UCaaS vs. VoIP: Which is Best for Business in 2021?
In a post-pandemic business world, connectivity and communication have never been more important.
As companies adopt hybrid ways of facilitating their workforce, plain old telephone service, or POTS, just don’t cut it anymore. Now companies need communication solutions that stretch across multiple buildings on a campus and even across states as employees have gone to working remotely.
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 also 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 calling 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. Way back in 2011, it was declared the fastest-growing technology of the 2010s -beating out search engines, online shopping, and and even internet dating!
The vast majority of 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 that’s 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 that are 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.
UCaaS is delivered through a service agreement with a Unified Communications vendor who will implement the necessary infrastructure and a Unified Communications platform, though some organizations do 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, and more.
- 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 towards 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, your technology roadmap, and your communication needs.
For some small businesses whose employees do very little remote work and digital collaboration, VoIP may be the right choice to access cost savings, mobility and reliable, high-quality business communications.
For other organizations, like Montgomery College, who 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?
93 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, while 66 percent of job candidates report higher satisfaction with a potential employer when they’re able to do video interviews instead of phone screens.
Especially in today’s business world, video conferencing is the tipping point when it comes to 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, all while being safely distanced or completely remote.
2. Do You Need Smarter, Integrated Collaboration?
With workforces becoming much more remote, and telecommuting being force upon most of the world, integration of telecommunications with collaboration apps is not an option. Tools like Microsoft Teams integrate seamlessly into UCaaS platforms, which allows teams to keep productivity high (and sometimes even increase) with employees and partners connecting to each other remotely.
UCaaS platforms also integrate with the document management and productivity apps that 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 connection 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 that’s 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.
Making the Right Choice
The right question is not “VoIP or UCaaS.”
The right questions are, ”Which cloud communication apps does my business needs 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 definitely 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 some kind of 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 as 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.