to enjoy the same productivity outside of the office whether using desktop equipment, smartphones, laptops, or tablets.

How unified communications works

Unified communications solutions typically include a back-end system that integrates communications services along with the client software in access devices. This enables the use of all media from a single point of access, including the ability to move from one medium to another within a communications session – for example, to switch instantly from chat to a live phone interaction. While early UC solutions often required all services to be from the same vendor, the advent of open APIs and shared protocols enables the integration of leading third-party services.

Unified communications solutions can be hosted on premises or in a public or private cloud (“Unified Communications as a Service,” or UCaaS). UCaaS is often favored for its ability to reduce overall costs while ensuring maximum uptime and availability.

Technology to support the increasingly mobile workforce

IDC estimates that by 2020, mobile workers will account for nearly three-quarters (72.3 percent) of the U.S. workforce. That transformation would not be possible without the ready availability of mobile computing devices and a broad array of communications services. Unified communications ensures that the mobile majority, and the organizations they work for, are not placed at a communications disadvantage.

By 2020, mobile workers will account for nearly three-quarter (72.3%) of the U.S. workforce

Businesses of all sizes adopt unified communications to enable employees to connect with customers and coworkers from anywhere, on any device, eliminating the need to say, “I’ll get back to you once I’m in the office.”

Giving employees full access to the applications and services they need for job performance from any device and location – including when on-site with a customer, traveling, or working remotely – enhances business continuity and avoids costly downtime. When mobile employees communicate with customers, UC can greatly bolster customer satisfaction by enabling more complete and immediate issue resolution.

Unified communications and the enterprise

Businesses of all sizes are adopting UC. Larger enterprises in particular, deal with the challenge of streamlining collaboration among employees at multiple locations or home offices. This can include, for example, viewing coworker availability with real-time presence and click-to-call; chatting live in real time using company-wide messaging/chat; and hosting interactive video meetings with any number of employees – all from the device the employee happens to be using at the moment.

Enterprise UC solutions are also often designed to meet the unique needs of vertical markets. Healthcare enterprises benefit from unified communications that improves care coordination among clinical team members and their patients, closing care gaps that can otherwise compromise care while compiling a more complete patient history. National retailers can deliver a more satisfying experience for all customers, regardless of the employee with whom they connect and whether they prefer to communicate by phone, email, chat, or text message.

To learn more about the many business benefits of unified communications, visit the Windstream Enterprise UCaaS page.

The Critical Role of Security in Unified Communications

October 3rd, 2018 by

Integrating voice, chat, video/audio conferencing, faxing, and email, unified communications (UC) delivers a wealth of advantages in productivity and collaboration. These gains however, also come with security challenges and industry standards that must be met for a thoroughly sufficient UC implementation.

When it comes to security and compliance requirements for unified communications, deploying layered-defense counter measures are the best approach to ensuring proper protection. Here are some key considerations to look for from your unified communications solution and your provider.

Unified communications security

Industry-specific considerations

When considering any potential unified communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider, it’s important to explore capabilities regarding all applicable privacy regulations – and look for a high-level of compliance assistance. For example, healthcare providers should seek a UCaaS provider that will sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA), which signifies an active role in ensuring your own compliance with HIPAA regulations.

Overall security considerations

Beyond the above industry considerations, every enterprise seeking to move to UCaaS should ensure four critical security considerations are fully covered:

  • Database security. Will your information be stored in secure servers? Where are they located? Are they backed up in equally secure locations/environments?
  • Access security. Do you leverage carrier-grade firewalls? What type of access controls do you leverage for users, applications and service accounts? Are you leveraging strong authentication capabilities and performing access reviews periodically? Stringent authentication and authorization guidelines are essential to protecting sensitive information and aligning to regulatory standards.
  • Communication security. Are your calls, messages, and meetings going to be encrypted? That’s an absolute requirement for thoroughly protecting information while in transit. Will call recordings and messages be encrypted? Are there regulatory requirements effecting your company that dictate a standard of care and protection?
  • Continual upgrades. One of the key benefits of any cloud-based solution is the ability for the service provider to continually update software versions and security patches. What does the UCaaS provider do to ensure that the UC environment is always optimally secure?

