The Ultimate Guide
To Unified Communications as a Service
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) has revolutionized the way businesses communicate. With features like HD audio and video conferencing, presence, mobility options, team chat, and much more, UCaaS makes it easier than ever to stay connected regardless of where your teams are located.
The UCaaS market is predicted to reach $262 billion by 2030,1 so it’s clear that demand for these flexible, cloud-based platforms is high – but do unified communications truly live up to the hype?
Whether you’re just getting started with UCaaS or looking to upgrade an outdated system, this guide shares everything you need to know about this popular communications solution.
What Is UCaaS?
UCaaS could best be described as a suite of fully integrated communication tools, from audio and video calls to instant messaging, file sharing, and more. UCaaS platforms enable businesses to support hybrid work initiatives by delivering these apps over the cloud, eliminating the need for desk phones or traditional in-office work models. In short, UCaaS offers your employees access to the communication tools they need to stay connected from any device or location.
Types of UCaaS Architectures
UCaaS offers three primary architecture types:
which is a dedicated UCaaS platform that you can customize to meet unique needs and integrate with existing systems. With virtualization technologies on the rise, the single-tenancy approach is now considered outdated by many providers.
which refers to sharing a single UCaaS platform with other customers simultaneously. This architecture is largely considered the standard for many providers, as it offers a more cost-effective solution to UCaaS hosting.
which involves keeping a portion of your unified communication tools on-premises and migrating the rest to the cloud. Providers that choose a hybrid approach typically have to consider whether they have the skill and knowledge to run a communications infrastructure in-house; however, this architecture may benefit those needing enhanced security.
Choosing between single-tenancy, multi-tenancy, or hybrid UCaaS typically involves considering factors such as budget, security, and customization. Businesses with specific security and management needs often adopt a hybrid approach. Single-tenancy may be the way to go if you’re looking for higher customization, while multi-tenancy offers more cost savings.
Popular UCaaS Features
UCaaS features have evolved over the past few years, with today’s vendors offering a wide range of options for businesses to pick and choose from. Some of the most common UCaaS features include:
Voice calling is a core component of UCaaS solutions, which leverage voice over IP (VoIP) technologies to replace traditional business phone systems. But unlike standard VoIP offerings, UCaaS goes beyond basic telephony to provide advanced features like call recording, forwarding, interception, and more. UCaaS platforms allow your business to run your phone system anywhere there’s an internet connection using softphones or desk phones.
With an estimated 22% of the U.S. workforce expected to work remotely by 2025,1 more companies are relying on video conferencing tools to connect with employees, clients, and vendors. UCaaS platforms can integrate video conferencing functionality to ensure your audience stays engaged during every meeting, with built-in options for scheduling, background customization, and digital whiteboards.
Chat & Presence
Instant messaging ensures seamless collaboration across your workforce by allowing employees to send text or web-based messages in real time. Some UCaaS solutions also include status and presence indicators so that your teams can see when other staff members are available, busy, or away.
On-the-go employees need fast, reliable access to corporate tools, so it’s no wonder why 41% of businesses are investing in mobility technology solutions.2 UCaaS solutions increase mobility by enabling your teams to access communication features and third-party integrations from their personal devices, including smartphones or tablets.
UCaaS platforms can integrate with other critical business apps, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) solution, email service, or project management tools. And because UCaaS is cloud-based, employees can access these applications from your platform – without having to download software for each program.
Many UCaaS solutions include built-in analytics and reporting capabilities to monitor call data. This means your system can deliver deeper insights into metrics like call volume, call duration, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) to help optimize communication processes.
UCaaS Vendors, Service Providers, and Resellers
UCaaS vendors are the companies that develop, build, and maintain UCaaS platforms and technologies. With the UCaaS vendor landscape getting crowded, many are looking for innovative ways to deliver value to customers. Major trends include leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), building automated workflows, and combining UCaaS with CCaaS and CPaaS elements.
Popular UCaaS vendors include Cisco, 8×8, Microsoft, and RingCentral, but this space is seeing more growth as new technology companies emerge.
UCaaS service providers deploy, manage, and maintain the UCaaS platform for customers and may offer additional services such as migration, training, and technical support. Service providers can also sell hardware and complementary tools so that your company gets everything needed for a successful UCaaS system in one place.
Service providers include telecom companies, managed service providers (MSPs), and cloud service providers (CSPs).
UCaaS resellers are companies that focus on creating custom communication solutions for customers using pre-built solutions. They often add features to UCaaS platforms as needed and can help businesses choose the right hardware and software to create their ideal business phone system. The primary goal of a UCaaS reseller is to ensure their customers can access a bespoke solution without having to hire technical experts
What Are the Benefits of UCaaS?
Since UCaaS solutions move your phone services away from the public switched telephone network (PSTN), they can help your business overcome issues such as a lack of mobility, inability to scale, and high maintenance costs. The biggest benefits of deploying a UCaaS platform include:
UCaaS can help your business save money by eliminating the upfront and ongoing expenses of maintaining an on-prem communication infrastructure. Since your provider handles updates, patches, and system management, you no longer have to dedicate resources toward maintaining and supporting your phone system. Plus, shifting to a subscription-based pricing model means you’ll only pay for the services you actually use.
Because UCaaS is delivered through the cloud, you can easily scale communication and collaboration services as needed. As your business grows, you can add or remove users and locations, access new features, and adjust service levels without having to make significant infrastructure changes.
UCaaS solutions can increase employee productivity by 20-30%.3 Because UCaaS consolidates communication tools like voice calling, video conferencing, chat, and email into a single, all-in-one platform, employees can collaborate with clients and coworkers faster and more efficiently.
