UCaaS vs. VoIP: Top Considerations and Providers in 2022
Connectivity and communication have never been more important in a post-pandemic business world.
As companies continue to move toward hybrid or fully remote workforces, plain old telephone service, or POTS, just doesn't cut it anymore. With around 60% of employees working remotely or on a hybrid work schedule, companies need communication solutions that stretch across multiple buildings or even across state lines.
Naturally, this means communications have to become somewhat virtualized as well. While VoIP is a household name now, cutting-edge Unified Communications as a Service (UCaas) solutions have emerged over the last few years.
Deciding between UCaaS and VoIP can be confusing. Let's look at the differences between them and their pros and cons, so you can decide which is the best fit for your business.
VoIP vs. UCaaS: What’s the Difference?
VoIP (voice-over-IP) is an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol, which also may be referred to as “IP Telephony,” “IP Phones,” or “Internet Phones.”
UCaaS, on the other hand, stands for unified communications-as-a-service, also known as Unified Cloud Communications.
Many organizations have clear use cases for unifying their business communications in the cloud and will unlock the greatest benefits by picking UCaaS. However, some other organizations have needs that are best met by VoIP.
What is VoIP?
Voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology was developed in the 1970s, but it first started to gain traction as a tool for business phone calls in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
VoIP is an alternative to traditional phone service delivered by a traditional telephone communications provider over copper cabling. In 2011, it was declared the fastest-growing technology of the 2010s -beating out search engines, online shopping, and even internet dating!
Most businesses that switch to VoIP from traditional telephones unlock massive cost savings, simpler contact center management, and more features. VoIP is not a new technology and is not considered a high-risk way to manage your business calls.
To learn more, check out The Top 6 Benefits of Moving to a VoIP Telephone System.
How Business-Class VoIP Works
Rather than using telephone cables, VoIP is implemented on-site using a special adaptor that connects to your internet service provider. VoIP calls can be made on-site using IP-compatible handsets or softphones and generally includes advanced features and built-in mobility.
These services can be managed in-house (on-premises) or delivered as cloud-based phone services through an agreement with a hosted VoIP vendor.
Most enterprise-class VoIP providers automatically offer call features that include:
- Call Waiting
- Caller ID
- Call Forwarding
- Three-Way Calling
- Call Blocking
To make sure you know the difference between VoIP designed for the needs of a business and consumer VoIP services like Ooma and Vonage, read the article, 9 Keys to Finding the Best VoIP Service Provider for Your Business (And How to Switch Providers Seamlessly).
7 Use Cases and Benefits of VoIP
VoIP is the right choice for some organizations, especially firms comparing the benefits of VoIP vs. traditional phone service options like publicly-switched telephone networks.
For organizations who need simpler, cheaper phone calling, VoIP is a valuable option for:
- Significant monthly cost savings, especially on interoffice calling, long-distance and international calling
- Simpler phone lines management, including the instant ability to add and remove phone lines
- Cost-effective, easier contact center management
- Access to add-on features such as automated call distribution, interactive voice recognition, and remote phone lines management.
- Mobility, including convenient mobile apps that allow mobile access to business calls and voicemails
- The potential to scale from simple VoIP service to a full-scale UCaaS platform with a vendor who offers both options
- The potential to bundle data and phone service through the same vendor, saving costs and achieving simpler troubleshooting
What Is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)?
VoIP isn’t really an alternative to UCaaS because UCaaS services include VoIP calling. It’s an approach to unifying business communication tools into a single, streamlined platform, bringing together services such as VoIP, video conferencing, collaboration tools, file sharing, instant messaging, and more.
The exact tools that comprise UCaaS can vary between organizations. However, UCaaS is defined by two things:
- It’s a Service: Unified Communications apps are hosted and delivered “as-a-service” by a cloud communication tools vendor.
- User Experience: Unifying communications tools results in a streamlined user experience that provides a single-user interface and a consistent experience across all devices, including sending and receiving messages in multiple forms (voice, text, instant message, email, etc.) through a single app on multiple platforms and across different devices.