Pairing UCaaS security with network security

For an ideally secure UCaaS implementation, look for a provider that can pair a robust UC solution with a reliable and secure data connection and/or SD-WAN overlay. This will bolster performance by transmitting encrypted calls, messages, and meetings over a QoS-enabled and SLA-backed design, so that critical voice calls aren’t competing for bandwidth against general Internet traffic. This will also allow you to modify firewall and security policies by location for maximum control of critical network and UC functions.

In short: A satisfying UCaaS implementation requires much more than combining all forms of communication and collaboration. It requires making sure that they are securely designed, operated and unified.

CXaaS: Delivering on the promise of customer experience

August 6th, 2018 by

Whether asking about a suspicious charge, upgrading a subscription, or getting help, we’ve all been in IVR purgatory. We diligently provide the needed information, navigate the prompts and test our patience on hold, only to be disconnected before our problem is solved, or are asked to repeat the exact same information once we talk to an agent. While botched online experiences can be just as frustrating. When these negative experiences happen, the company we’re trusting for good service seems to be sending us a clear signal they don’t care about our business– and chances are, they likely won’t keep it for long. Fortunately, a great customer experience (CX) has the opposite effect. Studies show CX is a key decision factor when making a purchase.

In many cases it is CX, not a product feature, that will be the key differentiator in a customer’s decision to work with, or purchase from a business, as determined by this survey by The Harris Poll.

Great products or customer service, what matters most?

It stands to reason that CX is increasingly becoming a key driver in business transformation and growth. After all, customer satisfaction benefits most companies’ business objectives: growing revenue, retaining customers, attracting new ones, improving margins, and reducing churn.

It is hard to grow revenue but it is even more difficult when hard-won customers leave due to a poor customer experience. Not only do you need to sell more, but the cost to acquire a new customer can be 5x greater than retaining an existing customer. Because of this, companies onboarding new customers need to proactively deliver a positive CX at every touch point to increase satisfaction and ideally, loyalty.

Delivering a great customer experience

Great CX is what customers really want (and really pay for)

Better CX used to mean offering quality products and a smile. Today, customers are seeking to engage with companies in new ways, adding some complexity to the CX equation – and raising the stakes. Understanding your customer and having a holistic view of the customer journey is critical to delivering an outstanding CX.

You can gain more insight into customer expectations and the CX in this whitepaper.

Making SMS Texts Part of Your Customer Experience and Unified Communications Strategy

May 24th, 2018 by

It’s a stressful time of day. You’re on the way home and, “ping!,” your family texts you to ask  ‘what’s for dinner?’ In a moment of panic, you remember there’s nothing in the house to eat, and your mind races for a solution. Then all of a sudden, you hear another ping. The sound that can be one of the most distracting aspects of digital life is suddenly the most ingenious and welcoming intrusion of the day. It’s an SMS from your favorite pizza chain with a last-minute evening special. Problem solved! All thanks to a quick series of seemingly simple or even cryptic messages.

What’s amazing about SMS text messaging is that, while it’s seemingly so simple and has been around longer than many of its most avid users, it’s one of the fastest growing (6B messages sent every day in the U.S. alone) and most effective ways to connect with customers in today’s rapidly transforming mobile/digital business environment.

Even more interesting is that when it comes to unified communications solutions for business, text isn’t always part of the offering. That’s a shame since its popularity makes it an obvious choice for every kind of business to be able to take advantage of. If you are in the process of evaluating cloud-based unified communications/UCaaS for your organization, it is something to look for and ask providers about.

