Which Kind of UCaaS Providers Are Best for Your SMB?
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) providers are scrambling for your business right now.
With many organizations still dealing with remote workforces, most of them have had to implement a UCaaS provider of some kind, whether it’s Zoom, Teams, Meet or another solution.
While we do expect to see companies get their employees back into the office when restrictions are eased, there is no doubt that 2020 has already been a transformational year as far as remote work is concerned.
Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25–30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days of the week by the end of 2021.
Many employees, particularly millennials—who make up the largest generational portion of the workforce—have higher expectations when it comes to the flexibility of their working lives.
Workers were already looking for more time away from the office pre-COVID-19, and the widespread implementation of communication services making remote possible has only increased that desire.
This means that it will be imperative for businesses to use UCaaS providers that offer them the features they need for the future.
Today, we’re going to be taking a look what different UCaaS providers have done to appeal to SMBs, and going forward what kind of service you may need for your long-term plans.
Rise of Zoom
We should just take a moment to acknowledge the popularity of Zoom and the rapid growth it experienced over the course of 2020.
In March of 2019, Zoom had an estimated 10 million daily meeting participants, a figure which had skyrocketed to 350 million by December 2020.
Zoom was downloaded 27 million times in March 2020 alone, far more than any other provider.
In responding to a large amount of remote workers, businesses found themselves having to act quickly, leading many of them to download Zoom, principally because of its ease-of-use and lack of a price tag.
As a result of this, Zoom is now, the undisputed leader in the UCaaS industry and it was without doubt the face of personal communications during the pandemic—which is saying a lot, considering long-standing and recognizable platforms like Skype have been around for years.
It should be noted that technically speaking Zoom is just the video conferencing software and the UCaaS package as a whole is RingCentral.
After an initial slow start out of the gates, Google’s Meet service has also seen rapid growth with its free offering, while Microsoft Teams is no slouch either, quickly seeing a lot of popularity, particularly among SMBs.
Will Businesses Still Be Using Zoom When Normalcy Returns?
As a UCaaS provider, will Zoom (RingCentral) continue to enjoy such a large market share among businesses as they get back to normal through 2021 and 2022?
This answer to this appears so far to be a resounding “Yes”
As of March 2021, Zoom is available in more countries than any other (44), followed by Microsoft Teams (41), and Google Meet (21).
In terms of total market share, Zoom has almost half, with 48.7%, followed by Google Meet (21.8%), and Teams (14.5%).
Zoom, Meet, and Teams all offer free editions, making them easy to adopt, especially for organizations in a bind.
Zoom’s Security Issues and Repercussions
A number of well-publicized security issues and data privacy concerns cast early doubts on Zoom’s prospects as a long-term solution for communication and shone a light on the importance of UCaaS security.
Related Post: What Does Zoombombing Tell Us About Video App Security?
Such was the growing level of apprehension around Zoom’s security and privacy capabilities that CEO Eric Yuan even wrote an open letter apologizing for Zoom’s lack of security.
In response to criticism of the app, Zoom announced in 2020 a 90-day plan in which they would put their efforts into fixing security and privacy issues, freezing development on their other features to do so.
SMB decision makers should be asking themselves what kind of company is providing their UCaaS. Is their security comprehensive enough? Are you certain your data is safeguarded properly with your UCaaS provider?
Zoom has been dogged by issues regarding security throughout 2020 and 2021, with the most severe criticism coming from the FTC, which alleged the company had “misled users” and “engaged in a series of deceptive and unfair practices” regarding its security protections.
In July 2021, Zoom reached an $85 million settlement over user privacy violations and “Zoombombing”.
UCaaS Is Not Just a Stop-Gap
While most have sought out UCaaS platforms for their video conferencing and chat capabilities, there are a raft of other functions found in them that should be considered when thinking about using a communications app for the long-term.
The reason it’s called “unified” communications is because of the wide array of communication channels that can be used from the tech within and across an organization. Features of a UCaaS app include:
- VoIP for telephony
- Video conferencing to facilitate remote workers and off-site teams
- Enterprise mobility through mobile accessibility
- Instant messaging for real-time communication
- Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) for real-time cloud-based communications
- Customer relationship management to analyze data and improve customer relationships and interactions
- Contact center features that allow customers to access assistance through chat, messaging, email, etc.
