What is UCaaS? The Basics of Unified Communications as a Service

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What us UCaas? Basics of Unified Communicatons as a Service

From the beginning of next week, RingCentral will be headlining UC Today’s first ever virtual unified communications (UC) summit: UC Summit 2020. Running from 20 January, this video-first summit will show off the latest in UC through a virtual expo, a customer showcase and an on-demand online learning platform.

As a unified communications as a service (UCaaS) provider, RingCentral has been fully immersed in UC since its inception. Who better, then, to provide an introduction to UC, the role of the cloud, and the benefits of UCaaS? If you’re still unsure as to exactly what UC or UCaaS is, and what benefits it could bring to your business, take a few minutes to go through this brief intro to UCaaS.

UCaaS is one of the most popular developments in the marketplace today. According to Nemertes 2018-2019 research into UC and collaboration trends, 29% of companies are already using UCaaS.

The question is, what is unified communications as a service, and why is it so disruptive to today’s businesses?

Simply put, UCaaS is an enterprise-focussed service method intended to streamline the delivery of communications through cloud-based services. While “UC” stands for unified communications, the “aaS” as a service aspect of the technology means you can run those unified communications anywhere, at any time, over the cloud. UCaaS eliminates the need for clunky and expensive IT infrastructure or hiring a full IT team. Cloud service providers can handle the toughest challenges of implementing UC for you on the back-end.

How Has the Technology Evolved?

UCaaS has come a long way in recent years, driven by the rapid emergence of new features and functionality in the landscape. These days, offering unified communications in the cloud doesn’t just mean providing access to voice and video. UCaaS providers like RingCentral can provide a wide variety of immersive communication and collaboration tools, including:

  • Team collaboration and workstream collaboration features (RingCentral Glip)
  • Integrated contact centre and customer management capabilities
  • APIs for extensibility and customised growth
  • AI and machine learning with things like intelligent call routing
  • Workplace management tools
  • Multimedia messages and online messaging

UCaaS gives users information about their colleagues and who’s available at any given moment to assist with a challenge. This solution enables mobility across multiple business departments and seamlessly integrates with a range of external software solutions. Many UCaaS providers are also working alongside value-added resellers and service providers to offer extra features like Wi-Fi, managed network solutions, and security.

UC Summit 2020

Moving Into the Future With the Cloud

UCaaS is the next step forward from the previous UC solutions offered on-premises. While these on-premises tools did help companies to align their services and tools in the same place, they also required a lot of back-end management on the behalf of the business. That meant that companies needed to invest significant time and money into keeping their communications stack working effectively.

With on-premises UC, upgrading features, adding new users, and even making international calls was an expensive and complicated process. UCaaS removes much of the complication associated with those old processes, leading the way to a more agile and advanced environment. This is particularly important in a space where today’s business users aren’t always located in an office environment. For instance, consider the fact that 80% of workers perform some kind of deskless work every day.

UCaaS uses the cloud to bring scalable and efficient communication technology to businesses that need to evolve and accelerate quickly. This cloud-based solution appeals to large enterprises, mid-sized businesses, and smaller companies alike.

Why UCaaS? The Key Benefits of a UCaaS Deployment

The demand for UCaaS has begun to rise significantly in recent years. More companies are beginning to discover the benefits associated with basing their communications in the cloud. Some of the significant benefits of UCaaS include:

  • Reduced costs: Because there’s no on-premises hardware or maintenance required on your end, you can keep your communications costs to a minimum. The UCaaS model offers a massive benefit for your IT team, as it means that they can spend more time focussing on other tasks rather than keeping your communications running.
  • Scalability: With UCaaS, you can upgrade or downgrade your communications tools based on your needs. It’s easy to quickly and effectively add more features and phone functionality to your system with a couple of clicks.
  • Enhanced mobility: Today’s employees are more agile than ever, with remote and globalised work on the rise. UCaaS ensures your team members can access the same crucial tools wherever they are, using their favourite device or computer system.
  • Future-proof technology: The world of communications is constantly evolving. The tools you need now might not be the same as those you need in the future. With UCaaS, you can upgrade your environment with the latest solutions without having to rip and replace your existing system.
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How Does UCaaS work?

UCaaS uses cloud connectivity to eliminate the need for costly on-premises systems. Essentially, it’s a way of removing your reliance on physical hardware and placing more of your investment into the software sphere. UCaaS doesn’t just deliver voice; it can also provide video, instant messaging and many other forms of communication and adjacent software too. When used correctly, this offering significantly reduces the cost and labour of a typical communications stack.

Currently, there are two kinds of UCaaS available: Single-tenancy UCaaS, which involves delivering a custom-made software platform that integrates with the brand’s existing on-premise applications, or multi-tenancy, which allows multiple customers to share the same platform.

UCaaS In the Workplace

UCaaS has a fundamental impact not just on your bottom line but on the way your teams work and communicate every day. With UCaaS, launching a video meeting with remote workers is as simple as tapping a button or clicking on a link in a team collaboration tool like RingCentral Glip. Before the cloud became mainstream, it was practically impossible to access this quick and seamless video interaction. UCaaS in the workplace also offers:

  • Multi-channel communication: Give your teams the freedom to communicate via voice, video, IM, team or individual messaging, or integrated with any other platform you choose. Swapping from one system to the next is easy with UCaaS, saving employees crucial time when it comes to switching between apps.
  • Workplace management features: Combined with elements like employee presence and workforce optimisation features, UCaaS can also help today’s businesses to maintain better control over their workforce, whether they’re dealing with in-office workers or remote employees.
  • Collaboration: Through UCaaS, your team members can collaborate seamlessly in real time, using instant messaging, file and screen sharing, and other useful tools. It’s easier than ever to bring your team together.

There’s a lot of jargon around UCaaS: Single-pane-of-glass, frictionless experience, everything-as-a-service, omnichannel…communication has developed a language of its own. Don’t be put off by unfamiliar phrasal nouns – the point of UCaaS is to offer simplification rather than complexity. The benefits of consolidating tools and subscriptions, and outsourcing expensive infrastructural maintenance, are plain.

Now you’re aware of what UCaaS is and the basics of how it operates, you’re in a prime position to visit RingCentral’s stand at UC Summit 2020 to find out more about how you can apply UCaaS to your business. UC Summit 2020 will kick off with a five-day live event, yielding to on-demand sessions which can be accessed for up to 90 days. Register for free online, and be ready to log in on Monday as the event kicks off.

UC Summit 2020

Originally published Jan 16, 2020, updated Jan 17, 2023

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