I’ll mention that text messaging is now part of our flagship OfficeSuite UC solution, accessible via PC or mobile users using our MyOfficeSuite app.  If you’re not using SMS text messaging as part of your multi-channel marketing and support/service strategy, I’d encourage you to consider these customer experience enhancing advantages: 

UC Text CX Advantage 1: SMS is direct and immediate

People don’t go anywhere today without their phones. They check them first thing in the morning, and they’re with us 24/7. Texts are usually delivered in seconds so they’re great to convey, ask or respond to time-sensitive questions/information. By integrating text functionality into a seamless unified communications package, texts are sent/received from your employees’ OfficeSuite business phone number, which empowers them to respond at any time, anywhere, on any device. Enabling the kind of immediacy that can set your people and your company apart.

UC Text CX Advantage 2: SMS commands attention

Every day we’re bombarded by all forms of media/communications from people trying to get our attention. SMS has a distinct advantage because it recognizes and respects people’s shrinking attention spans. The familiar SMS ping is heard/felt. Thanks to built-in character limits, an SMS can be replied to and read in seconds (on average within 3 minutes, and with an enviable 98% open rate vs. 20% for email). When you give your people the ability to reply like that, you send your customers an even more immediate message about how much you care and value their business. That’s the kind of customer experience enhancing technology that can help set any business apart.

UC Text CX Advantage 3: SMS shows customers you care ☺

Again, because of their brevity and simplicity, texts don’t bog the recipient down with lots of links or images, leaving the call-to-action clear and concise. So, once an issue is resolved, a customer care rep can text the customer with any relevant information discussed on a call, such as call summaries or confirmation number. It’s also a great way to get feedback from customers. Research shows about a third will respond to a survey via smartphone which makes it a quick and efficient way to understand what customers like and don’t like.

Integrate SMS text into your UC/customer experience strategy today

The advantages of integrating SMS into your office/business communications arsenal are obvious and numerous. As more organizations move UC to the cloud, text functionality is also easy to take advantage of. The addition of SMS is one of many things that makes OfficeSuite UC so unique and able to support a customer service/support/experience advantage.  For any organization that seeks to create an even stronger bond with customers, and empower its people to be responsive and available in an on-demand world, finding out more about adding text to your CX is as easy as hitting send on an SMS.

Unified Communications Solidifies its Stake in Digital Transformation

March 28th, 2018 by

Digital transformation initiatives are a top priority for many organizations going into 2018. From globally recognized brands, to mid-market and small organizations, the momentum is spreading across every industry, with CIO’s leading the charge.

As technology leaders continue to seek out solutions to improve customer engagement, productivity and maintain a competitive edge, unified communications are becoming a vital step in the path to transformation.

And, here is why.

The User Experience is the Be-All and End-All

There’s never been a greater emphasis on the user experience than now.  The success of digital transformation initiatives is contingent upon implementing services that not only improve workflows, but are widely used and accepted by the organization’s user base. A large motivation for upgrading technology is to eliminate the need for numerous applications and time wasted accessing mission-critical services.  With user expectations higher than ever, only the most intuitively designed interfaces providing quick and easy access to the tools and information users need, how and when they prefer it, will make the cut. The single pane of glass concept that is achieved when unifying voice, messaging, conferencing, and other key communications services and applications into a single platform is a prime example of a solution where the user experience directly aligns with the work habits of its users, making it a favorable and well-received step for CIOs in their digital transformation journey. 

Digital Collaboration is King 

Consumer adoption and reliance on new technologies are driving new expectations in the workplace. Digital transformation is completely changing the way consumers interact and in turn, how businesses communicate. As a result, organizations are moving away from premises-based deployments to systems that can better support the type of digital communications preferred by their users.  Messaging has become central to the modern workplace culture, offering a new level of sophistication and functionality to AOL’s instant messaging concept of the 90’s. Cloud-based unified communications systems are providing businesses with a messaging-centric approach to real-time communications and collaboration, boasting an array of attractive messaging types, including web chat, voice and video text, and even chatbots, all within popular application integrations. With messaging blended into advanced telephony features that support mobile, desktop and multi-location needs, unified communications systems are enabling the natural, unrestricted interactions that users are accustomed to outside of the office, boosting productivity and paving the way for seamless digital collaboration.

