If you’re considering migrating to United Communications as a Service (‘UCaaS’) or hosted VoIP platform this year, you’re not alone.
The flexibility that cloud communications solutions offer businesses of all sizes has, increasingly, become imperative. Businesses are increasingly realizing that UCaaS offers collaboration benefits, as net2phone CEO Jonah Fink explains:
“The conversations we’re having about migrating to the cloud are more pertinent than ever. As we talk more about hybrid and remote working, IT managers and CIOs are no longer thinking of cloud migration as ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s now an absolute priority.”
Now, if you're not quite sure what UCaaS means or what Unified Communications entails or you're asking questions like: What does UCaaS offer businesses that an on-premise phone system can’t achieve? Or: What are the benefits of UCaaS beyond remote working? We're here to help.
This 101 guide gives you a solid grounding in everything united communications related, so you can see whether it’s a viable option for you.
What is UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service)?
Starting at the top – UCaaS: what is it?
UCaaS stands for "Unified Communications as a Service". ‘Unified communications’ is a delivery model that brings multiple aspects of enterprise communications onto a single platform. United communications as a 'service' is an approach that delivers this model via the cloud.
There are six communications functions included in the unified communications definition:
- Enterprise telephony
- Collaborative meetings, including audio or conference calls, and web or video conferencing
- Messaging, including SMS and MMS text messaging, website live chat, and social media messaging and creating a unified inbox
- Combining voicemail messages with email
- Instant messaging and presence within the organization
- Mobility, mobile apps, and the ability to communicate from anywhere
- Communications-enabled business processes (integrated contact centers, communications platform as a service and workstream collaboration)
UCaaS is an alternative to enterprises building and maintaining their own communications infrastructure. Rather than having to set up communications tools for each employee, enterprises outsource this responsibility to a telecom or VoIP service provider who has the capabilities and platform to enable such unified features.
These unified communications service providers offer access to their own virtualized data center, so that the enterprise doesn’t need to. This offers more flexibility than in-housing communications services.
What is a Unified Communications Platform?
A unified communications platform, or UCaaS platform, is an all-in-one software package by which UCaaS companies offer access to their services. If your communications tool covers telephony, web, audio and video conferencing and instant messaging, chances are it’s a unified communications platform.
As our ways of working have proliferated, so too have our communications methods. A united communications platform removes the need to set up several different tools (for example a video conferencing solution, a business phone service, and a messaging platform) and integrate them. With a single access point for internal communications, efficiency increases.
How Does UCaaS Work?
Traditionally, enterprises set up and maintained their own communications systems onsite. UCaaS works by allowing enterprises to outsource the architecture this requires to a third party service provider.
This removes the need for businesses to sink capital into their own infrastructure, which can be:
- Expensive – communications technology is evolving all the time and will need to be replaced every few years
- Inflexible – once you’ve invested in communications equipment for an employee, you can’t recoup costs if that employee then leaves
- Location-based – because of the on-premise nature of enterprise-led setups, the possibility of cloud working is greatly reduced
UCaas’ vehicle for voice-based communications is VoIP – or ‘voice over IP’. VoIP technology turns the audio data from your phone calls into transmissible data packets, which are sent to a cloud service provider.
And, as a web-based service, you don’t need to invest in any extra VoIP hardware
– either internally or for customer-facing communications. Rather than dealing with security, backend configuration and telephony functions yourself, your UCaaS service provider deals with this for you.
UCaaS vs CPaaS: What’s the Difference?
CPaaS, or communications platform as a service, offers the potential for similar functionality as UCaaS. The differences lie in how much control you want over your enterprise communications processes.
UCaaS providers offer a suite of ready-to-go enterprise phone systems, accessible via a single environment to streamline collaboration and increase efficiency. When you choose a UCaaS approach for your communications needs, you don’t need to provide any input into the design of your communications architecture – it’s already there.
CPaaS solutions provide access to a foundational communications platform, which you can customize to your exact needs. Developers can add extra features and expand communications functionality using an ecosystem of modules and APIs, whilst using the platform’s backend to reduce workloads.
It is worth remembering, however, that you need to add developer costs to CPaaS, whether you’re outsourcing or relying on in-house talent. These added costs are likely to make CPaaS the more expensive option – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you have complex or niche communication needs, that extra investment can be worth it, though for the majority of cases, the UCaaS functionality should easily cover what you need.
The Benefits of Unified Communications
On migration, businesses unlock several major UCaaS benefits, which is perhaps why it has proliferated as a communications model in recent years. These include:
UCaaS eliminates a number of costs surrounding on-premise communications systems, including purchasing hardware, maintaining a secure on-premise data center and IT support staff. As upgrades are deployed via the cloud, you’ll also save money on keeping systems up to date as well.
