Your guide to understanding and implementing UCaaS
Cloud communications is a method of contact that uses internet connections instead of a standard PSTN. With a cloud communications strategy, every message you send, conversation you have, and video conference you host works on cloud-hosted technology.
That means that there’s no hardware to install, no physical lines to place in your building, and more opportunities for enhanced scalability and diversity in your communication strategy.
Cloud communications is more than just a hosted PBX or IP telephone. We’re talking about a brand-new way to build, deploy and manage communication systems. Used correctly, the cloud reduces costs, provide high-definition services and offer platforms filled with advanced features perfect for empowering your team. To help you understand the cloud a little better, let’s take a look at some of the applications and services cloud vendors provide.
As the modern workforce grows increasingly mobile, cloud communications break the chains between employees and their desks. In 2018, more than half of the employers in an Upwork study revealed that they didn’t have the policies in place to support remote working, even though half of the workforce will be mobile by 2020.
Cloud communications solve this problem by providing staff with a rich selection of essential tools and applications, all available on the same platform, regardless of your location or the device you use. The cloud transforms the work environment from a traditional “place” into a series of empowering tools and ideals. Businesses can provide their employees with instant access to:
Because the cloud can hold huge amounts of information from a variety of backgrounds, it’s also ideal for analytics and business growth. With the cloud, companies can tap into analytical solutions from top-tier vendors and discover the benefits of everything from predictive analysis to natural language processing and sentiment analysis.
In a world where customer experience is the key to success, cloud communications makes it easier to improve the impact you’re having on your clients through a broad selection of channels. Real-time communications play a significant role in core business processes of many industries and can, when integrated into applications, provide tangible outcomes for both organisations and their customers. You can integrate CRM software with your cloud communication services to get deeper insights. Many modern cloud communication services integrate with everything from machine learning, smart bots and AI services, to CRM solutions like Salesforce to improve digital and team engagement.
The scalability and versatility of the cloud is perfect for the contact centre. Since an average call centre generally sees high levels of turnover, the presence of a cloud-based portfolio of tools in your organisation ensures that you don’t have to spend too much time setting new employees up with the right tools. You can onboard new staff and scale your workforce up and down according to spikes in demand, all without additional CapEx costs.
The cloud also allows companies with contact centres to expand their offerings to customers, by giving them access to multiple channels for communication. You can offer your customers the answers they want, through the platforms they like best. This is another important way for today’s brands to stand out in an experience-powered world.
For most companies, the path to cloud communications starts with finding the right service provider.
Cloud communications service providers or “CSPs” are your organisation’s path to the cloud. CSPs are responsible for hosting your cloud platform and offering you the perfect “unified” solution for your cloud experience, so you don’t have to worry about collecting different cloud features from multiple vendors.
As the UCaaS market continues to grow, with a predicted value of $169BN by 2027, we’re seeing an increasing number of CSPs on the market. The question is, how do you choose the right service provider in such a cluttered space?
Choosing the right cloud communications provider in a vast market isn’t easy. There are many players in this market so it’s all about finding the solution that works best for you. To start with, make sure that you pick a provider that complies with recognised standards and quality frameworks.
For instance, look for a CSP with security certifications like ISO 27001. Your cloud service provider should be able to provide a comprehensive list of their certifications.
Once you’re sure your CSP is certified, make sure that the R&D roadmap for the cloud provider meets with your cloud objectives. It’s important to choose a company that’s devoted to constantly innovating and delivering new solutions for its customers.
One of the biggest benefits of the cloud is that it comes with the flexibility and scalability to help you maintain an agile business. However, you can only be truly agile with a provider that stays ahead of the curve and offers tangible outcomes for both your teams and your customers.
Data management is more important than ever these days. According to The Economist, the world’s most valuable resource isn’t oil anymore – it’s data. Since your cloud communications strategy will involve uploading, storing and managing huge amounts of data in the cloud each day, it’s important to ensure that data is safe.
Look at your opportunities for managing your data with each service provider, and how they can help you to comply with regulatory standards like GDPR. If you have specific requirements for your vertical, like healthcare and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it’s worth exploring your options there too.
Whenever you’re implementing a new communications strategy, the most important factor in success is ensuring that you’re able to drive adoption. Even the most feature-rich and reliable solution will struggle to deliver benefits if you can’t use it.
The right cloud communications service provider will be able to offer a rich and robust selection of cloud-based features that are easy to use and explore. You should know what it takes to scale your strategy up and down, request new features, and make the most of the services you already have.
Some providers offer you free accounts for your teams to test before production. If you’re looking for integrating cloud communications into CRM and business processes, have a look at the integration capabilities and references.
