Imagine your typical business day. You juggle calls, video conferences, messages, and emails using many devices, from your smartphone to in-office meeting room equipment. During the work from home era, unified communications as a service (UCaaS technology) arose to provide seamless communication across devices.
What are the main features of unified communications tools and types of UCaaS architecture? How does UCaaS work, and what new technologies can upgrade your UCaaS platform? Let’s find out all the answers.
What is UCaaS?
Gartner provides a definition of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) as cloud based communications model that include six features:
- Enterprise telephony
- Audio/video conferencing
- Unified messaging
- Instant messaging and presence
- Communications-enabled workflow integration
As per recent Gartner research, UCaaS adoption is growing across all market segments. From 2022 through 2026, Gartner expects number of organizations using cloud communications solutions to increase from around 45% of overall cloud telephony users to 55%.
UCaaS is a fluid term, since UCaaS solutions significantly differ in terms of enterprise telephony capabilities, regional coverage, integrated contact center capabilities, self-service administrative capabilities, the extent of collaboration functionality, and price. Let’s delve into UCaaS platform intricacies and examples.
Examples of Unified Communications Platforms
According to the Gartner UCaaS Magic Quadrant 2022, сloud communications platforms can be divided into four groups: leaders, visionaries, challengers, and niche players. Evaluation criteria includes two primary UCaaS software features, namely the ability to execute and vision. Here are detailed features and examples of platforms that belong to each group:
Source: Gartner — Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, Worldwide
Leaders have a rich history of developing cloud communication software over the course of many years, an established base of enterprise customers, and the ability to support a broad segment of users.
Microsoft: Organizations are heartily choosing Microsoft for UCaaS for its unified messaging, meeting, and calling experience. Many companies have replaced legacy telephony-centric UCaaS solutions with Teams.
RingCentral: A well-suited UCaaS platform for customers of all sizes (including large enterprises). This vendor has a strong presence in North America and a solid customer base in Europe and Asia.
Zoom: A good fit for customers of all sizes, including multinational organizations. Zoom outpaced many vendors in 2022, showing considerable growth in revenue and the user base, which more than doubled within a year.
Cisco: Webex by Cisco is an example of a UCaaS platform with a complete set of services: messaging, telephony, collaboration, and meetings. Moreover, Webex provides security infrastructure and data networking.
8×8: This vendor offers natively integrated contact center as a service (CCaaS) capabilities that are suitable for small and midsize contact centers with complicated requirements.
Challengers are cloud communications as a service providers that lack some elements to become Leaders but do have the ability to serve large organizations.
Google: Google’s customers are geographically diverse technology companies, educational institutions, and midsize organizations in various industries.
GoTo is well-positioned to facilitate remote and hybrid SMB work environments with its UCaaS, contact center as a service (CCaaS), and remote access support tools (via GoTo Resolve).
Visionaries provide UCaaS solutions with emerging services and an ambitious vision for the future. Visionaries may have many customers yet a relatively narrow range of use cases.
Dialpad: A vendor offering telephony, meeting, and messaging as well as contact center capabilities integrated into TrueCaaS, providing both UCaaS and CCaaS services.
Niche players are UCaaS platform providers that might have limited name recognition, relatively new solutions, or limited functionality.
Vonage: This vendor has positive feedback on customer support and service resolution. Aimed at SMBs, Vonage proactively obtains data to develop its customer base.
Sangoma: This is a well-suited vendor for midmarket customers looking for a bundled solution. Sangoma provides its UCaaS mix of related offerings: Device as a service (DaaS), contact center, SD-WAN, handsets, session border controller, contact center, access control, fax, and trunking.
Windstream: A vendor suitable for SMBs offering network access, SD-WAN, security, secure access service edge (SASE), and other professional services.
Wildix: A sales-oriented solution supporting telephony, conferencing, and meetings through a mobile and web-based approach.
Features of a UCaaS Platform
UCaaS is a crucial building block for balanced productivity. Here are principal components to consider when choosing your UCaaS provider:
VoIP is king when it comes to unified communications. Cloud based telephony eliminates equipment connected to phone lines and allows companies to run phone systems using the internet. Unified communications provide many VoIP features including intelligent call routing, advanced call analytics, visual voicemail, and affordable international calls.
Video conferencing is an integral part of the post-pandemic workplace environment. It is a way to collaborate with colleagues without needing to be in the same physical space. Sharing files, providing presentations, and annotating content in real time from any device is the new normal.
Instant messaging and presence
Instant messaging within a UCaaS ecosystem replaces chatting with colleagues in the office. Moreover, a UCaaS platform allows for creating a dedicated room for any topic or project to keep communication organized and exchange files. Also, a UCaaS platform provide a user presence feature to display the status of colleagues.
Collaboration tools facilitate daily work. Calendar, file sharing, and project management features are crucial for any workflow.