How UCaaS Works
UCaaS is delivered through a service agreement with a Unified Communications vendor who will implement the necessary infrastructure and a Unified Communications platform. However, some organizations opt for an on-premises deployment of Unified Communications tools using private cloud resources.
According to Rob Scott at UC Today, poor communication costs the economy around $37 billion annually. And, with a huge portion of employees moving to remote work (or a hybrid version), maintaining highly efficient communications is of paramount importance.
7 Use Cases UCaaS
UCaaS isn’t necessarily an alternative to VoIP in the strictest sense, but it’s not uncommon for organizations to consider whether to implement VoIP only or do a full UCaaS implementation. In all cases, UCaaS will include IP telephony. UCaaS can be an alternative to on-premises Unified Communications tools, a VoIP-only implementation, or a non-unified suite of business communication tools that include a mixture of cloud apps and traditional software and multiple vendors.
However, organizations trying to decide between UCaaS and a hosted VoIP-only implementation may prefer UCaaS if their needs include:
- Lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) across communications and cloud communications tools
- Integrate video features, including video conferencing, web conferencing, and screen sharing
- Simpler communication and management across multiple sites or locations
- Developing strong business continuity and disaster management processes, including broadcast via voice phones, instant messages, text, and email.
- Increase productivity and decrease error by integrating data across apps, including Salesforce, Office 365, Twitter, etc.
- Improve the customer experience by unifying channels, including chat, email, and phones, and integrate seamlessly with remote workforce tools like Microsoft Teams.
- Support mobility or move to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture with simple, secure employee communication apps.
To learn more, we recommend 11 Valuable Business Benefits of Unified Communications as a Service.
While adopting UCaaS can lead to remarkable cost savings and productivity gains, smart vendor selection and an eye toward process improvement can be key to satisfaction post-adoption. Learn more in 5 Ways to Get Maximum Value from Unified Communications as a Service.
VoIP vs. UCaaS: Which is Best for My Business?
Ultimately, this question depends on your organization, technology roadmap, and communication needs.
VoIP may be the right choice for some small businesses whose employees do very little remote work and digital collaboration to access cost savings, mobility, and reliable, high-quality business communications.
For other organizations, like Montgomery College, that need to create a strong groundwork for multi-site collaboration, employee mobility, and rapid technological change, there’s no question that UCaaS is the way to go.
If you’re still not entirely sure where you fall on the spectrum of VoIP vs. UCaaS, consider the following questions:
1. Do You Need Video Conferencing?
Ninety-three percent of communication is nonverbal, so video could spell fewer miscommunications as your business scales to global teams. Businesses using video conferencing spend 30 percent less on business travel. In comparison, 66 percent of job candidates report higher satisfaction with a potential employer when they can do video interviews instead of phone screens.
Especially in today's business world, video conferencing is the tipping point when choosing between VoIP or UCaaS. Video conferencing can allow your organization to conduct interactive meetings, share screens, connect with clients, and help clients troubleshoot issues in record time while being safely distanced or completely remote.
2. Do You Need Smarter, Integrated Collaboration?
With workforces becoming much more remote and telecommuting being forced upon most of the world, integrating telecommunications with collaboration apps is not an option. Tools like Microsoft Teams integrate seamlessly into UCaaS platforms, allowing teams to keep productivity high (and sometimes even increase) with employees and partners connecting remotely.
UCaaS platforms also integrate with the document management and productivity apps your organization is already using. Your contact center representatives can instantly get the context they need when a client calls in, thanks to instant data population via integration with Salesforce or another CRM. Your employees can use familiar spreadsheet tools like Excel when collaborating in the team hub. For organizations with global teams, complex projects, or many different apps, UCaaS can enable superior productivity.
3. What Kind of Flexibility Do You Need?
Both VoIP and UCaaS are more flexible than alternatives. However, UCaaS offers extensive flexibility in services, especially if you partner with vendors who offer dedicated port connections to a Cloud Exchange.