Digital workplaces require employees to be connected to one another and the information they need instantly. As IT leaders continue to navigate through the unchartered waters of digital transformation, employee engagement will be a critical measure to their success.  With the growing need and adoption for tools and technologies that empower collaborative interactions and optimize business processes, unified communications will be a key player in digital transformation strategies and successes to come.

Your Next Phone System Can – and Must – Leave Your Current System’s Limitations in the Dust

February 20th, 2018 by

One of cloud computing’s main advantages is that it enables a higher level of flexibility in applications. This is especially valuable in phone systems, which have traditionally been facilities-centric – inherently incapable of satisfying today’s more fluid workforce that needs anytime/anywhere communications.

Phone systems today have evolved to encompass much more than traditional features and capabilities by unifying key communications services that a business relies on, such as calling, faxing, video conferencing, and instant messaging as well as mobile and desktop integrations with third party applications like CRM databases all within a single system. While a greater level of flexibility is achieved now that phone systems are part of more sophisticated unified communications systems, the degree of flexibility they provide still varies greatly.

Some systems are limited in the capabilities they offer because of the amount of data that is actually stored in the cloud. Others simply reflect a perpetuation of the facilities-centric paradigm. Because of these differences, getting maximum value from a phone system today requires a full-on leverage of new possibilities. Look for the following capabilities in your next phone system to make sure you and your employees will be happy that you upgraded.

Make new-employee onboarding a snap

Traditional phone systems are notoriously complicated and time-consuming to add new extensions, phones and end user software, and extremely difficult to centralize the system across multiple locations.  It no longer has to be that way.

Look for a system that can onboard a new employee in seconds – including assigning devices, permissions, and key profiles at any location – all through an intuitive online portal that helps you manage your system. The time saved will skyrocket when your company spins up a new office location or buys another company; what used to take days will now be finished in hours if the system supports bulk user uploads and profile assignments.

Make it equally easy for employees to work in different offices or even switch office locations

Just as it’s advantageous to easily onboard new employees, it’s important that the equipment can be shared and that the system makes it simple for existing employees to move between locations with no downtime – and certainly without having to involve IT.

If the system stores all user settings 100 percent in the cloud, making them available instantly at login, users should be able to utilize any phone or workspace in any location and gain access to their personalized phone services and settings such as voicemail, contact lists and speed dials, just as easily as they access data services when moving to a new office.

Say goodbye to system-defined feature keys and STAR codes

Office workers and even employees working with customers for years have fumbled with feature-key functions and STAR codes that have to be memorized – causing many to stick with just basic phone functions. Keys also have often been limited to use as speed dials and lines, with any change requiring a phone reboot.

For a phone system that users will really use, look for simple access to a rich set of desktop phone features, including the ability to program and activate custom keys from anywhere. When users can quickly enable functions such as do not disturb, forward to voicemail, and forward to coworker on-the-fly, they are far more likely to make the most of these productivity enhancers. For still more productivity gains, look for a system that offers one-touch keys, click-to-call, presence, chat, meetings, and integrations.

Integration with business application and mobility

Legacy systems are hardware based which isolates voice communications from other business applications and only allows forwarding calls to mobile devices.

In today’s online environment applications like Skype for Business, Google and CRM systems are critical to creating a good customer experience.  A system that integrates seamlessly with these applications to enable click to call, directory integration and single sign-on are quickly becoming productivity boosters.  For users that work remotely or travel often, mobile applications that keep them connected with their business phone, chat and company directories are also a huge benefit.

