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Big and small, unified communications vendors poured it on with new strategies and innovative products this year.

It’s that time of the year again — ’tis the season to be jolly, time to get stuff ready for the tax man, time for “Da Bears” to choke away any shot at the NFL playoffs… and time to take a look back at what happened in the unified communications (UC) industry.

As I have for as long as I can remember, I’ll start this year-end blog by saying, “It was a big year in UC.” The market continues its constant evolution, with traditional vendors shifting strategy and new vendors popping up to challenge the incumbents. Among all the change, here are what I considered to be the most notable events of 2014.

An SBC can play several key roles in securing mobile endpoint devices.

Though typically deployed for managing SIP trunks within a unified communications environment, the session border controller (SBC) can have an important role to play in securing workplaces that have embraced a bring your own device, or BYOD, strategy.

Given the pervasiveness of BYOD today, many organizations ought to be considering the SBC for mobile security purposes. As we learned in the 2014 ZK Research Enterprise Mobility Survey, 82% of businesses now support the use of consumer devices in the workplace. This is quite the about-face from just a few years ago when many IT leaders were still fighting to keep personal smartphones and tablets out of the enterprise.

From adding rich sets of configuration templates to building process wizards, UC management vendors are working to address their tool shortcomings.

The promises of UC management platforms are lower operating costs and reduced complexity through a single pane of glass — a theme we hear over and over again when it comes to managing almost any part of the IT ecosystem. However, I’ve heard from many enterprise IT managers who say the more accurate description is “single pain of glass.”

Single pane of glass management solutions rarely fit a company’s operational processes — a situation that only becomes apparent after procurement. Unfortunately, this means the operations team either has to change its management processes to fit the static workflows and features that the management system supports, or, worse, manually support missing but necessary features and processes.

Session border controllers can alleviate the main security concerns specific to VoIP use and real-time communications.

With an unprecedented number of high-profile cyberattacks hitting several large banks and major retailers this year, interest in improving IT security of late has been hotter than Apple and Tesla put together. But in my conversations with security resellers, I’ve come to realize that the due diligence stops short of real-time communications.

When it comes to securing communications flows, firewalls just aren’t enough. Firewalls do a good job of preventing data loss and security applications but they aren’t made for the unique needs of real-time communications. To protect the communications infrastructure, businesses should leverage session border controllers (SBCs).

Whenever I talk to anyone about SBCs, topics like SIP trunking termination or network address translation come up because most companies deploy them for these purposes. However, SBCs can play a critical role in securing communications, particularly in regards to these five main concerns.

Two years in, collaboration chief Rowan Trollope is seeing his vision realized in the product portfolio.

This month marks the two-year anniversary of Rowan Trollope’s arrival at Cisco as chief of the company’s Collaboration Technology Unit. That makes it a good time, I think, to take a look at how collaboration at Cisco has changed since his arrival.

If you’ve met Trollope or seen him deliver a keynote, as he did last week at Collaboration Summit 2014, then you know he’s not your typical Cisco executive. He dresses differently, wears funny shoes and does push-ups before he presents. Clearly, he thinks differently than others who have held his position at Cisco.

When Trollope came on board, change had definitely been in order. The group, for years one of those that carried Cisco, was facing a stretch of declining revenues.

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