Breaking Down UCaaS: An Easy Explainer Guide

Our in-depth guide breaks down the meaning of UCaaS and explains in detail its uses and benefits, so you know what to look for in your cloud telephony technology.

 

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) has been around since at least 2014. But, why was it created? What is it used for? And is it here to stay?

These are the questions that we are trying to answer in this blog.

An ever-growing number of businesses around the globe are embracing cloud telephony and it’s revolutionizing their internal and external communications. Not to mention impacting their bottom line.

And with customers looking to increasingly diverse channels of communication, modern businesses simply can’t afford to stay stuck with telephony infrastructure from the past.

This need for staying abreast with the times has led to the creation of cloud telephony technologies like UCaaS.

Off the bat, it might sound like yet another jargon from the SaaS world. We’re going to cut through the jargon and lay it out once and for all. So that you can get to grips with UCaaS, and make the right choices for your business.

In this easy guide, we’re going to break down:

  • What is UCaaS?
  • How does it work?
  • The benefits of UCaaS
  • The prime differences between UCaaS and VoIP
  • Some examples of UCaaS in action
  • Migration from an on-premise system
  • Top things to look out for in a UCaaS vendor

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

What is UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service)?

UCaaS stands for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). It combines a business’s full range of communication channels into one cloud-based system. This system is hosted and operated by a single vendor, reducing overheads, providing advanced integrations, and increasing efficiency.

Gartner defines UCaaS as a cloud-delivered unified communications model that supports six communications functions:

  1. Enterprise telephony
  2. Meetings (audio/video/web conferencing)
  3. Unified messaging
  4. Instant messaging and presence (personal and team)
  5. Mobility
  6. Communications-enabled business processes

Just as you source your electricity and internet connection from different vendors, communication systems are traditionally bought separately. In a traditional setup, one vendor would install your on-premise physical PBX phone system, another would supply your video conferencing needs, and a third your instant messaging.

UCaaS’s revolutionary approach combines these channels and more into one system, and hosts this virtually for flexible, global access. Just like any other ‘as a Service’ model, this is offered on a subscription basis, allowing for low commitment, flexible provision, high levels of support, and regular updates.

Grand View Research forecasts that the global UCaaS market will hit USD 210.07 billion by 2028 (Source). This surge is expected to continue, with a predicted Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.6% from 2021 to 2028. 

UCaaS market growth and future potential
UCaaS market growth and future potential

How does UCaaS work?

UCaaS brings together an array of functions into a cloud-based system. In a traditional ‘on-premise’ phone system, a physical Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is installed, complete with copper cabling, network carrier connections, and all the hardware that goes along with it.

That means extensive installation time, effort, and expense, and a hard-wired system that requires manual intervention for repairs, upgrades, and extensions. Functionality for the likes of video conferencing and instant messaging would need to be added separately.

Instead, UCaaS brings together these previously disparate channels into one piece of software. It primarily uses VoIP as the transmission medium for data. As a cloud-based operation, this is hosted on external servers by the vendor, who is responsible for upgrades, upkeep, and maintenance. The system is simply accessed over the internet, with extensions and upgrades pushed remotely.

UCaaS combines:

  • Voice communication and telephony
  • Email
  • Meetings and conferencing
  • Instant messaging and presence functionality
  • Collaboration tools
  • Call recording

It is operated, maintained, and delivered by one vendor, simplifying your operations and cutting your expenditure. Phrased differently, UCaaS helps businesses ranging from SMB to enterprises set up and manage state-of-the-art contact centers without any complications.

UCaaS: The harbinger of telecommunication’s future

The incredible growth in the UCaaS market has been driven in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, even before the pandemic, the business world was highly inclined to move away from physical PBXs, turned off by the high upkeep and maintenance costs, and the lack of built-in redundancy.

Due to the high importance and sensitivity of communication systems, many companies operating physical PBXs require a permanent member of staff dedicated to maintaining uptime. This comes at a significant expense.

In contrast, cloud-based systems have extensive redundancy built-in at the server end, protecting uptime.

Equally, business communications are becoming increasingly omnichannel. Customers are increasingly turning to the likes of web chat and social media messaging to get in touch, and in a crowded marketplace providing first-class customer service is crucial to retaining their business.

So it’s no surprise that the most agile companies are protecting their customers’ trust and data privacy by turning to systems that can enable them to reach out across platforms and channels—and to respond quickly when those needs change.

6 undeniable benefits of UCaaS

As you can imagine, UCaaS helps bring your communication channels together in one place. This, in turn, leads to a wide array of benefits to businesses of all sizes.

  • Remote working flexibility

On a cloud-based system, your communication channels can be managed and operated from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. That means staff can work from home as easily as from the office, across laptops, desktops, and even mobile devices. That also means your business communications can flex around the needs of your organization, rather than your operations being restricted by technological limitations.

  • Easy presence functionality

UCaaS makes it easy for employees to mark themselves available and unavailable, whether on a mobile device or at a desk. That saves you time thanks to a straightforward acknowledgment of when staff is online. This is typically useful in a call center where the agent status needs to be marked to ensure proper routing of incoming calls. 

  • No more app-jumping

Transitions between software and systems have a big impact on staff efficiency. Before starting the day, employees might need to check their emails, voicemail, physical mail inbox, mobile device, and maybe even fax in-tray. However, UCaaSsoftware integrations make it possible to unify sales and customer support operations in a single application. 

  • Easy onboarding

Gone are the days of lengthy training periods to educate new starters on antiquated systems. Modern cloud-based services are designed around the user and are often highly customizable so you can set them up precisely how you’d like them. That makes training much more efficient and straightforward.