Hybrid Work Support
UCaaS supports mobility for remote workers by providing all the corporate tools your staff needs to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Mobile integration apps also allow employees to access communication and collaboration features from any device, enabling them to stay connected while on the move.
Simple IntegrationsOne of the biggest appeals of UCaaS is its flexibility. Low-code UCaaS APIs make it easy to add new functionality to your platform and adapt it to exactly what your business needs. And since APIs are delivered through the cloud, there’s no loss in quality regardless of where your teams are located.
Since UCaaS solutions can integrate with productivity tools like project management software and CRM systems, employees can access these tools from a single unified system. This reduces the need to switch between different platforms, saving time and streamlining workflows.
UCaaS platforms provide advanced features to make communication and collaboration easier, such as presence indicators, voicemail-to-email, call recording, and whisper/barge functionality. These features can also help to enhance customer interactions, boosting efficiency and customer satisfaction.
UCaaS reduces the burden of managing and maintaining complex communication infrastructure. Service providers handle system updates, security patches, and ongoing maintenance, freeing up internal IT resources. Additionally, service providers offer technical support and customer assistance, ensuring reliable service and timely issue resolution.
Security and Compliance
UCaaS providers typically implement robust security measures, such as encryption, access controls, and compliance with industry standards. This ensures data privacy and helps businesses meet regulatory requirements, such as GDPR or HIPAA.
UCaaS Best Practices
As with any technology, you should follow best practices when implementing a new UCaaS solution. Get the most of your platform with these UCaaS best practices:
Develop a clear plan for your UCaaS deployment by identifying your business’s pain points, areas for improvement, and specific communication needs.
Consider the future growth of your business and make sure to choose a UCaaS solution that can accommodate added employees, locations, and features.
Your UCaaS provider should offer security features like data encryption and access controls to ensure your data stays safe from cyber threats.
Ready Your Network
Make sure your network infrastructure can handle the demands of UCaaS, and consider upgrading your bandwidth as needed for optimal performance. This is especially important if you have a wireless network, such as WiFi or 4G/5G, as these typically don’t offer enough bandwidth for UCaaS voice calls to function properly without performance issues.
You’ll likely want to integrate UCaaS with your existing business systems, so evaluate the platform’s compatibility and the availability of APIs and third-party connectors to ensure a seamless connection.
Monitor your UCaaS solution’s quality of service (QoS) by regularly assessing call quality, video performance, and overall system reliability.
Set your employees up for success by providing training sessions and resources that help them understand the available system features.
Develop a disaster recovery plan and regularly test it to ensure business continuity in the event a system outage or unplanned disruption occurs.
Regularly gather employee feedback, track KPIs, and make adjustments to get the full value out of your UCaaS solution.
How To Find the Right UCaaS Solution
The UCaaS landscape is crowded, so finding a best-fit solution for your business can be difficult. Simplify the process by following these steps:
Assess Your NeedsBegin by assessing your communication and collaboration needs. Consider factors such as existing communication challenges, desired features, and any requirements unique to your industry so that you have a clear understanding of what to expect from your UCaaS solution.
Shortlist ProvidersResearch UCaaS providers and shortlist the ones that have a strong track record, positive customer reviews, and experience serving businesses like yours. Recommendations from your peers can come in handy, so be sure to explore online forums and UCaaS directories.
While your UCaaS solution should include core communication tools such as voice, video, and chat, pay attention to the additional features offered to ensure the platform can meet your needs. Features like presence management and app integration can make a major difference in workforce productivity and efficiency, but not every business needs the same level of functionality.
Determine Network ReliabilityEvaluate the quality and reliability of your potential UCaaS provider’s network. Look for providers that have redundant systems and geographically-dispersed data centers, and consider uptime guarantees, service level agreements (SLAs), and their reputation to find the best fit.
Prioritize Security and ComplianceData security is vital, so ask about any potential provider’s encryption protocols, authentication controls, and compliance with industry regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS. The right UCaaS platform should include mechanisms to protect your data both in transit and storage.
Consider Customer Support
Your UCaaS platform is only as good as the level of service your provider delivers. Look for a UCaaS provider that offers responsive, knowledgeable support teams with 24/7 availability to help keep your communication systems up and running at all times.
Request Demos and TrialsDon’t forget to request demos or trials from your shortlisted UCaaS providers. By testing the features and evaluating the user experience firsthand, you can determine its usability and overall compatibility with your organization’s workflows.
How To Set Up a UCaaS System
Setting up a UCaaS solution doesn’t have to be time-consuming. You can deploy UCaaS in a public cloud environment, add your SIP trunks, and create your first client in less than three minutes by following the steps in this video.
Here are the basics of setting up a new UCaaS system:
Migration and Transition
If you’re transitioning from another communication system, plan and execute the migration process. This may involve porting phone numbers or integrating existing data into the new platform.
Provision Users and Devices
Set up user accounts and provision the devices your employees will need to access the UCaaS platform, such as IP phones, softphones, and headsets.
Configure Your Platform
Set up user extensions, call routing, voicemail, auto attendants, and other system-level configurations and customize the platform as needed.
Test and Validate
Conduct testing to resolve any issues and validate call quality, data transfer, and other performance metrics to ensure you’re providing a reliable user experience.
Train your employees on how to effectively use the UCaaS platform and its features and offer ongoing support to address any questions or concerns.
Monitor and Optimize
Regularly monitor the performance of your new UCaaS system and gather feedback from users to improve the user experience.
Get the Customizable UCaaS Solution You’ve Been Waiting For
- Simple, powerful, flexible UCaaS APIs
- A reliable and mature platform
- Integrated IPBX features
- High-quality service, always
Contact Wazo today to learn more about our unique UCaaS platform built specifically for MSPs.