What is UCaaS? Your Guide to Unified Communications as a Service
The past 10 years have seen tremendous upheaval in the way we live and work. New gadgets have been rolled out, the internet has taken over our lives, and some technologies have become extinct to be replaced by new ones that are highly agile, flexible, and accessible.
One such technology is UCaaS. Doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of it, haven’t heard of it, or are one of its very early users. Here, we delve into the past/ present/ future of this technology and see how it relates to businesses so that by the end of this 2-part series, you have a clear idea of what UCaaS is and if it is right for your business.
In this first part, we look at:
- What is UCaaS?
- Its growth trend in the last few years
- Reasons behind this growth
What is UCaaS?
Unified Communications as a service, or UCaaS as it is more popularly known, is a business solution method whereby all communications are carried out through cloud-based software services.
SaaS lets you run a business irrespective of time and plan. It can be easily understood if you have a Google business account. All of the consolidated services that you receive are a bit of Software as a Service (SaaS), a bit of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), a bit of Platform as a Service (PaaS) and even a few UCaaS tools.
These tools are spread across all communication channels like email, chat, telephony, voicemail, audio/ video/ web conferencing.
UCaaS outshines from other communication technologies in terms of its speed, costs, and effectiveness. Intra and interoffice mobility become a hassle-free task. You get information about employees/ colleagues. And you get one step closer to understanding your customer better and serving them better. Something they notice and appreciate.
You’ll no longer need to maintain separate platforms for chats, messaging, collaboration tools, conferencing, business apps, or contact centers. All of these communications and collaboration tools will be brought together on a single platform a.k.a the cloud. The maintenance itself is not the responsibility of a special IT team, but the vendor that you rented the software from.
The best part is that you can avail these services from your smartphone, tablet, desktop, and laptop without depending on any specialized hardware.
Without extravagantly spending on capital, maintenance, upgrades, installation etc., businesses get to use sophisticated communication mediums and improve productivity, customer experience, behind-the-scenes operations and lots more!
How it has been growing for the past few years
How businesses ran without the interconnectedness of today’s devices is unimaginable. Once upon a time, each organization had its in-house communication system. These were managed by a special IT team and incurred significant costs on resources, time, energy, and money.
The groundwork for UCaaS was laid between 1999 and 2005, when personal digital assistants, helping you to check email any/ everywhere, came into being, and businesses started using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
The cloud revolution was kickstarted in the late 1990s with Salesforce’s hosting model for CRMs, which allowed businesses to give up trying to VPN into a slow corporate network.
But UCaaS picked up steam during the 2010s. The revolutionary factor? Video conferencing and its increasing popularity. 65% of people believe that video conferencing is the best medium when wanting to share content/ screen/ and strategy at work.
Initially, it was only small businesses that picked up UCaaS since they did not have the money to invest in overtly-sophisticated communication tools on their premises. Big businesses followed suit once the benefits were evident and today all startups look at it as a primary component of their business strategy.
Growth in UCaaS can also be credited to the rapid globalization of businesses with new working models like remote employment, work-from-home options etc. These models brought with it the need for active communication channels that would introduce no hiccups in work and communication.
In the past, businesses tended to be localized with little need for international or diversified communication. Those who did have those requirements used VoIP (Internet Phones). In 2011, it was touted as the fastest-growing technology of the past decade, beating search engines, online shopping, and internet dating.
The limitation of VoIP, however, is that it only deals with aspects of telephony and has no provisions for video communication. Recent years have seen a rise in low-cost handsets, a decrease in calling rates, and the creation of new messaging apps.
Effects at the workspace?
- Over 80% of people prefer to use text messages
- 73% prefer texting to using messaging apps
- At least one-third of call centers offer customer service via SMS.
- Only 14% of companies communicate with customers via text which is disheartening.
- 86% of customers would be happy to pay more for improved customer service, which means including different communication mediums in the support/ service operations.
These changing preferences in communication because of changes in the market led to the need for communication services that were diverse and flexible. Hence, the increase in popularity of UCaaS.
