Unifi ed communications (UC) can improve the way that small and midsize businesses interact with their colleagues and external contacts, and perform tasks. Although SMBs have many of the same business needs as their largerenterprise counterparts, they require IT solutions that are developed with the specifi c requirements of smaller companies in mind. IT solutions for the SMB market need to be costeffective, easy to implement and maintain, and able to be added to and grow as needed.The UC solution can vary from a stand-alone suite to a portfolio of integrated applications and platforms spanning multiple vendors. For the SMB market, offerings are typically made up of plug-and-play stand-alone suites run on one server. This means there is no need for additional integration costs and complexity, and typically simplifies the maintenance and management for resourceconstrained companies.Convergence is a fact of the IT landscape, and UC is no exception. In fact, it is a direct result of the convergence of communications and applications. Added to this, the convergence of all communications onto IP networks and opensoftware platforms is enabling a new paradigm for UC by changing how individuals, groups and organisations communicate. While IP telephony is moving into its second decade with great momentum, most users are still waiting for full convergence and voice-enabled applications. Increased network efficiencies have been the primary benefi t of IP telephony to date, as enterprises struggle with infrastructure and organisational issues. These fi rstgeneration benefi ts have been considerable, but the focus is now shifting to converged applications, with the initial spotlight on unifi ed communications (UC). Whatever the solution, then, UC offers the ability to signifi cantly improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform. One of the keys to good business is workforce optimisation, and UC products are a good option for improving this. They can be used to facilitate personal communications and to support workgroup and collaborative communications, making your client’s staff more productive. Some UC products even extend outside your customers’ company boundaries, which can help to enhance communications between organisations, support interactions among large public communities, or even simply permit better personal communication.More recently collaboration has been a buzz word in the business and IT worlds, and this is something that has been taken on board by UC vendors. Increasingly collaboration applications are being offered in or integrated with UC suites, which has lead to a new solution, dubbed ‘UC and collaboration’ or ‘UCC’. To achieve unified communications and other next-generation benefi ts, companies must build the right foundation, eliminate the voice silo, and make telephony a seamless part of information technology. However, UC is a moving target right now, with various vendors using the term in different ways to emphasise their specifi c subsets of an evolving group of capabilities. While these vendors naturally see UC from the perspective of their own product portfolios, what users really want is a rich and fl exible communications system that meets their particular business needs. They should be able to choose from a complete palette of UC capabilities, and not be restricted to a subset designed to enhance a particular vendor’s existing products. It is important that you help your customers to choose both the right vendor and distribution partner to assist in selecting the best UC solution for them.