Conference call dial out feature UI Hero
UCaaS

A guide to Unified Communications as a Service

Whether you’re an enterprise based in a central London skyscraper, or a new startup running out of your garage, you need an effective communications solution. Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) can help you communicate more effectively with customers, prospects, and teammates through a range of channels beyond just phone calls. Try Dialpad's UCaaS platform now!

How does your business talk to customers, prospects, investors, vendors, and so on?

Chances are, you’re not just using one communication channel. For most businesses and organisations, it’s a combination of phone calls, video meetings, instant and SMS messaging, and more.

And most businesses are also using different communications platforms for each of these channels. You might be one of them.

But here's the thing. If you’re using one tool for web conferencing, another one for messaging, and another one for faxing, you (and your team) are probably wasting valuable time managing all those tools. Not to mention you’re also probably paying more than you need to in monthly software subscription fees.

This is where unified communications as a service comes in.

What is “Unified Communications as a Service” or UCaaS?

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solutions do pretty much what their name sounds like: they unify or streamline your business communications into one place.

That means that instead of having to use multiple devices and channels, you only need one app or platform to handle all of your communications including voice calls, SMS and instant messaging, video conferencing, and audio conferencing.

UCaaS solutions should always include some kind of phone system, which will usually use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology to let you make phone calls over the—you guessed it—Internet.

For example, with Dialpad, you can make phone calls using the softphone app, and even choose what you want to display in the caller ID when you call someone:

Change Caller ID
👉 Fun fact:

Many companies that used to be just telephony or on-premises business phone system providers are now evolving to become UCaaS platforms. The tricky part here is that although these companies have been around for a while and made a name for themselves, their technology is quite old. TL; DR - Not all UCaaS platforms are equal—make sure you do your research if you’re shopping for one.

The "as a service" part of the name is important because it tells you what the pricing models are like: UCaaS platforms, unlike traditional software, charge you on a monthly or annual basis on a subscription model. This makes it much more affordable for startups and businesses that don’t want to pay a huge upfront cost for a communication solution.

How do UCaaS solutions work?

So, how does a UCaaS solution streamline all your business communications under one umbrella?

There are a few key components that UCaaS platforms tend to share:

  • The cloud: Because UCaaS is cloud-based, you can move your business communications to a UCaaS model without having to worry about hardware or complicated setups.

  • Data centres of their own: UCaaS providers often have their own data centres. They use these to host their cloud services, and since the data centres belong to them, they handle all the maintenance and upgrades. In other words, cloud service providers with their own data centres can usually give you an easier and better user experience because they handle all the backend stuff that otherwise would fall to your IT team.

👉 Did you know?

Dialpad has a global voice network and is built on a unique split cloud architecture, which is designed for excellent call quality—always important if you talk to important clients and prospects on the phone regularly.

What about UCaaS vs CCaaS? (And VoIP?)

There are a ton of acronyms related to UCaaS. You’ve probably heard of a few. Let’s break down what they mean.

UCaaS vs CCaaS

While UCaaS can suit every kind of business that needs to communicate with people over different channels, CCaaS (Contact Centre as a Service) is more for businesses with contact centre needs.

If your business needs both UCaaS and CCaaS, it’s generally better to use a unified communications platform that has both—like Dialpad—so that your employees don’t have to log in and manage different accounts, or switch back and forth between windows to access their communication tools.

For example, here’s how that looks in Dialpad’s desktop app—you’ve got all your UCaaS features (calling, instant messaging, video meetings) in the top left, along with contact centre departments and features along the left sidebar. It’s all in one convenient place:

Transferring a call in dialpad blog size
🚨 Look out for:

UCaas or CCaaS providers that claim they have a “unified platform” when they’re actually just reselling or whitelabelling other companies’ software under their own brand. Typically, this will result in a disjointed experience when you start to use the product—for example, you might have a different UCaaS login experience compared to the CCaaS login experience, they might have a completely different user interface, and so on.

VoIP vs UCaaS

These two are tied pretty closely together since UCaaS uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology for its phone system functionalities. Basically, VoIP makes it possible to have phone calls over the Internet, which is a feature that a UCaaS platform needs.

UCaaS vs PBX

If you’re wondering whether you should go for UCaaS or PBX, here are a few quick questions that’ll help you figure that out.

Do you want the flexibility of communicating and working from anywhere, without being tied to a physical location? Do you want to be able to pay a monthly subscription fee instead of a hefty upfront price (along with fees for upgrades and new feature updates down the road)?

If you said yes to both, then you’ll probably want a UCaaS solution instead of a traditional PBX phone system. (You can learn more about the differences between VoIP and PBX here.)

👀 Thinking of moving your organisation to hybrid work?

Grab the Hybrid Work Playbook, which includes real-life case studies and breaks down all things hybrid + remote, from building and sustaining a hybrid workforce to equipping your team for success.

The business benefits of UCaaS services

Why are companies using UCaaS platforms? Well, for one, organisations today are under tremendous pressure to provide reliable, fast, and cost-effective communications for a distributed global workforce. UCaaS services are a key piece of this digital transformation.

