Comprehensive unified communications (UC) solutions, the forerunners of UCaaS, typically offer chat, instant messaging, presence, screen sharing, web/video conferencing and integration of mobile phones into office phone systems, all of which facilitate real-time communications and collaboration. Compared to legacy PBX and simple VoIP systems, UC ushered in greater efficiency to the workplace and enhanced productivity. But the next iteration of UC – the aforementioned UCaaS – is something bigger, more collaborative, and delivered purely from the cloud.
Unified Communications as a Service encompasses all that UC offers and more. It’s a truly collaborative, interoperable, productivity-enhancing cloud-based platform for business communications success. Both platform and location independent, UCaaS lets users work on the device of their choice, whether in the office or on the road, with access to a single set of voice and collaboration tools. That means that no matter where your people are or what device they use, they can be part of the conversation.
What’s driving the trend toward UCaaS?
Several factors are behind the shift towards this new, emerging digital workplace, and from on-premises to the cloud:
- Changes in the workplace: Workers need the same set of tools on their smartphones, tablets or notebook PCs that support fast, secure and effective collaboration, whether they’re working from the office, home or on the road (and wherever any of those places might be).
- Changes in the workforce: Tech-savvy millennials, who make up a large and essential segment of the workforce, expect technology that is agile and flexible to changing needs. They want technology just like applications and services they use to connect and collaborate with friends and families. Legacy communications systems need not apply for this task.
- Advances in technology: Leapfrogs in tech and the drive to support mobility are transforming enterprise computing. The cloud enables great simplicity and accessibility and communications solutions need to follow that same path.
- Moving from CAPEX to OPEX: With a true cloud-based service, customers don’t need to support on-premises UC equipment; instead, the provider handles the heavy-lifting. With a predictable subscription-based model, IT managers are better able to stick to their budgets, while retaining the flexibility to ramp up or dial down service as needed.
Deriving the benefits of UCaaS
Increased productivity, business agility, and reduced costs are high on the list of benefits UCaaS brings to the workplace:
- Increased productivity: From brainstorming with team members to pooling skills for a project, UCaaS facilitates collaboration seamlessly from any location and device. Video conferencing is available anytime, anywhere without the need for IT to install special equipment, manage bandwidth or provide in person tech support.
- A platform for innovation and agility: Collaborating and sharing knowledge spurs organizational innovation and faster decision making. In turn, this helps bring new goods or services to market more quickly.
- Reduced costs: A pay-as-you-go subscription model means organizations can budget for predictable costs related to consumption of UCaaS solutions. This beats incurring much higher costs for purchasing, maintaining and upgrading separate phone and collaboration systems.
Adopting UCaaS brings efficiency, flexibility, and usability to workers while improving profitability and enhancing an organization’s competitiveness.
What to look for in a UCaaS provider
Although UCaaS providers across the board design their services to be easy to set up and use, there are some important differentiating factors. Here are some questions to ask when evaluating prospective providers:
- Are collaboration tools and features comprehensive? At a minimum, a provider’s feature set should include instant messaging, screen sharing, multi-party video and complex call handling capabilities. A truly comprehensive offering also includes chat, presence, web/video conferencing and collaboration, as well as support for all types of mobile devices.
- Does the provider offer superior communications quality, reliability, and security? Real-time communications demand high quality and reliability to deliver an optimal user experience. Strong security must be baked in to protect users and the organization from malware and other cyber threats.
- Does the provider offer fully integrated UC? Your chosen provider must be able to integrate UC functionality across applications along with telephony, instant messaging, telepresence, screen sharing and more.
Finally, consider the major advantage to buying UCaaS from a network service provider (NSP). Combining both applications and services into a single integrated solution from a single vendor helps achieve greater quality, performance, stability, and reliability. That’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
What are your thoughts about UCaaS? Do you think it will live up to the hype, or is it just a really long buzz-friendly acronym? Shoot us a note and let us know; it is always good to hear outside insights.
– Kevin Courteau
Using a cloud-based UCaaS model for unified communications, organizations can lower costs, reduce complexity and improve end user productivity and user/customer experience. Download our new white paper, The UCaaS Era Begins, Why the Future of Unified Communications is in the Collaborative Cloud, and learn how, in contrast to the narrow uses and inflexible characteristics of legacy voice and UC systems, cloud-based UCaaS delivers multiple and tangible benefits for organizations of all sizes.