Unified communications solutions compared: UC/PBX/HYBRID

By Lucy Wright - March 10, 2021

Unified Communications (UC) are fast becoming the essential and standard method of communication for enterprises of every kind, combining internet-based phone, instant messaging and other services that let organisations communicate from anywhere, securely and seamlessly. 

UC combines instant messaging capabilities, video conferencing and other collaboration tools such as file sharing to create a comprehensive platform that lets teams and individuals communicate in a number of ways, across various channels, in a secure space that is hosted in the cloud or a secure data centre. 

Because UC solutions simplify communications and make formerly complex telephony tasks easy, most businesses around the world are now using UC products to communicate with people both within their own organisation and externally. UC solutions come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from basic out-of-the-box products that are a cost-effective choice for smaller businesses, to bespoke configured solutions offering comprehensive functionality and integrations. And in recent years, UC solutions have replaced the traditional PBX system to become the communication method of choice. PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is the 'official' name for a private telephone network. A PBX system allows users to communicate with people internally or externally using different channels of communication, like analog, ISDN and Voice over IP (VoIP). It provides lots of the telephony features we're all familiar with, like interactive voice menus and call queues, and lets users perform actions such as transferring and recording calls, and leaving and receiving voicemails. 

By contrast, modern cloud-based UC solutions combine various channels of communication which are integrated so that staff can be productive and communicate anywhere, at any time. UC bridges the gap between the many disparate communication apps that lots of businesses now find themselves with, creating a collaboration tool that brings together VoIP, video conferencing, collaboration tools and messaging in one centralised place for a consistent user experience. And because it operates in the cloud, it is guaranteed to be available no matter what unforeseen circumstances might happen on the ground.

Some organisations take a hybrid approach communications, which lets you procure UCC services through a combination of traditional on-premise systems, and public and private cloud models. This can deliver the best of both worlds, because less critical applications can be hosted in the cloud, while on-premise control can be retained for more business-critical elements.

The pandemic and subsequent need to work remotely has meant UC solutions are more in demand than ever; and businesses globally are feeling the benefits of having them deployed.

For starters, working from home instead of the office means that traditional on-premise phone systems are no longer effective. UC allows remote teams to work from home and communicate with one another, without any special equipment needed, just an internet connection. Endpoint security is another big concern around home working. With cloud-based UC, your communications are secure and the provider is accountable for maintaining security at all times. This takes away the burden and risk of insecure communications from home workers, who may need to make confidential calls or file share sensitive information with each other.

UC can also be a cost-effective way of communicating and collaborating, as things like helpdesk ticketing, messaging, file sharing, on-premise telephones and third-party apps are all included in the service, rather than being paid for separately. And because UC consolidates all of these channels and apps into one centralised communication hub, it makes communication more streamlined and efficient. However, customised solutions and those with lots of integrations can prove expensive for smaller businesses. 

Scalability is another benefit of UC; without the need for on-premise servers, telephone lines and other equipment, organisations using UC can quickly scale up as needed, and connect teams in dispersed locations so that they can work together effectively. 

Finally, UC allows you to provide your customers with the best possible experience, particularly when integrated with CRM, and ensure that customers have a seamless consistent experience when communicating with your organisation whether by email, phone, live chat or another means.

Unified Communications have played a vital part in enabling business as usual activity to continue during the pandemic. Find out how businesses have incorporated UC into their processes and adapted to the changes to work in 2020, in our exclusive research report. We asked more than 200 IT decision makers how they have been impacted by the pandemic and the changes to work it has brought. The results are a fascinating insight into the current working landscape and how IT teams are regaining control with the right communication and collaboration tools in place. Download it here.

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