Small businesses must be responsive and adaptable in this age of technology. Only companies that can keep up with the times will thrive. Those that do not will have a hard time competing in a world that is becoming more connected every day.
Everyone is looking for the next big thing to make collaboration more accessible, and Unified Communications is emerging as the answer! Many small businesses are making their move toward it. The Blueface 2018 BCT report found that 56% of the Irish startups surveyed have chosen fully-hosted, cloud-based services as a core part of their communication architecture. This includes UCaaS and VoIP business lines.
What is Unified Communications (UC)?
Unified Communications (UC) is a network-based communications system. It includes telephone, video, and email. It also has nifty features like voicemail and conferencing. All this serves a single purpose: to connect the whole business unit.
Why is UC needed? There has been an explosion of data recently. As such, its importance in the market has increased dramatically. Thus, small businesses now find themselves in need of the power of Unified Communications. Such tech can leverage the data available via a central communication channel.
Is UC for Collaboration or Communication?
What exactly is the core aim of using UC? Is it just for communication? Or is it for collaboration, too?
Any good business needs an equally good communication strategy. This strategy refers to both internal and external communications. An external communication strategy optimises how you engage with your clients. Meanwhile, internal communication is about how you engage with the people within your organisation.
A UCaaS platform improves collaboration within a business. It integrates communication systems and collaboration tools and has the potential to increase productivity and boost team performance. Your team then has the capability to connect, share and collaborate seamlessly.
Differences Between UC and VoIP
VoIP is often heard synonymously with UC, and for a good reason! There are many similarities between UC and VoIP. But there are also a few contrasts that are overlooked quite often.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is an alternative to traditional telephone systems as it transmits voice data over the internet instead of phone lines.
Unlike VoIP, UC is not a single type of tech. Instead, it mixes multiple tools and applications. They then work to improve communications as a whole. Many UC products make use of VoIP tech.
So, that is where they mainly differ. You can implement VoIP tech in your organisation by itself. Even without the use of UC! However, you can’t do it the other way around.
How Does Unified Communications Work?
Knowing what UC is is only half the journey. How does it work?
A Unified Communications network works simply by merging all the necessary tools for collaboration. These tools are typically built using various Internet-based platforms. One example is VoIP technology.
Using UC, people can communicate in real time via audio, video, or text channels. They can easily share files and hold company-wide conference calls. They will also be able to manage all their data from a central hub.
But that’s not the best part! Your team can do all this on the move. For a remote or hybrid workplace, this is a game changer.
UC has a wide range of perks. All of which can help a small business in its growth. These include:
- Video conferencing
One thing UC can provide is video conferencing. This makes it easy for your staff to hold meetings while staying mobile – a key advantage for a small business that may rely on remote workers.
- Instant messaging
It is great to have a real-time conversation with your colleagues via video. However, instant messaging can be equally useful. You can get brief updates from your customers and clients quickly and in real-time. This helps improve communication and response time.
- Screen sharing
One other thing UC offers is screen sharing. Screen sharing can be an incredible resource for your teams, who can use this feature to brainstorm. It also helps give a visual demonstration of your ideas.
- Instant file sharing
File sharing of any kind is great! But instant file sharing is even better. It makes it easy to share documents and other vital data between colleagues in real time. And it does so regardless of where they are in the world!
The Benefits of Unified Communications for Small Businesses
So, what makes UC so good? We know the basics. It can make the workflows in your business more efficient and increase team productivity.
But let’s get more specific. How will using UC give your business an edge? Some of the main advantages of unified communications include the following:
1. Cuts Back on Costs
Small businesses have to deal with the growing costs of telecommunications. UC offers a great solution to this.
Merge all your communication channels into a single network. By doing so, you save money by having fewer telephone lines and servers. This also aids SMEs who have a hybrid workplace.
Plus, traditional on-site solutions usually require the aid of IT support. This is on top of the cost of buying equipment and tools. However, small businesses can avoid these initial expenses with a cloud-based Unified Communications infrastructure.