  • Lower overheads/costs

UCaaS makes it easy to budget thanks to simple subscription billing under just one vendor. It also tends to drastically cut costs compared with maintaining independent or internal, on-premise systems.


  • Straightforward internal comms

Instant messaging and team chat functions make internal communications easy and speedy, cutting the need to draft a full email for small requests. With employees working remotely or on the road, fast and open communication has never been more important.

UCaaS Vs VoIP — Major differences

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the underlying technology that first enabled internet telephony. It dispenses with copper cabling and allows voice connections to be made and maintained over a data connection.
As an umbrella technology, UCaaS makes use of VoIP for some of its functionality, as well as several other protocols. So whilst both make high-quality calling possible, there’s a range of functions that VoIP cannot offer.

What does UCaaS offer that VoIP cannot?

  • Video calling
  • Video conferencing
  • Screen sharing
  • Omnichannel integration
  • Instant messaging and presence display
  • Voicemail transcription and voicemail to email
  • Advanced analytics
  • Reporting dashboards
  • Mobility features

In short, UCaaS enables communication across multiple channels, both internally and externally. Whereas VoIP allows you to contact customers and colleagues over internet telephony.

UCaaS in action

How can UCaaS help businesses on the ground? Let’s explore three use cases:

  • Customer support
    A unified communications system can enhance your customer support provision by allowing agents to work remotely on any device. Fast resolutions are key, and software tools help team members collaborate smoothly to achieve speedy solutions, while managers can seamlessly monitor and join calls when the need arises.

    With platforms making agents’ workflows easy to follow, call abandonment rates are cut, and your customers’ experience is enhanced. Smart escalations and in-depth reports, monitoring and metrics give you the tools and data to analyze and enhance your strategy.
  • Inbound call management
    Managing your response to inbound callers is a key part of providing an effective and trustworthy service. Effective UCaaS can transform your phone operations, with call routing that is either team-based, time-based, or intent-based.

    You can customize rules that sort inbound calls according to any of these preferences, ensuring callers are dealt with effectively and quickly—and ideally by the first employee to speak to them. By shortening response times and impressing customers, you’re sure to lift retention rates.
  • Outbound calling
    UCaaS systems are built to reduce time spent navigating software so that employees can spend more time operating your business. Functions such as call recordings, call notes, and integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can improve sales representatives’ conversion rates, giving them clear context on every interaction.

    Plus, transferring this data, or even live calls, across to other departments is straightforward, either once the sale is made or for any queries that might arise.

Migrating from an on-premise system to UCaaS

Moving from an on-premise system is quick and painless, with the system installed as software over your existing internet connection. You’ll avoid the heavy setup fees associated with a traditional system, and in most cases, your pre-existing hardware (handsets, headsets, and conferencing speakers) can also be retained.

What should you look for in a UCaaS provider?

Shopping for systems can feel like choosing between different pencil brands. Without in-depth technical knowledge, how can you know what to look for?

Here are our top tips on what to watch out for, so that you can be sure each element of your communications platform works effectively together:

  • Reliability
    What’s the use of subscribing to a system if it’s going to keep dropping out? Make sure your vendor offers minimal downtime and supports HD voice calls.
  • Affordability
    Make sure to choose a vendor that doesn’t demand upfront fees for hardware. Instead, you want a subscription pricing model that is consistent and affordable.
  • Advanced telephony features
    Voice calls remain at the heart of business communications, so find a vendor who offers features such as IVR, call forwarding, recording, out-of-hours call routing, call barging, and other advanced features—especially if you’re operating a customer service line or call center. Find out more about the benefits of a SaaS call center.
  • First-class customer support
    As you navigate and customize your system, it’s essential your vendor has a customer support system that works. That means helpful, knowledgeable agents, clear guides and FAQs, and other support functions to help answer your questions so your team can make the most of the system.
  • Future-proofing
    A good UCaaS system can work for your business in the long term. Find a vendor with flexible terms for scaling up to meet growing contact volumes and rising staff numbers, and who stays on top of upgrades and new functionality. That will help you keep clear forecasts and operate your business seamlessly.
  • Security
    It goes without saying that any reputable vendor will have stringent data protection commitments, complying with statutory regulations such as GDPR, PCI, and HIPAA.
  • Favorable terms
    Subscription pricing models give vendors clear motivation to keep their systems operating at the highest possible level. And they give you an easy escape if things aren’t working out. So if a vendor is trying to tie you into a longer plan, it might suggest a lack of faith in the quality of the service. Plus, a good vendor won’t surprise you with any nasty charges for scaling up or renewal.
  • Advanced functions
    Finally, if you want to stay ahead, find a vendor who is integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, such as smart IVR, voice biometrics, and speech analysis.

With those tips in hand, you’ll be well on your way to identifying a UCaaS vendor with the right array of services for your business’s needs.

Illustrations by Mahalakshmi Anantharaman


About Freshcaller

Freshcaller is a modern-day cloud phone system that can be used to set up a phone system or fully-fledged call center for customer support and sales or even remote work. With its cloud-based architecture, Freshcaller brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced call routing capabilities like Smart Escalations, Customizable Performance Reporting to help you set up state-of-the-art call center operations. Freshcaller offers phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.

NOTE:

Freschaller is in the process of becoming a full-fledged UCaaS provider. Please write a line to hello@freshcaller.com to get the latest update on our progress. 

Visit the Freshcaller website for more information or to sign up for a trial.

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