Finally, reliability and service quality are two essential components in choosing any service provider. Your cloud solutions are critical to helping you achieve your goals, so you can’t afford for an outage or a problem to disrupt your performance. Check out the service availability track record of your cloud service provider from previous years and months and look at any information they have about redundancy options.
In most cases, the cloud can be much more reliable than on-premise equipment. However, it’s important that your service provider has the right solutions in place to deal with issues as and when they arise.
From a time that used to be ruled by capital expenditure, we are now in a world where more and more organisations are asking for consumption-based or subscription–based models.
You should pay attention to whether the plan includes domestic and long-distance call traffic (local, national and international calls). Some providers will allow you to take advantage of your existing telephony infrastructure and SIP trunking services. This is especially cost-efficient if you have multiple branch locations.
In business spaces across the world today, the communications environment is changing.
Rooms previously filled with black boxes and blinking lights are suddenly empty. Tethered desk phones are quickly being replaced with headsets and softphone setups. We’re finally making the move to the cloud.
However, just because the cloud is more popular and accessible today than ever before, doesn’t mean that it’s the perfect solution for every business. While some companies are actively migrating towards the cloud as part of their digital transformation strategies, others are sticking with an on-premise PBX, either through choice or necessity. So, how do you choose between a traditional PBX and the cloud? Can your cloud communications provider offer you Hybrid models to connect PBX and cloud?
One of the most important components to consider in any communication strategy is the features you’ll be able to access. While many on-premise PBX phone systems come with a range of fantastic features like high-level security, data governance and more, the cloud tends to offer a broader range of features that make it much easier to connect mobile workers and geo-dispersed teams. Cloud-based solutions enable integration to 3rd party solutions for data analytics, AI, bots, IoT and other modern technologies.
Because cloud service providers can constantly upgrade their offerings with the latest solutions without the need to install any extra hardware, the cloud does offer an easier way for companies to stay ahead of the technology curve.
Capital expenditure or “CapEx” costs are another area where cloud services have a significant advantage. Any on-premise solution for communications requires a business to shell out for hardware or virtualisation software. On the other hand, with cloud solutions, you only need to shell out for desktop phones, headsets, or softphones.
Instead of the standard upfront costs of traditional PBX solutions, cloud communications offer a switch to an “OpEx” operating model. You pay for what you use, and nothing else. However, this also means that if you’re a large enterprise that’s already paid out for an on-premise offering, you won’t be ready to move to the cloud until you’ve recouped the costs of your initial investment. You may also choose a hybrid model where cloud communications connect to your phone system: This allows you to take advantage of the latest cloud features and benefits, whilst mitigating the cost of a full phone system replacement.
Another advantage in the cloud technology court comes with scalability and versatility. When it comes to creating a communication stack for your business, an on-premise PBX requires you to make estimations about what you expect to accomplish as a company. You need to know how many phones you need to have in the office at any given time, and what kind of software you plan on using with them.
Upgrading, scaling, or adjusting your communication strategy with a PBX system takes time. However, cloud-based deployments are much faster and can be set up alongside your current system, ready for a seamless changeover. With cloud communications, the freedom is there to scale and upgrade as you see fit. If you need more tools for your team, then you can implement them instantly, with very little downtime. If you need to scale back due to a drop in traffic, you can do that too.
When you consider all the benefits of the cloud, switching away from an on-premises solution seems like an obvious choice. However, larger enterprises with strict regulatory requirements, stringent security concerns, and existing investments may still find it easier and more cost-effective to host their own PBX on-site.
While the cloud is becoming more popular, it’s far from the only option for today’s communication-driven companies. PBX still has its part to play.
Communication comes in many different forms.
Not so long ago, the only real options businesses had when it came to internal and external communication, were email and phone calls. Today, we’ve got everything from video conferencing, to Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), instant messaging, and more.
Moving your communications to the cloud is one way to make sure that you build your communications around your methods of work, rather than approaching growth from the other way around. The question is, how do you successfully deploy your new cloud-based strategy?
Up until recently, there weren’t many options available for deploying a business communications stack. The traditional model included a strong investment in PBX, and a lot of exhausting, and time-consuming hardware installations.
Unfortunately, while PBX systems have their advantages, they lack the scalability, agility, and mobility that many modern companies need. The cloud solves this problem, along with the issue of limited deployment models. There are three primary methods of cloud deployment:
Deploying your cloud communications strategy in the public cloud doesn’t mean that anyone can access your conversation data. The public cloud is the most common communications deployment model for small to mid-sized businesses, and it simply means that you access the same cloud resources as a selection of other businesses.
