Posted: 10 Jun 2019 08:45 AM PDT
UCaaS provides companies with a way to communicate and collaborate through messaging, video conferencing and presence technology. Many vendors also offer contact center capabilities, call routing and customer relationship management integrations. Discover some of the current top unified communications as a service (UCaaS) products on the market using this product roundup of vendor offerings.
Avaya IP Office
Company overview: Avaya is a California-based company that solely specializes in unified communications and enterprise collaboration services. The company has long offered on-premises UC platforms for businesses both small and large. More recently, Avaya followed the cloud trend and now offers both hybrid cloud and SaaS offerings.
Product overview: Depending on a customer's needs, Avaya offers IP Office platform as an on-premises, hybrid or SaaS architecture deployment. From a SaaS perspective, Avaya fully manages IP Office, which runs on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). The SaaS version of IP Office is known as Avaya Cloud Unified Communications. The platform is scalable between tens of users and thousands of users located in many parts of the world. Each user requires an Avaya Cloud UC license, of which there are five to choose from. For standard business use, there are the Essential, Business and Power licenses. The other two licenses, Basic and Advanced, provide the same UC capabilities of the others with additional contact center features. All licenses include blocks of minutes for local and long-distance, allocated on a per-month basis.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: Avaya provides support for its own line of phones, including the J series and Vantage K series endpoints. Avaya also provides a software-based UC application known as Avaya Equinox. This software can run on Windows and Mac OS, as well as Android and Apple iOS smartphones and tablets.
Technical support options: Avaya offers support for all SaaS licenses. This includes 24-hour call, web and email support as well as documentation, a knowledge base, a user community and access to software updates and security patches.
Cisco WebEx Calling
Company overview: Cisco is a California-headquartered multinational corporation that is one of the largest enterprise hardware, software and services companies in the world. Originally known for selling network routers, switches and wireless hardware, Cisco also maintains a massive UCaaS business. The company offers on-premises, hybrid and SaaS lines of products.
Product overview: Up until a few years ago, Cisco WebEx calling was known as Cisco Spark Calling. Cisco decided to merge its WebEx online meetings platform with the Spark UCaaS platform. Ultimately, the WebEx name stuck, as it's the more popular brand name. Each user or device requires a license, which companies can purchase on a monthly or annual basis. Larger businesses can also opt for a flex plan option to help with scaling users up and down.
WebEx Calling comes in two license types. The C1 licenses include all the UCaaS features, including public switched telephone network (PSTN) calling, video conferencing, team chat and file sharing. The C3 license includes everything in C1 with the addition of a WebEx Meetings license. PSTN connectivity for WebEx Calling is available through one of three North American Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) providers. Each provider offers different long-distance plans to choose from.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: Cisco supports its full line of 7800 and 8800 series phones, as well as several WebEx-compatible telepresence video endpoints. All UCaaS services, including voice, can also utilize services within the Cisco WebEx Teams app, which is compatible for Windows and Mac PCs as well as Android and iOS mobile platforms.
Technical support options: Customers can access 24/7 phone, web and email support as well as documentation and an active user community portal. All updates and security patches are freely accessible and are set to auto-update by default.
Company overview: Dialpad is a California-based pure-play UCaaS provider that's a relatively new player compared to others. Dialpad first came on the scene in 2011 when it received $3 million in Series A funding from GV (formerly Google Ventures). Since that time, Dialpad launched voice, video, team messaging and web conferencing services. The company has also accumulated a number of big-name customers.
Product overview: For the most part, Dialpad is a SaaS-only UC provider. That said, it does offer customers an on-premises gateway that allows for integration of legacy on-premises platforms to combine with Dialpad's cloud services. This feature grants a smoother transition for large customers that have legacy UC deeply engrained in their processes. Customers have three different licenses to choose from: Standard, Pro and Enterprise. Enterprise license plans require a minimum license count of 100. Additionally, Enterprise licenses can add inbound or outbound call center features as an a la carte option. All licenses include unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada. Other international rates charge at a fixed per-minute price.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: Most Dialpad customers opt to use the provided desktop and mobile UC/voice over IP (VoIP) softphone applications. For those that require hard phones, Dialpad does support select Poly (formerly Polycom) and Obihai Technology desk and conference phones with its UCaaS products.
Technical support options: Only customers with enterprise licenses will receive 24/7 year-round phone support. Other support options include a knowledge base, web-based chat and email support.
Fuze Enterprise Voice
Company overview: Headquartered in Boston, Mass., Fuze is a pure-play UCaaS provider that packages voice, video, messaging and collaboration tools into a single cloud-native platform. From its founding in 2006 up until 2016, Fuze went by the name Thinking Phone Networks. In late March 2019, Fuze announced its collaboration with Samsung to bring mobile UCaaS to businesses.
Product overview: Fuze Enterprise Voice forms the foundation of the overall Fuze UCaaS platform. Additionally, UC features include video conferencing, chat, file sharing and even full contact center capabilities. From a calling perspective, Enterprise Voice plans will incur a fixed per-minute rate for all long distance and international PSTN dialing.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: The majority of customers will likely opt to forgo desk phones in lieu of the refined and robust Fuze desktop and mobile app. For those that insist on hard phones, the company does support a handful of Poly and Yealink desk and conference phone models.