Digital convenience should extend to service and support as well

In the traditional service model for phone systems, getting a trouble ticket and checking ticket status meant calling the manufacturer’s account rep. That’s a pretty outdated concept of service.

For service and support convenience, the system should offer a consolidated, online means for accessing all customer support options, from online bill-pay and submitting trouble tickets to adding phones/softphones, locations, features, mobile apps, connectors, fax users and groups. If the system also offers online chat and a knowledgebase of answers from experts and peers, that 24/7 convenience can mean super-fast problem resolution regardless of the time of day or night – all from your online portal.

Focus on business analysis – no data assembly required

Phone systems generate a wealth of business data, yet manually organizing it often requires more time than actual analysis. With the right system, you’ll no longer have to download raw data for pre-analysis organization.

Look for a phone system that offers full transparency, with both built-in and user-defined reports plus graphical views that provide instant analysis. Extra bonus: Get reports that can be exported directly to your existing in-house reporting tools, such as Salesforce.

Do you or your users actually like your old phone system?

Thanks to cloud computing – and system innovations in general – today’s truly advanced phone systems offer a huge leap over yesterday’s. With a little homework and consideration of key factors, you’ll be ready to partner with a truly advanced solution that performs as your enterprise really needs it to.

Next Week’s Must-See: A Whole New Level of Contact Center Efficiency and Economy

January 23rd, 2018 by

The two primary drivers for digital transformation are the twin quests for efficiency and economy, pursued by both end customers and the businesses that serve them.

Purchasers save a tremendous amount of time and money shopping online with their PCs, tablets and smartphones. The gains and savings they realize over traditional shopping continue to fuel steady increases in digital purchasing.

Businesses respond to this trend with digital conveniences that accommodate their customers’ needs, while simultaneously enabling them to serve those customers more efficiently and economically. Those gains fuel businesses’ ongoing enthusiasm for digital transformation.

Digital Transformation is a win-win for all, unless of course…

Because these gains overlap, digital transformation is a clear win-win for both customers and businesses – unless, that is, the customer experience with the contact center takes a step backwards in the process. Responsibility for avoiding that possibility rests in large part with CCaaS toolsets. One of the leading solutions is Avaya’s Oceana, which recently earned 4.6 out of 5 stars in a UC Today review that gave it a full 5 stars for user experience.

Oceana will of course be front and center at Avaya ENGAGE – as will Windstream’s Oceana implementation, which provides the smoothest Oceana migration available.

The Oceana customer contact center advantage

Avaya Oceana delivers the experience customers expect across all communication channels. Built on the Avaya Breeze platform, this multimedia, multitouch contact center solution makes it simple for end customers to use whichever channel they want for interaction. It also unifies the customer experience across all digital channels and devices, saving time for both customers and agents – and making both happier in the process.

Context-aware, proactive, personalized and analytical, Oceana enables a complete 360° view of the customer journey across all touch points and interactions.

The Windstream Enterprise/Oceana implementation advantage

Windstream – selected by Avaya as its 2016 “Cloud Partner of the Year” – will unveil our latest Avaya Oceana implementation at this year’s ENGAGE.

Be sure to visit us at ENGAGE booth #728 to learn about the many benefits of hosting Oceana in the cloud, including the replacement of capital-intensive investments with an economical and scalable CCaaS OPEX solution that helps you keep pace with technology improvements without excessive accompanying CAPEX costs.

As an added bonus, Windstream Oceana experts will offer personal advice on making the migration super-smooth – information we’ll also share in our breakout session on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 10:45am, “Delivering a best-in-class customer experience and the underlying network required to deliver it.”

Avaya ENGAGE is nearly here!

Windstream’s Avaya Oceana implementation is as big a deal for us as we believe it will be for our customers – and their customers, as well. With just days to go until the conference, it’s time to cement your plans to see us at the show. We promise a very rewarding time for all.

