Modern organizations need an effective way for their in-office and remote employees to collaborate, and for these organizations, legacy voice systems are no longer enough. What’s needed are solutions that cover calling, meetings, messaging, and more. This is the world of Unified Communications (UC), which helps organizations across the globe connect workplaces and their workforce.
As UC solutions—such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom —become increasingly complex, many organizations are finding that it makes sense to consider Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
Let’s look at the service aspect of UCaaS and why many organizations are choosing this option rather than building their own. UCaaS goes beyond simply offering a new communication system. It combines feature-rich UC systems with industry-leading services such as setting up PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) integrations, configuring calling plans, promoting user adoption, and supplying hardware. Even assuming you have the best in-house engineers and IT staff, many aspects of UC require specialized expertise.
UC solutions use gateways and SIP (session initiation protocol) trunks to connect devices to the network. With UCaaS, these are all handled by the service provider. Organizations that opt for UCaaS don’t have to worry about having things go wrong. Running their own UC platform brings with it both burdens and expenses that make choosing UCaaS a no-brainer.
In addition to offering PBX functionalities, real-time collaboration tools, video conferencing, and full contact center services, a UCaaS solution is infinitely scalable across an entire organization.
From Humble Beginnings
To fully understand UCaaS, let’s first go back to the beginning. The 2000s saw the rise of VoIP (voice over internet protocol). As time went on, these applications only grew in popularity, and it became clear that they would soon replace PBX systems. Eventually, Microsoft and Cisco developed applications that included VoIP software along with messaging and meetings. Now we know them as Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex, two feature rich solutions with advanced security and near infinite scalability. They remain two of the best apps on the market to this day. The global pandemic of 2020 changed everything. With huge portions of the workforce going remote, businesses had to migrate to cloud-based UC solutions faster than before. During this time, Zoom became another prominent VoIP software, especially among casual users. After all these years, the need for UC hasn’t changed. Now UCaaS provides the features of these UC applications along with managed services, adoption and change management plans, and hardware as a service.
UCaaS solutions offer a wide range of benefits for organizations of all sizes. Here are the top six.
Legacy voice systems, especially PBXs, come with high maintenance costs and can be a huge burden on an organization’s IT team. Simply switching to the cloud can save an organization 65 percent in telephony costs.
Even in the cloud there are threats to your budget. The cost of disparate calling, messaging, and conferencing apps can add up very quickly.
A UCaaS solution erases both of these problems. It takes the burden of supporting legacy systems off IT teams by placing it on the provider, or by replacing the system altogether.
Best of all, it includes all the necessary communication and collaboration features a business would need. UCaaS users no longer need to pay extra for online meeting or messaging apps, helpdesk ticketing, internal file sharing, on-premises phones, or third-party softphones.
Recent studies show that people who work from home tend to be more productive. Recent events have also provided many businesses with little choice but to offer their employees the choice to work remote. A hybrid workplace needs seamless and consistent communication for every employee.
UCaaS allows users to access the organization’s network on any device, from laptops to smartphones. They can easily join meetings, access important documents, and call or message any other user. All they need is a high-speed internet connection, and at this point that’s not hard to find.
Most organizations use a wide range of communication tools. These include phone systems, messaging apps, storage drives, and sometimes even analog devices like fax machines. If you use too many different tools from too many different providers, you risk unnecessary expenses and even potential breaches in security.
UCaaS consolidates all of your communication tools into one platform. Organizations that deploy a UCaaS solution can then save money by decommissioning redundant apps in their environment. This solution also helps its users stay connected, serve their customers, and manage critical projects more efficiently than ever.
For organizations dealing with sensitive data, be it their own or their customers’, security is no laughing matter. Data breaches come with devastating costs that most organizations cannot afford.
Fortunately, UCaaS solutions include cloud-based platforms with advanced security features that keep data encrypted. It may seem risky to have so many users accessing the network with their personal devices, but with the proper setup and governance, it’s no trouble at all.
Security features vary platform to platform, but all of them accomplish what they must. As part of the Microsoft 365 suite, Microsoft Teams utilizes the industry-leading security features of Microsoft Azure and its ironclad data centers. Webex offers standards-based, zero-trust, end-to-end encryption for all its users' data, encrypting messages before they enter Cisco’s cloud servers.
