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Unified communications - moving beyond the desktop era

Microscope contributor

The findings from the latest Pearlfinders IT Index highlight that business has moved beyond the desktop. The PC is just one of many collaboration environments. With the rise of mobility and bring your own device (BYOD), collaboration solutions should incorporate mobile devices as extensions of the corporate network so mobile workers can be productive anywhere. It is also essential to innovate across the value chain by integrating collaboration and communications into applications and business processes.

The key is to build in sufficient flexibility to accommodate new developments as your needs evolve, while extending the value of your existing IT investments. In this article, Andy Chew, senior director, Collaboration, Cisco UK & Ireland explores the key trends in the collaboration landscape.

Support for Mobile Devices
By 2013 the mobile phone is projected to become the most common device for accessing the Internet, with more than a third of the global workforce expected to become mobile information workers (IDC research, February 2010). Therefore, a critical requirement for any UC solution should include its degree of support for mobile devices in an enterprise environment. It's important to look for native, current support for the leading mobile devices, together with tight integration into the corporate unified communications system for compliance and cost control.

Video is becoming more pervasive 
Video is rapidly transitioning from a niche interest to mainstream adoption. Earlier this year Cisco released the Visual Networking Index (VNI) - a global mobile data  traffic forecast for 2011 to 2016. According to the research, worldwide mobile data traffic will increase 18-fold over the next five years, reaching 10.8 exabytes per month, or an annual run rate of 130 exabytes by 2016

As video becomes pervasive in an organisation and more video devices are used, new demands are placed on the network. It can be challenging to accommodate video needs while reducing complexity, planning for capacity, and providing the best possible user experience.

Consider the 'full stack' approach
It is important to realise that successful delivery of the next-generation collaboration experience is not just a matter of desktop software, or the latest social network or smartphone. It requires a "full-stack" approach, and an acknowledgment that the underlying collaboration infrastructure can make the experience more natural and integrated. Furthermore, it can reduce IT complexity through greater reuse across silos and can deliver the superior reliability, scalability, and robustness expected of a true business solution.

Prioritise reliability and security
A comprehensive strategy for security is essential to any business looking to achieve their collaboration goals, especially given the trends toward mobility, consumer devices, and social software. At the same time the value of a UC solution increases with wider participation and information sharing, and too restrictive a security policy will limit user adoption. What is needed is a flexible balance between control and access that protects enterprise resources while encouraging open communication.

To summarise, the key element of collaboration is to connect co-workers, partners, vendors, and customers with the information and expertise they need. For example, the ability to access and share video on the desktop, on the road, and on-demand, as easily as making a phone call is paramount. Collaboration should also facilitate better team interactions, dynamically bringing together individuals, virtual workgroups, and teams.

This puts people at the heart of collaboration.


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