Ucaas 101

UCaaS 101: A Focused look at ‘Unified Communications as a Service’

Companies are shifting their communication and collaboration tools to the Cloud. Previously, they relied on physical hardware and multiple pieces of technology to enable all of their forms of communication. Now, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) providers allow businesses to free themselves of coordinating complicated communication technology, so that they can focus on their own product development.

Markets and Markets predicts that UCaaS usage is set to grow significantly in the next few years. It won’t be long before UCaaS is the norm in business communication tech. As Irwin Lazar, Vice President and Service Director at Nemertes Research, writes, “On the buy-side, IT leaders increasingly are adopting a when not if approach as they evaluate and plan for cloud transition.” As companies continue to increase their usage of cloud-based solutions and prior investments become outdated, switching communication systems to the cloud seems inevitable.

Before making the transition to a UCaaS provider, companies need to understand what UCaaS is all about. Read more to learn about what is UCaaS, what UCaaS features are available, and UCaaS provider reviews.

What is UCaaS?

UCaaS is a relatively young and still emerging category of technology. Because of this, many individuals are unfamiliar with what UCaaS encompases and how it is used. According to TechTarget, Ucaas is defined as “a cloud delivery model that offers a variety of communication and collaboration applications and services.” This definition is broad by nature, and requires business leaders to dig a little deeper.

To get a better understanding of what UCasS is and does, let’s start by breaking the term into two main parts: ‘unified communications’ and ‘as a service.’

First, unified communications (UC) refers to a system for integrating various communication, collaboration, and productivity tools. This is not just one specific technology, but rather a collection of interconnected tools that can work together or independently.

Second, ‘as a service’ refers to the fact that UCaaS is a cloud delivery model, provided by a third-party company. Companies pay for UCaaS based on a monthly subscription. UCaaS does not rely on hardware and technology owned by individual business, but rather the UCaaS provider.

Thus, UCaaS enables companies to use enterprise messaging, online meetings, team collaboration tools, telephony technologies, and other forms of online conferencing through a cloud-based unified interface. Enterprises with contact centers can use UCaaS services to house all of their customer and employee communication channels. UCaaS apps and tools often integrate with other business softwares and APIs.

Recently, there has been an increasing blur between CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service) and UCaaS, as UCaaS providers have started to CPaaS to their capabilities.

Blurring the line between UCaaS and CPaaS

In the IT world, there are alot of acronyms that leave room for gray areas. UCaaS and CPaaS are no exception.

CPaaS — Communications Platform as a Service — provides businesses with a cloud-based communication system, similarly to UCaaS. i

While UCaaS typically refers to all of the communication tools and applications enterprises use, CPaaS operates based on a model of open APIs. CPaaS solutions offer developers the framework and tools needed to build their own custom communication tools.  

Developers can use these platforms to develop RTC tools (i.e. video calling, audio calling, messaging, etc.) for business apps and interfaces. Though there are popular already built RTC applications, such as Skype, FaceTime, Whatsapp, etc., these can be difficult to integrate with custom business apps.. CPaaS provides the development framework, software tools, APIs, sample code, and support to enable businesses to build customized RTC  tools.

Generally speaking, UCaaS providers put an emphasis on providing the ready-to-go, internal communication framework (with some external capabilities). CPaaS offers companies and their developers the ability to build and design their own communication apps for external purposes.

However, some UCaaS vendors have been consolidating with CPaaS providers. Because of this, more UCaaS solutions are offering the flexibility and development tools that CPaaS providers offer.

What are UCaaS Features?

UCaaS solutions provide all the traditional communications tools a company would expect: phone systems with multiple lines, call recording, conference calls, etc. With a UCaaS in place, companies can expect the following additional features:

  • Enterprise messaging
  • Presence technology to locate and identify connected devices
  • Team collaboration tools
  • Email
  • Digital faxing
  • Audio, web, and video conferencing
  • Contact-center capabilities
  • Mobile capabilities for remote staff
  • Tools to enable ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) practices

UCaaS vendors offer anything that you would expect from a modern communications stack, including the physical hardware like phones, cameras, screens, and speakers.  

Why Use UCaaS?

Customers and businesses expect to use multiple channels of communication — messaging, email, phone, audio, web, and video conference, online meetings, etc.

UCaaS vendors bring all of these together in one secure network. The difference between UCaaS and legacy communication systems is the delivery model. UCaaS solutions do not require companies to invest in their own on-site hardware. The hardware is owned, maintained, and updated by the vendor. This makes the initial investment in UCaaS much more affordable.

Businesses do not have to put down large sums of money on hardware that will need updates and maintenance. They pay per-user-per-month for all the services they need. This provides more flexibility as companies scale, downsize, or fluctuate seasonally.

Another benefit is that UCaaS equips companies to communicate and collaborate with a remote staff. It gives employees a more consistent and secure user experience, no matter where they are located. This is especially important as a businesses increasingly adopt a more mobile workforce. It can even help businesses prepare for and stay connected through worst case scenarios like natural disasters.  