Because of these features, and the need for many businesses to have access to them, careful consideration should be made as to which platform you will use in the future.
Competitors Look to Improve Their Offerings
When Zoom began experiencing its rise to the top, it didn’t go unnoticed by competitors.
Both Google and Microsoft moved to offer free versions of their apps, Meet and Teams respectively, and Microsoft was quick to capitalize on Zoom’s cybersecurity shortcomings, promoting its own credentials while taking a swipe at the capabilities of Zoom.
Microsoft understands very well the need from businesses and consumers for a transparent and secure approach to data handling and privacy.
Zoom was correct to apologize for routing user data through China, but the episode, and others, sheds a light on how seriously US-based users take what happens with their data and where it’s handled.
A Blind report found that 35% of professionals are worried their information may have been compromised on Zoom. Because of this, 12% of users said they stopped using the video conferencing platform altogether
Issues like these are particularly important to businesses and consumers alike, and as we go on, UCaaS providers will continue to compete against one another on the basis of hot topics like security as the unified communications market continues to experience large growth.
What Do Businesses Need?
Will your UCaaS provider be able to offer you what you need? Who is best-placed to give you the tools that are necessary to conduct your operations effectively?
For some, their needs with regards to a platform will go little further than a video-conferencing app so employees can keep in touch out of the office.
For others, a UCaaS app will be crucial to their operations, and so they may want to consider more carefully who their provider will be.
Here are a few of the primary factors that will drive the decision-making process in which platform you opt for long-term.
Price is the first obvious consideration to make when you’re selecting your provider. Can you afford it and does the package you’re opting for suit your needs?
Most providers will offer a free version and a paid version of their app. If you’re sticking to the free version, does it offer you all the capabilities you need? UCaaS platforms are renowned for their scalability, so you can increase or reduce your usage based on your needs.
For most businesses, a paid option will typically be the most appropriate, because free editions of UCaaS platforms tend to offer a very limited amount of cloud storage and file attachment size.
For organizations that need to share files regularly through their UCaaS solution, this should be a serious consideration.
For those who need it purely for video conferencing needs, the free option may be all that is needed.
Zoom has found popularity because it’s extremely user friendly and end users of all abilities have no issues working the app with little training, making it very useful in terms of onboarding remote workers.
That might be enough for some businesses—for others, however, they may have questions about functionality.
For example, Teams is popular because it integrates with Microsoft 365, which is very desirable to organizations that already use Microsoft’s other applications. The same goes for Google Meet, which is integrated into its G-Suite of apps by default.
Finally, there’s cybersecurity. Dealing with a remote workforce means ensuring that your security strategy is adequate for your business.
Related Post: What Does a Mobile Device Security Strategy Look Like?
In addition to several other apps, this means being comfortable with the protections that the provider has put in place for the service.
Does your service utilize the necessary encryption protocols? Do they have a good track record of security? How do they use collected data? Where do they keep their data?
These are the kinds of considerations businesses should be making when thinking about their collaboration solution for the long-term.
During the course of the lockdown restrictions, organizations across the country and the world found themselves in an unenviable position of figuring out how to operate a remote workforce, many of them with no prior knowledge of how to do so.
The result of this is that the UCaaS providers they have chosen for their collaboration apps have typically been the cheapest and easiest to operate.
When you’re plugging a gap, as most were, this is perfectly reasonable.
Now, however, as we begin to see both an easing of restrictions across the world and a stronger desire from workers for flexibility, companies should think about whether they have the right service for the job.
Long-term planning for your communications and collaboration service should start now, and businesses should think about the cost, functionality, and maintenance their provider is offering.
Cloud services are very important for today’s businesses, and virtually every organization in the country uses a cloud service of some kind. Negotiating the buzzwords and technology terms can be tricky, so to learn more about what kind of cloud setup you need, download our eBook: “Which Cloud Option Is Right For Your Business?”