Public cloud is available on a per-user, per-month basis, and it’s often one of the cheapest models. However, your section of the cloud remains encrypted and secure for you, so you don’t have to worry about losing access to information. Most public cloud services run on an “over the top” or “OTT” service.
Private cloud deployment models are most popular with larger companies, verticals with strict privacy policies (like healthcare) and government agencies. Private cloud communications access all the benefits of the cloud, along with a higher degree of security.
A private cloud communications service is managed by a solution provider and can also be offered on an “as a service” basis. Private clouds are ideal for strength and security and can come with either a CapEx, or perpetual license model, or an OpEx model with recurring revenue features.
This brings us to the most popular cloud communications deployment model: the hybrid cloud. The hybrid cloud is particularly popular today because it allows companies to access the “best of both worlds” for their communications stack. With a hybrid cloud, you can leverage your existing on-premise investments, while enjoying the flexibility and scalability of the cloud environment.
Some organisations use the hybrid cloud model as a transition strategy, helping them to move permanently from on-premise PBX to the cloud. However, the hybrid cloud model can also be an end strategy too. Some companies prefer the flexibility and security provided by the hybrid model. After all, it ensures that you can maintain absolute control over certain parts of your communication infrastructure, without having to give up on cloud resiliency and flexibility. Hybrid cloud deployments are particularly popular among businesses who don’t want to abandon their existing high-cost investments, but they do want to take advantage of the latest cloud capabilities on offer.
As the communication landscape continues to change, the methods companies can use to access new trends and techniques are transforming with it. Notably, the “as a service” model for communication deployments has grown increasingly popular in the modern world. In fact, there are so many “as a service” abbreviations in circulation, that it’s hard to know for sure what these terms really mean.
If you want to make sure that you’re taking the right steps with your cloud communications strategy, then it’s important to know the difference between “CPaaS” and “UCaaS.”
Unified Communications as a Service or “UCaaS” is a fantastic hosted solution that allows companies to outsource their needs for video, messaging, and mobility to reliable third-party providers. UCaaS delivers the communication services you want most to you through an internet connection, ensuring that you get all the flexibility and scalability of the cloud.
However, while UC brings ready-to-go tools together on the same interface, the solutions you can access typically exist on a carefully designed platform, designed to give you the tools you need.
CPaaS stands for “Communication Platform as a Service,” and it’s designed to address the common integration issues presented by UCaaS. Essentially, you get access to a hosted platform that allows you to embed your real-time communication needs into applications using cloud-based tools. You can deploy apps that have already been built by someone else, or make your own services based on your specific needs.
Perhaps the biggest difference between UCaaS and CPaaS is the fact that the latter allows you to seamlessly integrate new communication needs into business applications that teams use to perform their tasks and into websites or mobile apps that your organisation provides to your customers. CPaaS comes with support for various next-gen technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and WebRTC too, with no need to build out additional back-end infrastructure.
UCaaS is generally seen as the solution to consolidate existing conferencing, telephony, and collaboration services. UCaaS provides users with a front-end interface that makes internal communication and external connections easier to handle. At the same time, CPaaS also offers video, voice, and messaging services. However, with CPaaS, the benefits rest largely on the use of APIs to create a more integrated experience.
Although CPaaS and UCaaS are different things, they don’t always have to exist separately. In fact, the relationship between UCaaS and CPaaS can be quite complementary. Often UCaaS will serve the needs of users and business units that require a ‘ready to go’ solution, whilst CPaaS will connect other people, processes and objects inside and outside of the organisation.
The world we live in today is much smaller than it once was.
A few years ago, only the biggest and most well-established companies would have been able to launch and maintain a global presence for their brand. Now, thanks to cloud communications and the rise of collaboration tools, global deployments are more common than ever.
Even the smallest businesses can work with employees from across the globe by providing them with a set of cloud-based tools and communication strategies. Of course, just because globalisation is easier these days, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your global deployments. Here are a few points to keep in mind as you take your communication strategy worldwide.
Cloud communications, like any form of communication strategy, works best when it’s built around the needs of your employees. To improve adoption across the globe, make sure you find a cloud UC strategy that’s well-suited to the needs of your staff. You can do this by assessing your current employees and finding out which tools they need to use every day. Create a list of applications that you need and try and find something that connects everything into a unified platform.
There are plenty of reasons to employ people from around the globe to help with your business growth strategy. For instance, you might need people in different countries to help you connect with broader markets as your organisation continues to develop. When building a cloud communications strategy for your company, make sure that you take the needs of the workers outside of your country into account, as they may differ from the needs of people close to home. For instance, contractors from overseas may need their tools to work in different languages or follow local federal guidelines and regulations.
