What is UCaaS?

Learn everything you need to know about unified communications.

_Video_Chat_with_Screen_Share_1200x628.jpg

What is UCaaS?

Learn everything you need to know about unified communications.

_Video_Chat_with_Screen_Share_1200x628.jpg

What is UCaaS?

Learn everything you need to know about unified communications.

_Video_Chat_with_Screen_Share_1200x628.jpg

What is UCaaS?

Learn everything you need to know about unified communications.

_Video_Chat_with_Screen_Share_1200x628.jpg

UCaaS is an industry growing at lightning speed in the business world. What was once a favorite tool for small businesses has fast become the go-to communications solution for businesses of all sizes. The number of large enterprises that adopt UCaaS solutions for their enterprise communications is on the rise.

As more and more of us migrate our business operations online via the cloud, UCaaS solutions are set to become the “must have” business communications tool of the decade.

So, what exactly is UCaaS? How does it work and what should we be looking for in our UCaaS solutions moving forward? Hold tight, we’ll be discussing all of these essential UCaaS topics in detail below.

In this article we’ll explore…

What is UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service)?

UCaaS is an acronym that stands for Unified Communications as a Service. It’s made up of two key components: Unified Communications (UC) and the service provision. So, to start with, let’s tackle the first component, UC.

Unified Communications refers to the integration of a range of communication technologies within a single platform. UC systems, therefore, typically incorporate business telephony, text messaging, team collaboration features, video conferencing, email, and more.

UCaaS refers to the provision of these UC systems as a subscription-based service via a third-party service provider. UCaaS solutions provide businesses with cloud service Unified Communications systems that cover all key business communication functions (more on this in just a bit).

UCaaS providers own, operate, and maintain all the contingent infrastructure, including data centers, networks, and racks. The provider will provision and license the UC service for a recurring subscription fee (typically monthly), and it’s the provider who is ultimately responsible for performance quality and reliability.

That’s why it’s so important to find a reputable UCaaS service provider like 8x8 that can guarantee call quality and reliability and provide communication solutions that you can count on. 8x8 is designed to ensure you’ll have access to high quality communication channels at all times.

How does UCaaS work?

Sounds great, right?

Sure. But how does UCaaS actually work?

UCaaS software systems are cloud-based solutions hosted and managed by third-party service providers like 8x8. That means you won’t be required to install, configure, or maintain any complicated internal hardware like VoIP servers or phone lines.

UCaaS providers use IP telephony technology to support system features like voice and video calling. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) works by condensing audio inputs into data packets which it then transmits to the recipient over a broadband connection.

VoIP phone numbers are driven by SIP trunking technology or Universal Session Initiation Protocol. SIP is a signalling protocol that UCaaS providers mobilize in order to initiate, run, and terminate real-time voice, video, and messaging communication sessions.

This might all sound complex at first, but remember the whole point of UCaaS is to remove all technical complexity. All of this infrastructure functionality will be handled by your service provider. All you’ll need is a reliable internet connection and you’re good to go!

What’s included in a UCaaS solution?

We already mentioned that UCaaS systems house a whole plethora of communications tools under their roofs. Everything from telephony and audio conferencing to video conferencing, email, and file sharing.

Your UCaaS solution should offer a comprehensive and holistic mix of business tools within an easy-to-navigate interface for optimum productivity and organization.

With 8x8 you’ll enjoy integrated contact center, voice, video, chat, and embedded communications. So, you can say goodbye to your disparate systems and say hello to a fully unified, intuitive platform.

Let’s recap the key components of a Unified Communications system.

Phone system (telephony)

Of course, any modern communications solution needs to provide a high-quality phone system. The primary feature of any UCaaS solution is the phone service and associated features. Typically, UCaaS solutions will support a range of features.

These include:

  • Call forwarding
  • Call recording
  • Advanced call routing

UCaaS providers use VoIP and cloud PBX to enable businesses to make and take calls over the internet. More advanced solutions will mobilize intelligent AI allowing for richer data insights and efficiency.

With 8x8, telephony is at the heart of every service plan. All of your calls will be supported by a selection of advanced features including:

  • Auto-attendant
  • Visual voicemail
  • Advanced call management

Video conferencing / web conferencing

Video conferencing has become a business communications staple in recent years. Luckily, web conferencing is a core component of UCaaS solutions like 8x8.

Good UCaaS solutions will allow for both one-to-one and multi-participant phone calling and video calling capable of supporting office meetings, client chats, presentations, webinars, seminars, and more. This makes it easier to collaborate organically whether your teams are in the same room or across continents.

Instant messaging & email

Instant messages help teams engage in real-time chat remotely. Perfect for quick reminders, briefings, and a super convenient channel for maintaining communication throughout the day.