Driving a Best-in-Class UCaaS/CCaaS Customer Experience with Avaya

December 19th, 2017 by

UCaaS is one of the most transformational cloud based enterprise applications companies can adopt and see a rapid return on investment. The path to making that move can vary widely according to their size/user base, geographic dispersion, and of course the legacy technology they currently rely on. For this reason, Windstream offers a number of different UCaaS options – and CCaaS/Contact Center as a Service options, too – to make sure we can provide every customer with a solution that we can tailor to their unique current and future needs.

Avaya EnagageWindstream has had a long relationship with Avaya, which has enabled us to offer our customers a true best-in-class experience, at both the IT and end user level. A topic we’ll be talking about next month at the upcoming Avaya ENGAGE event, in New Orleans, Jan. 28-31, 2018. Windstream’s sponsorship for the event reflects the shared goals of Avaya, the International Avaya User Group (IAUG) and Windstream to advance digital transformation and seize the exceptional customer experience opportunities that lie ahead.

Avaya’s Cloud Partner of the Year

How closely aligned are Avaya/IAUG and Windstream? At last year’s ENGAGE, Avaya named Windstream its “Cloud Partner of the Year,” a title we were honored to receive. Because it says a lot about our mutual commitment to driving transformation for customers in the cloud based integrated communications and collaboration space, In their announcement of the award, Avaya wrote:

As an Avaya Partner, Windstream has been a pioneer in the UC/CC-as-a-service market, with its first Powered-by-Avaya xCaaS (Aura) solution established in 2013. The company has been integral in migrating customers to Windstream/Avaya Cloud solutions and has a strong reputation for accelerating delivery of contact center solutions to meet customers’ fast-paced and rapidly changing business needs.

Moving into 2018, the benefits to our customers of our Avaya connection keep getting better. Windstream is currently putting the finishing touches on implementing Avaya’s Breeze and Oceana platforms which will offer our customers new functionality to further advance the way they do business, and enable them to deliver an even more engaging CX.

A smooth UCaaS/CCaaS migration is key

Hosting Avaya in the cloud offers a wealth of must-have benefits – including replacing capital-intensive investments with a cost-effective, flexible and scalable “pay-as-you-grow” OPEX solution. It also enables us to provide an “always on” Avaya environment which is critical during any type of cloud transformation initiative.

ENGAGE attendees looking to migrate their current premises-based systems to the cloud should plan on attending our breakout session, “Delivering a best-in-class customer experience and the underlying network required to deliver it.”

Connect with us at Engage

Windstream’s Avaya experts will also be on-deck at Engage booth #728 for one-on-one “Talk to the SMEs” discussions about making sure migration goes as smoothly as it should and can.

As ENGAGE draws nearer, we’ll share more info regarding our activities there. There’s a lot that you won’t want to miss. See you there!

Goodbye Conference Room, Hello UCaaS with Anytime/Anywhere Communications in the Cloud

September 27th, 2017 by

Yesterday’s most popular workplace collaboration spot was the conference room down the hall. In most cases, it was supported by a PBX voice/phone system that might have lived in a closet nearby. Those days, like those of many other aging, legacy network technologies, are coming to a close. Today, collaboration occurs anywhere and everywhere, while the old conference room down the hall gathers dust, because the best place to connect and share ideas is now the cloud. And the way to get there is Unified Communications as a Service. The UCaaS era is here.

Driven by advanced technologies and the growing preference by employees to work remotely, today’s mobility enabled office demands a variety of essential tools to support instantaneous collaboration. Otherwise, workers are frustrated, productivity suffers and the advantages of always-on communications are lost. With that as a backdrop, it’s no surprise UCaaS sales have begun to dominate the space.

