Beyond BYOD: Does it still matter?

Ever since Intel first introduced the ‘Bring-Your-Own-Device’ concept in 2009, BYOD has seen broad and popular adoption around the world. A recent Tech Pro Research report on BYOD found that 72 per cent of organisations polled were permitting BYOD or planning to do so.

Why companies turn to BYOD

Companies promote BYOD because it supports remote working, and that is linked to significant gains in productivity, the report points out. Increasing worker communication leads directly to that much-desired goal. Information gets to where it is needed faster; projects are completed more rapidly and decisions get made more quickly at enterprises that adopt mobility.

But all of this pressures IT administrators, who must manage the communication demands of this increasingly remote workforce. IT staff also have to optimise the user experience, or collaboration will degrade, and the sought-after productivity gain from increased mobility won’t be achieved -- and the business as a whole will suffer.

Benefits of a Unified Communications solution

Many of the challenges that mobility poses to IT administrators can be met by a holistic Unified Communications solution. This is why more than 50 per cent of UK businesses are already working on a UC strategy, according to Dimension Data research.

A UC solution works on a single platform providing all of the features: IP Telephony, messaging, chat, presence and conferencing operate via the data network using SIP trunking or VoIP gateways. One clear benefit is the savings on calling costs that VoIP calling provides -- bypassing the PSTN, voice data does not incur a charge. When it must connect to the public network, it does so at the best possible point to reduce cost.

Administration of a quality UC system can be vastly simplified. A quality UC system is software-based and runs on mainstream operating systems, so that IT staff can easily learn to manage it. Moreover, most of management can be automated, relieving the administrators of the need to dedicate much time for it. IP Phones can be provisioned by the system, and SIP trunking and VoIP gateway configuration can be automated. A web-based console provides a view of the entire system, and enables easy intervention with a few clicks.

Installation, deployment and maintenance are also greatly facilitated with a UC system. Administrators can install it with the hardware and software they already have, and there is no vendor lock-in - they can choose the equipment they prefer. Adding additional lines and extensions can be managed from the web-based console with a few clicks. Failover ceases to be a challenge: such UC systems can be backed up easily - it’s possible to keep a full version of the system on standby for failover.

Multiple devices managed

Management of all aspects of mobility is expedited by the use of softphones and smartphone clients -- a quality UC system should provide them. These apps resolve the issues of managing a wide variety of devices for each type of communication - the client integrates them all, so that workers can use them at any location.

The clients also provide secure communications. With the softphone and smartphone clients, all communications are handled by interaction between the system and the client - this creates specialised channels that the system controls.

Calls from clients are secured by a ‘tunnel’. Such a tunnel combines all SIP (signalling) and RTP (media) VoIP Packets from one location and delivers them to and from another location using a custom TCP protocol.

User experience is maximised. Users can manage calls from their desktop or laptop either in or out of the office. Working with a headset, the softphone entirely replaces the desk phone, enabling you to see presence and easily transfer calls. Workers also particularly appreciate the click-to-dial feature on the softphone, which allows users to dial numbers simply by clicking on them. On a quality system, softphones can also be easily integrated with CRM or business management software to launch calls from the application interface or to recognize customer calls as they come in.

Smartphone clients offer the same kind of extended functionality, making it possible for workers to connect up from their preferred mobile devices. Users can also see presence, make or receive a VoIP call, instant message or chat right from the smartphone. Calls can be transferred to colleagues with a click, and audio and video conferencing are available with just a click as well.

IP Telephony provides a wide range of options for voice, with automated call forwarding and simplified call management. For example, with a quality UC system, each user receives a single extension, and it can be used both on the office deskphone and on portable devices. Workers can be reached on that extension wherever they go: Travelling, working at home or on site, workers can receive calls just as if they were sitting in the office on softphone and smartphone clients.

Clearly a UC system provides a powerful resource for IT administrators, combining enhanced user experience with ease of administration. Of course, different UC systems provide varying levels of price/quality, so the IT staff should make a careful comparison of value provided.

Paul Clarke, Sales Executive UK and Ireland at unified communications provider 3CX