Your Comprehensive Guide to Unified Communications
A Unified Communications (UC) solution is a superpowered, future-proof version of your run-of-the-mill business phone system. It takes business telephony, and makes it much, much better.
Put simply, it does that by combining a wealth of powerful communication tools in one simple, cost-effective package, making them work as one through your internet connection.
Most importantly, UC offers feature-rich IP telephony, often including nifty complementary services like voicemail to email, call routing and more. That’s all pretty standard with good UC.
And then it adds in all the other contact and collaboration tools modern businesses increasingly need. Video calling, conferencing, Instant Messaging (IM), group chart, email, presence and screen share are all common features of a powerful UC solution.
Because it’s hosted in the cloud, all these UC services are accessible from anywhere, and on a range of devices. Employees can use their desktop computers, laptops, smartphones or tablets to make calls, start a group chat or be part of a video conference.
For that reason, UC is ideal for the new world of remote and semi-remote (hybrid) work. It also future-proofs businesses for the upcoming PSTN and ISDN switch off, while equipping them with the communication and collaboration tools they need to for more efficient operation and better customer service.
Through this article, we’ll guide you through the benefits of UC for your business, including answers to the following questions:
- What is Unified Communications?
- The Benefits of Unified Communications
- Microsoft Teams: What’s Missing?
- MiCloud Connect: Filling the gaps in Teams
- Why Choose Unicomm?
Now, let’s get started with how, exactly, it works.
What is Unified Communications?
At its most basic, UC is a form of all-IP communications, which means it routes your calls through your internet connection.
That’s a good thing, because with the PSTN and ISDN being turned off for good in 2025, everyone will have to move to this internet-based telephony sooner or later.
In essence, it works by turning voice messages into digital data, just like internet traffic. And just like internet traffic, that means calls can be made from any internet-enabled device, whether that’s a computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet. Softphone apps simply turn your telephony into a software service.
This IP-telephony has a number of big advantages over traditional phone calls. For a start, you can make or take calls anywhere. You can also scale your service in seconds, adding or removing users in a couple of mouse clicks.
There are lots of other benefits, and we’ll come to them later in this article. But one potential issue with UC, especially when you’re making video calls and conferencing as well as traditional phone calls, is internet bandwidth.
When you move to IP-telephony and especially UC, you add considerably to your internet traffic. With that in mind, you need to make sure you have the bandwidth to match your ambitions.
That shouldn’t be a problem though, and any good UC provider will advise you on the connectivity you need to run both your UC solution and all other connected services without stoppages or slowdowns.
The Benefits of Unified Communications
You might describe UC as IP telephony with all the trimmings. It combines voice, video, conferencing, chat and more in one very handy package.
Why is that beneficial? Well, for a start, it stops you having to invest in and maintain a number of separate services. Putting everything in one service is both more cost effective and makes your supplier management much simpler.
UC brings significant benefits to your internal communications. With remote and hybrid work becoming standard practice, the ease with which dispersed teams can communicate and collaborate becomes a business-critical issue.
It has similarly impressive benefits for your external communications. And at the heart of any UC solution is business-grade VoIP telephony. That means your employees can make and take professional business calls wherever they happen to be – in the office, at home or on the road. The same telephone number goes with them, so clients and colleagues always know who’s calling, and which number to call and you’ll never miss an important business call again.
A good UC solution can even include contact centre services, like wallboards, IVRs and in-depth reporting capabilities. In other words, UC merges a host of communication features into one service, promoting cost-savings, employee efficiency and enhanced customer service.
Unified Communication offers a range of major benefits for business, whether employees are working remotely or not:
- Productivity – Cloud collaboration helps teams work faster, and more efficiently. And with everything stored in the cloud, team members can get hold of the materials they need at any time, wherever they are.
- Simplicity – Cloud collaboration creates one version of the truth. Instead of long email trails with a new attachment for every amendment, cloud collaboration simply presents your team with the latest version of a document, fully synced and up to date.
- Participation – Because all employees have the same access to projects, everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute. Those less vocal members of the team can easily add suggestions or show what a change might look like without having to explain it.
- Communication and collaboration – Cloud collaboration lets your dispersed team share files and documents, and edit them almost instantly, and then talk them through, using audio and video conferencing, group chat and IM.
- Security – Because your documents and projects are stored in the cloud, rather than on someone’s computer, it’s more secure. In most cases, it will be saved more than once, in different locations, which supports your business’ continuity planning.
Microsoft Teams: What’s Missing?
Don’t get us wrong, Microsoft Teams is a powerful tool for internal communications and collaboration.
For many SMEs during the pandemic, Teams gave businesses the video calling and messaging services they needed to stay connected. As we move into the post-lockdown world, Teams has quickly become a ubiquitous business tool.
But is Teams enough on its own? Many businesses think not. In this section, we’ll explain why combining Teams with Mitel MiCloud Connect, a simple cloud communications, collaboration and contact centre phone system, is ideal for SMEs adapting to the current climate.