It’s essential for distributed and remote workers

If you’re working as part of a hybrid or fully remote team, chances are you’re able to do that because you’re using collaboration tools like UCaaS platforms. From sales teams to customer support teams to marketers, almost every department in a business will need communication channels like a phone service and messaging tool—unified across every computer and mobile device—to work remotely.

One cool thing about Dialpad as a UCaaS solution is that it works seamlessly across different devices. For example, if you’re on a phone call on your computer but need to step away to run an errand, you can “flip” that conversation to your mobile—without dropping the call!

Lower operational costs

UCaaS delivers cost savings on a few fronts. Firstly, it’s not hardware-based, which means you get to skip out on installation and capital costs. Secondly, since there’s no hardware to maintain, you don’t have to devote as many resources to keep it running efficiently.

And beyond expenses, businesses also get way more value from UCaaS solutions. For example, even Dialpad’s least expensive plan (starting at £12 per user per month) includes unlimited calling and texting within your home country, the US and Canada, call forwarding, video conferencing, voicemail, and more—at no extra cost.

Then there are the operational gains (that also end up saving you time and money), like more streamlined billing and contract management. Think about it: would you rather deal with seven invoices every month, or just one?

Better scalability

One of the biggest advantages of UCaaS, hands down, is scalability. Need to expand and hire quickly in three new countries? You can set those new employees up in a UCaaS platform much more quickly and easily compared to a traditional enterprise phone system.

Whether you’re running a small business with limited resources or a large global organisation, you have to be able to scale up (or down) easily. For example, in Dialpad, you can manage and add new phone numbers for new hires right from your online account in a few clicks:

Managing or adding phone numbers v2 blog size

Want to try out a UCaaS platform for free?

Sign up for a 14-day free trial to see how Dialpad can work for you and your team. It takes just a few minutes to get started, and you'll even get a virtual business number at the end of the signup process!

What should you look for when comparing UCaaS providers?

Choosing or switching UCaaS providers is a big decision. We’ve already talked about features and questions to consider—now here are all of those things in checklist format. Use these as a guide as you’re vetting your shortlist:

  • Scalability: Can you add users and manage accounts easily on your own without waiting weeks at a time?

  • Reliability: This is huge for business continuity. Not many businesses can afford for their phone lines or communications to go down—even an hour of downtime can be seriously costly. So, make sure your UCaaS provider meets or exceeds industry standards for uptime. (Dialpad has a 100% uptime guarantee for enterprise customers. More on enterprise communications here.)

  • Security and compliance: UCaaS solutions handle large amounts of your organisation's—and customers’—data. What security protocols does the platform have in place to protect customer data? Are they GDPR compliant? What strategies or resources are on hand if a breach or issue occurs? If you operate in a heavily regulated industry, does the platform offer the features needed to keep you in compliance?

  • Support and contact: What levels of technical support and customer service are available, both generally and in the case of an emergency? The best options will provide you with 24/7 worldwide (not just US!) support through a variety of channels such as email, chat, webinars, and an always-accessible online help centre.

  • Cost: While the cheapest option isn't always the best, a good UCaaS platform can help you gain clarity on the costs of ownership. Think in terms of monthly recurring costs and the total cost of ownership over the life of the contract.

  • Contract: Does the platform require a long-term commitment or do they offer a month-to-month plan? If you have to sign a contract, is there flexibility if you’re unhappy with the service or your needs change?

Third-party integrations and APIs: If you’re already using other software or tools, then your UCaaS platform should have integrations with those tools. Ideally, these should be native integrations, but Zapier or other third-party integration options also work. (Dialpad also has an open API so that you can build custom integrations for niche tools that your team may be using.)

What are some trends in UCaaS to be aware of?

The UCaaS landscape is constantly changing—here are a few trends to watch:

  • More robust digital workspaces: As UCaaS features continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, many platforms are taking on the role of fully fledged digital workspaces and collaboration platforms. From file sharing to virtual whiteboarding in real time, the list of things that UCaaS platforms can do is growing—exponentially. For example, Dialpad integrates with Miro, a whiteboard app that to allow teams to whiteboard together without being in the same room:

Dialpad miro integration blog size
  • Wider adoption: UCaaS adoption will continue to rise as organisations move toward remote work, hire more distributed teams, cut costs, and take a technology-forward approach to planning.

  • AI: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing an increasingly important role in communications. From transcribing conversations in real time to intelligently routing calls and assessing sentiment, we’re only scratching the surface of what AI can do in UCaaS.

Get started with UCaaS and Dialpad

What kind of role is UCaaS going to play in the business world of the future?

Well, if Gartner’s survey of businesses is any indication, it’s going to be a big part:

Gartner business study

Looking for a UCaaS solution?

Whether your business is an SMB or a large enterprise—and whether you started working remotely before the pandemic or not—a good Unified Communications as a Service provider can help you streamline communications for employees and improve your customer experience, no matter where you choose to work from.

Need a UCaaS platform for your remote or distributed team?

Try Dialpad for free with a 14-day trial! From phone calls to SMS to instant messages to video meetings and screen sharing, you can do it all in Dialpad's unified platform. Or, take a self-guided interactive tour and play around with the product first!