A man sitting at a computer, speaking on an office telephone.

Business communications advantage: applying SD-WAN technology to UCaaS.

In some cases, business technology is a game of increments — gradual improvements made by providers and adopted by organizations over months or years. Other times, innovation strikes hard and takes the business world along for the ride.

Then, there are the in-between cases, or situations where various components of business-critical technologies advance at different rates. The continued growth of technologies such as cloud, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN), and unified-communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) certainly fits this bill.

Businesses have been moving their communication workloads to the cloud for as long as the cloud has been around. But the demands that these real-time communications place on a network — as opposed to the simpler needs of one-way communications, such as email — can be significant. And while the end result is workable, it’s not always optimal. Large companies taking communications to the cloud can be faced with brownouts and jitter, unless they’re willing to make major investments in private networks to overcome the problem.

With one of the most exciting developments in years — the application of SD-WAN technology to UCaaS — the business communication world’s movers and shakers are pushing real-time, cloud-based communications toward their true potential and providing a better, smarter, and more efficient service in the process. Take a closer look at what this advancement means for business communications:

A Brief History of SD-WAN

Indeed, many advancements are made possible thanks to the simultaneous growth technologies. In this case, just as SD-WAN was emerging, the cloud was also evolving rapidly. This may not seem huge on its face, but it’s a phenomenal combination in practice. The cloud made many things businesses traditionally did over WAN possible via the internet. This allowed companies to break free from maintaining numerous complex data centers and IT structures, a major change in and of itself.

This is where cloud communication and collaboration come into play. Though the cloud did represent a cheaper and more accessible way for businesses to employ critical network-backed communication tools, there were some definite challenges. Pushing multiple streams of real-time data over the cloud, for example, could compromise quality of service (QoS).

What Is SD-WAN’s Role with UCaaS?

While there’s effectively no end to the benefits cloud-based communication and collaboration offer, any business would want to minimize issues leading to poor quality of experience. This is especially true considering the smartphone revolution and modern employees, who expect a solid, collaborative experience across multiple devices no matter where they work or what they do.

Moving unified communications to the cloud created an interesting scenario, with voice treated similar to any other data coming through. However, this often isn’t enough for real-time communications. Now you have to contend with bandwidth and QoS concerns.

Here’s where the advancement applies: By bringing SD-WAN capabilities to UCaaS, communication providers are able to elevate quality of service. They’re applying technical architecture parameters that allow connections to be provided in a priority bandwidth from Point A to Point B, thus enhancing the overall experience for business communication users.

Two key ways the technology makes this happen:

  1. Active, Smart Monitoring: With technology that constantly searches for the best possible path for real-time communication data to take, communications are properly prioritized. An employee engaging in a video chat, for instance, will get better quality of service than the staffer watching Netflix® during lunch.
  2. Abundant Failover: The best solutions applying SD-WAN to UCaaS allow users to pick from multiple networks. For instance, an organization experiencing problems with its standard WAN connection at a branch location could temporarily switch to a commercial broadband line generally used to manage internal data activity, then switch back when things are on the up-and-up again. This hybrid approach could also include other networking solutions, such as an LTE connection.

With these advancements, a company’s IT staff gets all the flexibility of a hybrid communication solution, the intelligence of a managed solution, and the control it needs to make it all come together. That’s a big change in the communications arena, where tech staff must sometimes sacrifice the ability to make granular change in the name of cost or flexibility.

A Bright Future

Naturally, this prioritizing and shaping also leads to more efficient bandwidth usage. Think of it this way: By bringing in SD-WAN for UCaaS, it’s like taking the $300 you spent on connectivity and squeezing out bandwidth equivalent to (or even greater than) a 3 MB Ethernet circuit, which can cost upward of $600 to $700. Companies can “squeeze” that bandwidth out of multiple locations, getting more for what they currently use or saving money by dropping to a more appropriate package.

More, this prioritizing and shaping further ensures the customer receives higher-quality bandwidth, providing an even better bang for their buck. On one hand, they get more efficiency. On the other, they get better, smarter performance for their real-time communication needs, deriving even more benefit from the bandwidth they use. In other words, they simultaneously get better performance from their cloud-based unified communications solutions and save space.

Perhaps best of all, this is still an emerging technology in terms of adoption and overall capability. As provider companies take managed products and essentially stitch them together into one structure, end-user organizations will see an even greater level of customizability, flexibility, and control.

In short, the future is bright for UCaaS thanks to the deft application of SD-WAN technology. Communications companies building these performance enhancements into their existing platforms can provide even better service — and experience — to an existing slate of solutions, all while making the technology less complex and more accessible. In this sense, the capability represents both a natural next step for communications and a milestone improvement for a critical business function.

Whether your organization is looking to modernize an aging communications structure, enhance collaborative ability across a broad number of geographical locations, or simply make better use of the bandwidth it currently pays too much for, there’s a lot to love about these advancements.

To learn more about SD-WAN and UCaaS, connect with a Vonage Business consultant.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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Moving to the cloud can improve communications with colleagues and customers.

Even before the first executive walked into his or her office with a new iPhone nearly 10 years ago, mobile technology had been having a huge impact on how people worked. Armed with their Blackberry and Palm Treo mobile phones, enterprise employees could send and receive emails and check their calendars while binge-watching episodes of “Entourage” on DVDs mailed to their homes from Netflix. Those were heady days, friends.

