Better business communications and collaboration with cloud based unified communications

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Business owners and managers are continually seeking ways to improve their customer service, reduce their communications and collaboration costs and in general improve their effectiveness and efficiencies.

Furthermore, as more and more employees work outside the office, they expect to be able to make use of the same communications and collaboration tools that their desk bound colleagues enjoy.

This white paper explores how unified communications assists organisations achieve these goals.

The paper then looks at 1toGo Mobile’s mobile Cloud unified communications and collaboration services in particular.

It includes a roadmap showing how easy it is for businesses to migrate their current legacy PBX environments to 1toGo Mobile’s converged communications and collaboration services without having to ‘rip and replace’ their existing investments.

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Better business communications and collaboration with cloud based unified communications

  1. 1. Better Business Communications and Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications November 2012
  2. 2. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 2 Contents Introduction 3 What is Unified Communications? 3 How does Unified Communications benefit Small and Medium sized Businesses and Professional Practices? 4 What is 1toGo Mobile? 6 How will 1toGo Mobile’s Services help your Organisation? 8 Migrating to 1toGo Mobile’s Services 11 In Conclusion 15 About 1toGo Mobile 15
  3. 3. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 3 Introduction Business owners and managers are continually seeking ways to improve their customer service, reduce their communications and collaboration costs and in general improve their effectiveness and efficiencies. Furthermore, as more and more employees work outside the office, they expect to be able to make use of the same communications and collaboration tools that their desk bound colleagues enjoy. This white paper explores how unified communications assists organisations achieve these goals. The paper then looks at 1toGo Mobile’s mobile Cloud unified communications and collaboration services in particular, It includes a roadmap showing how easy it is for businesses to migrate their current legacy PBX environments to 1toGo Mobile’s converged communications and collaboration services without having to ‘rip and replace’ their existing investments. What is Unified Communications? Unified Communications is the integration of communication and collaboration technologies with business applications and processes. Examples of communication and collaboration technologies include voice (VoIP) and video calling, audio or video conferencing, web conferencing, instant messaging (IM), presence, email and scheduling. These technologies currently operate in silos with separate addresses across multiple devices. Unified Communications removes these silos by combining these multiple communication and collaboration technologies into one application with presence at the core, thus enabling one to be contacted via the most appropriate of multiple methods using the same address, device and interface. The ability to see a contact’s presence status, manage one’s preferred method of receiving communications and contact colleagues, clients and suppliers directly from one’s address book via ‘click to call’ enables considerable time savings. Furthermore, the storage of emails, faxes and voice mails in one inbox (Unified Messaging) facilitates easy access to these messages from multiple locations and devices.
  4. 4. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 4 The productivity benefits of Unified Communications at the user level (also known as UCU) as described above provide compelling arguments to converge communications in all types of organisations. The integration however of communications with business processes and applications (UCB) in order to reduce ‘human latency’ and improve those processes provides customers with substantially larger returns on investment than those obtainable from UCU. How does Unified Communications benefit Small and Medium Sized Businesses and Professional Practices? Smaller organisations often lack the resources enjoyed by their larger counterparts. These resources include access to affordable capital, human resources and well known brand identities that assist in the development of markets for their products and services. These organisations also lack the ability to negotiate favourable contract pricing for services such as Internet services and telecoms. Organisations such as SMEs face competition not only from other SMEs but also from large enterprises. It is thus important for these organisations to provide a level of service and responsiveness to their customers that exceeds that offered by large enterprises while at the same time increasing their margins and reducing their costs. Unified Communications assists organisations to improve their competitiveness by: Improving their relationship with their customers, supply chain and other business partners Regardless of where employees might be at the time, Unified Communications increases the probability that they can be contacted on the first attempt. If this is not possible, unified messaging increases the probability that employees will receive messages timeously. In addition, the use of real time collaboration tools like instant messaging and closed user group calling creates a stronger community between organisations and their business partners (including agents in direct selling organisations) than is possible using asynchronous tools such as email. Improving collaboration between employees Employees working outside of an office environment (e.g. home based employees and ‘road warriors’) often complain that they feel forgotten by the organisation. On the other hand, office based workers find it difficult to reach these remote workers. Unified Communications reduces the