But SMS and MMS messages aren’t just for internal teams. Messaging is a great way to provide customer support and improve customer experience, too! More and more clients welcome text-based communication for its efficient, non-intrusive, and convenient applications.

And let’s not forget about our good friend email. Email remains one of the most effective business tools out there. UCaaS solutions consolidate email alongside all of your other communications tools and functionalities, allowing you to super streamline your workflows. It’s all about integrated workflows. UCaaS is designed to help you manage all of your workflows in one place, allowing everyone to stay on the same page at all times.

Collaboration tools

As well as these core functionalities, UCaaS solutions include a range of collaboration tools designed to further enhance communication and teamwork.

Collaboration tools include features such as:

  • Quick scheduling
  • Project, employee, and customer management
  • Screen sharing and file sharing
  • Online/offline presence
  • Recording and coaching

Cloud & client-based

Last but not least, UCaaS platforms are cloud-based. That means everything you need is hosted over the internet via your service provider’s secure data center, including cloud phone, video, and more.

The best thing about this is that you’ll be able to access your chosen software from whatever device you’re working from at that moment—whether that be a business phone (or softphone), browser, desktop, or mobile app. Everyone can be reached whether at home, in-office, or on the road. Nobody misses a beat.

UCaaS vs. other contact center communication tools

UCaaS solutions are particularly easily confused with two other types of business communication platforms: CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) and CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service).

Let’s take a look at the key differences between UCaaS, CCaaS, and CPaaS.

CCaaS

UCaaS and CCaaS (sometimes also referred to as a hosted contact center) are both cloud-based telecom software services. But, as the name suggests, CCaaS solutions only cover the essential tools and features needed to support a call center agent in their daily tasks. Typically a CCaaS solution includes the following tools and functionalities:

  • Automatic Contact Distributor (ACD)
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
  • Predictive dialers

CPaaS

Communications Platform as a Service is also a type of cloud-based software. CPaaS solutions are targeted at developers who need to add interactive functions like text and voice recognition to their applications.

Through the use of APIs, these functions are added to the software in development. CPaaS is not, therefore, an everyday business communications solution like UCaaS. However both “aaS” softwares allow individuals without any technical skill to access high-end communications features and functions.

The benefits of UCaaS for business communications

As UCaaS solutions continue to soar in popularity, you may be left wondering why. What is it about UCaaS that organizations love so much? What are the benefits that today’s businesses are seeing that accounts for the industry's monumental growth?

Let’s take a look at some of the most significant benefits of UCaaS for business communications.

Cost savings

First, UCaaS helps organizations save money. UCaaS is a subscription-based service. In exchange for a recurring fee you’ll gain access to all of your communications tools and features without having to engage in any costly hardware implementations or maintenance. All on-premises systems are eradicated with UCaaS.

All you need is good bandwidth and you’re good to go. Plus, with no fluctuating or unpredictable communication costs it’s so much easier to manage your business expenditure. With zero upfront costs and all the benefits of a streamlined solution, UCaaS has the potential to generate a very healthy ROI.

Typically, UCaaS-enabled businesses save money in the following areas:

  1. Phone bill reduction: Instead of tallying your call costs over the month, you’ll be charged a fixed monthly rate for unlimited local and long-distance calling, as well as free calls between offices and voicemail.
  2. Lower costs upfront: You’ll not have to fork out any upfront capital for all that expensive hardware of yesteryear. With a cloud-based system, it’s as simple as 1,2,3. You’ll be able to connect a system of IP phones to your pre-existing internet connection. Done and dusted.
  3. Built-in advanced features: With a UCaaS solution at the ready you won’t have to factor in any additional costs for advanced system features. All features come in-plan and as part of the subscription model service.
  4. No IT staff requirements: With no hardware on site and all tech infrastructure handled by your service provider, you won’t need to hire expert IT staff to monitor and maintain your communications infrastructure. If you need support, your UCaaS service provider will be ready to help you—it’s part of their role. With 8x8, for example, all clients have access to support through the 8x8 community. Seek help via live chat or check out some of our handy manuals and user guides. Technical support is available 24 hours a day via web, chat, and phone.

Time savings

What could possibly be better than financial savings?

Well, what’s more valuable than time? Especially in business.

UCaaS software doesn’t just save you money, it saves you time as well. And lots of it. With the provider taking charge of all functionality, maintenance, compliance, and security, you’ll have plenty of time to focus on what really matters—your business!

UCaaS solutions save companies time by:

  • Eliminating time-consuming updates
  • Eradicating all maintenance requirements
  • Minimizing downtime

Unrivaled scalability

UCaaS makes scaling your business software up or down simple. Unlike with on-premises UC solutions, UCaaS allows you to add or remove users pretty much instantly. No need to plan in advance. Simply scale up or down according to need and volume requirements.

