by October 6, 2010 0 comments

The way to answer ‘what UC solution’ is in the ‘how’. There are several UC service providers, both free and subscription based. A CIO is usually left stranded trying to sort through sales pitches. PCQuest did its own legwork and it presents the way to make a UC solution choice and how to set it up. Kothandaraman Karunagaran, Director, Global Infrastructure and Enterprise Services, CSC in India describes UC as the ability to access your business applications from a single device, using the same client at any time, from almost anywhere in the world to increase productivity and mobility of people. The introduction of these technologies enhances communications by short circuiting the process of reaching someone by advertising their location and availability, thereby enabling direct contact using the most appropriate medium and eliminating inefficiencies such as unanswered calls.

There are several ways in which a Unified Communication network can be set up. Every CIO has a different approach. Unfortunately, there is no wand that can be waived to get a network up and running. A UC solution has do be done over phases. Each phase includes letting the employees adapt, training them in utilizing the complete potential of that phase and then moving on to the next phase.
Infrastructure requirements

Mid-sized companies should avoid making capital investments by availing the service offered by service providers. However, the companies need to have ample bandwidth to allow for rapid transmission of data. The company should focus on mapping a specific application that will be used as an important part of the network in the future. The company should prioritise traffic between the LAN and WAN and set up load balancing to divide traffic between servers.

Costs can be a variable factor as the need increases. The recommended way of choosing your solution is to take on services of companies who have flexible plans according to per-seat basis hence managing to cut down the costs on capital expenditure. However, the initial cost of laying down a lease line is a priority. Mid sized companies on an average allocate up to Rs 4 crore on a UC network with close to 45 percent of the share being spent on a dedicated line, which amounts to the only recurring cost if the other hardware is bought. If the hardware is leased the capex cost can drop down by 40 percent.

Phase 0

The first step in establishing the right solution for your company is laying a reliable, dedicated and stable line from an established vendor. Kailasan, CIO, Mehta Group advocated that a particular vendor was immaterial; there has to be some ground research that has to be done by the CIO to establish which service provider works well for your area. The general consensus among CIOs was to invest in a vendor that had a pan-India presence.

The dedicated line is the heart of the network and that’s something the CIO should not compromise on. Every extended period of down time will cause a longer delay in communication hence negating the need for a Unified Communication network. This however, might take the longest period in setting up since all the locations have to be connected and will take a significant amount of the budget. The next step is to set up a VPN. A VPN is the most important part of a unified communication project.

Time of execution: It is dependant solely on all the sites on which this is being implemented. The service providers come equipped with the necessary hardware, the average time in connection between metros is four-six weeks.

Phase I
The CIO, after having explained the idea to the management, has to then insist that most of the emailing communication is done over official ids provided. Though there is always a temptation to operate the private email accounts, CIOs insist that the more familiar

employees are with the features of a customized email account, fit in exactly for their needs, the more they will drift away from their personal accounts. While, majority of CIOs have adjusted to Microsoft Exchange in which document creation is in de facto a comfort, a few have insisted their employees use Google. Kailasan has set up their mail server on the cloud, hence using Gmail resources to their own benefit. It allows them to use the lab features, IM features and lets employees tinker with their own inbox and settings for maximum utility. Since Google allows the user to email and IM with the same id, it relieves web server space issue by being able to get a much larger space on Google’s servers and not being responsible for maintenance and virus control. A few SMB companies have also leaned towards Rediff’s services which at a comparably low cost gives out personalised email addresses and the chat client is also robust.

Time of execution: If setting up on the cloud this can be executed and done with in close to a week. But if software like Exchange is used, it can take up to four weeks in installations and resonance.

Phase II
The next step is to use IP Phones. ‘Replace all phones by IP Phones’, says Atul Bansal, AVP IT, SIDBI. Bansal explains that an IP Phone can be used very effectively in various circumstances. These phones are seen to be more reliable in bad weather and it reduces the cost of telephone bills. Bansal explained that even though a call cannot be made from an IP Phone to a phone out of the network, it will be made possible soon. TRAI restricts any calls to be made from VOIP devices to anything except VOIP devices. This will change with several Indian companies waiting for the government to give that permission. ‘It is a matter of time, within a year it will be done’, he said. Sunil Kankal, a UC consultant, has customized his solution, used a regular IP Phone and allows select individuals in the company to make calls to people within the network, but with a difference. ‘A few people have been given phones that are identified in the Wireless network, when the mobile phones are within the WiFi network the call is routed to the IP Phone on their desk, if they aren’t then the caller can automatically make a call to the person’s cell phone, thus integrating it. Bansal argues Nortel IP Phones have been giving him faithful service and are one of the better brands around. He also explains that it is preferred that all phones should be from the same vendor but Kailasan disagrees. He advocates multiple vendors, a mix and match will give you the best cost and a Polycom IP Phone on the same network with a Cisco will work equally well. While Polycom can help in providing Audio Conferencing, Cisco can be used for point to point conversations. These two are the most popular choices and have championed the cause of interoperability and flexibility.

Time of execution: The time here is extremely low. These devices need to be configured to the network, however, if the right configuration is already made, a CIO can even use it as plug and play.

Phase III
CIOs argue that Phase II is enough for a mid sized company with a modest budget. After a degree of Audio conferencing, there is no other need for the next step. A sturdy email and IM system coupled with IP phones is enough to bridge the gap. But some believe that as the phase implementation increases, the uses of the solution become more critical. The next step in setting up the UC solution is to move to Video conferencing and if need be Telepresence. Kailasan recommends a Tandberg video conferencing system. While a line-up of Business Octane’s products have already made their mark by providing a system which operates at a lower bandwidth and cuts down costs by 60 percent, compared to their competitors. Video Conferencing is still not popular in India and has taken off only in the larger companies but the wave has started with the usage of telepresence increasing across the board.

Time of Execution: This takes the most time. For setting up a custom built telepresence room, it takes close to a 4 weeks after which the connections and the testing take down the time required to two months.

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