  5. 5. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 5 perceived distance between workers in an organisation. Improving response times Given that workers are able to be contacted by multiple methods, Unified Communications reduces the time spent attempting to contact decision makers and waiting for responses. Improving access to knowledge workers and experts The use of presence enables the availability of subject matter experts to be communicated throughout the organisation. This increases sales opportunities as it enables contact centre agents or sales account staff to solve customer queries by instant messaging with available subject matter experts regardless of their location while the customer remains on the line. Should the expert not be able to resolve the issue without speaking to the customer, the contact centre agent or sales account staff is able to escalate the call to a three way conference between herself, the customer and the expert. Improving employee productivity Unified Communications reduces the time spent by workers trying to contact other workers in the course of their duties. This improves productivity (particularly that of mobile workers) by freeing up time for staff to undertake additional responsibilities and improving the output of a given staff complement if the free time generated is used productively. Given that salary costs are often a large proportion of the operating costs of SMEs, this can have a material impact on the organisation’s bottom line. Improving business processes and reducing ‘human latency’ The integration of communications with business processes and enterprise applications enables triggers from the applications to initiate communications automatically. Examples of these include:  Automatic notification of the relevant staff if equipment fails  Automatic notification of suppliers in the event of inventory shortages or stockouts  Automatic notification of the relevant staff if the quality of production deviates from predefined ranges  Self-service patient booking systems in the healthcare field with automatic voice or SMS reminders to patients to reduce ‘no shows’. Reducing travel costs In a time of rising fuel costs, Web and video conferencing reduces the need for car and plane travel. Apart from decreasing travel costs, this reduces an enterprise’s carbon footprint at a time when organisations are becoming more conscious of the impact that human activities have on the environment. Reducing the costs of services such as telecoms Unified Communications enables organisations to use alternative modalities such as instant messaging and SIP based closed user group on-net calling and conferencing across offices to reduce their traditional telecoms bills. In addition, Unified Communications allows the use of SIP
  6. 6. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 6 trunks which in turn allow organisations to purchase extra ‘line’ capacity quickly and incrementally as and when required instead of having to purchase telephone lines in minimum size bundles (such as E1 and T1 PRIs) even though all the capacity purchased will not be utilised. Reducing time to market of products and services Unified Communications enables shorter product development cycles and project timeframes thus reducing time to market and value. Attracting and retaining qualified staff, particularly those from the tech savvy ‘Millennials’ or ‘Generation Y’ Staff entering the workplace participate in online communities and use tools such as instant messaging in their private lives. They thus expect to find these tools available to them in their work places. Given that SMEs often cannot provide staff with the same benefits such as health insurance and pension fund membership that larger employers can afford, it is important for them to be able to offer their employees a stimulating work environment in order to attract and retain their services. Unified Communications assists SMEs to achieve this. In spite of the benefits outlined above, SMEs will require a higher return and quicker payback on their Unified Communications investments than those required by larger enterprises given their limited resources. It is thus important that Unified Communications solutions being targeted at this segment of the market should be affordable since SMEs are often unable to afford the cost of enterprise solutions. These solutions should also be easy to deploy and manage given the lack of technical skills available to SMEs. What is 1toGo Mobile? 1toGo Mobile is a Cloud based provider of mobile unified communications and collaboration services. 1toGo Mobile offers a suite of easy to use and quick to implement standards based unified communications services. These services include:  A corporate IP PBX allowing users to make and receive calls via the IP PBX from / to their smartphones, tablets or PCs/Macs  Closed user group (CUG) voice/video calling/conferencing in high definition (HD)  Unified messaging
  7. 7. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 7  Business grade instant messaging and presence  Push email, calendaring, address books and tasks  Secure storage in the Cloud for documents and files and the ability to share these with colleagues and friends  The ability for a user to access one version of his or her information from anywhere or via any device  Presentation sharing/Web conferencing  Other tools like whiteboarding, mailing lists and a RSS feed reader together with CRM and social media integration etc. 1toGo Mobile’s services can be enjoyed from:  Apple and Android phones/tablets using our mobile clients  Other smartphones supporting ActiveSync and standard mobile VoIP clients  PC and Mac devices on the desktop and via a Web browser
  8. 8. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 8  SIP compliant IP phones and analog phones using VoIP gateways. 1toGo Mobile’s services are priced on a per user per month basis with no long term contracts, thus saving an organisation from having to invest large amounts upfront in infrastructure and thereafter in operating costs in order to enjoy services usually only available to large organisations with dedicated information and communications technology (ICT) staff. Organisations that subscribe to 1toGo Mobile’s services also save themselves the costs of a separate messaging server/service such as MS Exchange since this functionality is incorporated in the 1toGo Mobile service. Furthermore, because 1toGo Mobile provides its own clients/user interfaces, organisations need not make large investments in desk phones and personal organisers like MS Outlook (although 1toGo Mobile’s services do work with such tools). How will 1toGo Mobile’s Services help your Organisation? 1toGo Mobile’s services will help your organisation in many ways, thus giving you a quick return on your investment. These include:  Your staff can enjoy carrier grade rich communications and collaboration tools such as: o HD Voice and Video calling/conferencing o IP PBX o Secure Cloud based file server o Presentation sharing/Web conferencing o Unified messaging o Mobile push email, calendaring and address book allowing them to work productively wherever they happen to be – in the office, on the road, at home or on the other side of the world  1toGo Mobile gives you the tools to run a virtual office if you wish, thus saving the costs of office rentals and giving you the flexibility to employ home based workers including workers with disabilities or skilled workers who are geographically distant and who would be unavailable to your organisation in a traditional office
