Hosted Voice vs. Unified Communications
There are a lot of acronyms that get thrown around when discussing present-day communications infrastructures. So it's no wonder many CIOs, IT Managers, and other decision-makers are confused about which communications model to choose for their enterprise.
From VoIP and UC to UCaaS and others, there's no shortage of terms - and options - but knowing the details behind the terms can help us determine which communications setup is right for our organizations.
VoIP, or Voice-Over-IP, is essentially dial tone that travels across the internet. Instead of utilizing voice service that runs on traditional telephone infrastructure, VoIP allows data lines over the internet to be used to make and receive phone calls instead of through private carriers. In place of having a separate PBX for your phone system, VoIP allows for data and voice networks to operate on the same infrastructure.
Hosted Voice vs Unified Communications
Taking VoIP a step further, hosted voice is essentially your company's PBX in the cloud.
Industry-leading hosted voice options offer cloud-based, on-demand services that include:
- Full PBX functionality
- Advanced call management tools
- Some Unified Communications features as well
Some hosted voice providers also offer hybrid options that allow your enterprise's existing IP or even legacy TDM infrastructure to be fully integrated with the provider's system. Hosted voice or VoIP systems can drive down communications costs, while providing enriched features that go beyond simple dial tone.
For instance, these features may include better accessibility, increased mobility, disaster recovery, and improved productivity. Additionally, administrators and other managers are granted access to sophisticated managerial reporting and control tools that give them flexibility and control over their environment while being backed by high-level provider support.
With only one network in place instead of two, for all data and communications needs, companies can lower support and infrastructure costs, increase speed, and improve the quality of communications across the company. If your company is strictly in need of dial tone only - simply to make and receive phone calls - then switching to a VoIP-based hosted or on-premises system is the way to go. Now, if your company requires communications over and above just voice conversations, that's where you want to explore Unified Communications (UC) or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
Unified Communications (UC) is commonly defined as the integration of real-time enterprise communication services with non-real-time communication services like unified messaging (email, fax, integrated voicemail, and SMS).
Real-time services include tools for:
- Audio, video, and web conferencing
- Desktop sharing
- Instant messaging or chat
- Mobility features
- Voice over IP (VoIP), and more
UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) delivers communication and collaboration services through a third-party service provider, across the internet or other IP network. VoIP can also be delivered in the same manner across the internet from a hosted or cloud provider network. These types of communications delivery models continue to gain in popularity as they place the burden of equipment costs and maintenance on the provider instead of the enterprise.
UC or UCaaS can also be integrated with some business processes, such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems and Microsoft Office business productivity programs. With this capability, companies are able to improve and speed-up the general decision-making process. Moreover, in a recent Gartner survey of 300 midmarket companies, 44% reported that the biggest benefit to implementing UC was their improved speed of communications across their business.
Benefits of Unified Communications Usage:
- 39% reporting better communications for distributed sites, remote workers, and/or mobile workforce members
- 29% listing collaboration improvements
- 26% identified that using UC gave them a competitive advantage.
So when determining whether VoIP or hosted voice is sufficient for your organization; or, whether taking VoIP a step further and adding on Unified Communications or UCaaS if necessary, remember that hosted voice can provide your company with improvements like better voice quality, lower costs, and infrastructure savings.
If you determine that additional collaboration tools are required - over and above the advanced calling features offered with hosted voice, like conferencing, email, instant messaging, mobility, and presence - then maybe UC or UCaaS is the correct decision for your enterprise.
And to assist with making this determination, you should examine the enterprise's current and future communication requirements.
Answer these communication questions:
- How many users does your enterprise employ? Are they all in one office, across several offices, located in home or remote offices, or spread out geographically?
- What current communication systems are in place across all locations and how are they connected?
- What is the current state of the communications infrastructure - can/should legacy equipment continue to be utilized? What kind of investment would be necessary for proper replacement?
- Would UC functionalities like audio, video, and web conferencing, mobility, instant messaging, presence, contact or call center be of benefit to the organization?
- Does the enterprise currently utilize cloud services and what is the status of current contracts?
- Would integration with existing apps be of benefit to the company?
A final bit of encouragement when trying to understand all of the options available with hosted voice and unified communications - you're not alone! Simply partner with an industry-leader in hosted communications to help analyze and select the best course of action for your communications solution.
The knowledgeable sales solution experts at West Unified Communications Services can help to sort through the nuances of hosted voice and the impact those differences can mean for your organization.