Globalisation is much easier with the support of an expert at your side. Look for a cloud communications vendor with experience spreading cloud solutions out across different countries. Preferably, your vendor should have an in-depth knowledge of the regulations, requirements, and privacy expectations of each country you want to work in. This will help you to make sure that your communication tools aren’t going to harm your brand reputation or get your business into trouble.
Reliability and resilience are key to a strong cloud communications strategy. When deploying your UC efforts in different countries, it’s important to make sure that you have the support of a cloud vendor with data centres close to your users. This should help to reduce issues of lag and packet loss. Check if your provider has the resources to support a globalisation strategy that includes the countries you’re most interested in.
Finally, make sure that whatever your cloud communications plan is, you don’t implement tools that are going to be too difficult for your employees to use. As you deploy your cloud comms solutions around the world, make sure that you have the right resources packaged in with the tools to help your staff learn about the systems they’re going to use.
These days, most companies understand the benefits of the cloud. It’s scalable, flexible and doesn’t require as much capital expenditure. Of course, there are still some primary concerns that hold some organisations back from fully embracing the potential of cloud communications. The biggest issue of all for most businesses can be traced back to regulations, resilience, and security.
Though cloud security has improved significantly from the initial days of cloud deployments, some brands still believe that cloud-based communications can’t be as secure as on-premise PBX systems. However, your cloud comms can be incredibly secure and resilient – all you need to do to ensure you’re getting a robust system is your due diligence. Here are a few security considerations to keep in mind as you approach cloud communications.
It’s easy to assume that the cloud is some magical place in the aether, full of your communication data and customer information. However, the truth is that your vendor is responsible for hosting and storing your data on the cloud – and they’re also responsible for keeping that information secure. A credible cloud service provider will be able to provide you with evidence that their hosting package is secure, encrypted, and protected. It’s worth checking that they have a backup policy in place too, in case disaster strikes.
One of the things a cloud service provider can do to keep your data protected is encrypt everything that passes through the cloud. This ensures that everything, from your proposals and quotes to your private phone conversations with customers, is impossible to read without a security key. That means that even if someone hacked into your cloud account, they wouldn’t be able to read the data without your key. Certain regulations require a high level of encryption. For instance, HIPAA demands that all healthcare calls and messages are secured with encryption both in transit and at rest.
The best security strategies require work from both the side of the cloud communications provider and the company using cloud services. While your service provider can encrypt your data and offer firewall protection, it’s up to you to make sure that your employees are using the tools available to them safely. One good way to do this is to make sure that you choose a vendor with plenty of user management controls available as part of their cloud system. With the right access controls, you can access:
Fraud continues to be a common security problem for both companies using cloud communications strategies, and those accessing traditional PBX. When looking for a cloud comms provider, search for someone who can offer you ways to defend against fraud. For instance, this could mean that your service provider constantly monitors your communications for anomalies or fraud indicators.
There are also APIs that can be built into cloud communication strategies for additional protection against toll fraud.
Finally, in addition to the security policies that your company puts in place to safeguard data, it’s important to ensure that your cloud communications vendor also has solutions in place to prevent attacks on your communication stack. Network protections designed to defend your voice and data can help give you and your customers more peace of mind.
Want to keep your small business connected?
Cloud communications have emerged as one of the most flexible and cost-effective ways for companies to stay in touch. Because they require very little initial investment, cloud communication services are ideal for smaller organisations driven by a restricted investment budget.
What’s more, because most small businesses aren’t restricted by too much complexity and legacy infrastructure investments., it’s much easier for them to launch into the cloud. Here are just some of the reasons why cloud communications can help small businesses to thrive.
The cloud offers unlimited access to all the latest tools and innovations in the marketplace. This means that you can enjoy the same solutions as big enterprise competitors, without a huge initial outlay. After all, most small businesses can see incredible benefits from services previously reserved for larger companies. Whether it’s video conferencing, contact centre tools, or auto attendant features, you can build the ultimate communication stack with minimal investment.
Small businesses don’t stay small forever. With the cloud, organisations can add new functionalities, accounts, and services to their communication stack as they begin to grow. Scaling with the cloud is quick and easy because there’s no additional software or hardware to install. A cloud communications stack can also be particularly useful for smaller businesses that see seasonal fluctuations in demand. You can adjust to suit your needs instantly.
With cloud-based tools for collaboration and communication, small businesses can keep their real-estate investments to a minimum. The cloud provides a team with a broad selection of tools to access whenever they like, wherever they are. This means that smaller companies can take advantage of freelancers and remote workers to keep expenses to a minimum. When people work from home, there’s less office space to pay for, the talent pool is greater and staff retention is improved.