Joel Keene: Product Manager | Continuant Connect & Sales Operations,
on Enterprise-grade Security with Microsoft Teams.
Adding users, locations, and resources has never been easier. UCaaS solutions allow organizations to scale up or down based on their needs with minimal burden on their IT teams. Scaling no longer requires time-consuming deployments, or long conversations with IT fraught with time-consuming questions.
A UCaaS solution works seamlessly across locations. Users in LA can work on the same team as users in New York with no difficulty. That also includes remote employees, even those working internationally. This solution makes them all easy to manage wherever they may be.
A UCaaS solution isn’t only a major benefit for its users. Its features can enhance the customer experience as well.
According to a Gartner study, 80 percent of growing companies gather data from their customers through surveys and real-time analytics. This data is essential to drive long-term growth for the company and meet the needs of the customers.
UCaaS solutions allow companies to survey their leads and customers at every stage of their buyer’s journey. They also alleviate challenges between staff and technology, reducing friction that may upset the customer experience. Some platforms even allow CRM integration, though they may require a third-party application.
Best of all, UCaaS solutions help keep the customer experience consistent across every interaction. This includes phone calls, emails, and even interactions on social media.
While these benefits are broadly true of almost all UC applications, which are the best? The answer to this question depends on the needs of each organization, or even each user. It’s safe to say, however, that most organizations will be best served by three platforms: Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom.
As part of the Microsoft 365 suite, Teams offers calling, messaging, and meetings along with all the features of Microsoft's other apps. Its users can keep notes on OneNote, store files in OneDrive, share them in SharePoint, and always rely on the security of Microsoft Azure.
When it comes to consolidating technology, Teams is among the best ways to do it. Many organizations already have Microsoft licenses. If they switch to using Teams, they can get the most out of their investment along with other UC benefits.
Switching to Teams isn’t always as easy as flipping a switch. It requires planning and management to make sure the change goes smoothly. A UCaaS solution with Microsoft Teams includes services from a Microsoft Partner like Continuant that can design, deploy, and manage Teams effectively.
Cisco Webex has no Microsoft Suite, but it does provide everything a UC solution must. It includes intelligent meetings, award-winning video, and industry-leading security. Cisco’s webinars and online training also make onboarding new users easy.
Many organizations all over the world have used Cisco phone systems over the years. Webex comes with all the features Cisco users love in a cloud-based UC platform. This includes call forwarding, call transfer, conferencing, voicemail, and enabling auto attendants.
Teams and Webex are both excellent solutions. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be either/or. Webex can be easily integrated with Microsoft Teams, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two apps. With the right setup, Teams and Webex users can collaborate as though they were on the same platform.
After exploding in popularity during the COVID pandemic, Zoom has developed its own UCaaS solution. It includes meetings, calling, messaging, and video webinars that can include up to 50,000 viewers. Zoom also offers Zoom Rooms— highly effective hybrid collaboration spaces with features such as simplified booking, one-touch meeting start, and wireless content sharing.
The Zoom user base is incredibly large, with over 300 million daily meeting participants. The odds are good that most employees at any given organization have access to the app, and that many of them use it regularly. This makes the user adoption process much easier than many other UCaaS platforms.
Some organizations may worry about security in Zoom. Fortunately, Zoom offers end-to-end encryption for meetings, and a range of authentication methods such as SAML, OAuth, and individual passwords. With the proper governance, a Zoom solution will be just as secure as any other UCaaS platform.
To find the right UCaaS provider, there are many things worth considering. These include:
These leading UCaaS providers have an extensive list of partners that can help any organization design and deploy their UCaaS solution. Continuant is one such partner. As your UC integrator and Managed Service Provider, we can help you achieve all the benefits of UCaaS with Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom.
Continuant, a Managed Services Provider and Systems Integrator, offering world-class solutions for Cloud, Voice Systems, Networking, UC, and AV. From UC and AV solution design and installation to post-installation support, Continuant focuses on delivering exceptional service to the enterprise. We manage complex...