TheUCBuyer.com launched in late August of this year and it appears we picked a good time, as the unified communications market has been on an undeniable roll. As the year comes to a close, we offer this look back at some of the biggest stories, trends and lessons learned from 2014.
UCaaS goes Mainstream
In its 2014 Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service report, Gartner declared UCaaS to be “mainstream.” From our report:
Gartner recently released its 2014 Magic Quadrant report, complete with the usual shifting of a few names from one quadrant to another. While that’s always somewhat interesting, what jumped out at me was this first line in the “Context” section:
2014 is the first year in which North American MNCs [multi-national corporations] should consider UCaaS as a mainstream, viable alternative for UC deployment.
Now that is indeed some juicy context. It basically says, if UCaaS is good enough for MNCs, then it’s good enough for the average schmo enterprise or SMB (although I’m sure Gartner would never use the word schmo).
The hosted UC market is certainly seeing healthy growth, as Infonetics reported in August:
“Infonetics expects continued strong worldwide growth for the cloud PBX and UC market over the next 5 years, projecting it will reach $12 billion in 2018 with 62.6 million seats in service.”
It says hosted PBX and UC services are “well beyond early stages, with revenue on track to grow 13% this year and positive activity in every major geographic region.”
UCaaS represents a decent chunk of the overall UC market, which is likewise booming. As we reported in September, estimates range from a $61.9B market in 2018 with a compound annual growth rate of 15.7% to $88B in the same timeframe. Big numbers any way you slice it.
Heavy Focus on UC Adoption
Perhaps those numbers are healthy because companies are getting smarter about making sure employees actually use the UC solutions they put in place. It’s hard to get a return on a UC investment if employees don’t want to use the tools, after all.
Richard English, director of strategic consulting for the Avaya Professional Services organization, provided some sound advice back in October on how to ensure your UC deployment hits on all cylinders. This first step is probably the most important with respect to eventual adoption:
Step one is a discovery workshop, where Avaya identifies what UC would mean to the enterprise and to different sorts of users. “Not everyone uses it the same way, or needs to,” English notes.
Knowledge workers will have different requirements from those in a manufacturing plant, and different knowledge workers will have varying needs depending on whether they’re at headquarters, a remote branch or working at home. The idea is to come up with profiles for each type of user that describes what they do and what their UC requirements are, while recognizing the need for some commonality in how the company communicates as a whole.
UCCS is intended to help customers collect information about the extent to which end users are employing various Microsoft Exchange and Lync applications. It also includes tools to report on how well the applications are performing. Taken together, the data is intended to point to steps that customers can take to increase adoption and deliver the expected ROI from their UC projects.
We also reported on a UC success story, as Deborah Wenger, COO of headset maker Jabra, talked about her company’s deployment. As we reported:
“Our products are not only an important component of a successful UC solution, but we are an organization that has significantly improved processes, shifted corporate culture and realized meaningful return-on-investment as a result of our own Microsoft Lync deployment,” said Wenger.
One key to their success was – eventually – taking away desk phones, thus forcing users to employ the Lync client for voice:
“We made sure every team member had a professional grade headset that was ideal for their telephony use case and pulled off the band aid,” said Wenger. “Usage spiked, as we knew it would, and ROI increased.”
Carrier Services Make the UC Grade
Another reason UC is catching on is we now have myriad carrier services that make fast, reliable wide-area communications possible – at relatively affordable rates. SIP trunking is one such service that is saving users significant sums, as we recently reported:
SIP trunks can save you money every month by moving voice over IP (VoIP), unified communications (UC) and other IP-based traffic off of TDM-based services. And the savings can be significant, even 50 percent or more for long distance charges and monthly access line fees. …
In practice, companies typically find they need 35 to 50 percent fewer SIP trunks vs. comparable TDM trunks.
Another source of savings is the fact that SIP trunks can be added one at a time, not in chunks of 23 as with PRI or T1 lines. So you can buy only what you need, and limit excess, unused capacity.
And the services promise to just keep getting better. In October we reported on the next iteration of carrier Ethernet, what’s known as Network-as-a-Service. Here’s a bit from that story, quoting Andrew McFadzen, Metro Ethernet Forum Chairman:
The vision is a “highly automated, orchestrated” service that can deliver end-to-end connectivity on demand, in close to real time, McFadzen says. And it can all be activated and deactivated by the end user.
Think about what that would mean for unified communications services. Road warriors in a hotel room or in a remote office would connect to the NaaS provider and get the performance profile they need to support video, voice, presence, data and all the usual functions they employ when in the office. And it’d all be delivered over a fast, familiar Ethernet connection, the same as on the office LAN.
SBCs – Crucial to Keeping the UC Kingdom Secure
Of course security continues to be a concern, especially with high-profile hacks coming seemingly every week. But we’ve learned that session border controllers (SBCs) can go a long way to keeping UC sessions safe.
We had lots of coverage explaining the role of SBCs, including this piece outlining the difference between SBCs and firewalls, and this one that explains why SBCs are crucial when connecting to hosted UC services.
And for those who like visuals, this infographic brings home just how big the SBC and SIP trunking markets are getting.
It’s been an interesting few months launching TheUCBuyer and, based on these stories and more, we feel pretty confident that we picked the right technology at the right time. We look forward to covering more UC stories in 2015 and providing you with insights and answers to your questions.