Cisco still holds an important place in technology history. Their revolutions in business communications in the 80s, 90s, and 00s led to a vital new idea in business telephony: Cisco Unified communications...and the new Meraki Communications. Other firms have picked up on the idea and expanded it, but Cisco provided many of the key ideas and insights that changed business telecommunications forever.
So let's take a look at the Cisco phone system and why it is so important to businesses today.
For most of the 20th Century, communication channels were discrete. That is to say, they had no connections between each other. If you wanted to deliver the same message via direct mail, telephone, and telegram, three entirely different communication networks had to be utilized.
Cisco Unified Communications are fundamentally about linking all these different communication streams. After all, on the Internet, everything is data. There was no reason a business's communications couldn't be inter-linked, as long as you got all of them into the same servers and databases.
There were plenty of challenges, especially in getting VOIP service to interface with traditional telephone services. However, today the goal has been achieved. Thanks in large part to pioneering work by Cisco Unified Communications, a business's entire communications system is now integrated.
What Did Unified Communications Bring To The Industry?
Put simply, it merged computing, networking, and business telecommunications into a single Internet-ready whole. The power and flexibility it can bring to a business vastly outweigh anything that was possible before the information age began.
Here are just a few benefits it brings a business, versus what was possible 30 years ago:
Interchangeable message formats. Voicemails can become MP3s or text transcriptions to be emailed. No matter what the best method is of getting a message to a worker, it can be delivered to them. 30 years ago? The top of the line in remote business communications was pocket pagers.
Centralized telephone phone extension grid. On the plain old telephone system, it could be difficult or impossible to make extensions work across multiple business offices, at the least requiring a lot of custom equipment. Today, that's a software problem that's easily solved. Your phone grid can be simple and logical, with the same set of extensions used throughout remote offices.
Distributed security. Modern networks are vastly more secure today than they were in the 80s, when computer viruses first became popular. Unified Communications allows all security functions to be distributed across all devices. A single point of physical access is no longer a weak point. Intruders now have to defeat the entire network to succeed.
Personal IVRs. When IVRs were first growing in number, they required a lot of work, programming, and often live voice playback. They had to be centralized. However, workers in a Unified Communications office have access to easy-to-use scripting tools for creating their own mini-IVR. These greatly extend their options when out of the office, including programming in redirects to other devices through other contact methods. When combined with network-distributed speech generation software, anyone with their own extension can now do more than a high paid 80s expert could.
Mobilization. Today, a successful firm is a mobile, globalized firm. You need to be able to put people on the ground where they're needed, where ever they are in the world. Unified Communications makes that possible, by allowing access to your network from any recognized device, anywhere in the world – even through smartphones and tablets. On the other hand, this was the height of mobile computing circa 1983.
Cisco Unified Communications have brought a lot of innovation to business communications in the last thirty years. Now's a great time to investigate the benefits of Unified Communications, if you haven't before.