Unified communications - Part 2

Cloud computing may be the saviour of true unified communications.

One of the biggest barriers to UC in the enterprise he feels is the existence of expensive legacy equipment.

For small companies, the allure of being able to achieve the benefits of a full enterprise PBX system via the Web and for a fraction of the cost is pretty compelling. For large organisations, however, chances are they have significant investment in legacy PBX equipment which they are going to be reluctant to toss out.

Today the UC market remains fairly fragmented with offerings ranging from single solutions from large vendors, to multi-vendor service provider or integrator models.

The NBN is helping to create certainty around UC deployments in Australia

Looking at the three companies in the top right of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, you have Cisco with its UC strategy oriented around an IP network architecture, Microsoft with an obvious bent towards the desktop and instant messaging, while Avaya is notably PBX-centric.

What this means is that most organisations will likely need to deal with two or more vendors in order to develop a comprehensive UC strategy.

However, a growing number of Cloud-based UC providers are marketing themselves as one-stop shops.

Read part 3 of Unified communications

Virtual communications provider, Fonality, provides SMEs with access to telephony services and the smarts to bring multiple offices and home workers together under the one system for a fixed monthly fee. In May 2010 the company completed the migration of its core offerings to the Cloud after noting that many of its customers had begun to take advantage of virtual PBXs.

“We are increasingly hearing from customers that they don’t want gear in their office if they can avoid it,” says Fonality Australia managing director, Marc Englaro. “This [move to the Cloud] gave us advantages in terms of reliability, redundancy, load balancing and scalability.”

To date most of Fonality’s customers have been businesses with less than 200 people, although it is now making inroads into the bigger end of town, where it will compete head-to-head with the likes of Cisco and Avaya.

“For heavily distributed organisations the Cloud model makes a lot of sense, especially as their installed base of PBX gear is starting to become obsolete,” Englaro says.

Australian marketing manager for Microsoft Lync, Jaron Cohen, says that while UC was initially targeted at large organisations, the company is beginning to see adoption among smaller companies.

Microsoft’s UC strategy is very much oriented around a Cloud model built around Lync, the recently announced replacement for Office Communications Server (OCS), Microsoft Office 365 and its Cloud platform, Azure.

Read part 1 of Unified communications
Read part 3 of Unified communications
Read part 4 of Unified communications