Author: Paul Desmond

As a follow-up to its Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications report, Gartner has come out with a report that may well be more useful than the original for folks looking to decide on a UC product. The Critical Capabilities for Unified Communications report summarizes the capabilities of 11 UC products against 10 “critical capabilities” and rates the suitability of each product against four common use cases. The 11 products are the same ones evaluated in the 2015 Magic Quadrant for UC report. In essence, the Critical Capabilities report puts the UC product evaluations in more context. Through the use cases approach, it gives customers…

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I wrote months ago about the confusion among some users stemming from Microsoft’s morphing Lync into Skype for Business, and it doesn’t seem to have died down a whole lot. Some of the confusion stems from the fact that Microsoft now has two versions of the same product, the traditional Skype and, now, Skype for Business. As I wrote back in late December: Other (users) were clearly not happy with the idea of using the Skype name, which has been solidly associated with a consumer-oriented service, for a business product. A commenter named Simon Jones had this to say on The Register (emphasis his):Users get easily confused with…

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In a recent post on open source unified communications options, I mentioned the company eZuce and how it had been going through some change of late. I promised a follow-up as soon as I could get more details; well, the other day I got the full story in an hour-long conversation with the company’s founder and CEO as well as its VP of product management – who both confirmed that change is indeed underfoot, with a next-generation platform on the way. eZuce background: From SIPfoundry to sipXcom and beyond First let’s clear up the open source questions. As mentioned in my last piece,…

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Gartner recently published its 2015 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications and, to me, the big takeaway is, it’s tough to find a big takeaway. Rather, the report offers a number of smaller takeaways that collectively paint a decent picture – just decent, not crystal clear – of where UC technology is headed. Unified Communications (UC) Market Maturity Level Let’s start with the UC market maturity level. Here’s what Gartner says in the introduction to this year’s report (emphasis mine): Gartner considers the large enterprise UC market to be mature, though product capabilities, market focus and vendor strengths vary. As a result, enterprises should carefully…

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A few months ago I wrote a piece on open source unified communications (UC) options that was pretty well-received – or at least quite a few people read it – so I thought I’d dig into the topic again and see if I could flesh it out a bit more. BitRix24 – Open Source UC and a Lot More In diving in a second time, I came across one company that I had never heard of before, BitRix24. BitRix24 uses a commercial open source model, meaning you get the source code but must buy a license. And it has open APIs for others…

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We’ve been hearing for years that users need to take precautions when using public WiFi services in coffee shops, airports and the like, because it’s all too easy for intruders to sniff the wireless signals and steal credentials. And guess what, it is ridiculously easy. Yet I wonder if we’ve become somewhat immune to the dangers, and lackadaisical about following good security practices. I hope not, because as we move to an increasingly IP world, the dangers are only becoming more prevalent. As unified communications applications increasingly target mobile users, and pundits predict they will, companies will have to pay attention…

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Nearly every company is using some form of cloud-based application today and cloud is shaping up as the most effective way to deliver unified communications (UC) applications. What’s more, UC technology is progressing beyond merely enabling users to collaborate with one another, to getting them more thoroughly engaged in the work they do. Those are the high points from a podcast conversation my colleague Kevin Gulley recently had with Henry Dewing, a Strategic Marketing Executive and Senior Evangelist at Avaya. And an evangelist he certainly is, as you would be hard pressed to find anyone more bullish about UC technology. (Check out…

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Voicemail, of all things, has been making a fair amount of news lately, with the likes of JP Morgan Chase and Coca-Cola both saying they’re getting rid of voicemail for employees, or trying to. Meanwhile, Apple is said to be working on a service for consumers that will use Siri to transcribe your voicemail messages and, presumably, email or text the content to you. JP Morgan Chase and Coke Nix Voicemail for Employees I’ll tackle the Chase and Coke news first. Bloomberg explains the Coke move like this: Office voice mail at the world’s largest soft-drink maker was shut down “to simplify the way…

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Polycom last week announced a couple of new desktop phones that the company says works with “a broad array of SIP call control platforms and integrate with third-party Web-based UC and productivity applications.” But all I could think of when I saw the press release was, “Who buys desktop phones anymore?” To answer the question, I talked to Chris Thorson, senior director of product marketing for Polycom. As it turns out, he wrote a blog post on this very topic late last year. His main points are that desktop phones are highly reliable, deliver good quality audio and are easy to set up and…

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We’ve written a number of times about the changes coming to contact centers, from their support for customers using all sorts of mobile devices to the ins and outs of cloud-based contact centers. No matter what contact center topic you choose, chances are a common denominator is the center is shifting from a TDM-based infrastructure to IP. The shift has been taking place for quite some time and the benefits in terms of cost reduction and more flexible solutions are quite clear. But to fully realize those benefits companies need to be cognizant of a key requirement: they’re going to need a session border controller…