Integration with existing business tools is a way to get the most from your UCaaS platform, enhancing the user experience. Some UCaaS solutions integrate with project management apps, workflow automation tools, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
Types of UCaaS architectures
Within unified communications, there are two primary architectures: single-tenancy and multi-tenancy. Each has its benefits, drawbacks, and requirements.
In a single-tenancy architecture, one customer uses a single instance of supporting infrastructure and software. In this architecture, the hosting provider manages the software instance and infrastructure but provides complete control to one tenant. The tenant can customize software and infrastructure as needed.
Single-tenancy is more secure and robust than multi-tenancy, as each customer’s data is stored separately from data of other customers. Also, one customer’s data isn’t affected if another customer’s software instance goes down. Meanwhile, single-tenancy is more expensive than multi-tenancy, since the costs of upgrading are placed on the customer. It also entails complex setup and management, especially when customizing a single-tenancy SaaS (software as a service) product.
Multi-tenancy is about sharing a single software platform. In this case, the software instance is hosted in the UCaaS provider’s data center. A multi-tenant architecture is a good fit for businesses with fewer hardware requirements. This type of architecture is an industry standard for enterprises.
Multi-tenancy is considered a more cost-effective solution with more support, lower maintenance costs, larger computing capacity, and more efficient resource use. Meanwhile, multi-tenant solutions are less flexible and customizable than single-tenant solutions. Some companies opt for a hybrid approach, keeping one part of their UCaaS platform on-premises (for management or security reasons) and moving other applications to the cloud.
UCaaS platform digital transformation enters the picture when modernizing on-premises communications software using cloud services. This way, companies can reinforce their position in the UCaaS market, boosting revenue and enlarging the customer base.
Learn how we modernized legacy on-premises software into a unified communications platform using cloud technology to streamline telecom transformations.
UCaaS: How does it work?
It’s impossible to talk about UCaaS and its nuts and bolts without talking about VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service. VoIP transforms sound into data packets and transmits it to a cloud phone service provider. VoIP technology uses the universal Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), a signaling protocol for voice, video, and messaging applications.
UCaaS platforms usually have several key components:
- Servers run by a unified communications provider, either located in their data center,. hosted in a third-party data center, or hosted on the public cloud (AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud)
- Software clients, either downloaded on a device or accessed via a web browser using a plugin or WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) to stream audio and video
- Endpoints (phones, whiteboards, and video conferencing tools) included in the UCaaS solution license cost or purchased separately
- Public switched telephone network (PSTN) access, delivered by the UCaaS provider or integrated with the customer’s own Session Initiation Protocol services with the UCaaS platform (using the bring your carrier, or BYOC, approach)
You don’t need VoIP hardware to work with your customers, since having an internet connection is enough for accessing UCaaS solutions. Your employees can fulfill their tasks remotely by having a UCaaS platform on their devices. Simply put, unified communications replace massive and clumsy contact centers.
New technologies to upgrade your UCaaS platform
Future market insights expects the demand for UCaaS solutions to rise at 14.5% CAGR from 2021 to 2031, compared to the 10.7% CAGR we saw between 2016 and 2020. Following the trend of increased workspace digitization, unified communications will see even more significant changes with the adoption of 5G and artificial intelligence solutions. IP telephony platform modernization will be shaped by the following trends in the years to come, becoming a crucial factor in legacy modernization.
Learn how we created a suite of intelligent IP telephony software solutions that enable efficient customer interactions for thousands of organizations worldwide.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already widely used to automate routine communication processes. However, AI will elevate UCaaS systems further. We have seen recent improvements in priority-setting technology, meeting aids, and virtual assistants.
UCaaS solution providers have adopted augmented reality (AR) and AI to facilitate remote teams, reducing dependence on in-office teams. This trend enables the development of new UCaaS features including voice intelligence (VI), live call sentiment analysis, and post-call summaries.
5G to impact UCaaS security and reliability
By the end of 2027, 5G subscriptions will reach 48% of global mobile subscriptions, bringing more revenue for various verticals, including UCaaS. 5G is perfect for keeping remote and hybrid employees connected, improving network connectivity and increasing work-from-anywhere productivity.
Moreover, 5G is underpinned by IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) e2e encryption, making UCaaS solutions secure. Enterprise-wide network security remains a crucial factor in post-pandemic remote work settings.
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UCaaS is here to stay and is developing into more complicated solutions with enhanced capabilities, empowered by further 5G rollouts and AI integration. Unified communications platforms are gaining an even larger market share while positively impacting business productivity both during the pandemic and in its aftermath.
UCaaS solutions providers are developing their customer base and meeting growing and changing customer preferences. Gartner predicts the extent of cloud communications deployments by companies to rise up to 56% in 2026, compared to 45% in 2022. We will witness how UCaaS platform will evolve into a powerful tool enabling businesses to successfully operate from anywhere.
Contact our experts to empower your customers with the ease and speed of modern unified communications solutions.