2. Advanced Mobility and Productivity
Another crucial bit is how mobile UC is. Using UCaaS for small businesses allows employees to work from anywhere. A mobile workforce is a rising trend and is likely to stay.
Small companies are 2X more likely to hire full-time remote employees – Owl Labs
With this in mind, many small businesses are turning to UC. It creates a flexible, high-performing, and productive workplace. All your workers can access company files via any device, even when they are on the move! It is a valuable way of providing real-time collaboration for your teams.
3. Increased Collaboration
The main draw of UC is that it can improve collaboration within your teams. Small businesses thrive on maximising productivity and efficiency. There is a good reason for this! It is the best way to propel growth using limited resources.
When information is not easily shared, miscommunications can occur. This is common when people are using tools that silo data. So how do we fix this? An easy solution is to switch apps that are not optimised for collaboration with a UC system.
4. Better Customer Experience
A UC system won’t just help your staff, it will also affect your customer engagement. A UC system will let you reach your clients, customers, and partners from anywhere. This is vital in today’s competitive environment. It is important to get your message across without missing a beat.
This applies to all industries! Let’s say you own a business in retail and services. You can make use of UC to improve customer experience. Use video conferencing to give real-time tours of your products. In addition, you can automate the flow of simple requests.
Plus, customer feedback is always appreciated. It’s crucial for the growth of an SME in its early stages. After all, you need to reply to all the concerns of your clients and customers. To do so in a prompt manner is even better. With UC, you can merge all your company channels for better communication.
5. Ease of Integrations
Data silos are a big reason why small businesses are failing. When separate SaaS apps refuse to work with one another, trouble brews. Trying to untangle all the knots can cost SMEs precious money. And having to constantly switch back and forth between different apps can be time-consuming. However, Unified Communications aim to eliminate all of that.
Picking the Right UC Provider for Your Business
Always be wary when committing to a crucial business decision, such as choosing a Unified Communications provider. After all, you must get the best deal for your business.
So, how do you pick the right one? Knowing what to look for can help. Here are some key factors to consider when picking a provider:
Look for Scalability
One of the most important things to consider is scalability. Your provider must offer a scalable solution. After all, you will be using it for many years to come. You don’t want to be stuck with a platform that can’t grow with your business.
But that’s not all! You must also be ready for the worst-case scenario. Let’s say your business’s growth stagnates. Maybe it even goes backwards. You need your UC provider to be able to scale back, too. If not, you’re looking at extra costs for things that are no longer required.
2. Consider the Security Measures
Data security is vital for any small business that plans to integrate a unified communications system. Magnet+ reports that one in five Irish businesses have yet to put a solid cyber security policy in place. That equates to over 50,000 left vulnerable to cyber attacks! You want to make sure that your data is safe and secure. Many malicious attacks aim to expose sensitive data.
Consider how secure the product is. Does the provider have a good reputation? Did they pass screenings and tests? What certifications do they have? These are some questions to ask before you pick a provider.
3. Consider the Flexibility
Make sure that the provider offers the right level of flexibility. You will want to be able to adjust and tweak your solution as needed.
Think of whether you will be able to easily incorporate it into your existing systems. Would you need to renovate your entire infrastructure? Or is there a more flexible approach? Do you need a separate IT team to implement and manage it? Or does the provider already offer all the support?
Being as cost-efficient as possible is crucial. This goes for small businesses that are trying to flourish, too. The reason is clear. Flexibility is key to cutting back unnecessary costs.
Get Started on Your Unified Communications Journey with Blueface
UC is a key part of any small business’s success. But where do you start? If you’re considering a Unified Communications solution for your business, we can help.
Blueface offers an affordable, fully-featured UC platform for the best possible experience. Our Unified Communications system is ideal for small businesses. It can aid in any process, be it in customer service, productivity, or cost.
Get in touch with our team at Blueface to discuss your business’s UC needs!