Unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) systems integrate voice and video, instant messaging, presence, and other collaboration tools over a single IP (Internet Protocol) network. They comprise a broad family of computer applications that support communication and collaboration among people both inside their enterprise and outside it. Many unified communication and collaboration tools vendors also support standards-based protocols that enterprise users may already be using today to help them extend their existing collaboration efforts with the new hosted services they acquire. In these ways, UC&Cs facilitate activities across organizational boundaries. Moreover, they save time, money, and energy by automating repetitive tasks while keeping various departments connected – sometimes even outside the firewall. UC&Cs are supported by a wide range of technologies and experiencing considerable market growth.
The proliferation of UC&C deployments is largely due to the advent of high-speed mobile and wireless connections, which have led to a world that is more interconnected than ever before. People work from multiple locations and require easy access to their data regardless of which location they are in. In this landscape, legacy Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections are no longer sufficient thanks to NAT restrictions and other issues that arise under these conditions. Therefore, UC&C solutions have become a necessity for businesses.
UC&C solutions are among the main tools used by modern enterprises to communicate with customers, suppliers and employees. These communications leverage voice, video, chat, email, and many other communication options that are commonly found in a professional environment. They are commonly characterized by half-duplex or full-duplex capabilities integrated with a wide range of desktop software and applications. From a technological perspective, most solutions utilize IP networks using SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunks with many connections to Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Directory services and policy servers are also among the main enablers of UC&C solutions. Specifically, directories provide the means for authenticating users and authorizing them to communicate through a range of devices, in a complex network configuration with several layers. At the same time, data policies govern the communication infrastructure and enable connecting anyone with any device from anywhere within and around the organization.
The modern communications landscape is rapidly evolving towards cloud UC&C Services, which gives rise to a novel utility-based UC&C as a Service (UCaaS) paradigm. For example, big players such as Microsoft and Google have launched their cloud-based services for UC&C. Moreover, many companies want to upgrade from old-fashioned telephony communication to cloud-based collaboration services because of their favorable features: availability on mobile devices, high-quality voice calls, Instant Messaging (IM) features, video conferencing, and video collaboration, spam protection, content sharing and more.
UCaaS technologies are in high demand because they provide a wide range of benefits such as improved employee productivity, faster time-to-market, improved data security, and privacy, and better customer service. For instance, they enable employees to work smarter, faster, and with a greater sense of job satisfaction. This is because they enable employees to use desktop sharing, video calling, file sharing, and screen sharing at the same time and within a single environment. As another example, UC&C solutions come with security features that ensure the protection of the company’s sensitive data such as audio, video and text messages. In this direction, a set of proper data policies must be specified and enforced by the UC&C solution provider.
The UC&C market has its origins in the mid to late 1980s. For nearly two decades UC&C solutions have enjoyed quite low levels of growth. Nevertheless, since 2004 UC&C tools have experienced a dramatic increase in their usage rates and sales. Nowadays the global UC&C market is worth over $10 billion. According to recent market share data from research firms like IDC, UC&C is one of the IT technologies with the highest growth. This is due to UC&Cs wide range of features that boost productivity, reduce costs, and deliver better customer service.
The communication and collaboration industry is currently a large market. It can be really overwhelming when looking at the products, solutions, and vendors in the market. However, it has so many different components that make it very fragmented as well.
Unified communication and collaboration tools have been slow to be adopted by most businesses. However, the world is becoming more interconnected, which means that businesses need to communicate in real time via technology. That is why it has now become essential for businesses to use unified communications technology. In today’s business world, we are consistently connected and inter-related with many other companies, and as a result, effective communication has become a vital means of communication between workers. Overall, in the years to come, UCC solutions will become an integral part of the business digital transformation journey as they enable faster completion of tasks and help companies innovate through increased employee engagement.
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