Cloud-based systems, commonly referred to as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), use voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) technology to send and receive data over the internet. However, the way it manages other communication tools and the cost varies by provider.
This small business guide to UC discusses what’s included in a UC system, how it can help your business, and what to look for when choosing a provider.
Unified communications systems work by sending and receiving voice, video, and text data from a single application over the internet using voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) technology. This then allows the system to become the central hub for your team, enabling them to shift between communication channels and share files without switching applications. For instance, they can make calls to colleagues, switch over to a group chat, or initiate a video conference, all from the same app.
This interconnection between communication channels also offers other benefits. For example, PhoneCompany.Cloud's platform makes its already robust business phone system even more powerful by letting team members see which co-workers are online and free to collaborate versus which are busy in other meetings, which can reduce the risk of lost time playing telephone tag.
On a basic level, most UCaaS systems support file and screen sharing. In addition, cloud-based private branch exchange (PBX) systems also support team collaboration. In either case, teams interact in real time using the united communications app to chat, talk, and work together on projects.
As the number of hybrid workplaces increases, having a central hub for collaboration improves both customer and employee experiences. Your UC platform becomes a virtual, digital workspace where team members can use their preferred devices and communication methods. Therefore, UC systems are essential to employers wanting collaborative, yet adaptive digital environments.
However, it is worth noting that many of these systems work best for internal team meetings because they do require each participant to have access to a desktop or mobile app. This is why some businesses may choose to also integrate their UC system with other platforms customer-facing agents use, like Microsoft teams or its alternatives.
All unified communications systems support business text messaging. UC users can send and receive text messages using any internet-connected device. Plus, since conversations reside on the UCaaS platform, your team can view text communications in one spot.
It also unifies other conversations. A customer’s text can be added to their record and show up alongside their phone calls, help desk tickets, and emails. In some cases, business owners can even drop their business cell phone plans altogether and replace them with a UCaaS or VoIP softphone app.
Like text messaging, sending faxes used to require a separate device (a fax machine.) Then unified communications built virtual fax capabilities into the app, allowing team members to incorporate fax communications into customer records and send a fax without bulky equipment. Most VoIP plans let users send or receive faxes using their business phone number.
Your company may already use video conferencing software to host large meetings or face-to-face online collaboration sessions. But UC puts these capabilities into your UCaaS app so your team no longer needs to open and log into a second application. Instead, they can jump into a meeting while keeping track of incoming messages without switching programs.
In addition, UC systems may integrate with your current video conferencing software. In this case, your staff may schedule and join a call using their preferred platform.
According to Gartner, 53% of the U.S. workforce will soon be “a mix of hybrid and fully remote” workers. The shift to flexible workspaces makes unified communications more important than ever before. Your team likely already depends on cloud-based platforms like accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) software in addition to your business phone service.
In each case, information gets siloed in those systems. If a customer calls, your team may need to open several programs to fully understand their background and current situation. This is time-consuming for staff and frustrating for callers.
You can run into other issues as well. If your employee is chatting with a client and wants to speak with them via video, they may need to switch platforms, risking a dropped call during the transfer.
On the other hand, a unified communications platform lets you jump seamlessly between phone, video, and chat tools within the same system. Many UCaaS solutions also integrate seamlessly with popular business software, which still gives you a central spot for customer data as well as communications.
The advantages of using unified communications within a UCaaS system are vast, especially in the digital age where there’s a risk of disjointed communications and a drop in spontaneous collaboration with online workplaces. Companies can mitigate these effects by using a UC platform.
Unified communications benefits include:
Although unified communications is an excellent option for most small businesses, there are challenges. Additionally, all UCaaS platforms aren’t created equal. For example, a virtual business phone number provider may offer some UC features, like file sharing, yet not integrate with calendars or CRMs.
The potential challenges associated with unified communications include:
Unified communications systems differ when it comes to features, functionality, and scalability. A company looking for a small business VoIP service with file and screen-sharing capabilities for on-site employees may have fewer requirements than an organization with a fully remote, global workforce.
Before comparing UCaaS platforms, consider the following questions:
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can look for solutions that closely fit your needs. Take advantage of free trials and UCaaS demonstrations to see how a service will work for your team. Plus, check for customer reviews and available self-service and support tools.
Cloud-based tools and remote workforces can increase the number and frequency of cyberattacks. There are simply more endpoints to track and update, making it harder for small businesses to oversee and manage.
The most significant security issues include:
You can reduce your risks by developing password and app security policies and ensuring user access permissions match each employee’s role. You can also help mitigate security risks by choosing a reputable VoIP provider for UC and deploying robust security tools to protect your system.