Changes driving collaboration to the cloud

The rapid move to cloud-based UC is driven by a number of independent but interrelated factors – all relating to the emerging digital workplace – that legacy on-premises PBX office voice communications systems simply were not designed to address, including:

  • Changes in the workplace – Workers are not just more mobile than ever, they are also more likely to work remotely. That means they need access anytime, anywhere, from any device. UCaaS answers that need.
  • Changes in the workforce – It’s not just where we work that is changing; it is who is at work that is changing, too. Tech savvy millennials now make up the largest segment of the workforce. They want great technology that adapts to their needs. Once again, UCaaS answers the call.
  • Advances in technology – Legacy voice networks with on-premises PBX and video conferencing systems are not only expensive, but they can also be difficult to operate. UCaaS, on the other hand, puts advanced capabilities at your fingertips and makes them easy to learn, use and manage.
  • Moving from CAPEX to OPEX – One of the most transformational aspects of the XaaS movement is it shifts IT spend from capital to operational expense, making the addition of capabilities like UCaaS easy and affordable.

And these factors are really just the start. As in other facets of IT, the race to move UC to the cloud is in full swing, with even the most risk averse organizations opening doors to the benefits of the cloud.

Legacy systems simply weren’t designed to support the concept of the mobile first office. Integration, efficiency, flexibility and usability are precicely where legacy systems fall short, and where UCaaS excels.

A platform for mobility and so much more

Despite their decades long reputation for reliability, legacy office communications systems are narrow in terms of functionality, difficult to use and extremely inflexible. Cloud-based unified communications solutions free businesses from these constraints, delivering multiple tangible benefits that set users free. In addition to broad support for business mobility, these include:

  • Increased productivity – UCaaS solutions quickly unite people with easy to use integrated collaboration and communication tools that speed workflow, efficiency, and individual and organizational productivity.
  • A platform for innovation and agility – A cloud-based environment enables people to connect across locations, platforms, and devices to share knowledge, improve decision making and get things done.
  • Affordable cost – A pay as you go service based subscription model shifts inflexible CAPEX costs to a predictable, affordable, manageable OPEX model. Putting more spending and computing power within reach.

Choosing a provider to match your needs

As with any other cloud-based enterprise app, the quality, reliability and usability of UCaaS products can vary widely. To make sure they match your new digital workplace’s needs, you must keep in mind it’s not simply about finding a good collection of features and functions. It’s also about a business relationship and the ability to offer experienced guidance that leads to results. Prospective buyers should also consider the following:

  • Mobile readiness – Workers need to be able to access meetings or tackle assignments anytime, anywhere, on any device. To be seriously considered as a resource, UCaaS solutions must deliver on this promise.
  • Comprehensive features – The days of workers simply “Going to Meeting” are over. Today they need tools to do it all – IM/chat, voice, video, presence and annotation, screen/document sharing, providing the ability to access, share, present and collectively edit documents, all in real time.
  • Superior quality, reliability, security (aka, the network). A sophisticated UCaaS solution is only as good as the network behind it. Performance, quality and reliability/uptime are indispensable to the customer/user experience. Voice, video and collaboration apps are performance sensitive. Meaning the choice of the network provider is as important as the UCaaS solution itself (you might also look for a provider who can pair UCaaS with SD-WAN). Same for security, so give strong consideration to a provider that owns and operates both the network and the UCaaS application code.
  • TCO/Affordability. The cloud inherently frees up capital. It also frees IT to focus on bigger things. That said, all UCaaS options do not offer the same value. Get a thorough explanation of pricing, factoring in everything, especially for new, added-value or optional services that may be costly
  • Unified functionality. Sure, there are standalone solutions out there, such as web or video conferencing, but a single solution that integrates UCaaS functionality is now the true price of entry. This provides a better user/customer experience and simplifies support/management.

And don’t forget to analyze the extras. Some providers offer more robust or higher quality options than others, so make sure all of your essentials are accounted for.

Don’t forget ease of use

Welcome to the UCaaS EraObviously there are a lot of things to consider. But if it isn’t intuitive and easy for your people to use, you might as well have bought a cloud-based door stop. Even worse, if people try to use it, it can become such a support burden that any benefits you see will be drowned out by screams coming from IT. So choose carefully.

