What is Unified Communications, and Why Should You Care?

What is Unified Communications

Unified communications. It’s a technical phrase you have probably seen around at some point in the past decade. But do you know what that really means, and why it’s important?

There are a wide assortment of definitions of this phrase depending on whether you are talking to an end user, a sales professional or an engineer.

Let’s focus on the most important aspect of the term unified communications, namely, the end result.

The term was coined by consultant Art Rosenberg around the year 2000 in an effort to describe technology that enabled messages and data to be rerouted to reach the recipient as quickly as possible. Simply put, how do we — in real time — get all messages to a user, wherever they may be?

Mobility is a key element.

What is Unified Communications, and Why Should You Care?

So the end result — unified communications or UC, an acronym it is known by — refers to the method by which messages from a variety of sources can be brought to a single source for the end user to access.

Features can allow for one number to be assigned to a person’s mobile device, home office or other locations, and have calls follow the person or push/pull between devices without having to disconnect and then reconnect the call.

Another feature, known as voicemail-to-email, allows voice messages to reach managers or employees when they’re away from the office or working remotely by sending an audio file of the voicemail (such as an MP3, MP4 or .wav file) to the recipient’s email. The recipient can then listen the voice via email without having to dial into voicemail. This makes it easy to forward a voicemail, for instance, because all you need to do is forward the email and its sound-file attachment.

Other unified communications software tools may include a downloadable client that enables click-to-dial and service management from within commonly used email client software or web browsers. It can even include tools which redirect calls to back-up numbers if there’s a power outage or network issues.

Why is Unified Communications Important?

Well it may not be as important to every business, or every person in your business … but it offers you something important. Unified communications is a way to get urgent information on the fly regardless of a specific scenario.

Lets take a look at two common business scenarios, and how unified communications can add to productivity, customer satisfaction, profitability and employee satisfaction.

First we’ll consider a sales person.

One snapshot in time has our salesperson, Mel, waiting on an important decision. He’s waiting on the sale of a $23,000 green widget. He received an email just an hour ago. The prospective client’s decision is imminent. But the client organization has a few additional questions. The client’s team is working on the list of questions and plan to call you “as soon as they are ready”.

Sounds like Mel may have a wonderful day. He just needs to answer a few questions and, boom, he may have a sale!

But, wait! Mel receives a phone call. It’s his wife Judy. Mel’s son got a serious cut to his finger and is screaming “bloody murder.” The babysitter is freaking out and Judy is stuck in an epic traffic jam – a 10-car pileup that may take hours to unravel.

Mel has to go home. NOW.

Mel is the star of the show on this particular widget. But his family has to take precedence. He’s torn, because he chooses his family obligations but feels like he has to neglect his business obligations and possibly let the work team down.

Or does he? What if he could handle both issues at the same time?

Let’s look at another situation, this time a network engineer named Bill.

Bill is the final authority on his business’s network. He needs to respond quickly to outages as his business network supports his company’s main product, a software that is downloaded from a server on the network Bill is responsible for.

But Bill cannot stand next to his server 24/7.

Now, what if that server could send an email that also could text his smartphone in case of an outage? Bill could be notified, even if he is watching TV or sitting out on his patio. Bill can be productive no matter where he is, and he feels liberated from his office. Unless and until there’s an outage, he’s free to enjoy his off time. And the company doesn’t have to pay for 24/7 coverage, for someone on the clock to be seated next to the server.

These are just two cases in which you can see the value of a unified communications system. UC systems can keep your people informed and in touch, even in emergency situations, and allow for remote work on an as-needed basis. Therefore, they can easily pay for themselves in the long run.

ScenarioUnified Communications Benefits
Salesperson's Urgent Decision Dilemma- Enables seamless communication with clients and team
- Ensures swift response to client inquiries
- Facilitates multitasking for personal emergencies without neglecting work responsibilities
Network Engineer's Outage Notification- Provides real-time alerts about network outages
- Allows remote monitoring and response to critical network issues
- Enhances work-life balance by freeing the engineer from constant on-site presence
- Reduces the need for 24/7 staffing and associated costs
General Importance of Unified Communications- Increases productivity, customer satisfaction, profitability, and employee satisfaction through effective communication and multitasking capabilities
- Ensures that urgent information can be received and acted upon regardless of the specific scenario

What is Unified Communications, and Why Should You Care?

How Should I Choose a UC Provider?