With VoIP, you can instantly add and subtract phone lines and offer more features to certain employees on an as-needed basis. With UCaaS and Cloud Exchange, your firm can instantly access services from a massive marketplace of partner cloud vendors, including cloud apps, infrastructure-on-demand, and cloud backup.
4. Do You Need Tougher Security and Smarter Troubleshooting?
The cliche phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup” has some weight in the IT realm. When something goes down on a complicated network filled with a mixture of vendors and solutions, it’s time-consuming to pinpoint the problem. UCaaS enables organizations to develop a single vendor relationship, including smarter troubleshooting. The hosted cloud apps vendor can perform proactive maintenance and upgrades and monitor quality.
Top Business Communications Providers
Zoom is one of the most well-known video conferencing platforms on the market, but Zoom also offers a host of other VoIP features. Some Zoom features include voicemail transcription, advanced reporting dashboards, and more.
“It is a very user-intuitive platform for having meetings, and helps creates groups and send messages with the same ease as with Whatsapp. You can also share messages with yourself which can act as reminders. A very helpful meeting platform.” -G2 Reviewer
Nextiva is a cloud-based platform with flexible phone service packages ranging from basic to advanced phone features. Nextiva’s VoIP solution includes features like team chat, call recording, and interactive voice response.
“The app allows us to contact customers and maintain our cell phone privacy. We don't always want our customers to have our personal cell phones so to be able to call through the app, working from home is a breeze now.” -G2 Reviewer
RingCentral’s “MVP” (Message, Video, Phone) integrates chat messaging, video conferencing, and business phone solutions into one platform. RingCentral offers features like team messaging, simple file sharing, and advanced analytics.
“I like that I'm able to change my number so that I can pick a recognizable number for the prospects I'm calling. I also like that all calls are recorded. We use the recordings for training, quality checks, etc. The ability to put people into call queues is convenient. I also like the ease of customizing the different call queues, numbers, orders, etc.” -G2 Reviewer
Dialpad is an AI-powered business phone solution. In addition to voice solutions, Dialpad offers chat, omnichannel customer support, customer self-service options, video conferencing, and more.
“It's nice when transferring calls. I also like that it transcribes the calls. It is easy to navigate and nice for group chats. You always know what's going on, which makes work a breeze.” -G2 Reviewer
Vonage’s UCaaS solution includes features essential to any remote or hybrid work team. These features include team messaging and group chat, a click-to-call button you can embed into your website pages, and off-site data backup.
“The reporting and the tools available for agent visibility and call reporting has been much, much better than what we had before. Our answer rate has definitely improved since moving to Vonage.” -G2 Reviewer
Atlantech offers a robust UCaaS service that focuses on supplying your team with the tools they need to collaborate, optimize operations, and provide an incredible customer experience. Atlantech’s solution is 100% customized to the needs of your business, offering features like video conferencing, desktop and file sharing, instant messaging, and more.
"With Atlantech Online's cloud-based communications solution...we've been able to make a smooth transition from a legacy, premises-based PBX and establish a next-generation campus." -Carl Whitman, CIO & VP of Instructional and Information Technology, Montgomery College
VoIP vs. UCaaS: Making the Right Choice For Your Business
The right question is not “VoIP or UCaaS.”
The right questions are, ”Which cloud communication apps does my business need today?“ Also, ”How can I partner with a vendor that can support our technology roadmap and growth goals over the next several years?"
Anyone who tells you that you need to decide permanently between VoIP or UCaaS is selling something, and it’s probably not a best-of-class enterprise communications solution.
Fortunately, with the right vendor, you don’t need to jump feet first into UCaaS overnight, especially when you need to facilitate a remote workforce or a hybrid solution to keep your employees and customers connected. The best approach is to find a trusted vendor that can help you install the features and systems you need today while helping you grow in the future.
To learn how to evaluate potential cloud communication vendors for VoIP or UCaaS on price, value, security, platform, and other key business requirements, we recommend 10 Questions to Ask Before Switching to Unified Communications as a Service for Your Business.