Unified Communications – is it a long long way to there from here?

If you’re about to embark on your unified communications journey, some starting points are better than others — and the network is probably the best starting point of all.

Wed, May 1st, 12:13

   

We all know the old story about the motorist who pulls over to the side of the road in rural Ireland. Rolling down his window, he leans out and asks one of the locals for directions. The local pauses a moment, sucks in air through his teeth and proclaims, “Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here.”

So it is when I meet with customers embarking on their journey to unified communications. As with the unfortunate motorist, with a unified communications (UC) implementation most organisations have no choice but to start from where they are. For some, a green field site may smooth the move to a UC environment; but for most there will be legacy networks, phone systems and video conferencing systems to deal with. And you simply have to start from where you are right now.

The network – a great place to start

The question I get asked most often is “so, where do we start?” The simple answer, I think, is that it has to start with the network. If your LAN and WAN infrastructures are not up to the job then, much like building a house on insufficient foundations, your entire project will struggle. Your voice and video quality will not be good enough and therefore the user experience will not be good enough. If you do not provide a great user experience, your UC journey will end before it begins.

In parallel with this, get your User Directory in order. Whether it’s Active Directory (AD) or another LDAP type directory, make sure everyone has an entry and that their phone numbers are in E164 format (e.g. +35316009999). This will make life a lot easier later on.

A quick win with instant messaging and presence

The one possible exception to the “start with the network” rule is Instant Messaging and Presence. These tools require very little network resource and are often implemented in parallel with a network remediation.

However, I would offer one word of caution. Many Instant Messaging solutions offer in-built point-to-point HD video and IP voice. If your network is not ready, consider disabling or restricting these features until it is. Better to have the users wanting more than having a poor experience to start.

Once you have a great network with QoS (Quality of Service) enabled, you can begin to build up from there, adding Voice over IP (VoIP), Click to Call, Desktop Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing, Remote Working – wherever your imagination takes you!

Are you wondering where to start your journey towards UC? Have you considered how to protect the quality of the user experience?

Stephen Mulligan is Solution Principal at eircom, specialising in Unified Communications. Contact Stephen on Twitter, or here to discuss how UC can benefit your business.

Stephen Mulligan

eircom Business Centre