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Buzzword Soup: Presence

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As part of our continuing series “Buzzword Soup,” each week we explore a popular term in the cloud and communications industries.  Because many terms are used interchangeably by vendors, analysts and commentators, we find it helpful to draft simple English, non-technical explanations for words and phrases that might otherwise be confusing or misunderstood.  This week, we explore “Presence.”

What is it?

Often talked about as part of unified communicationspresence is a status indicator that displays one’s availability and willingness to accept incoming communications.  This presence status information is shared with one’s co-workers and potentially other contacts to let them know if now is a good time to chat, call, initiate a video conference or interact in some other way.  The information is generally shared via a desktop client or browser based interface.

Some presence solutions require the user to manually indicate her presence.  For example, I might indicate that I am “Available” or “Away.”  Others are tied to systems, such as the telephone and will automatically indicate when someone is “On the phone.”  Most applications will report a user’s status as “Away” or “Offline” automatically after a certain period of inactivity.

How is it used?

Companies are increasingly using presence solutions as a way to improve productivity and streamline communications.  If I can easily see that a college is on another call, I might wait to reach out or send an email instead of potentially interrupting their conversation for a question that is not urgent.   In another situation, I might be on a conference call that does not require my full attention and therefore indicate to my team that I am “Available to chat” if they have a quick question.  Presence solutions enable maximum availability with minimum interruptions.

These solutions have even greater importance when employees are spread across multiple offices or remote locations.  It becomes like looking across the room to your colleague’s desk to see if they are engaged in something or ready to talk.

M5’s Take

M5 offers a presence solution as part of our new unified communications tool, M5 Communicator.  This enterprise wide solution is free to all M5 Clients and includes integrated IM, video chat, screen sharing and file sharing.  You don’t have to update your status to let your colleague’s know when you are away from your desk or on the phone, Communicator does it for you.

We think that presence should be a key part of any unified communications solution.  Hopefully this explanation will help you decide how it might benefit your organization.