Unified Communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) is essentially a cloud-based service that includes a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone system and integrates and unifies it with a variety of other communication technologies. Voice, video conference, chat, and email are the most common elements that are brought together to work in one solution and provided as one service.
Rather than organizations purchasing hardware and software that is run in house, they sign up with a provider to deliver telephony, messaging, presence, video and audio conferencing, presence, and more. UCaaS platforms also support mobility and communications-enabled business processes. In some cases, the providers throw in rented phones and other telecom equipment as part of the package.
The Benefits of UCaaS
In addition to UCaaS reducing immediate costs by switching spending from upfront capital expenditures to monthly subscriptions, UCaaS also has several advantages. Features such as software updates, upgrades to the latest hardware, system maintenance, help desk support, and troubleshooting are taken care of by the provider. All that hassle is eliminated from the internal to-do list. No longer does an organization have to maintain an on-site PBX to serve its telephony needs.
UCaaS also makes it easier for organizations to afford advanced features. Were these features to be deployed in in-house systems, they would come at a price premium and might be beyond the means of many organizations. UCaaS providers may offer them at a higher price, but it would be a relatively small jump in the monthly bill.
Scalability, too, makes UCaaS attractive. The providers have the infrastructure in place to cope with large numbers of users. So, the burden of scalability is removed as a local concern.
With services delivered via the cloud, mobility and access from anywhere becomes straightforward. The web-based interface of UCaaS solutions means users can access their communication apps and data anywhere they can find an internet connection.
Core Features of UCaaS
There is some debate concerning the core minimum services that should be provided as part of UCaaS. The answer depends on who you ask, their specialty, and their history as a vendor.
If the company matured in the world of the on-premises PBX, they are more likely to feature advanced telephony features such as voice mail, speed dial, and other enterprise-class telephony bells and whistles. Messaging vendors that moved into telephony are more likely to stress real-time chat, messaging security, and various collaboration features. Regardless of the differences between vendors, all should offer a seamless integration experience for users across the various communication channels.
The list of core features should include the bulk of the following:
- The ability to provide cloud-based hybrid, and on-premises deployment options.
- Video conferencing.
- Contact center functions.
- Remote workspace.
- Disaster avoidance and recovery.
- Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking.
Top UCaaS Providers
Enterprise Networking Planet reviewed the top Unified Communications as a Service providers. Here are our top picks, in no particular order:
Sangoma’s cloud-native portfolio provides end-to-end UCaaS solutions with options ranging from pure to on-premises cloud and an advanced features suite. Its solutions are customizable with various integration options and are scalable to align with business workflows.
- An extended catalog of hardware and accessories.
- Concierge support.
- A broad set of features and customization options.
- The company owns its own technology and IP, rather than combining and selling services from other vendors.
- Single source for all communications needs.
- Chat, video chat, quick dial, status, presence, and call rules work together efficiently.
- Integration with IP phones, SIP trunks, and PSTN connectivity.
- Optimized for VMware and Hyper-V.
- Failover for high availability.
Fuze’s all-in-one unified communications platform enables seamless transition between calling, video conferencing, instant messaging, and sharing. It is powered by a cloud architecture designed to overcome the challenges associated with digital transformation and meet the communications requirements of the modern worker.
- Since the onset of the pandemic, Fuze has hosted millions of meeting attendees across the planet.
- Tight integration ecosystem with partnerships like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Verint, and others.
- Efficient handoff and/or escalation between the platforms and improve the overall user experience.
- Customer success teams ensure a seamless integration and adoption throughout the deployment process.
- A focus on platform flexibility.
- Strong presence in verticals such as manufacturing.
Nextiva is a business phone app built for remote work. It enables people to work anywhere with a modern business phone system and take advantage of functions such as calls, video meetings, messaging, and more. It was rated the best business phone system for 2021 by U.S. News.
- Unlimited HD voice calls from any computer or mobile phone, using a business or work number.
- Use voice conferencing and video conferencing to connect with the rest of the team no matter where you work.
- Send and receive text and picture messages from a business phone number with the Nextiva Mobile App.
- Automatically send inbound calls to the right people with a custom call route that’s simple to create.
- Manage, view, and listen to business voicemails from the mobile VoIP app or the email inbox.
- Customize what name shows up when making business calls.