Accessibility

One of the biggest A+ features for UCaaS is its accessibility and flexibility. Great for remote workers. Because UCaaS solutions are deployed on the cloud, your communications tools can be accessed from anywhere and from any device!

Whatever device users are working from (whether that be a mobile, desktop, or laptop computer), they’ll be able to access the web-based interface provided they have sufficient bandwidth.

That means teams can engage in remote work, work from dispersed locations, and take their work with them on the go for ultimate flexibility and a hybrid approach.

UCaaS AdvantagesUCaaS Disadvantages
Cheaper than on-premises hardware (PBX system) Dependent on a secure WiFi connection
Increased accessibility/mobility
Easy to scale up and down
Helps save time by eliminating maintenance and improving productivity

What to look for from UCaaS providers

Have you been won over yet?

If you’re ready to join the many businesses already using UCaaS solutions for their communication needs, then listen up. The most important thing now is to make sure you pick the right UCaaS vendor for your business needs.

So, how do you choose which UCaaS plan and provider is best?

When checking out UCaaS solutions, make sure you’re prioritizing the following essential features and functions.

1) Technical quality & reliability

Look for a service plan that offers high levels of technical quality and reliability. That means HD calling and high-quality video, along with competitive uptime guarantees. After all, you don’t want to find yourself plagued by technical difficulties down the line. Many providers will give you an indication of their service quality and most offer a service level agreement containing uptime guarantee clauses.

2) Integrations

Next, check for those all-important integration offerings. To get the most out of your UCaaS solutions you’ll want to make sure that it integrates fully with all of your favorite business and communication apps. Look for a solution with a wide offering of compatible integrations and API support (think the likes of Google Workspace apps and others that rate well in Gartner Magic Quadrants).

Integrations augment user experience and increase the number of tools and functions that can be accessed from one place for optimum streamlined efficiency.

3) Security & compliance

Security is so important. Whatever you do, before making a purchase decision, make sure to check your chosen service provider’s security and compliance credentials. Make sure that your service provider meets your regional requirements and that company and customer data is going to be protected and safe from fraud.

Check the security credentials of your supplier. Make sure that they’re using an accredited voice platform, TLS/SRTP call encryption, and engaging with a security incident program.

8x8 keeps up with regulations and is accredited and verified by independent third-party certifications so you can stay safe, secure, and compliant at all times. As well as being HIPAA compliant, 8x8 holds a wealth of security certifications from bodies including FISMA, CPNI, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), GDPR, and more.

4) Analytics

Finally, make sure that your UCaaS solution of choice allows you to mobilize analytics for data-rich insights. The best platforms come with designated dashboards and administrative features that help you create custom reports and make targeted, data-led improvements to your business strategy.

Tools like 8x8 mobilize analytics and AI to help you make better decisions by using the data collected from every conversation that takes place in your company. You’ll be able to harness data from every transaction, from speech analytics, directly from your virtual customer-service agent, and via accelerated artificial intelligence deployment, data-aggregation, and modeling.

Before you begin

Now that you’ve picked your UCaaS provider and you’re all set up, it's time to make sure you’re using your UCaaS software to your best advantage. Let’s discuss some best practices that will help you get the most out of your software.

Remember, your UCaaS software is designed to help teams work better, faster, and more productively. So make sure it is actually benefiting the people in your organization. The best way to do this is to take a step back and audit employee usage of existing workflow tools.

Oftentimes (especially in multi-departmental organizations), each department will have developed their own unique workflow style and methodology. Auditing the usage of tools like CRMs (such as Salesforce) and productivity software is a great way to maximize your UCaaS experience.

Make sure that all of those pre-existing, mission-critical tools are fully integrated with your UCaaS solution. That way your employees will still be able to access their favorite software and continue managing their workflows in the way they know best.

UCaaS is here to stay!

So there we have it. A simple guide to Unified Communications platforms.

UCaaS is here to stay. Unified Communications as a Service solutions are transforming the way business communications are conducted in the workplace. A robust UCaaS solution has the power to streamline workflows, reduce costs, save time, improve accessibility, and provide unrivaled levels of business communications scalability.

It’s no wonder more and more businesses are shifting their communications to UCaaS service providers like 8x8.

By unifying previously disparate communications tools under one roof, UCaaS is providing businesses with a more cohesive and flexible way to communicate both internally with employees and teams, and externally with clients and stakeholders.

Ready for a new business solution?

It’s time to make the move to UCaaS!

Discover 8x8’s scalable UCaaS solutions by contacting sales or requesting a demo today.