In truth, of course, that was all child’s play compared to what’s happening now. As business technology matures, enterprises are moving to the cloud to even better leverage its productivity benefits. Here are just a few examples of how forward-thinking digital enterprises are using cloud, mobile, and other technologies to transform their businesses:

Communicate and Collaborate with Colleagues, Wherever They Are

Mobile technology liberates employees from the office, but unfortunately, it can be difficult for a dispersed workforce to, well, work together. Older or limited conferencing platforms can be ill-equipped to handle mobile participants, making effective collaboration and even basic communications between office and mobile employees difficult, if not impossible at times.

By moving to the cloud and adopting cloud-based communications, enterprises allow employees working anywhere — and using any device — to participate in audio and video conference calls, message colleagues (even within other apps), and have fully functional connectivity to project collaboration software.

These cloud-based unified communications platforms can also help businesses scale. For example, Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM), a maker of custom aquariums, was struggling with hypergrowth stemming from its higher profile as a star of Animal Planet’s “Tanked” reality TV show. The company switched from its old phone system to a cloud-based system that included unified communications features. The new platform routes calls more efficiently, allows voice messages to be read or listened to from multiple devices, and enables video conferencing with third-party vendors making special parts for ATM’s aquariums.

Access CRM Databases, Customer Histories, and More Business Information

It used to be that if you were on the road and needed customer information quickly (as in real-time), you were out of luck. Today, though, apps and services are easily available to authorized and authenticated users via the cloud.

For example, Handi-Ramp, a manufacturer of products for wheelchair accessibility and fall prevention that counts the White House and Statue of Liberty as clients, uses an enterprise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platform that powers the company’s office phones, business applications, and softphones while providing full integration with employees’ mobile devices.

In addition, the platform integrates Handi-Ramp’s Google apps, including email, calendar, and contact software. Further, the company’s sales force can use its mobile devices to connect automatically with a CRM system. The end result is more productive and effective sales and support teams, which results in higher revenue and greater customer satisfaction.

Gain Insights Into and Establish Personal Relationships with Customers

Mobile devices and apps are providing retailers and other businesses with unprecedented amounts of data about users’ search, shopping, and physical habits, such as where they go and when. This allows retailers to understand and anticipate customer needs and personalize the shopping experience in a way that increases sales and brand loyalty.

Cosmetics and beauty products retailer Sephora uses geolocation data and personalized mobile app alerts for users who are close to one of its stores, informing the customer of special deals. Adweek reported that Sephora is also driving mobile sales by integrating a Tinder-like swipe feature that allows mobile and desktop users to navigate rapidly through makeup and beauty products, as well as an app that allows its Snapchat followers to make purchases by downloading a screenshot of the desired product.

With the help of cloud, mobile, and communications technologies, companies can better manage their internal and customer-facing processes to become more efficient, more flexible and more productive.

Is your business ready for transformation? Contact a Vonage Business representative to take the first steps toward increased productivity and customer engagement.

About Chris Nerney

Chris Nerney is a technology writer who covers both enterprise and consumer technologies. He has written extensively on cloud computing, unified communications, enterprise collaboration, VoIP, mobile technology, big data and analytics, data centers, converged systems and space technology. His writing has appeared in Computerworld, CIO.com, Data-Informed, Revenue Cycle Insights, Network World, ITWorld and many other technology publications, including enterprise whitepapers. Chris lives in upstate New York with his wife and three children.

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A man talking on a mobile phone, in front of a blackboard with figures on it.

Your business is different, so why use the same cookie-cutter communication system as everyone else?

You didn’t start your business to be just like everyone else in your industry. Instead, you started it because you saw a need that wasn’t being met, or you wanted to provide an existing product or service but in a different, better way.

One of the best parts of being a small business owner is that you can create a workplace culture that feels right to you and your employees, and define a customer service model that leaves your customers thrilled every time they work with you.

However, if you have a generic communication system, you might be missing out on the benefits of being able to customize your service to match the rest of your company’s culture.

Why a Cookie-Cutter Communication System Just Won’t Work for You

Your company is inherently unique, which means a prepackaged telephone service probably won’t fulfill all your needs. It won’t include enough features for your business, or there might be too many aspects your company has no use for. At the same time, you don’t want to purchase equipment that will be useless if your business grows or you change your direction tomorrow.

These days, business communication is much more than just a phone system for calls. It includes cloud-based communications, video conferencing, mobile apps, and virtual desktops. While your company may only need a few of these options today, you could decide next week that you need others. The best advantage a small business has is its ability to move quickly to adjust to changing circumstances.

Creating Custom Unified Communications that Work for You

One of the hardest parts of creating a custom solution is knowing all the options available, and even more importantly, how you can use these features to increase service, employee engagement, and productivity. With a unified communications platform, your employees can handle customer calls on whatever devices they choose, from any location, without revealing personal details. Your business maintains a professional identity at all times, and customers get the quick service they expect. In addition, you can take advantage of custom cloud integrations so your various business tools can “talk” to each other.

The following are some unified communications features to consider when making your wish list:

  • Visual Voicemail: Let’s be honest, it’s a pain to listen to voicemails. And it’s especially awkward when you’re in a meeting or conference and are just standing there silently with your phone pressed to your ear. However, when you provide voicemail transcription to your employees, voicemails are transcribed into email so employees can read the text of the voice messages from wherever they are.
  • Call Recording: There are many ways you can use this feature, from setting company-wide rules to randomly monitor customer calls to recording conference calls, training new employees, and allowing your team to record an important call on the spot even once the call has started.
  • Video Conferencing: You may have employees who work at locations around the country or even just across town. But with video conferencing, you can have as close to in-person meetings as possible without the hassle — not to mention expense — of gathering in one location.

Your business isn’t just like everyone else’s, so don’t think you need to use the same communication system as everyone else. Use one that fits your organization.

Contact a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about creating a customized communication system that meets your unique requirements.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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