Video calling, instant messaging and presence are available in every version, even the one you can download for free.
Paying for Teams gives you access to Office 365 web apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more), and cloud storage with OneDrive. And as far as security goes, even the free version of Teams will encrypt your data, turning it into code which is near impossible to hack.
While the free version of Teams offers nothing in terms of visibility and reporting, paid versions include some basic ways to measure and monitor the productivity of staff.
When you put it all together, Teams is a great product, but it’s not great at everything. Most significantly, many SMEs find it a poor and cost-prohibitive option for external calling. Teams was originally designed for internal collaboration, and it shows.
It’s possible to call traditional phone numbers with Teams, but not with the free version.
Even with the paid for versions, you have to add a call plan to make external calls, at considerable extra expense. Many SMEs enquire about adding external calls to Teams and are put off by soaring costs and lengthy contracts.
With lots of different Teams’ options, calculating what you’re paying for and how much your monthly bill will be, can be complex.
At the same time, security is basic rather than premium, and reporting and integrations are limited. This is a particular issue when you want to maintain productivity levels among remote staff, and ensure customers are always receiving the prompt and efficient service they demand.
None of this is to damn Microsoft Teams. It’s simply to say that Teams cannot on its own meet most small businesses’ communications challenges.
MiCloud Connect: Filling the gaps in Teams
To compensate for Teams’ limitations, many SMEs use a traditional phone system for external calls. But ISDN-based telephony tends to offer only basic functionality. It also isolates external communications from the rest of your systems, which means you miss out on a range of efficiency and productivity benefits.
Instead, the perfect partner to Teams is MiCloud Connect from Mitel, one of the world’s leading telephony providers.
MiCloud Connect is a powerful and – at the same time – easy to use cloud telephony system which allows you to make and take professional business calls anywhere, on a handset or via smartphone, laptop or tablet. It comes with a range of call management features as standard, including:
- Voicemail – accessed with a single click, with the option to have messages transcribed and sent to email
- Call recording – record calls on demand for compliance purposes or staff training
- Phone routing – route calls to your preferred device, whether desk phone, softphone, mobile or personal number
MiCloud Connect is also a sophisticated collaboration tool, offering:
- Conferencing – audio and video conferencing with screen sharing, agenda tracker and single-click joining
- Presence – route calls by presence, so colleagues always know when you’re available, when you’re away, and when you’re busy with other tasks
- File sharing – speedy up and downloads helps version control and file management
And unlike Teams (and other cloud telephony solutions) MiCloud Connect can be your complete contact centre solution, too, with wallboards, IVRs and in-depth reporting capabilities as standard, along with:
- Real-time changes – add or remove users, edit groups, manage your team and assess performance, all in real time
- Easy to use – a seamless and simple experience across devices and features means that only minimal training is required
- SIP Trunking – expansive trunking capabilities including Caller ID, DIDs, tandem trunking and trunk groups
MiCloud Connect is built on Google Cloud, providing industry-leading security and reliability. In addition, Mitel’s management portal allows you to restrict permissions and add multiple layers of authentication with a couple of clicks. It’s some way ahead of Microsoft Teams in terms of security and reliability.
It’s also better at connecting your services together. MiCloud Connect’s range of rich
contact centre, CTM and CRM integration options lets your systems speak to each other, making an excellent solution even better.
Perhaps most importantly for cash-strapped SMEs, MiCloud Connect provides the kind of financial predictability small business budgeting requires. It offers one standard price for everything you need.
Finally, there’s a high chance that the price you pay will be cheaper than the equivalent services sourced through Teams. So all told, there’s certainly more reasons to choose MiCloud Connect than there are Teams, because every Teams benefit is also a MiCloud Connect benefit too!
Why choose Unicomm?
As we’ve discussed, the perfect answer to the questions of future-proofing your communications is to combine Teams and MiCloud Connect. One complete telephony, communications and collaboration solution that enhances Teams functionality with MiCloud Connect’s excellent calling and contact centre features.
But getting to the point of deploying and using MiCloud Connect is another challenge that businesses recovering from the pandemic just don’t have time to overcome. But don’t worry, that’s where we come in!
Unicomm is your perfect telephony partner. We’ll expertly manage your MiCloud Connect service, handling the provisioning, maintaining and upgrading of all software and hardware so you don’t have to. At the same time, our pay-as-you-grow pricing model means you only ever pay for the capacity you actually use.
And if you want to integrate MiCloud Connect and Microsoft Teams, we’ll make sure the solution you end up with perfectly meets your needs and budget.
We’re the right partner because we live and breathe unified communications. Our management team has over 70 years of collective experience in the telecoms industry. Every solution we deploy is fully supported by a comprehensive and bespoke support and maintenance contract that guarantees long and productive service for your IT infrastructure.
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