  9. 9. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 9 environment  1toGo Mobile provides your staff with their own telephone number. Prospects and clients can thus call this number (at the cost of a local call) and your staff can answer these calls on their preferred device wherever they happen to be in the world, as long as they have a data or phone (mobile or fixed line) connection. Similarly, your staff can call customers via your PBX and from their preferred device thus enabling you to record these calls for legal purposes. Furthermore, you no longer need to manage employees` claims for business use of private phone accounts since all calls can be made through your PBX  By providing staff with their own telephone number, staff need not provide their customers with their cell phone numbers. This allows staff to separate their personal from their private lives (since they can just switch off their 1toGo Mobile number after work hours). In addition, you don’t run the risk of your clients contacting employees no longer working for your organisation  Staff can call each other or take part in conference calls for free, regardless of where the participants are in the world. Because these calls are in HD, the user experience is much better than conference calls taking place via traditional public fixed line and mobile telephone networks.  Staff travelling overseas needn’t pay exorbitant roaming fees to stay in contact with fellow employees and clients  If you do business overseas, 1toGo Mobile can give you phone numbers in foreign countries as extensions of your 1toGo Mobile IP PBX so that you have an overseas ‘presence’  Because our services are offered on a per user per month basis without any long-term contracts, you can ramp up the use of our services (e.g. if you have to take on extra staff at the end of your financial year) and similarly decrease your usage of our services as and when required. This flexibility is not available to organisations that use in-house solutions requiring up-front commitments to financial, human and infrastructure resources  Our services have at their core the carrier grade CommuniGate Pro platform from CommuniGate Systems. This unified communications platform is specifically designed to offer large scale reliable and cost effective multi-tenant services from a Cloud based environment. Furthermore, because it is open standards based, you’ll be able to interact with users from other
  10. 10. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 10 organisations using other unified communications solutions.  Because 1toGo Mobile’s services are offered in the Cloud from redundant infrastructures in secure state of the art data centers, your staff will be able to access our services and hence your information, business partners, customers and prospects even if your offices have been disabled by equipment theft, natural disasters, power outages etc.  You can implement our services on a trial/pilot basis in one department of your organisation where the return on investment will be greatest before rolling it out to other departments  It’s easy it is for you to migrate your current legacy PBX environment to 1toGo Mobile’s converged communications and collaboration services without having to ‘rip and replace’ your existing investments if they haven’t reached end of life. This enables you to take advantage of the benefits of VoIP and our SIP trunking services before subscribing to our mobile unified communications and collaboration services  Because 1toGo Mobile offers a suite of Unified Communications services, not just VoIP solutions, you’ll enjoy value added benefits that go far further than just cheaper telephone calls whose benefits are being eroded as interconnect pricing falls  Scarce capital that you would have spent upfront to purchase software, licenses and infrastructure is converted to predictable operating expenditure  Organisations using our services require fewer costly technical staff since the applications and infrastructure resides in our data centers  1toGo Mobile’s services can be deployed much more rapidly than premise-based solutions with a corresponding decrease in time to value
  11. 11. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 11 Migrating to 1toGo Mobile’s Services This section illustrates one of many ways in which your organisation can migrate to 1toGo Mobile’s services. It enables the piloting of our services with groups of employees such as mobile and knowledge workers where our services will provide you with the highest returns. Please note that one can reach the end destination shown in one step without passing through the individual steps. An organisation can furthermore decide where it wishes to end the process. Status quo The figure below illustrates the common scenario of an organisation with separate voice and data networks. In this example, the organisation has a legacy PBX while its email is managed from a hosted mail server. This server could of course be premise-based. Step one The next figure shows the replacement of this email server by a 1toGo Mobile subscription. At this stage, employees can call each other (and business partners with accounts on the 1toGo Mobile network) for free in HD Voice as well as enjoy features like business grade instant messaging and presence, mobile push email, calendaring, address books and tasks regardless of where they are in the world as long as they have an Internet connection and a smartphone, tablet or PC. These services can be offered over the
