What are Unified Communications as a Service Solutions?
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) platforms provide a broad range of communication and collaboration applications and services in the cloud. The three main capability areas UCaaS solutions cover are: voice/VoIP, audio and video conferencing, and instant messaging/chat. Many vendors also include team collaboration features, such as screen sharing or real-time document editing. Contact Center software may also be offered as a separate solution or add-on product.
Many vendors in the UCaaS space started out offering one type of communication tool, like Web Conferencing or VoIP software, and then expanded their cloud services to include other types of communication tools. As a result, there is a certain degree of overlap between UCaaS and these two software categories. Certain vendors may be more well known for their web conferencing and voice solutions, even if they also offer fully featured UCaaS platforms.
Other legacy unified communication (UC) vendors have had comprehensive unified communications solutions for a while, but many of these systems started out as on-premise solutions. Now, both vendors also offer unified communications delivered via the cloud.
Collaborative Meeting Services
As more and more organizations transition to remote working, businesses and their employees increasingly rely on UCaaS and Video Conferencing platforms to support their online collaboration needs. In this sense, UCaaS platforms are not only unifying communication across businesses, but actively facilitating collaborative activities.
Thus, ‘collaborative meeting services’ is becoming a popular new moniker for UCaaS platforms. Some examples of technology vendors that are leaning heavily into this trend include Microsoft (Microsoft Teams), Cisco (Cisco Webex Teams), and Zoom.
UCaaS Features & Capabilities
Presence Technology (makes it possible to locate and identify a computing device)
Audio, web, and video conferencing
Team collaboration features (e.g. screen sharing)
Some UCaaS vendors also offer contact-center capabilities, including auto-attendant, interactive voice response, call routing, and customer relationship management integrations. Many vendors are also building APIs into their offerings. This helps customers embed cloud-based communication tools directly into their applications.
Recent trends in the UCaaS space are changing how businesses think about their communications. Before purchasing a UCaaS solution, really think about whether or not your organization will benefit most from a unified platform, or will thrive best in a situation where different teams or departments manage their own communications tools, and rely only on a VoIP or web conferencing platform. Trends to look out for when determing which UCaaS solution may be right for you include:
Increased integration options: Customers have become more demanding about integrations and require better integrations with CRM and other line-of-business applications.
Security is becoming a differentiator with some vendors providing packaged encryption and VPN, as well as two-factor authentication and Single Sign-On.
User interfaces are becoming more customizable. This enables customers to design the product around their corporate brand.
A high degree of consolidation of different types of communication software (e.g. audio/video conferencing, VoIP) into unified cloud platforms.
Pricing ranges widely depending on the actual bundle of technologies purchased and the number of users. However, for the most comprehensive, enterprise-ready UCaaS solutions, pricing starts at around $300/year per license or user.