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The Power of Software-based Communication 

Posted By:  Alan Le Marquand 
Publish Date: 10/30/2009

Today, the means for communicating with one another anytime, anywhere, and from a variety of devices has become limitless with the use of Instant Messaging, VoIP, webcams, text, and email. Could an Enterprise provide these communication tools to its employees and benefit from this culture change?

Unified Communications (UC) provides the capabilities that enable employees to communicate quickly and effectively using software they are familiar with. UC integrates e-mail, telephony, instant messaging, voice mail, calendaring, and audio/video/Web conferencing, and delivers them to different clients securely. For example, employees located across offices in Europe, Asia, and the United States can communicate with one another instantly using Instant Message, video conference, or by initiating a VoIP call.

The Microsoft UC solution is cornered around Exchange Server and Office Communications Server 2007 R2 at the backend; and Office Communicator 2007 R2, Office Live Meeting, and Outlook on the front-end client. So what do these products provide?

Office Communications Server 2007 R2 provides a number of communication services for the clients, such as:

  • Software-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • Audio, Video, and Web Conferencing functionality
  • IM and Presence
  • Group Chat
  • Public IM Connectivity
  • Mobility    

These services can be accessed using Office Communicator 2007 R2, which can be installed on a PC and a Windows Mobile Device. Office Communicator provides a web client for use in places like airports and internet cafes, as well as an IP phone version for those who prefer the traditional handset form factor. On the PC, phone or web client, Office Communicator allows you to send an instant message within your own organization or over the public IM network; whereas, the PC client allows you to communicate in-person with VoIP calls and video conference. Communicator supports a wide range of devices for making audio and video calls, either as a one-to-one connection or as group meetings.

This communication goes beyond voice and video. With unified conferencing you can share and collaborate with people located in the next office, on a different floor, in another building, or even in other countries. By using unified conferencing, colleagues can meet and share information such as files and presentations quickly and regularly, regardless of their location.

UC integration goes beyond Communicator with integration into Microsoft Outlook. With Exchange 2010 at the backend, you can integrate e-mail, fax, and voice mail into a single inbox. This integration goes beyond voice mail as it allows you to initiate communication from an e-mail and view presence information about the intended receiver.

Mobility is a key requirement of a truly unified communication solution. Both desktop clients, Office Communicator 2007 R2 and Outlook 2007, are completely mobile and only require an Internet connection to access the backend and thus provide the full capabilities mentioned above while away from the office. With Office Communicator Mobile 2007 R2 you get the familiar Communicator interface on your mobile device, and while not the rich experience of its desktop equivalent, you are still able access to your contact lists, see presence information and Instant Message contact over both public and private IM networks.

By implementing this simplified communications solution, an organization can realize both cost savings and environmental benefits. These resources provide additional details on these benefits:

Communication technology has advanced greatly over recent years and the organizations who have embraced these advances are now finding that they have a number of different systems to manage and maintain, and often from different interfaces. A Unified Communication solution based on OCS 2007 R2 and Exchange Server can integrate with or replace existing systems, providing a single point of management and reducing the communication complexity in your organization.