Reasons behind this growth
The number one reason that businesses are gravitating towards UCaaS is the promise it offers which is one of secure, cost-effective, and smooth communication in various formats (text, audio, video) over different devices according to the needs of the business.
Rob Arnold, Frost and Sullivan’s connected work industry principal says, “Organisations are turning to UCaaS to reduce operational costs, expand into new markets or regions, boost creativity and innovation and also improve sales and marketing effectiveness.”
In the words of Cathy Gerosa, head of regulatory affairs at the Federation of Communication Services (FCS): “Customers like the flexibility of a cloud service, in most cases with little or no upfront cost or hardware investment – depending on the service.”
Specifically, these benefits are expressed as:
- It allows the company to shift from a CapEx (capital investment) to OpEx (operating cost) model on a pay-as-you-go basis.
- To buy bulky IT infra or systems or even hire a specialized IT team. The service provider does the management and maintenance of the same. This significantly lowers buying and maintenance costs in the long run. When your business needs change and you need to change the equipment, it’ll be the responsibility of the service provider to upgrade it.
- Because all of your communication tools are brought together on one platform, you save up on capital investments and reduce unit carrier costs.
- If your office has many branches, then the fact that all communication happens on one platform keeps everyone on the same page.
- Ensures business constancy and helps to prevent undesirable situations through the use of broadcasting across various channels. This acts as an effective disaster management strategy.
- If you are managing teams globally, then video communication becomes even more critical. More than 90% of communication is nonverbal, and so while talking to employees or your employer on a video call, those essential cues are available to you.
- Saves up on troubleshooting time. If you are using a variety of tools and technologies in a complicated network for communication purposes, it is hard to pinpoint the origin of the problem and then to solve it. When all of your communication happens at one place ‘in the cloud’, you get a better deal on maintenance, troubleshooting, upgrades, and quality monitoring.
- Highly scalable. Add or remove seats as and when you need.
- Another reason is that the video features of UCaaS allows for screen sharing, global meetings and discussions, client connection, and troubleshooting client problems more effectively.
- Enhances employee experience by helping them to use any communication medium they prefer (text, audio, video) and integrating all messages into a single inbox.
- Supports mobility for employees with simple and similar communication applications which also works well for remote employees.
- It brings together all services like video conferencing, telephony, VoIP, file sharing, instant messaging, collaboration/ team tools on a single platform.
- Data is integrated across all apps like Twitter, Salesforce etc. This leads to seamless data/ information experience and keeps productivity constant.
- Takes integration to the next level. You can combine UCaaS services with existing tools and apps that you are using. For example, you can use Excel sheets while collaborating in a team hub. Salesforce and other CRMs also run smoothly.
For the customer, since chat/ telephony/ email have been unified, they can choose the medium most comfortable for them and contact businesses without a hitch.
Choosing the right UCaaS model
There are two UCaaS models you need to decide between, single-tenancy and multi-tenancy.
In the single-tenancy model, businesses receive a personalized software that they can integrate with their existing applications. You get your own server-based, on-premises Private Branch Exchange in a data center. This model is preferred when a business wants to be sure about security and customize code and functionalities as and when they please. However, it is more expensive since upgrades are the responsibility of the customer.
The multi-tenancy mode is cost-effective but less flexible and customizable one since you share cloud computing capacity and network resources with other businesses at the UCaaS service provider’s data center. This often raises security questions. However, this a more affordable option since maintenance and software upgrades are the responsibility of the service provider.
In the beginning, many businesses opt for a hybrid approach where a portion of UC is kept on-premise, and the provider’s data center hosts the other. This ensures a certain degree of security and control for the business. However, these 2 factors are then entirely dependent on the capabilities of the IT staff. In case the team isn’t skilled enough, businesses might actually decrease the sophistication and productivity value of their on-premise communication systems.
If you have read up to this point, congratulations. You would have been thoroughly convinced about the benefits of UCaaS and how it can be useful to your business. Hence, in the next part, we’ll look at what business owners need to consider if they want to switch over to UCaaS and the future trends of this technology. Stay tuned!