By Jeff Savage
The subject of unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) evokes conversation, debate, short-term predictions, and wild-eyed storytelling about the not-so-distant future and how we will all be communicating. Just looking at what is available right now might have seemed unrealistic only five years ago. Business communications technology is evolving at an extremely fast pace, fueled by the global access to cloud platforms and applications being developed around those platforms.
Unified communications is at the heart of UCaaS and can be defined as the integration of real-time communication services such as IM (chat), presence, telephony, video, collaboration (such as desktop sharing) and call control with non real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voice mail, email, SMS and fax).
The applications available through UCaaS solutions may vary, but the benefits to businesses can be categorized into three universally important areas: availability, efficiency and competitive advantage.
Utilizing popular cloud applications, such as call rerouting, multistate businesses can extend their presence without adding additional employees by rerouting calls into offices in different time zones, effectively extending office hours and being available to their customers 24x7. During power outages, storms or other catastrophic events, communications can be rerouted to unaffected offices without any disruption in service. In these times of change at hyperspeed, every touch point with a customer or a prospect is critical to the bottom line, and UCaaS is a key enabler.
UCaaS features improve efficiency. Some 65 percent of business calls made on cellphones are made inside the office. Popular VoIP applications enable calls to be transferred to office Wi-Fi systems at the push of a button. UCaaS applications enable workers to dial from any phone (home, cell, vacation home, etc.) with the appearance of working from the office. Mobile convergence technologies enable video conferencing, texting from computers and endless options that improve workplace efficiency. Four-digit dialing eliminates long-distance charges between offices in different states. Some businesses have utilized speech recognition to eliminate cumbersome paper company directories and enabled services that make it very easy for customers to reach their employees.
Finally, UCaaS contributes to a business’ competitive advantage. Businesses that invest wisely in technology are rewarded by the results. Many of these applications are very powerful and efficient business tools that quite literally change the way businesses communicate with their customers and internally with each other. Not so long ago, these tools were reserved only for the largest of telecom budgets residing within the Fortune 500 realm. But with the adoption of the cloud, small and medium businesses and even individual users can access this same level of functionality at an affordable per-seat pricing model.
The main reasons businesses would consider a UCaaS solution are:
- Utilization of UC features and functionality without the massive upfront investment in hardware, software, implementation and maintenance.
- The innate disaster recovery capabilities that cloud-based UC provides is a very cost-effective way for a business to build in business continuity.
- UCaaS provides a highly scalable option to businesses at a predictable per-seat pricing model that enables choices down to the feature level per user. Feature enhancements and upgrades are done within the cloud and benefit all locations and users at once.
- UCaaS is end-device agnostic which allows for the greatest level of flexibility on which device the end user prefers, even on a per-use level.
The biggest variables are going to be with the providers the end user chooses to buy UCaaS from. Providers come in many sizes, areas of expertise, depth and health of network and support, not to mention the ever present “exit strategy." Who you partner with is as important as the solutions they provide. As with all new endeavors, do your homework. In my opinion, it’s not a question of if UCaaS will be adopted by the vast majority of the business community, it’s when.
Jeff Savage is vice president of strategic development for Telesphere. He joined the company's first angel round of raising capital and was hired as one of its first employees. He has held key positions throughout Telesphere's growth, assembling and managing the inside sales team and reseller program, and playing an instrumental role in the deployment of the company's hosted IP PBX solution, as well as their development, sales and support. Prior to Telesphere, Savage operated his own businesses, including an outsourced call center for fulfillment and shipping and businesses in travel and entertainment.
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