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What is UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service)?

January 24th, 2023 7 min read

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about UCaaS lately. With more and more companies working in offices again, video conferencing products like Zoom have been rebranding. They want to emphasize that they can do more than let you see your remote coworkers’ pets during meetings. 

Video conference with a furry friend
Although we can all agree that’s the *best* thing they do

Let’s take a look at what exactly is included in UCaaS, and what makes it different from other types of communication software.

What Does UCaaS Do?

UCaaS stands for unified communications as a service. The name alone gives you a good idea of what UCaaS providers’ goal is: to meet all of a business’s communication needs through a cloud-based, software-as-a-service subscription model. Specifically, UCaaS platforms include:

  • Voice communication/VoIP
  • Video conferencing
  • Messaging
  • Collaboration

All these communication capabilities are accessible over the internet.


VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a technology that allows you to make phone calls over the internet. VoIP users and standard landline or cell phone users can call each other. This makes VoIP an effective replacement for a standard PBX phone system. Here’s a quick rundown of how VoIP technology sends your voice over the internet as data:

VoIP supports hardphones (physical phones) and softphones (software that can function like a phone). Phone call features include call routing and directories, voicemail transcription, and call recording.

It’s often cheaper to choose a standalone VoIP provider than a traditional telephone company. This is especially true since VoIP requires no hardware other than a computer or mobile device.  Full UCaaS solutions are more expensive, but the savings can add up when compared to choosing several different point solutions.

Video Conferencing

Covid helped us all get intimately familiar with these: Video conferencing allows teams to meet remotely with coworkers, external clients, and collaborators. UCaaS video conferencing features typically include chat during meetings, screen sharing, meeting recording, and audio conferencing.

As with VoIP providers, standalone video conferencing software is available. This is the better option if video meeting features are the only UCaaS capabilities you need.

Messaging and Collaboration

The most ubiquitous UCaaS collaboration feature is presence. Presence is the ability to set your status as “available,” “away,” or some variation. You can also check coworkers’ statuses across all communication methods.

In addition to SMS text messaging and chat during meetings, UCaaS products offer real-time instant messaging. You can chat one-on-one or in group messages with coworkers. You can also share files and search previous conversations.

Additional collaboration capabilities vary between products. Common options include messaging channels, calendars and scheduling, and task management. Standalone collaboration software options are similarly varied. Primary focuses include group messaging, project management, or visual and creative collaboration.

Comparing UCaaS and Other Communication Platforms

There is no shortage of communication tools to meet your business’s needs. Along with UCaaS and point solutions, there are other large communication suites. The most common of these are CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) and CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service).

UCaaS vs. CCaaS

UCaaS is more focused on a company’s internal communication needs, while CCaaS is more focused on customer experience. UCaaS products allow for external communication and offer analytics, routing, and call monitoring. CCaaS products, however, offer much more robust sales and customer service support. CCaaS features include customer self-service options, advanced IVR, live chat with customers, and social media communication channels.

UCaaS, on the other hand, offers more robust internal communication features. CCaaS products often do not include advanced team chat, video conferencing, or file sharing and storage.

UCaaS vs. CPaaS

The difference between UCaaS and CPaaS may be less immediately obvious. Both enable the same types of communication – the difference is how the products are delivered. UCaaS products follow the Software-as-a-Service model. They are sold as fully featured, ready-to-use communication products. You pay your monthly subscription fee and then you can log in and use UCaaS software right away through the provider’s application.

CPaaS products, however, are sold using the Platform-as-a-Service model. You can learn more about how PaaS works here. With CPaaS, you get access to communication-based APIs. You can customize these APIs and integrate them into your own application to provide communication services to users.

CPaaS is the right choice for developers equipping a product with communication capabilities. UCaaS is best for businesses looking for a prebuilt communications system for their own use. Many vendors offer their services as both UCaaS and CPaaS, so you can choose the best option for you without having to switch providers.

Benefits of UCaaS

So now that you know what UCaaS does and when you might want to choose a different kind of communications software. But when should you use UCaaS, and what are the benefits of choosing UCaaS over standalone solutions?

Centralized Business Communications

This is where the “unified” in Unified Communications as a Service comes into play. UCaaS allows users to manage all their communications, across platforms, in one place. Administrators can see reporting and analytics about video, audio, and text communications. Users can set their availability status in one place rather than having to change it in a VoIP system, meeting platform, and chat application. 

You can also streamline switching between different communication styles. There’s no need to worry about switching applications or fussing with integrations. If you’re instant messaging and decide that it would be easier to communicate via video meeting, start a meeting from your chat window. If you’re in a video meeting and need to switch to a phone call, you can do that easily too.

Flexibility for Hybrid and Remote Work

UCaaS is a great option if your company is on a hybrid or fully remote work plan. VoIP allows for the use of physical phones in the office as well as apps that employees can use on their computers or smartphones. Video conferencing is crucial for meeting with remote employees. 

Chat facilitates real-time communication about smaller things that don’t require full meetings. Setting statuses via the presence feature is a great way of keeping track of which team members are working from home or the office on any given day.

Simplified Payment Structure

If you know you need all or most UCaaS components, paying for one app rather than managing three or more individual subscriptions is a major win. Bundling your services like this will most likely result in cost savings over individual solutions. It will definitely be easier, and that means time savings.

Choosing the Right UCaaS Provider for You

When comparing UCaaS systems, you should consider features, scalability, and security. 

Most UCaaS providers start as either VoIP or web conferencing software and expand from there. Some may maintain a stronger focus on one or the other. If your company does a lot more calls than meetings, you’ll want to make sure your UCaaS provider has all the VoIP-related features you need.

Collaboration is the area where there’s the most variation between UCaaS vendors. You may hope to replace a specific collaboration tool, like an interactive whiteboard or task management software. If so, make sure that the UCaaS provider you’re considering has all the features you need.

Scalability and security are also crucial. A good UCaaS service provider should be able to keep up with your business’s needs as you grow and keep your data safe. Look for at least 99.9% uptime and third-party security certifications like SOC II and GDPR.

MoreUCaaS Platform Information

UCaaS is a great business communications solution for anyone who needs several different ways to keep in touch. You can read reviews and compare options for UCaaS platforms here on TrustRadius.

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