- Everyone has a virtual room where they can share their screen with others.
- Send messages to team members from within the VoIP app.
- Create a local or custom number with Nextiva’s business phone service. No extra toll charges.
- Every Nextiva data center meets the security standards set by the ISO/IEC 27001 certification,
- 99.999% uptime with zero reported outages in 2019 and 2020. Each data center is equipped with uninterruptible power sources.
- Add phone numbers, new users, or entire new locations from an admin web-portal.
Lumen is an enterprise communications and technology platform that integrates adaptive networking, edge computing, connected security and collaboration services into an architecture that can deploy and accelerate applications.
- Integrates voice, contact center, and UCaaS features.
- SIP Trunk and hosted VoIP.
- Partnerships with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Hosted Collaboration, Amazon Chime, and Cisco Webex.
- Cloud contact center services.
- Contact center and UCaaS consulting.
- Long distance and international toll-free calling.
- A single global provider network.
- One of the largest IP backbones in the world.
- Low-latency voice and video experiences.
- Integrated security to protect against cyberattacks.
Also read: Top SIP Trunking Providers of 2021
RingCentral’s calling features have been designed to offer a flexible, mobile, and cloud phone experience. Organizations can choose from a variety of available phone numbers, and can install the apps on the desktop, smartphone, or tablet.
- Call forwarding and call flip.
- Establish a local presence by choosing from more than 200 available area codes.
- Direct customer calls to a single number.
- Assign additional numbers to call queues and users.
- A toll-free number and vanity numbers.
- Presence status such as Available, Invisible or Do Not Disturb.
- Call delegation to assistants or colleagues.
- Block specific numbers and send others directly to voicemail.
- Provision, manage, and gain insights with administrative and analytics tools.
- Initiate instant employee moves, adds, and changes.
Microsoft Teams soared from 44 million daily active users in March of 2020 to 75 million in April and reached 115 million by October. From 50,000 organizational customers when it launched in 2017, Teams is now used by more than half a million enterprises, including 91 of the Fortune 100. Teams, then, is in widespread use by organizations for chat, video collaboration, screen sharing, and more. Of late, it has beefed up its voice calling capabilities as it strives to take on more market share in UCaaS. Advanced calling and voice features have been added such as Microsoft 365 Business Voice.
- Calling functionality in the form of video calling or phone calls between co-workers.
- Users are free to call anyone using the Teams application.
- A cloud-based Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) telephony and conferencing system with advanced features including call transfer, multilevel auto attendants, and call queues.
- A domestic calling plan with 3,000 minutes per user, per month within the US and Canada
- Call from anywhere, on any device through the Microsoft Teams app on desktop, mobile, web, and desk phones
- Dial-in audio conferencing for up to 250 people per meeting.
- Around-the-clock customer support seven days a week.
- Receive external calls directly on any device from anywhere in the world.
- Larger enterprises can harness Direct Routing for wider geographic coverage.
- Broad range of support for traditional voice requirements such as paging systems, bell systems, and faxing.
8X8 offers the ability to provision, configure, manage, and monitor all communications with one administration console. It can mix and match user types and provides a single deployment workflow for business and contact center users.
- AI-powered workflows for every interaction.
- Local numbers and global connectivity from one app.
- HD video with desktop and mobile screen-sharing.
- Team chat.
- Infuse processes, apps, and websites with rich messaging and video conferencing capabilities.
- Unlimited international and local calls.
- Consistent user experience across mobile and desktop devices.
- Augment UCaaS with a multichannel contact center solution.
- Search for and contact colleagues via the corporate directory.
- Integrate with CRM systems such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Zendesk and NetSuite.
- Sync with productivity tools such as G Suite and Microsoft Office 365 to facilitate email communications, appointment setting.
Compatible with over 180 desk phone models, GoToConnect’s LogMeIn provides a familiar way to make and receive calls via a cloud-based phone system. It boasts high quality audio, free local and long-distance calling and simple-to-manage features.
- Get immediate customer data with every incoming call along with communication history.
- Create a workflow for each member of the organization with features like click-to-call and automated call logging.
- Call forwarding, call on hold, and call routing.
- Cloud PBX.
- Dial by name directory.
- Hosted VoIP service.
- Phone number extensions, virtual voicemail, toll free and vanity phone numbers.
Read next: The Impact of AI on Unified Communications