The Dilemma: Unified Communications or VoIP?
Whether by expansion or contraction, most businesses need to assess their telecommunications needs at a certain point, ideally on a somewhat regular basis. What worked ten years ago may no longer fit your business needs or the needs of your employees. You may be getting different opinions, particularly around unified communications versus VoIP. It can be challenging to know what to do. We have to look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic to see how quickly needs change and how important it is for companies to become more agile in adapting to these changes.
Beyond changes in how your business operates, technology is also constantly evolving. There are more opportunities than ever to expand communication capabilities, reduce costs, and simplify your network. This doesn’t mean you have to completely replace what you already have. Oftentimes, modern communications features can be added to or integrated with existing systems to augment capabilities.
If you are considering unified communications versus VoIP, the truth is, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. The first step to determining if your organization is on the right track or it is time for a shift is to begin with the assessment.
Your telecom assessment should begin by looking at what you currently have. What type of telecom services does your provider offer right now, which features are employees using, and where are there functionality gaps?
To learn what is working and what isn’t, it is a good idea to partner with your IT department and survey employees. Many of them will have opinions on features that could help them be more productive and engaged. You should survey all areas of the business because needs will inevitably vary among the type of work and the environment for each business unit. For instance, field workers may require different telecom functionality than executives.
Because of COVID-19, you may also discover an influx of remote workers who now need video conferencing and collaboration tools to work effectively. Does your organization provide this capability, ensuring security and professionalism? Employees using FaceTime or other unauthorized tools introduce risk to the organization and can be laden with connectivity issues.
While today’s technologies often lead to cost savings, especially if you are relying on older legacy systems, when considering unified communications vs VoIP, there is greater value in assessing whether you are getting the most effective use out of your existing telecom service and equipment. Cost will always be a factor, but it isn’t the only factor. Calculating your total cost of ownership will help you determine what your older system is really costing you and how other solutions compare.
Voice-over internet protocol, or VoIP, has been used for decades because of its low barrier to entry and greater accessibility. Instead of having to pay upfront for a bunch of bulky equipment you then have to pay to maintain for years to come, you pay for telephony via a broadband internet connection on a monthly subscription basis. All that is needed is a special adaptor. Costs are predictable and if your VoIP service is hosted, your provider is responsible for maintaining the system on their end, making it much simpler to manage than a traditional phone system.
The beauty of VoIP is that it enables employees to communicate from anywhere there is an internet connection on any connected device, no phone lines required. Calls are inexpensive and often free, and adding new employees and locations to your network or moving offices is fast and easy.
Enterprise VoIP is a huge leap from traditional analog/PBX phones in other ways as well, as it comes with standard business features such as caller ID, voicemail, call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail-to-email, and online faxing.
One issue to note with VoIP is that the service can be unpredictable. VoIP is only as good as the internet connection. If there is a power outage, computer-based employees may be out of luck.
Unified communications is defined in different ways. Gartner says this: “Unified communications (UC) products – equipment, software and services – provide and combine multiple enterprise communications channels, such as voice, video, personal and team messaging, voicemail, and content sharing. This can include control, management and integration of these channels. UC products can also be integrated with networks and systems, IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.” All of this can be provided as a service, referred to as UCaaS.
Like VoIP, UCaaS gives you and your employees a better, more accessible way to communicate with each other and others outside of your organization. Unlike VoIP, however, you don’t have to worry about outages, bandwidth issues, or an inconsistent experience. UCaaS has redundancy and failover built in – backup for when the connection is interrupted.
Another benefit of UCaaS is your communications and collaboration services are managed by one provider, streamlining your network, payments, and vendor management while providing added security features. All of this can save you quite a bit of time, overspend and risk.
The true benefits of UCaaS are with the level of functionality it brings, even to small businesses that think they can’t afford an enterprise-level telecommunications network. It offers all of the traditional business phone features of VoIP, plus a robust contact center, business intelligence, and greater collaboration and messaging capabilities (like video conferencing, web chats, SMS and MMS) and plenty of integrations – all of which can be accessed from any device at any time.
One such integration is with Microsoft Teams. While Microsoft Teams provides excellent collaboration features, it does not offer robust or flexible voice capabilities. You can voice-enable Teams to take advantage of an integrated platform that includes all of the Teams features with all of your UCaaS services.
Adding users and locations is simple as UCaaS systems scale with you as you grow, enabling you to increase or decrease your network as needed with just a few clicks from your admin portal. Because UCaaS is managed for you, your provider will automatically include updates, new features and capabilities, and any services that come with your system.
When all of your communications are streamlined across your business, with business metrics, intelligence and security built in, you can increase sales, customer and employee satisfaction, and operational efficiencies while reducing costs and risk.
When you compare the features, costs and benefits of unified communications vs VoIP, you can see that the real difference isn’t so much between the two, but between each of them and traditional phone service options, like PBX. While a PBX system may seem fine, there is a good chance you are spending more than you need to be while severely limiting your telecommunications and collaboration capabilities. For lower costs, less complexity and a greater return on your investment, you can implement VoIP, UCaaS or UCass with VoIP calling.