Unified communications – integrated platforms providing a streamlined communication and collaboration experience for users – have been a staple of enterprise infrastructure for years now. Business leaders quickly realized the advantages that UC systems can provide over individual, siloed communications applications, particularly in terms of productivity, efficiency and ease of use.
Recently, a new wave has been sweeping the enterprise and communications sectors: Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS. As the marketplace for these technologies grows, it's important that business decision-makers understand the distinction between UCaaS and UC, and what rising interest in as-a-service offerings can mean for their organization.
Definition: What is UCaaS?
Currently, there are different styles of delivery through which UC solutions can be accessed. Many organizational leaders are familiar with traditional, on-premise UC, where features and capabilities included in the system are hosted and managed with the company's own infrastructure. This provides more granular control and oversight, but can also lead to an increasingly complex infrastructure and more work and responsibilities for the internal IT team.
There are also options for cloud UC, where businesses leverage cloud environments as opposed to on-premise infrastructure to support and enable their UC solutions. While UCaaS could arguably fit into this category – it is a cloud service delivery model – the distinction lies in the -as-a-service portion of the name.
XaaS began with the rise of SaaS, or Software-as-a-service. Many other different types of as-a-service offerings followed, including UCaaS. According to TechTarget's Margaret Rouse, UCaaS includes communication and collaboration apps – like those traditionally available as part of UC systems – but is hosted in the cloud and managed by the service provider. In this way, the internal IT team can offload maintenance and upkeep responsibilities to the solution provider, allowing them more time to focus on other, mission-critical initiatives. This style of support and delivery also enables advantages like increased scalability, potentially reduced chances for downtime or application performance issues, and overall flexibility.
Currently, UCaaS customers can choose between a single- or multi-tenant architecture. A single-tenant solution is often viewed as more secure and dependable, as this type of architecture ensures one customer's data and applications is kept separate from other clients' systems. At the same time, however, a single-tenant option is typically more expensive.
Multi-tenancy, on the other hand, is more cost effective and enables several customers to leverage the same platform hosted in the provider's infrastructure. While this option is considered less costly and more redundant, it can also be less flexible.
Advantages of UCaaS
As noted, a main advantage of UCaaS – like any -aaS offering – is the fact that certain responsibilities are shifted from internal IT staff to the service provider. Because solutions are hosted in the vendor's cloud data center, their expert team undertakes efforts to maintain access and top-notch performance. This can be a considerable boon, particularly for smaller businesses, organizations with fewer internal IT resources, or even large corporations that require support for multiple, geographically disparate working sites.
There's also a considerable potential for cost savings, especially in comparison to use of separate, siloed communication apps or on-premise systems. Because UCaaS is hosted by the provider within their cloud infrastructure, businesses need not worry about expensive, up-front investment costs for necessary hardware and software. What's more, regular monthly billing supports more consistency for a company's internal accounting and finance team.
In addition, like any cloud-based system, UCaaS offers a level of scalability and streamlined flexibility not possible with on-premise options. The vendor supporting services can always expand and provide access to additional users, or another business location, for example.
At the same time, though, this isn't to say that UCaaS or other cloud-based communication solutions will completely replace on-premises UC. The latter still very much have their place within enterprise communications, particularly within organizations that require more in-depth control over their access, maintenance and infrastructure.
What's more, because on-premise provides more oversight, it can be ideal for use within organizations that deal with highly sensitive data, or assets that should remain within the company's infrastructure for compliance or security reasons.
Today's UCaaS market: On the rise
"This young and growing marketplace means that companies can take advantage of certain benefits."
According to market analyst Jeff Kagan, while the UCaaS market is still relatively small, more providers are entering the sector and offering communications in a cloud-based, as-a-service nature.
"UCaaS competitors are a growing list of companies, large and small," Kagan noted. "However, this new industry segment does not have a well known leader yet … This is a great opportunity for the early providers of this service to strike while the iron is hot and capture the imagination of the marketplace. This means even smaller competitors can lead going forward if they can catch the wave."
For service providers, this means that UCaaS could offer an opportunity for considerable new revenue streams and the ability to grow the organization's service portfolios. Breaking into a contemporary marketplace may have its challenges, but could significantly pay off for businesses with the infrastructure ready to support UCaaS solutions.
For individual businesses in need of communications and collaborations solutions, this young and growing marketplace and its expanding list of competitors means that companies can take advantage of certain benefits. For instance, rising competition can translate to more choice for decision-makers, ensuring they're able to select a UCaaS package that meets their unique needs.
Rising industry competition can also result in falling service prices, as providers seek to offer the best deal and support an edge in the UCaaS sector. However, before pouncing on the service deal of a lifetime, enterprise stakeholders should weigh their available options and make sure that included apps and capabilities will meet their communications needs now and into the future.
Overall, it can be ideal to work with a vendor capable of support both on-premise and cloud-based UC a solutions, which can support needs for access while balancing requirements like security and compliance.
To find out more about your available UC service options and the advantages of cloud delivery models, connect with the experts at Teo Technologies today.