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Enterprise Connectivity: What businesses need to know

Connectivity is vital for all businesses. Whether you need to communicate with customers, clients or employees, or simply rely on it to deliver your service, the importance of connectivity cannot be overstated.

What’s more, this importance is clearly growing. In the always-on, cloud-based, mobile-first digital world that we inhabit, enterprise connectivity is not merely desirable – it is expected at all times.

Connectivity, of course, means different things to different businesses and the level of connectivity that you are able to provide is likely to depend on a number of factors. Do you have the technology required, including the hardware and network infrastructure, to support your business processes? Are you embracing the kind of new, innovative, cutting-edge connectivity options that modern enterprise customers expect? The answers to these questions are vital for enterprises regardless of the industry they inhabit, because modern enterprise connectivity means more than just making sure the phone is on the hook.

A changing landscape

Today, the minimum requirements for enterprise connectivity are changing rapidly. Even just a few years ago, businesses may have been able to compete with their rivals by simply ensuring that they had an email contact and a fixed-line telephone that it was in operation during normal business hours. However, the growth of mobile technology, web-based applications and cloud computing has meant that a far greater level of connectivity is required than ever before.

For example, customers now expect businesses to not only be contactable, but productive, outside of traditional working hours and away from the confines of the office. This means not only having the necessary hardware (smartphones and tablets), but software (cloud applications) too. The 2015 Enterprise Mobility Application report from 451 Research found that 51 per cent of enterprises plan to implement 10 or more customer-facing mobile apps over the next two years. More and more customers use their smartphones to interact with products and services and enterprises are reacting to this by using applications to increase their connectivity.

The performance required by enterprises concerning their network infrastructure is also changing. Data-rich services, high-definition video content and the movement of applications to the cloud has meant that network connectivity has to be more robust than ever before. A recent study by the Broadband Stakeholder Group found that even small enterprises are requiring substantial bandwidth capabilities. The study found that more than 50 per cent of small business premises exceeded the 1 Mbps upload limit of ‘standard broadband.’ Clearly the connectivity demands being made by enterprises are accelerating rapidly.

“Although standard broadband is adequate for most firms, some firms are already constrained,” explained Matthew Evans, CEO of the Broadband Stakeholder Group. “All small businesses will need access to superfast speeds in the next five years, and large numbers will soon need ultrafast speeds.”

As well as connectivity demands increasing, the medium by which communication takes place is also becoming more fragmented. In addition to telephone, apps, email and other connectivity options, many enterprises are now using social media to stay in-touch with their customers. Social networks enable businesses to engage with people in a more informal, personal, and often more immediate, way. Social media also facilitates the formation of like-minded groups with similar interests, so can provide an effective way of connecting with a particular audience. It provides a window into what consumers are saying about your business too so social media is something enterprises can't afford to ignore. In the enterprise landscape, it is important to remember that certain mediums will suit certain forms of communication. Connectivity should not take a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather make the best use of all the options available.

Taking a modern approach

One of the more modern technological approaches to enterprise connectivity is unified communications. This basically refers to combining all of your connectivity mediums into one single digital connection. The unified comms market is expected to achieve a value of $61.9 billion by 2018, and is being driven by a number of firms that are embracing the connectivity benefits available. By implementing unified communications, connectivity becomes a much more seamless and straightforward process. Employees are able to begin conversations via their desk phone, for example, and then transition to their mobile without disruption. They can also adopt a unified inbox for all their communications, making it much easier to search for and find information relating to a particular project or customer.

Unified communications also make it much easier for external parties to get in contact with enterprises. A feature known as Presence informs clients and colleagues of which is the best channel to contact employees on, whether it’s email, mobile, desk phone or an instant messaging service. Through an easy-to-use comment system, employees can inform the necessary individuals as to their availability. There are also other advanced telephony features that help with enterprise connectivity, including multi-device ringing and conference capabilities. In addition, unified communications offers scalable connectivity. Because it uses digital networks, adding more connections is a simple process as long as your bandwidth is robust enough, and making use of VoIP connectivity proves much more cost-effective when compared to a traditional telephone connection.

It is also important for modern enterprises to realise that connectivity is not only about external communications, but also internal collaboration. A number of organisations have adopted innovative approaches to employee connectivity, such as enterprise social networks and video conferencing. By better enabling employees to connect with each other, businesses are likely to benefit from a more productive and happy working environment.

Connectivity benefits

For many enterprises, having excellent connectivity is not simply about being contactable through different channels (opens in new tab), it is about gaining a competitive edge. Every time that your business experiences a disruption to its communication systems, reputational damage occurs and revenue could be lost. Conversely, having reliable and efficient connectivity can lead to a host of benefits. It could enable employees to access company files and work remotely or help facilitate the quick resolution of a customer query. It also means that branches can have the same level of access as head office.

Mobility, flexibility and agility are hallmarks of a successful organisation, but in order to achieve them, businesses must first have the hardware, software and network infrastructure in place to facilitate reliable enterprise connectivity.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/asharkyu

Barclay Ballard
Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.