Windstream knows this part better than most providers, given our efforts to make our own OfficeSuite UCaaS solution as easy to use as possible. Same goes for our effort to combine UCaaS with our fully managed SD-WAN solution to make high performance implementations equally easy for IT.

For more thoughts on the process of making a smart choice in UCaaS, and added insight into why UC has quickly taken to the cloud, read our whitepaper, Welcome to the UCaaS Era, Where best-in-class UC takes place in the collaborative cloud. So whatever route you choose, you’ll have a strong list of criteria to help you compare options. And if I’ve overlooked anything, please let me know; we’re all about collaboration as you may have guessed.

UCaaS and SD-WAN: Individually Powerful, Together Unstoppable

September 21st, 2017 by

Windstream SD-WAN and Broadview OfficeSuite: a match made in the clouds
Self-styled “foodies” will tell you it’s the perfect pairing of food and wine (or for some, a great craft beer) that’s the essence of a great meal. As experts on technology consumption, we share a similar philosophy. A single great offering can be terrific; but paired with the right partner, the experience can be transformational.

So what’s the technology equivalent of artisanal California goat cheese with Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs? We actually just created it with the acquisition of Broadview Networks by Windstream. Bringing together two of the hottest offerings in enterprise tech – Cloud-based unified communications (UC) and SD-WAN – under a single business communication banner. It’s a match that was truly made in the clouds that has the promises to change everything.

What makes the melding of Windstream SD-WAN and OfficeSuite so special is it combines what we believe is the hands down, easiest to use and manage cloud-based UC system on the market today with its professional equivalent from the world of software defined wide area networks.

The result is an integrated business communications experience – combining voice, collaboration, screen sharing, messaging, video conferencing, presence, and more – delivered over affordable and highly available broadband IP connectivity, but with a level of performance, reliability/uptime and quality of service previously associated only with traditional, costly, private, aging “WANosaurus” style networks.

UCaaS for quality conscious organizations, like yours

While the acronyms “UC” and “UCaaS” have only recently become mainstream, the concepts behind them go back to the early days of Voice over IP. While UC technology and functionality has long since surpassed that of basic VoIP, along with once dominant premises-based legacy PBX office phone systems, there have been some otherwise progressive businesses and IT leaders who have held out from moving voice/video to the cloud due to concerns about quality and reliability. And for whom the upfront savings of using low cost Internet connectivity did not outweigh the risk of potential downtime that came with making that move.

This is where the magic of OfficeSuite combined with SD-WAN comes in, since it provides enterprise level performance, resiliency and security that meets the expectation levels of even the most demanding companies. While offering all sorts of additional, ancillary benefits and advantages – like the ability to prioritize and optimize all of your cloud-based apps, in addition to OfficeSuite – in the process.

Goodbye latency and jitter, hello future of business

I’m not going to dwell on all the specific features and functions that set the solution apart – you can find out more about that on our site and supporting materials. I will add though that this new offering puts a proprietary, highly regarded, UCaaS solution under the ownership and control of a major network service provider (NSP) that owns/operates the network itself, and that is driving a similarly progressive next-gen network solution in the form of our fully-managed Windstream SD-WAN.

Together, they offer business customers of all sizes, an opportunity to get jitter free performance of essential voice and video apps – delivering on the true promise of UCaaS – and eliminate latency and questions about mission critical application delivery and reliability across all cloud based apps.

Delivering on the real meaning of digital transformation

That, culinary and technology fans, is transformative, game changing stuff with no precedent in this space that I am aware of. And that is what makes me so excited about what the future holds for our customers, and for everyone here at Windstream, including the great team that just joined with me from Broadview, among them the developers of our terrific OfficeSuite UCaaS app.

I hope this might also sound exciting for you. If so, I invite you to reach out to a Windstream representative and learn more about OfficeSuite and SD-WAN today.