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If you are a small or medium sized business what does the term "unified communications" mean to you?


For small and medium businesses (SMBs) there is a significant amount of market research indicating that these companies want a "phone system", but with all the advances in internet protocol (IP) based telephony systems, a phone system is not just a phone system anymore.  From the perspective of a small and medium business, when you hear the term "unified communications" what does this mean to you?  Is it just another name for a phone system?  Is it Voice over IP (VoIP)?  Is voice mail included? Does it include your computers and data network in the system?  Web-conferencing? Video calling?  What kinds of phones are included?...Desk phones? Cell phones? Wi-fi (cordless) phones?

I know as a Cisco employee I have my own understanding of this industry term (what features and technologies it includes, etc...), but I would be interested to hear the perspective of small and medium business employees in the community who's companies are either looking to make that initial leap (at Cisco we call this migration) from there current legacy phone system to a unified communications system, or from those who have already begun the unified communications journey and are planning on enhancing their system's capabilities to enable additional forms of communication and collaboration.


Stan Mizerny

4 Replies 4


I work for a smb and the problem that we run into with Cisco VoIP is justification.  How do we justify a Cisco solution and the costs associated with it?  The initial cost is not the issue from our perspective, it's the maintenance, upgrades, and ongoing support that we will need to have going forward.  If I have a problem with my current phone company, I call them and they fix it with no charges.  If I install a Cisco solution, maintenance and engineering time ends up costing us more thanusing the phone company.i


I work for a medium-sized business by most estimates (~6k employees).  To me, unified communications is the bridging of all different means of communication into one, single, logical system.  That means voicemail, email instant messaging, pots, etc.  Also, It means all of these services are aggregated, and delivered, via ubiquitious IP transport.  By consolidating the application systems and the transports there are dramatic reductions in cost and management.

I work for a small higher ed institution and UC means centralized access and presence awarness of all means of campus communications available to me from my desktop or mobile device. Centralized voice, video and data within an Outlook type expericence inclduding IP phone (voice and messages), instant messaging, email, cell, web video/audio conferencing, calendar/document sharing, blogging, presence awareness and access to a global list of colleagues that is searachable by their particluar area of expertise. In a nutshell, to me UC is a communications portal that allows me to work from anywhere and collaborate with others to improve work-flows and business continuity. For students, I see UC as a mechanism for them to establish collaboration with peers on class proejcts, simplify access to their instructors and develop skills to be more efficient in their future careers.     


I am part of WebEx I work in the small and medium enterprise segment.

Most of my clients have a very need based understanding of Unified communcations, which includes, centralized telephone systems with call back, call forwarding, mobile email, Instant messenging solutions, SMS gateways, conference call systems , video conferencing systems ..etc.

In my experience, its very much dependent on the vertical, for eg, IT companies have a focus on optimizing cost and their ROI on communication technologies and hence have a cost cutting/ optimization approach, while other verticals have a more convenience based approach, and hence their understanding of Unified communications is different.

Web Conferencing is an unacknowledged requirement for most SMBs ( before WebEx sales guys get to them :-) ) and collaboration and unified communications as a term will take time to get used to.

A positive outcome of economic slowdown is that more and more companies are now understanding that, yes, i cannot afford to spend  X on Travelling and are proactively looking at ways to continue to run thier business units ( mostly treated as cost centers rather than profit centers ) at a lower cost. This is pushing towards looking at their entire communication system as a single entity.

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