A number of things should be taken into consideration when looking for the right provider:

  • Does the solution include a business class dedicated Internet connection?
  • Is the solution easily adaptable if our company needs change?
  • Is there a guarantee in Quality of Service (QoS)?
  • Does the vendor provide its own security solution to properly secure the network and devices, or will we need to seek additional security services?
  • What levels of cloud security does the vendor offer?
  • Will communications still be accessible in the event of an emergency or disaster?

With these points in mind you are ready for find a solution provider who can make sure that you get those important calls and messages regardless of the situation.

What is Unified Communications, and Why Should You Care?

Choosing the Right Unified Communications (UC) Provider

When considering a Unified Communications (UC) provider, there are several important factors to take into account. Making the right choice ensures that your business can benefit from seamless communication and productivity. Here are key considerations when selecting a UC provider:

  • Business Class Dedicated Internet Connection:
    • Check if the UC solution includes a business class dedicated Internet connection for reliable and high-speed connectivity.
  • Scalability and Adaptability:
    • Assess whether the UC solution can adapt to your company’s changing needs over time. Ensure it is scalable to accommodate growth or adjustments in your communication requirements.
  • Quality of Service (QoS) Guarantee:
    • Inquire about the vendor’s Quality of Service (QoS) guarantee to ensure that your communication services will consistently meet performance expectations.
  • Security Measures:
    • Determine if the vendor provides comprehensive security solutions to safeguard your network and devices. Understand whether additional security services are necessary for your specific needs.
  • Cloud Security:
    • Investigate the levels of cloud security offered by the UC provider. Ensure that your communications remain secure and protected in a cloud-based environment.
  • Emergency and Disaster Accessibility:
    • Confirm whether the UC solution guarantees accessibility during emergency situations or disasters, allowing your team to stay connected and informed when it matters most.
Business Class Dedicated Internet ConnectionVerify if the UC solution includes a dedicated business-class internet connection for reliable and high-speed connectivity.
Scalability and AdaptabilityEvaluate whether the UC solution can adapt to your company's changing needs over time, accommodating growth or communication requirement adjustments.
Quality of Service (QoS) GuaranteeInquire about the vendor's Quality of Service (QoS) guarantee to ensure consistent meeting of performance expectations for communication services.
Security MeasuresDetermine if the vendor offers comprehensive security solutions to protect your network and devices, and assess whether additional security services are required for specific needs.
Cloud SecurityInvestigate the levels of cloud security provided by the UC provider, ensuring the security and protection of communications in a cloud-based environment.
Emergency and Disaster AccessibilityConfirm whether the UC solution guarantees accessibility during emergency situations or disasters, enabling your team to stay connected and informed when it is critical.

What is Unified Communications, and Why Should You Care?


Unified Communications (UC) is a term that encompasses a range of technologies and tools designed to streamline communication processes, ensuring that messages and data reach their intended recipients promptly. The core objective of UC is to provide real-time access to messages from various sources, regardless of the user’s location, fostering efficient and seamless communication.

UC offers a myriad of features, including the assignment of a single number to multiple devices, voicemail-to-email capabilities, and tools for managing services within commonly used email clients or web browsers. These features empower individuals and businesses to stay connected and informed, even in dynamic and demanding scenarios.

The significance of unified communications becomes evident when considering real-world scenarios. For instance, a salesperson like Mel can effectively manage critical business decisions while addressing personal emergencies, ensuring productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability. Similarly, a network engineer like Bill can respond to network outages promptly, irrespective of his location, thus reducing downtime and operational costs.

Unified communications systems play a pivotal role in enhancing employee satisfaction, customer relations, and overall business success. They enable remote work, emergency communication, and efficient multitasking, ultimately leading to a more productive and responsive workforce.

When selecting a UC provider, businesses should carefully evaluate key factors such as dedicated Internet connections, scalability, Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees, security measures, cloud security, and emergency accessibility. Choosing the right UC provider ensures that your organization can harness the benefits of unified communications while maintaining the integrity and security of your communication network.

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, unified communications has evolved from a technical concept into a vital tool for businesses and individuals alike. It empowers us to stay connected, informed, and productive, regardless of the challenges and circumstances we may face. As technology continues to advance, the role of UC in shaping the future of communication will only become more pronounced, making it a cornerstone of modern connectivity and collaboration.

Global Communications Photo via Shutterstock

Craig Sutton Craig Sutton is the owner of Sutton Brand Management. Using his background in tech, including 5 years managing the servers and networking team for a major regional Internet provider and also owner of an IT and Web software development firm, he harnesses the power of digital and traditional marketing to help small to medium sized businesses excel.