  12. 12. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 12 public Internet or over a private IP based wide area network (WAN). Calls to/from public telephone networks route through the organisation’s existing PBX, desk phones and service provider as usual. Step two In the next stage of the rollout, a VoIP gateway is placed ahead of the existing PBX enabling outgoing telephone calls to be made to the public telephone network (PSTN) over the WAN or Internet via 1toGo Mobile’s SIP trunking services. Depending on call charges in the region of the world in which the business is based, the Internet/WAN and 1toGo Mobile’s SIP trunking services can be used to save on international, long distance, local and inter-office call costs. This figure assumes that incoming calls continue to be routed to the organisation via its existing PSTN lines given that these lines are known or advertised to the organisation’s current and potential business partners or clients. These PSTN lines also provide for failover for outgoing calls in the event of a problem on the WAN. At this stage 1toGo Mobile has 'mobile enabled' the customer’s existing PBX since incoming and outgoing calls to/from this PBX can be received on / made from employees' smartphones and tablets (via VoIP or GSM), or PCs (via VoIP) as full working extensions of the existing PBX using 1toGo Mobile’s unified communications clients/user interfaces. This enables calls to be recorded using customer's existing call recording
  13. 13. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 13 mechanism and removes the need for desk phones since users’ smartphones can be utilised over the corporate WiFi network. Depending on the needs of the organisation and the profile of its staff however, the organisation can continue to make calls over desktop IP phones or analog telephones connected to the corporate LAN via analog telephone adaptors (ATAs). Reconciliation of employee claims for business calls made from personal phone accounts is now a thing of the past since all calls to/from the PSTN can be made via the existing PBX. Internal calls between employees are free and in HD Voice while outgoing calls to public telephone numbers enjoy 1toGo Mobile's competitive call tariffs. Please note that not all mobile providers allow voice over their data networks since they fear cannibalisation of their existing voice revenues. An optional final stage is represented in the figure below. Step three In this stage, the legacy PBX has reached end of life and is removed. All call control is now provided by the IP PBX component of 1toGo Mobile’s Cloud service. This final stage is also ideal as a first stage for organisations who haven't previously enjoyed the benefits of a PBX in general and IP PBX in particular. Such organisations can implement all of 1toGo Mobile’s services immediately without having to consider the constraints of existing
  14. 14. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 14 infrastructure. In this scenario, SIP trunks replace the PSTN lines for incoming and outgoing calls. Any calls made to and received from the PSTN are now connected to the PSTN not at the organisation’s premises but via interconnects at 1toGo Mobile. Although many calls need never travel over the PSTN (as is explained below), the wholesale rates negotiated by 1toGo Mobile for interconnects with other carriers should provide 1toGo Mobile’s clients with further savings. Users in an organisation can continue to make calls over IP phones or analog telephones connected to the LAN via analog telephone adaptors (ATAs) if they wish since 1toGo Mobile’s services support such endpoints. In regions of the world that have fixed line number portability, telephone numbers originally registered by an incumbent service provider could be reregistered to 1toGo Mobile or a local 1toGo Mobile partner, thus enabling incoming calls to be routed to the organisation via SIP trunks. A further advantage to the introduction of the IP PBX component of 1toGo Mobile’s services is that many calls made to or by the organisation’s employees and business partners need never pass over the public PSTN network if the person being called has an Internet communications URI such as john@example.com. In a Unified Communications environment, this URI will be the same for all communications modalities such as email, IM and VoIP. Should an employee’s URI be advertised in a ENUM registry database supported by 1toGo Mobile, any call made to that person over the PSTN by a colleague who also has an Internet communications URI can bypass the PSTN and instead be routed via a cheaper if not free IP network.
  15. 15. Better Business Communications & Collaboration with Cloud Based Unified Communications 15 Given that the PSTN lines are no longer available for failover, this scenario assumes that the client organisation has sufficient redundancy at the access network level. In Conclusion Unified communications and collaboration services provide organisations with measurable financial benefits as well as less easily quantified ‘soft’ benefits which nevertheless improve the organisation’s business processes. 1toGo Mobile offers organisations an affordable quick time to value mobile Cloud unified communications service. This enables organisations of all kinds and sizes to enjoy the cost savings and productivity / business process benefits that are obtainable not just from VoIP but from a full suite of unified communications and collaboration tools including an IP PBX. You can access an online demo of 1toGo Mobile’s services by clicking here. About 1toGo Mobile Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1toGo Mobile offers mobile Cloud based unified communication and collaboration services to clients such as SMEs/SOHOs across the world. 1toGo Mobile also offers solutions to larger businesses as well as verticals such as educational, healthcare and government institutions via its ‘1toGo Enterprise’ services. 1toGo Mobile also offers solutions to service providers including telcos, mobile network operators (MNOs), mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), Internet service providers (ISPs) and Webhosts wishing to provide their clients with value added services in order to differentiate their services from their peers. 1toGo Mobile is an associate of Zwana Unicom, Distributor for CommuniGate Systems technology in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia.

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