Digital transformation has changed the way we work, thanks to advances in video conferencing, mobile devices, instant messaging, SMS, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and real-time collaboration tools.

Unified communications (UC) solutions combine all these channels and make them available through a single, cohesive application so organizations can streamline workflows and improve productivity.

What Is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)?

A unified communications platform is a framework that integrates various asynchronous and real-time communication tools to improve business communication, collaboration and productivity in a convenient and affordable way.

UC refers to an interconnected system of enterprise communication devices and applications that can be used in concert or successively. A UC platform brings together a variety of technologies, such as phone service, text, chat and video conferencing so businesses can organize and simplify their communications.

A unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provider hosts the hardware, handles all the backend processing in the cloud and allows users access to a unified communication system on a subscription model. The monthly fee covers the use of the platform, as well as all the upgrades and maintenance on an ongoing basis.

UCaaS is made up of four fundamental components:

  • VoIP phone service: Delivered via softphone applications installed on desktop computers and mobile devices
  • Audio and video conferencing: Facilitated by a multipoint control unit (MCU) to provide video conferencing among multiple participants for virtual meetings and team collaboration
  • Messaging: Sent over email, voicemail, unified SMS and instant messaging apps for team and customer communications
  • Clients: Includes thin browser clients and softphone or mobile app clients

A cloud-hosted UCaaS solution offers these key components in reliable and affordable service packages that can be tailored to meet the needs of organizations of any size.

What Is Unified Communications and Collaboration?

Unified communications software, or UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), manages communications within a single platform. This brings together many different forms of communication such as phone service, text, chat and video conferencing so businesses can keep their communications organized and simplified. This enables greater collaboration among teams and makes it easier to become more productive.

How Does UCaaS Help With Collaboration?

UCaaS provides convenient, affordable and scalable collaboration features for businesses of all sizes. You can share information and messages with coworkers and stay connected on every project. Thanks to instant communications and quick connection, everyone can stay on the same page and ensure they're all looking at the same stuff. UCaaS keeps everything saved, too, so you can refer back to past messages and see everything within a single software platform.

The Business Benefits of Unified Communications

A UCaaS solution helps organizations reduce cost, increase efficiency, improve productivity and facilitate collaboration. Here are some key advantages of using 8x8's UC platform for your business:

  • Minimize upfront investment in hardware, network infrastructure or software licensing fees and reduce overhead cost by replacing on-premise PBX systems with a cloud-based service
  • Save money with unlimited international and local calls, as well as on toll-free numbers
  • Provide a consistent user experience across mobile and desktop devices so employees can become productive quickly without having to learn to use individual tools
  • Search for and contact colleagues via the corporate directory with just a few clicks so you don't have to remember or dial phone numbers
  • Tap into the benefits of a remote workforce and attract talents from all over the world by making it easy for employees to collaborate with each other from anywhere
  • Communicate effectively with your clients and provide timely customer service by being accessible via multiple channels
  • Enhance customer experience and improve customer satisfaction by augmenting UC capabilities with a multichannel contact center solution
  • Integrate with leading CRM systems (e.g., Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Zendesk and NetSuite) so sales and marketing can deliver a seamless customer experience
  • Sync with productivity tools such as G Suite and Microsoft Office 365 to facilitate email communications, appointment setting and more
  • Improve collaboration among teams and improve response time, whether they're in the office, working from home or on the road
  • Enable the efficient use of remote workers so you can tap into a larger talent pool while reducing overhead costs
  • Meet data security standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, FISMA and the Privacy Shield Framework to protect sensitive information and ensure compliance with industry regulations
  • Enhance collaboration and communication with HD video conferencing and virtual meeting capabilities. The Tolly Group rated 8x8 's service as better than Skype for Business, Google Hangouts and RingCentral
  • Consolidate all business communications and related files in a centralized location to minimize errors and delays while improving productivity
  • Reduce ongoing maintenance expenses and the total cost of ownership so you can free up resources for more strategic IT initiatives
  • Enable business users to handle most day-to-day management tasks and easily configure features (e.g., interactive voice response menu) to improve operational efficiency
  • Leverage a flexible and scalable solution to support the growth of your business. You can add users and capabilities on demand so you only pay for the features you need
  • Minimize costly downtime and data loss with built-in redundancy in the system and a comprehensive backup and recovery plan
  • Access to robust reporting capabilities, such as historical and real-time analytics via intuitive data visualization dashboards to enable accurate data-driven decision-making
  • Consolidate various communication tools into a single invoice for streamlined budgeting and financial management
  • Simplify business processes such as service level agreement review and approval to increase operational efficiency

Key Features You Need From a UCaaS Platform

A unified communication solution can improve business communications and team collaboration through the following features:

  • Text messaging: Text coworkers and communicate in real time while keeping all the messages in one place for easy reference
  • VoIP phone: Make local and international calls without racking up expensive phone charges. Depending on your business phone service plan, you can also add toll-free numbers at no or low additional costs
  • Chat: Communicate with team members and partners in real time via messaging apps so you can collaborate seamlessly from anywhere and at any time
  • Email: Consolidate email alongside other communications to streamline workflow and increase productivity
  • Mobile and desktop apps: Stay connected via various devices and switch from one to another without missing a beat. Team members can stay connected whether they're in the office, at home or on the go
  • Document tracking: Share files, track changes and edit documents collaboratively to increase productivity while minimizing errors and delays due to access or version control issues
  • Integrated workflow: Manage all your workflows in one place so everyone is on the same page and nothing falls through the cracks
  • Organized messages: Keep all communications in a centralized location so you can stay organized and easily look up past messages
  • Cloud computing: Keep information and data accessible to everyone in the team via hosted storage, regardless of the devices they use or where they access the system from

Unified Communications in Business: Use Cases

Here's how unified communications can be applied to a variety of business situations and solve communication challenges:

  • A manufacturing company that has plants and offices across the US and China is able to increase productivity significantly by allowing employees to access voice and text messages from anywhere at any time via both mobile and desktop devices so they can respond to requests and inquiries in a timely manner. The company also streamlined its communication tools by eliminating the need for a voicemail system and fax machines. As a result, the company lowered IT administrative cost by $600,000 per year
  • A government agency switched from a traditional phone system to a UC platform so it could streamline its IT infrastructure and network management. The improved user experience increases employee productivity while the agency is able to l