Top unified communications definitions for UC professionals in 2011

After crunching numbers to see which unified communications definitions our readers searched for most in 2011, one thing's clear: As UC evolves, you like to return to the basics.

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As 2011 drew to a close, we here at SearchUnifiedCommunications.com decided to dig through our traffic reports and find out which unified communications definitions and search terms led most of you to our site over the last 12 months. There are plenty of reasons to do this kind of head-down data mining -- because the unexamined life is not worth living, because you won't know where you're going if you don't look back at where you've been, because we like avoiding holiday shopping as long as humanly possible, etc.

Mostly, though, we did it because working to understand what our audience wants to know more about just seems like good business. (Also, it allows us to make little jokes.) While our exhaustive analysis of 2011's top unified communications definitions reveals much about the depths of UC pros' psyches, one big takeaway is this: As UC technologies, strategies and models continue to evolve, our readers often find themselves returning to the basics.

Without further ado: The top 10 unified communications definitions of 2011

From the bottom to the top, these are the 10 unified communications definitions and terms you gave the most attention:

10. What is cloud computing? No real surprise here -- after years of mounting industry hype, the buzz surrounding cloud computing continued to spread like wildfire in 2011, with seemingly everyone (including jetlagged couples) talking about moving to the cloud and trying to understand it.

Just like their counterparts in every other corner of the IT world, unified communications pros were looking for a better handle on the technology and trying to make sense of cloud services. Getting a grip on UC in the cloud is a complicated process, often leading to the search for answers to questions like:

9. What is Layer 3? I was pretty sure Layer 3 was a highly classified arm of the United States Intelligence Community. Nope -- turns out it's the network layer of the seven-layer OSI model.

But why did UC pros show so much interest in Layer 3 during 2011? Could it be support for contributor Zeus Kerravala's contention that deploying the UC middleware layer to solve interoperability problems is the next big trend for the market? I'm sorry, but that information is classified -- accessible only to our esteemed coalition of registered members.

8. What is Skype? Skype, as you know, is an IP telephony provider that offers a free application you can use to talk to your grandma.

On the whole, enterprises were less than enthused about using Skype for business in 2011, but this could change in 2012. Why, you ask? According to research from CIMI Corp., Skype is the most preferred UC model among the largest number of enterprise executives. Bolstered by a little investment that Microsoft made in Skype last year, as well as enthusiasm from enterprise execs for a Skype UC model, Skype may just reach the stratosphere -- or, at the very least, the troposphere.

7. What is identity management? For businesses, it can be a single sign-on strategy that ameliorates security concerns when dealing with cloud-based UC and SaaS office. For me, it's when my mom sees a 10 o'clock news story about someone's Social Security number getting stolen and calls me all frantic to make sure I'm shredding my bank statements. (Mm-hmm, Mom. I know, I know -- receipts, too.)

6. What is SIP trunking? SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol, which used to sit atop my Protocol Power Rankings, but has unfortunately ceded the No. 1 spot to "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," as I am a sucker for thrill-a-minute Tom Cruise vehicles.

While SIP trunking is surely depressed at its drop in the standings, it will just have to find solace in the effectiveness with which it enables private branch exchanges to connect to the Internet. Cold comfort, I know, but at least it's something.

5. THREE-WAY TIE: What is jitter? What is latency? What is Quality of Service (QoS)? A cynical sort might suggest that we've cooked up this top-five triple knot in order to artificially expand the list, but scout's honor -- these terms for variation in packet delivery speed, delay in packet travel and approaches to limiting/improving them, respectively, all drew the same level of interest from our readership.

4. What is Wi-Fi cell phone? Whoa -- talk about your blasts from the past. This definition for a dual-mode telephone that can automatically switch between standard cellular service and Wi-Fi VoIP service to prevent drop-out was written all the way back in 2006, and yet it remains popular, presumably with people trying to use search engines to figure out how to use their smartphones to get on the Internet.

3. What is streaming video? This one predates Wi-Fi cell phone by a whopping six years, when it was probably created for use in a bunch of trend pieces looking back at the dot-com landscape a year after Yahoo! bought Broadcast.com, making Mark Cuban a billionaire and setting the Dallas Mavericks on an 11-year journey to an NBA championship.

Despite its now-seemingly ancient genesis, interest in the basic elements of streaming video remains as vibrant as ever. Hey, if you're going to understand the always-evolving world of enterprise video conferencing technologies, you've got to know the fundamentals.

2. What is VPN security? As much as I'd like to believe that we have a lot of readers looking to contract a skilled, secretive professional private security force to act as their own personal A-Team, I'm guessing UC and IT pros are more likely to be looking for information on how to lock down their enterprise virtual private networks. Then again, while tightening VPN enrollment can help protect UC applications in a cloud computing environment, it's not an easy job -- maybe somebody better give Hannibal, Face and the gang a ring.

And now, what you've all been waiting for, the top of the pops -- the most sought-after of all unified communications definitions in 2011.

The envelope, please …

1. IT'S ANOTHER TIE! What is Internet protocol (IP)? and What is voice over IP (VoIP)?

When we ran the numbers, we were shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that we did not have a clear 2011 unified communications definitions champion. We briefly considered holding a winner-takes-all mixed martial arts match to determine an undisputed title-holder, but making two hardworking pages stage a battle for the ages didn't really seem to be in the holiday spirit. (Also, have you seen how much one of those eight-sided cages costs? Noway were we going to be able to expense that.)

We were also surprised that the definitions for IP and VoIP continue to draw so much attention; after all, they're two very frequently used terms not only in the unified communications market, but also in other areas of networking and IT, and they've been click magnets since before SearchUnifiedCommunications.com was even a twinkle in our editorial crew's eyes.

Then again, maybe we shouldn't have been so stunned -- customers, implementers and providers certainly still seem to have an awful lot of trouble seeing eye to eye on their VoIP implementations. Maybe if even more people checked out these definitions, everyone would have an easier time getting on the same page.

Whatever the reasoning, when it comes to unified communications definitions, it seems that our readers tend to think -- like '59 Thunderbird aficionados and people who really like New Year's Day outdoor hockey -- that you can never go wrong with a classic.

This was first published in January 2012

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