Smoother Cash Flow
Traditional on-premise phone systems require a huge amount of capital expenditure upfront. Switching to a UCaaS model allows you to redefine your communications budget as a more manageable regular operating cost.
UCaaS lets you increase or decrease the number of licenses you hold on a monthly basis. You don’t need to invest in empty capacity to facilitate future growth – simply pay for what you need when you need it.
Having separate systems for phone, web conferencing and instant messaging risks key communications getting lost or delayed. Offering a single, unified environment for all internal communications reduces time employees spend managing each of their channels and ensures all communication is picked up quicker.
A Mobile Workforce
As a cloud-based service, UCaaS is an ideal way of managing the shift towards remote and hybrid working effectively. With 25% of all professional jobs expected to be fully remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities increasing further across 2023, offering your workforce ‘work from anywhere solutions’ is now essential.
United Communications as a Service: Pros and Cons
UCaaS offers some strong strategic advantages to on-premise communications – but just how do the every day realities of running cloud-based business phone system unified communications compare to an on-premise alternative?
This at-a-glance table outlines what you need to know:
Pros of UCaaS
Cons of UCaaS
All-in-one communications functionality accessible via a single environment
Limited personalization and customization options for those with specialist needs
Outsourcing data center management to third-party experts, for whom IT security is an essential core competency
Trusting third-parties with any IT function will always pose some sort of risk, no matter how small
Automatic updates, reduced costs for implementing new features or upgrading systems
Relying on vendor timescales for updates rather than setting your own
Tiered support options – pay for the level and access you need
Support is vendor-led, whereas with on-premise communications systems, you’re free to set your own support practices (e.g an IT team, available in the same building)
Significantly faster recovery in the event of system failure and automatic offsite backup
Reliant on internet connection to function
How to Migrate to a UCaaS System?
Migrating your enterprise communications to a UCaaS system can seem daunting. To make the process easier and significantly reduce risk of time and budget overruns, do the following before you start:
- Conduct an extensive review of your existing communications methods, including all company equipment and phone numbers in use. How do employees like to communicate? Are there any methods they would like to use but can’t due to current tech limitations?
- Review the bandwidth of your underlying network. This helps determine whether your network could handle additional communications methods (for example real-time video conferencing), or whether you need additional capacity.
From here, you’ll be able to gauge the scale of your UCaaS migration project and, if applicable, break it down into phases for a more approachable roll out.
You should also check in with potential UCaaS providers about the migration support they offer. Many UCaaS providers offer their own specialists and support staff throughout the process – this help can be invaluable as they know their systems inside out and can share this knowledge with your employees.
How to Choose the Right UCaaS Provider?
Finding the right provider is essential if you want to reap the benefits UCaaS offers. Many UCaaS providers offer excellent services; the trick is to find which one of these is a good fit for your organization. To do this:
- Conduct an extensive requirements analysis before researching vendors, and rank your needs in terms of priority. How important is fax, for example? What about full integration with Microsoft Teams?
- Invite vendors to demo their product to representatives from all your key stakeholder groups. Allow plenty of time for stakeholders to ask questions, and don’t be shy about posing some real-world examples for them to demonstrate.
Do I need UCaaS?
You will find it increasingly difficult to maintain a modern working environment without UCaaS. UCaaS offers unparalleled flexibility in where your employees can work, instant scaling options and a full suite of remote and in-person communications tools.
As you and your business partners, suppliers and customers adapt to new working patterns, UCaaS is the easiest and most cost effective way of providing communications tools that work for everyone.
Is UCaaS reliable?
Yes – UCaaS provides a reliable way of managing communications across a range of media. With no on-premise hardware to maintain and replace, all you need is a secure internet connection to get yourself up and running.
Is UCaaS secure?
UCaaS providers’ business models rely on being able to offer their customers strong assurances about the safety of their data. As such, investing in the latest IT security is a top strategic priority for them.
Because of this, it’s likely that UCaaS is more secure than an on-premise solution (which is also open to localized risks like office fires, burglary and natural disasters). UCaaS vendors pour resources into IT security personnel, physical data center security and security research to stay ahead of all the latest threats.
Is net2phone a UCaaS provider?
You bet! net2phone is a leading VoIP provider with 30+ years of experience offering quality voice and communications experiences to businesses of all sizes. The net2phone UCaaS solution product suite includes a cloud PBX phone system, contact center as a service (CCaaS), SIP trunking service and comprehensive Teams integration. All users benefit from web calling, unlimited VoIP international calls, video conferencing, business text messaging, and 40+ advanced VoIP features.
Remote users benefit from a mobile app and dedicated phone number, offering seamless collaboration between remote and on-premise teams.
Contact us to talk to one of our unified communication experts to learn how you can communicate more effectively.