When all your team members are empowered to work seamlessly anywhere, at any time, you can be far more responsive to the needs of your customers. Your clients can contact you on a single number that follows your employees wherever you go. At the same time, cloud communications can spread across a range of channels, including video conferencing, instant messaging and more. This means that employees can access a more diverse omnichannel communication experience, and your customers can too!
Businesses of any shape or size need to be up and running constantly to provide the right experience for their customers. The cloud can help with this resilience, by providing a host of redundancy and failover capabilities. When strong communications connectivity is always available, you never have to worry about losing your ability to do business. The fewer disruptions you have, the easier it will be for your company to grow.
Mid-market companies have an incredible opportunity for growth.
Although many people assume that small businesses are best-primed to enjoy the potential of the cloud, the mid-market segment is ready to thrive too.
Companies in the mid-market segment are in a perpetual state of growth – always looking for new ways to evolve. Here are just some of the ways that organisations in the mid-market space can benefit from the cloud.
Every company thrives better when its employees are focused, engaged and productive. While there are countless ways to boost productivity in the average business, it all starts with giving your staff the right tools to thrive. Cloud–based communication ensures that teams and employees can access the applications they need to excel in their jobs. Mid-market enterprises can even assign specific UC tools to certain sections of the business, so that each team gets the services they need, without the threat of overwhelming.
Small companies aren’t the only organisations that need to cut costs. Mid-market businesses know that if they want to compete in the current marketplace, they need to generate high ROI for a low initial expense. The cloud is a powerful solution for cutting costs in some mid-market spaces. With the cloud, you can access all the tools you need instantly and pay only for what you use. For mid-market enterprises that want to compete in an ever-evolving market, the cloud reduces deployment costs, ongoing maintenance expenses, and capital expenditure.
Cloud communication services mean that the latest and most innovative technology isn’t just reserved for large enterprises. Mid-market companies also want to be agile and creative. In the cloud, any shape or size of business can consider adding the latest services to their stack. For some mid-market enterprises, this might mean upgrading the contact centre with analytics and AI. For others, the cloud may simply open the door for better collaboration tools, or video conferencing services.
The mid-market is one of the spaces driving growth in economies around the world. For these companies to attract the best talent, they need to provide access to easy-to-use, on-the-go technology. With the cloud available to unlock the services and solutions that employees need to be more efficient and more engaged in the workplace, mid-market firms can continue to boost the economy and drive national growth.
Mid-market companies can easily expand beyond a single location, into spaces around the world. Cloud-based communication services are perfect for providing these firms with accessibility anywhere. A cloud communications stack ensures absolute productivity, with minimal IT intervention. Whether you’re preparing for globalisation or embracing the rise of flexible schedules and remote working, the cloud allows for easy expansion.
Finally, we come to the market sector that tends to have the most trouble with the move to the cloud.
Small and even mid-sized businesses can find it easier to move to the cloud for many reasons. They may be building their technology stack from scratch, which means they can embrace the cloud without wasting any on-premise PBX investment. Additionally, small and mid-sized companies don’t always face the excessive security concerns and privacy regulations that large enterprises deal with every day.
For a large enterprise, the move to the cloud is often met with hesitation. However, there are benefits available for those willing to move.
For most companies, one of the biggest benefits of moving to cloud communications is the cost reductions available from embracing fewer hardware and maintenance costs. However, for enterprises already invested in on-premise PBX, this promise of eventual savings might not be enough. Fortunately, there are other benefits offered by the cloud, such as:
Although there are still hurdles holding some larger enterprises back from the move to the cloud, most companies agree that the cloud environment is the way forward. The cloud is the only way to access the latest updates and innovations that today’s agile enterprise needs to thrive. When you choose a cloud communication solution, you can ignore the headache of constantly dealing with software and hardware updates, but ensure you’re still getting frequent boosts to your comms system.
As the possibilities of the cloud become increasingly competitive, more enterprise businesses will find themselves moving towards a flexible, scalable and integrated communications stack. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to abandon the PBX entirely.
There are multiple ways to move to the cloud today, which can make life easier for an enterprise with existing investments. Plenty of vendors working with large enterprises offer hybrid services that integrate seamlessly with their on-premise technology. At the same time, you can implement your transitions as quickly, or slowly as you like. For the larger enterprise, the move to the cloud is all about creating your own perfect roadmap. In a world where customer experience is the number one differentiator, UCaaS and CPaaS together are helping to improve customer engagement and collaboration.