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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 organizations dealing with remote workforces, many 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

Of course, there’s one service that has profited the most out of the current situation, and that’s Zoom.

Zoom was downloaded 27 million times in March alone, far more than any other provider.

In responding to the crisis, 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, in the space of just a few short months, the undisputed leader in the UCaaS industry, and it is without doubt the face of personal communications during this crisis—which is saying a lot, considering long-standing and recognizable platforms like Skype have been around for years.

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.

Growth in downloads of video conferencing apps

Will Businesses Still Be Using Zoom When Normalcy Returns?

One aspect of this we have to address is whether organizations will continue to use Zoom after the pandemic passes.

Zoom is free and easy to use, making it the perfect app for people and businesses to use in a crisis.

However, a raft of security issues and data privacy concerns have cast doubts on Zoom’s prospects as a long-term solution for communication.

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 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.

Whether these measures will be enough to assuage the fears in the long-term for businesses using the app to share and handle sensitive data remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that organizations hold their security in higher regard with every year that passes.

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?

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.

There’s a reason it’s called “unified” communications, as you will typically be able to facilitate a number of communication channels. 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 Americans take what happens with their data.

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

This is particularly important to businesses and consumers alike, and as we go on, UCaaS providers will continue to compete against one another as the market grows over the next five years.

Functions of UCaaS

What Do Different 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

Price is the first obvious consideration to make when you’re selecting your provider. Can you afford it?

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.

Functionality

Zoom has found popularity because it’s extremely user friendly and users of all abilities have no issues working the app.

That might be enough for some businesses—for others, however, they may have questions about functionality. For example, Teams is popular because it combines with Microsoft 365, which is very desirable to organizations. The same goes for Google Meet, which is integrated into its G-Suite of apps.

Cybersecurity

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.

Bottom Line

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?”