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Unified Communications Magazine July 2007                                                                                                                Volume 1 / Number 1



Today's Businesses Need More Than

VoIP to be Competitive

By Steve Grassie, Now UC It


VoIP has been a hot commodity among large-scale companies with experienced IT organizations for over a decade; but few groups outside of the IT community fully understood the concept, knowing only that it was supposed to save them money.

Today, more and more small-to-medium-sized businesses have begun to see VoIP as an integral part of their unified business communications services. As the number of ways in which people can communicate continues to grow, how people are contacted, where, and on what device becomes more of an issue for those businesses that pride themselves on delivering great customer service as a means of differentiating themselves from their competitors.

Just as the Internet has leveled the playing field for small business in the global economy (i.e. websites and advertising), Unified Communications has the ability to extend one's image beyond the web by converging business process with business communications in a way that previously only the largest of enterprises could afford. Still, that is not to say that VoIP alone will solve every business' communications problems. So, why are so many SMBs taking a more serious look at Unified Communications?


Cost Savings

VoIP can save businesses money every month. Not only can they leverage long-distance savings, but they can also save on hardware. With a VoIP solution, a business can opt for the cheaper, faster, general-purpose hardware to deliver on their voice and fax requirements. There's no more relying on proprietary or separate pieces of hardware, with their own interface to the PBX and separate management interface.


Leveling the Playing Field with Unified Messaging and Unified Communications

Whether a business sells services or goods, today's economy emphasizes agility and mobility, and SMBs in particular have always prided themselves on their customer service. But over the last two decades, only bigger players have been able to afford the very expensive, state-of-the-art PBX systems that can deliver Unified Messaging, Unified Communications and other collaboration features to teleworkers, mobile employees, and networked branch offices.

As a consequence, more and more SMBs are looking to a VoIP solution to level the playing field between themselves and larger, less nimble competitors. The right communication solution for SMBs should integrate Unified Messaging (getting all voice, email and fax messages in one place) and Unified Communications (getting your calls wherever you want to take them) and other features that improve business process, increase productivity and facilitate customer service.

The Internet has leveled the playing field for small business in the global economy with websites, web advertising, and 24/7 global e-commerce. VoIP solutions that provide simple, but powerful productivity and collaboration tools stand to do the same. But if the system's difficult to manage, cost savings and increased productivity can evaporate quickly.

Businesses need to capitalize on opportunities to grow and expand their customer base as the opportunity presents itself. Email, websites and other data center technologies have easily kept pace with these changing requirements, but telephone systems largely have not. They have remained proprietary, closed, hard to manage, and very difficult to integrate with other IT data systems, which in the end, not only add up to higher costs - but also slower growth and missed business opportunities.


Hassle Free Customer Service

Utilizing multiple products from multiple vendors can save you money, but it can also cause headaches when and if a problem should arise among one of the links in the chain.

Traditionally, you would have to contact the customer service department that manufactures the product causing the problem - which can be a real hassle if they are not familiar with the other products you are using in your setup.

With the Objectworld Connect™ Interoperability Program, this is no longer an issue. This one-of-a-kind program certifies and provides support for partner products and/or services as interoperable with Objectworld Unified Communications Server™.

For Objectworld partners, resellers and customers, the program provides an opportunity to deploy an open, certified and supported, end-to-end unified communications solution. For customers, that means unprecedented choice of hardware and software with the assurance that the pieces will work together.

The program consists of two designations, Objectworld Connect™ and Objectworld Connect PLUS™. Program designations are awarded to products based on levels of interoperability. With a Connect PLUS product, customers will be able to add the device or service during their install of UC Server without any configuration on their part. Connect designates a product that requires minimal configuration for a customer to add the device or service to their install of UC Server. Objectworld provides second level, system-wide support for all Connect-designated products and services.

Connect makes VoIP deployment simple and flexible.


Easier Management is the Future

The right communication solution should allow an SMB to turn the equipment and investment it already has in place (e.g., the same servers that run Windows, Exchange, and other IT software), add a wide range of phones and gateways, cut costs, improve productivity, and meet the needs of the business. In short, the right communication solution should be software just like every other piece of IT software, and it should be managed just as easily by a business' existing IT team.

Integration with management tools like Microsoft Active Directory, faster and less expensive hardware and the wide-spread adoption of SIP has made it possible to migrate the telephone system into the IT data center as software. The communications solution that businesses need today is one that delivers a featurerich, easy to manage phone system that does Unified Messaging, Unified Communications, Interactive Voice Response, and more. . . for a fraction of the cost of a traditional PBX.

For small to medium-sized enterprises, in particular, the right communication system provides an unparalleled opportunity to turn their phone system into a competitive advantage and to cut costs and complexity at the same time. At Objectworld, we believe the future of VoIP lies in a simple, flexible software solution that provides feature-rich, easy-to-manage Unified Messaging, Unified Communications, Interactive Voice Response and other services to business customers at a reasonable cost.

With today's highly reliable networks and data centers, there are no substantial reasons for a business not to deploy VoIP - except for the lack of simple, flexible and costeffective VoIP solutions thoroughly integrated with the IT data center. In this respect, the market is still outpacing many vendors. Most VoIP systems are not any more open and interoperable than traditional legacy PBXs, and as a result, don't offer the value either to VARs or to their end users. Most VoIP systems still only support phones from a single vendor. Many still require specialized and separate administration. Few if any provide simple GUI tools for end-users and system administrators to make system management point-and-click.

The phone system as we have always envisioned it - as a line running from the PSTN to the PB - is already in its last days. The benefits to a company's operating efficiency and improvements to client interaction through collaborative applications like Unified Communications, will dictate that voice applications as software residing in the IT data center will become the expected approach.

Steve Grassie is the Vice President of Business Development and Marketing for Objectworld. For more information on the company, visit www.objectworld.com.

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