Unified communications entered business terminology in the mid-1990s, and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) rose to prominence approximately two decades later.
This category has since evolved significantly over the last few years, so let’s examine what UCaaS is today and where it’s headed.
What is UCaaS?
(Unified Communications as a Service)
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provides a cloud-based business communications system across multiple channels and devices. UCaaS combines phone service, video conferencing, team messaging, SMS, fax, and other communications tools on a single integrated cloud platform. It is designed to be accessed from any device – desktops, laptop/tablets, or mobile phones.
Benefits of UCaaS
Unifying communications in the cloud offers a wealth of benefits for workers and businesses in terms of productivity, ease of use, economic value, flexibility, and security. Because UCaaS is cloud-based, it enables businesses and IT departments to save money and achieve greater scalability, security, and reliability from business communications.
Other benefits of the cloud: you don’t have to procure space for hardware, worry about energy bills, or configure and manage your communications environment. In short, you incur no upfront expenses while enjoying greatly reduced operating costs. The keywords in UCaaS, after all, are “as a service,” which means you don’t have to hire additional IT support – and you can lease phones from the provider instead of purchasing. That means you can move upfront capital expenditures to a monthly operational expenditure. UCaaS billing also simplifies your accounting.
But perhaps the greatest value is that the cloud offers all of the latest and greatest technologies – updated and upgraded seamlessly and automatically – which means you don’t have to be at the mercy of lengthy, on-premises, scheduled upgrades.
Simply put, UCaaS is built for a mobile, global, and distributed workforce – enabling your employees to work the way they want, anytime and anywhere they want. With UCaaS, employees can use any device (e.g., phone, computer, laptop, tablet) for voice, video, texting, conferencing, file sharing, etc.
UCaaS also successfully deals with the issue of “app overload.” Consider this: A typical office employee uses between five to seven communications apps every day, generally consisting one phone line (more and more, the business world is shifting from landlines to VoIP), one email account, one SMS app, one team messaging service and an audio and video conferencing solution.
When you’re considering unified communications for your small business, here are the key features you should look out for.
Unified messaging is the cornerstone of a good unified communications service. The ability to access all of your communications from a single point streamlines workflow and improves productivity. Using desktop and mobile apps from UCaaS providers, such as RingCentral, all your calls, voicemails, faxes, and SMS messages are available in a simple unified interface. Everything syncs instantly through your account, so your messages are available on any device. You can easily switch between devices without worrying about messages or notifications getting lost in the shuffle.
Whether you handle customer calls or need to coordinate with colleagues, presence notifications can help your business by relaying an individual’s status in real time. Presence can indicate whether someone is available, on a call, holding, or if they have a call ringing. Choose a UCaaS provider that supports presence monitoring on desk phones and also via our desktop and mobile apps. Utilizing presence, you’ll know that transferred calls will be picked up by the recipient and minimize back-and-forth between colleagues when people are unavailable.
Keeping teams in step with each other is a significant challenge for every business. Effective collaboration is even more difficult when resources are spread across a variety of apps and interfaces. That’s where shared workspaces can help.
Conferencing and online meetings
Audio conferencing is critical for many businesses, allowing multiple parties to connect simultaneously. Online meetings with video, screen sharing, text chat, and collaboration tools enable participants in multiple locations to conduct face-to-face meetings in high definition.
The Future of UCaaS
With more mobility opportunities available to their employees, organisations will continue to embrace telecommuting, making it important for distributed teams such as sales to stay on the same page and stay connected anywhere, anytime and on any device.
Small- and medium-sized businesses as well as large enterprises will find UCaaS solutions to be the most logical option for their global and distributed collaboration and communications needs.
Stephanie Liais is part of the Product Marketing team for RingCentral in EMEA. She is focusing on helping businesses in EMEA transition to cloud business communications and contact centre solutions. She has spent the last 6 years in cloud software and communication industries. Stephanie is based in London, has a European background and is a keen traveller.