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Editor's note: In part six of our series on assessing mobile collaboration for the enterprise, we look at how to evaluate UC vendors. Nemertes Research analyst Philip Clarke lists the mobile UC questions that should be part of every enterprise's evaluation.
As noted in part five of our series on mobile collaboration, extending unified communications and collaboration applications to mobile devices poses different challenges from UCC for traditional laptop and desktop access. If you're evaluating mobile UCC for your employees, here are 10 critical questions to ask UC vendors before making any decisions on how to extend traditional UC.
1. Can you describe your services?
Do you offer physical appliances, virtual appliances or Software as a Service/cloud services? Describe each service and whether or not it can be managed by a service provider. What platforms do the virtual appliances and purpose-built appliances require? What licensing arrangements do you offer to clients? Is the expertise of a system integrator or professional services consultant required for implementation? If so, do you offer these services, and can you provide a fairly reliable quote with limited data?
2. How does your product extend for mobility?
How do you extend unified communications and collaboration capabilities to mobile devices -- via a native app, a Web-based nonclient app or configuration script, or an implementation of a virtual desktop interface? What mobile operating systems do you support, and what technology do you use to extend UC capabilities? What integration capabilities do you leverage for each mobile OS you support, such as native or core VPN access, device dialer integration and fixed mobile convergence functionality?
3. What is your definition of mobile collaboration?
Since mobile collaboration means different things to different vendors and organizations, what specific mobile capabilities do you offer in your service: instant messaging, presence, native voice integration, third-party voice integration, secure workspace, secure document repository (SDR), document collaboration, video and audio conferencing, or screen sharing?
4. What is the range of your product’s mobile capabilities?
We already have some UC services, such as IPT, audio conferencing, Web conferencing, Lync, Jabber, etc. What single-vendor dependencies, if any, does your product have for UC capabilities? Describe all of your services' capabilities that can be accessed by mobile devices, to what extent, and whether there are any prerequisites or infrastructure requirements. If we use Lync or Jabber as our primary UC capability, what integration points or application programming interfaces (APIs) do you support to ensure cross-platform compatibility?
5. What security and compliance features do you offer?
Describe how you integrate with security software, such as with mobile device management or any partner relationships you have with security or mobile security vendors. Do you support secure messaging, email, texting and other features from UC suites to mobile device? If what you are offering is a cloud service, what features do you provide to ensure industry compliance, such as HIPAA or PCI regulations?
6. How would your service impact our network’s security?
How does your service fit into our network security infrastructure? Can you provide a description or architecture map? Do your products play well with firewall devices or deep packet inspection? Is your product IPv6-ready? If so, describe any extra required to make it work.
7. How would you resolve configuration issues?
We are using or planning to use role-based purchasing and maybe bring your own device. What capabilities do you offer in areas like auto-configuration, decommissioning devices for UC access, app/agent/configuration script recall, unified access, split work and personal communications?
8. Are references from your mobile UC clients available?
What are some characteristic usage examples of how clients use your services that your clients find strong? What industries do you normally sell to and for what reasons? Can you provide contact information for clients so we can ask how they use your services and their experiences with them?
9. Does your product play well with WAN integration?
Understanding how integration between UC and mobility will affect our WAN or WLAN is important to us. Describe the capabilities in your product, either as a single-vendor UC offering or just the software and hardware that extends UC to mobile devices. For example, does your product compress traffic? Does compression work across streams? Across appliances? How does your product deal with traffic that is already compressed? Does your product do traffic shaping and prioritization? What kinds of traffic can it shape? Does it interact with other quality-of-service mechanisms?
10. Do you support secure document collaboration?
If we use SharePoint, Box or DropBox for SDR, content management or document collaboration, what integration capabilities do you offer? Do you integrate with cloud-based document collaboration software? What mobile OS do you work with? Do you have your own integration APIs or do you rely on the SDR provider? Please describe all capabilities within the document space.
Finding the right mobile UC vendor for your company
Now that you're armed with a wide range of essential questions to ask your vendors to help you decide on mobile UC options, here's a representative list of mobile UC vendors to consider.
Computer Science Corp.
EarthLink Business Inc.
Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc.
Level 3 Communications Inc.
Mitel Networks Corp.
NTT Communications Corp.
Orange Business Services
TW Telecom Inc.
Vodafone Group PLC
Whaleback Managed Services
XO CommunicationS LLC
Read part seven of our series on mobile collaboration to learn how to successfully integrate mobile UC products in your enterprise's infrastructure.