Changing face of Unified Communications from the 80s to now

Darshan Appayanna, CIO, Happiest Minds Technologies | Thursday, 03 March 2016, 11:36 IST

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The theory of Unified Communications (UC) emerged in the IT world in the 80s in the form of voice messaging, IVR and email. In the 90s Unified Messaging came into the picture combining voice mail and email together. As companies found out newer ways of combining messaging and real-time communications in the early 2000s, this led to formation of a new term ‘Unified Communications’. Therefore, UC is a combination of a set of products including messaging, calling and conferencing by-products. By attaching all these elements together with the user’s device of choice, a reliable and steady user experience is thus provided. 

There is also a high level of risk of security and privacy associated with UC when there is an integration of different types of communication technologies. Many organizations have been attacked by cyber criminals whether internally, externally, malware or spoofing. For example, if a user clicks on a suspicious looking email then his/her system will inevitably be compromised resulting to a possible failure of the complete network. Hence, to begin with, a company should protect what they think their core IP or information is which needs to be kept secured and have multiple levels of checks and balances. It is essential to have a standard framework with end-point protection whether it is anti-virus, malware protection or Firewalls with IPS and IDS. 

The risk of security and privacy enlarges when we say UC bridges the different computer related communication technologies and Voice over IP (VoIP). To avoid such breaches, there has to be some amount of control by the users. It is not possible for a company to define the Do's and DONT's. For example, at the time of using UC or VoIP, a company, at large, cannot prevent a user from talking about matters that cannot be shared. Information leakages take place in such similar ways. A company might be able to monitor the kind of information that is available or filter the content going out of the network but those solutions could be expensive to deploy. Again, having a highly protected environment for such exceptions could result the company in being rigid towards its employees which may not be favourable. 

Having said that, BYOD concept is also gaining acceptance amongst corporate mores. However, it also associates security risks and unveils multiple entry points for attackers. It is difficult for employers to monitor the extent of usage of mobile devices as the purpose may vary from accessing office email, calendars, applications and data. But, what they can do is to maintain a balance between the needs of their employees and the security implementations. 

On a more positive note, today, UC is gaining acceptance worldwide and the market is increasingly growing. IDC predicted the unified communications market would grow from $26.2 billion to $38 billion between 2014 and 2016. There are many companies - large and small who are offering Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) which means UC services are available in cloud. UCaaS plays an essential part in the Unified Communications and Collaborations industry. According to a study conducted by Markets And Markets, the UCaaS industry could be worth $7.62billion by 2018. 

Advantages of UCaaS
• UCaaS model considerably enhances productivity. Under a UCaaS system, the communication framework becomes centralized and is much easier for the service providers to control the ecosystem and improve the effectiveness of the network management which makes certain the growth of productivity of the employees. 
• In the UCaaS delivery model, the cost of communication is significantly reduced. Whereas, in a legacy or on-premise setup, it’s the company’s responsibility to provide and maintain the diverse communication platforms. 
• UCaaS provides pay-as-you-go and pay-as-you-use models which enable businesses to effortlessly scale up or down their resource needs and pay for the resources which they have consumed rather than ending up investing for the unused communications. 
• Another important benefit of a UCaaS system is that it facilitates companies to recover the capital costs. The sooner the return on investments is, the better it is for the SMBs and hence most of the SMBs are shifting to a UCaaS model for their employees to speed the business efficiencies. 
It is fundamental to note that dexterity is key to a business. UCaaS can free up the capital which otherwise is required to invest in core business operations and aids in the faster growth of the company. A cloud-based communication solution also gives the flexibility to connect offices and mobile workers. Therefore, it is prudent to opt for a communication system which provides interoperability. 


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