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A recent survey of the unified communications landscape paints a picture of (modestly) rising spending on UC, with web, audio and videoconferencing on the rise, and cloud-based services coming on strong. The IDG Enterprise Unified Communications & Collaboration Survey 2015 is based on an online survey of 653 responses from readers of IDG publications including Computerworld, CIO, CSO, InfoWorld and my former employer, Network World. (IDG is also the parent company of the research firm IDC, but IDC had no hand in this survey.) Respondents spanned a variety of vertical industries and company sizes, with the average company size weighing in at…

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“WebRTC is making the leap from early adopters to early mainstream users.” That is one of the conclusions from the new report, “2015 WebRTC State-of-The-Market Report,” by the industry analyst firm Webtorials. The report is based on a survey of 191 IT professionals representing firms large and small from around the world, although skewed toward the U.S. (61%) and Europe (20%). More than two-thirds of respondents (69%) have either already deployed or plan to deploy WebRTC, up from 56% in last year’s survey, giving credence to the “making the leap” conclusion. Of those, 32% already use it, 15% plan to…

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I guess it’s a matter of perspective but from where I’m sitting the big takeaway from Microsoft’s announcement this week of its E5 Office 365 Enterprise Suite is that the company is getting into telephony whole hog. In addition to Skype for Business, which has a whole host of audio and video features, including conferencing, E5 will tie in traditional PSTN users. In short, E5 will enable companies to have phone calls and audio conferences with users employing whatever sort of phone service they like – Internet-based, cell phone or traditional PSTN land line. Sounds to me like Microsoft is pretty much…

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As we’ve explained in previous posts, WebRTC is starting to make inroads, with use cases cropping up that make good sense for enterprise and SMB customers. But before we find ourselves surrounded by new applications chatting away from our Web browsers, it’s a good idea to examine the security implications of WebRTC. WebRTC, for Real-time Communications, promises to enable audio, video and data communications in a peer-to-peer fashion from directly within a web browser, without the need for a phone, IP-based PBX, UC server or any other infrastructure. Given that, it seems a natural to enable all kinds of unified communications capabilities for…

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Recently I wrote about the Microsoft Surface Hub, an oversized version of the Surface tablet intended for meeting rooms, explaining how it may represent the future of conference room communications systems, explaining how it may represent the future of conference room communications systems. Now this week we have news from Google, which announced a new, larger version of its Chromebox for meetings offering. Chromebox for meetings takes a different tack at more or less the same thing that Surface Hub is targeting. Rather than an all-in-one solution, Chromebox takes a slimmed-down approach. You get a camera, one or two microphone/speaker devices (depending on model), a remote…

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Customers have typically had only a couple of options for how to back up the unified communications implementations in their branch offices, but software-defined networking (SDN) is delivering another, more flexible option that could be attractive in a number of situations. So-called SD WAN offerings promise to enable companies to use multiple, relatively inexpensive Internet connections to back up the connections to cloud-based UC solutions. Today, most customers use one of two approaches to ensuring survivability of UC implementations in their branches, depending on how their UC setup is configured. Survivable Branch Options for Centralized UC If it’s a centralized…

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In September Microsoft is slated to ship its new Surface Hub and, after digging into it a bit, it appears to me that this could well be the future of conference room communications, especially for enterprise customers but perhaps even small and medium-size businesses. The Surface Hub is essentially an oversized Surface tablet that is intended to hang on the wall, like a big-screen TV. It has all kinds of communications and productivity tools built in, including Skype for Business (formerly Lync), OneNote whiteboard, Microsoft Office, touch and ink handwriting. It also has dual 1080p cameras to support videoconferencing via Skype for…

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With Skype for Business now a reality, the question arises: what’s involved in migrating to the new platform from Lync? Microsoft has taken steps to make the migration painless, but as with any IT project, it’s not without some hurdles and gotchas to watch for. To get some thoughts on the topic, I turned to Justin Stevens, director of North American channels for Sonus Networks. Sonus, of course, makes session border controllers, which are crucial to unified communications applications of various sorts, and Skype for Business is a major focus for the organization as it rolls out, so Stevens is well-educated on…

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With Microsoft making its Skype Translator preview freely available earlier this month, things are getting interesting indeed on the voice translation front. The move puts Microsoft a step ahead of Google, whose translation service isn’t really geared for real-time conversation, as Skype Translator is. But Google is getting close. Whereas its Google Translator app originally translated only text, it can now take spoken words and “speak” them back in another target language. While that makes Google Translate handy for, say, an English-speaking tourist trying to order a meal in a Paris restaurant, it’s not really a solution for translating a phone conversation…

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Unified communications technology has now been around for about a generation, having been born in the 1980s and ‘90s with the advent of voice-over-IP (VoIP). Yet the sophistication of most UC deployments by small and medium-sized businesses remains stuck in the UC 1.0 realm, according to a recent survey from PWC. A chief reason for that slow uptake is that vendors have historically failed to offer a compelling value proposition for the technology, although that tide is slowly turning. The survey is based on responses from 400 SMBs in the UK (defined as between 10 and 1,000 employees). In addition…

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