UCaaS was first adopted by smaller companies that couldn’t afford the expense of their own hardware. Now, larger enterprises are gaining confidence in cloud technology and making the transition. Because it is a big transition for companies, many are waiting until their hardware is ready for retirement. Others are implementing a UC-hybrid solution, where they have a blend of on-premise and cloud technology.

Whether companies embrace hybrid technology or jump in with both feet, transitioning communication technology to the cloud requires consultation and partnership with a UCaaS provider. There are many different  UCaaS vendors to choose from, so we rounded up four of the most frequently used UCaaS products to highlight their features, customer reviews, and pricing.

Top 4 Most Frequently Reviewed UCaaS Solutions

The following 4 solutions are the most frequently reviewed UCaaS solutions on TrustRadius. They all have at least 59 ratings and reviews from vetted users. Here is a brief overview of each one ordered from highest to lowest TRScore.

BlueJeans

BlueJeans is a cloud-based video, audio, and web conferencing software that enables teams to stay connected no matter where they are working. BlueJeans provides the hardware to create BlueJeans rooms — designated spaces for online group meetings. This solution offers browser-based video calls so there is no need to download extra software. BlueJeans also integrates with popular third-party tools — such as preferred calendars, collaboration tools, and project management workflows. BlueJeans features ‘Meeting Intelligence’ (virtual personal assistants), marketing and event management tools, and tools for virtual classrooms.

Reviewers say that sound and video quality are always clear with this solution. BlueJeans is great for companies that have remote staff or multiple locations, reducing travel costs and the need for in-person meetings. Users say that it is great for meetings with larger groups of people; there’s no need to try to fit everyone in the room around one small screen.

“Prior to implementing BlueJeans at our company, we were a huddled mass of people, crammed around someone’s laptop, doing a FaceTime or any other of the low-rent video conferencing solutions out there. When you have BlueJeans in your office, not only is the quality amazing, the ease of use with setting up meetings to using it in the conference room [is as well] – my mom could do it.”


~ Matthew Poletto | Technical Producer | Nomad Editing Company, Inc

Pricing varies depends on the package companies sign up for and the equipment they choose to use for their meeting rooms or events. For individuals, BlueJeans starts at $12.49 per month. Medium sized teams are charged $16.65 per host/per month.

Fuze

Fuze is an enterprise UCaaS solution that connects all business communication tools. This solution features calling, instant messaging, group chat, presence, contact center capabilities, audio, web, and video conferencing, webinars, content sharing, global reliability, and API integrations.

Users on TrustRadius say that Fuze is a reliable service that is great for calls, messaging, audio/visual conferencing and more. Others say that it is an intuitive system, with strong customer support. Users like the different phone features — such as being able to answer on your work number from different devices.

“We use Fuze across the entire organization. Our business is based around using our phones and we need a strong and reliable provider to make sure our phones are always up and running. Fuze not only makes using their service easy to use but it also helps make the support and setup easier for me on the back end.”


~ David Scalise | Senior Technical Support Analyst | Planet Pharma

Pricing varies. For more information, contact Fuze directly.

8×8 Virtual Office

8×8 Virtual Office is another UCaaS solution that brings all forms of business communication together. This solution features softphone, team messaging, online meetings, contact center capabilities, and the equipment you need.

Reviewers say that 8×8 Virtual Office is well-suited for teams with many remote workers. It adds flexibility to their communication capabilities. Some say they like the video conferencing tools and how they can monitor phone calls remotely. Others say that it has helped teams stay on top of work, even when there was a natural disaster going on.

“Having Virtual office was especially great when hurricane Irma came through last year and our office had no power, it allowed us to continue to operate from our cell phones without the customer realizing there was anything different.”


~ Robbie Mancl | Project Manager | Consolidated Parking Equipment

To learn about pricing, contact 8×8 Virtual Office sales directly.

NetFortris

NetFortris (formerly Fonality) provides a complete communications system for businesses. This UCaaS solution offers over 100 phone features, softphone, heads up display (HUD) web and mobile app, distributed worker support, audio conferencing, video collaboration, integrations with popular business tools, voicemail transcription, email, fax services, and more.

Reviewers love that this solution facilitates communication internally and externally. Pulling calls can be done with the click of a mouse, and it’s great for monitoring, recording, and saving sensitive calls. Integrations, customer support, and ease-of-use are also highlighted among user reviews.

“We use NetFortris to handle all of our calls, to allow us to transfer calls, pull calls, and monitor calls. It syncs with our Outlook contacts and allows us to communicate on various levels – inter-office and externally. We can keep track of call stats and use it to make sure everyone is on the same page. I fully recommend it as it is extremely effective and useful in day to day operations.”

~ Bill Boykin | Account Resolution | Funding Metrics LLC

Pricing ranges from $19.99 per user/per month to $34.99 per user/per month. The professional and ultimate packages include free phone rentals. Contact NetFortris directly for more information because pricing can vary depending on the support and services you choose.

UCaaS solutions can modernize your company’s communication capabilities, while also reducing the amount of hardware you have to invest in. Learn more about other UCaaS providers by reading customer reviews.

Brianna Barcena

Brianna Barcena is an SEO Associate at TrustRadius. When she's not in the office, she enjoys reading, watching a good historical drama, doing yoga, and going on adventures with her dog, Deeks.

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