Technical support options: Depending on the license model the company chooses, it gains base services such as software updates and patches and an online knowledge base. More advanced licenses include access to 24/7 year-round phone and web support operated out of multiple global points of contact. Response service-level agreements also differ depending on the licensing model.
Company overview: Google is a multinational corporation best known for its search engine and cloud computing services. While Google is known to be a powerhouse technology company in several markets, it has chosen to tread lightly in the UCaaS space. However, at this point in time, there are just enough components and features available to make Google Hangouts a viable UCaaS option for most enterprise organizations.
Product overview: Three primary UCaaS products make up Google's cloud UC platform. The first is Google Voice. This provides every user a PSTN number that they can use to make and receive calls from desktops or mobile devices. Google then combined Voice with Google Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. Hangouts Meet is the company's online web and video conferencing platform, while Chat is the secure team messaging platform. All three are part of Google's overall business line of software and services known as the G Suite. Thus, for those businesses that already use other G Suite SaaS tools, adding UC functions within the same overarching platform might be the right choice.
There are three different UC voice plans to choose from: Starter, Standard and Premier. Starter licenses provide the basics, such as a PSTN number for each user. Standard licenses include features such as an auto attendant and added management and monitoring. Lastly, Premiere licenses come with advanced features that large international corporations would demand. From a PSTN calling perspective, all customers receive unlimited calling to the U.S. All international calling charges at a per-minute rate.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: Companies can most commonly access Hangouts through the dedicated desktop and mobile app -- or through a web-based interface. There is, however, the option to choose from a list of supported Poly desk and conference phones.
Technical support options: Google handles all support through Google Voice Help. Note, there is no direct phone support or contact center support. This may be an issue for customers that heavily rely on PSTN and other UC services.
Company overview: Microsoft is a multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Wash. Starting as a software-only company, Microsoft now works in software, hardware and cloud services, including its Azure cloud platform. From a UCaaS perspective, Microsoft became a serious player when it acquired Skype in 2011. Since that time, Microsoft has gone through several rebrands -- and a complete re-architecture to get to the Teams platform it sells today.
Product overview: Teams is a relatively new UCaaS product that was designed by Microsoft from the ground up. It recently abandoned its Skype for Business platform that was fairly successful for SMBs seeking an enterprise-grade UCaaS. Microsoft still supports Skype for Business for larger companies, however. For many, the transition did not go smoothly, as Teams proved buggy in some areas -- and left gaps in functionality in others. However, in recent months, the Teams platform gained strength and opinions on the product changed. Like a few of the other UCaaS platforms, Teams mostly caters to those primarily seeking messaging, file sharing and video conferencing features. PSTN calling is available, but it is a secondary component.
Microsoft offers three different Teams calling plans: E1, E3 and E5. Depending on the license purchased, Teams allocates a certain number of local and long distance calling within the U.S. Once that block of minutes is exhausted for a user, they can tap into unused minutes of other users. If, however, all minutes are exhausted, each additional minute charges a per-minute overage depending on where the call is being placed. All international calls charge a set per-minute fee.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: Unlike many of the other UCaaS platforms, Microsoft supports a wide range of third-party SIP phones for the Teams platform. Thus, if businesses have a legacy on-premises platform, and they're looking to migrate to the cloud, they may be able to re-use the SIP desk and conference phones.
Technical support options: The type of support given to Teams depends on the Office 365 plan licensed for users. Support for Teams uses the same Office 365 online and web options. There is a separate Microsoft Teams help center section for Teams-only administration and troubleshooting documentation.
Company overview: Mitel Networks is a pure-play unified communications company based in Ottawa. The company sells on-premises, hybrid and UCaaS services to customers worldwide. In 2017, the company acquired competitor ShoreTel. Since that time, ShoreTel products and services have been rebranded as Mitel products.
Product overview: Mitel offers two different UCaaS products under the MiCloud line. The first is MiCloud Connect. This is the rebranded ShoreTel Connect Cloud product, which markets towards SMBs. The MiCloud Flex product targets large enterprises that "require a rich unified communications environment." This is, essentially, Mitel's on-premises product that the company put in a public cloud.
Basic features for the various license plans include voice, video, team chat and conferencing. Special add-on features include customer relationship management integration, call recording and contact center capabilities. From a PSTN perspective, MiCloud customers receive unlimited local and long distance calling throughout North America. All other international calls charge a fixed per-minute fee.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: Mitel sells its own brand of hardware phones. The Mitel 400 and 6900 series phones are fully supported within the MiCloud platform. Additionally, Mitel supports several Poly-branded phones as well. Customers can also opt to use the MiCollab desktop and mobile application to replace or supplement a hardware-based phone.
Technical support options: Mitel offers 24/7 year-round global phone, email and web support for customers. Additionally, the customer portal includes access to documentation and a knowledge base.
Company overview: Headquartered in California, RingCentral is a global pure-play unified communications vendor. Having been one of the few major players early in the UCaaS market, RingCentral now has one of the largest UCaaS client bases in the world.
Product overview: The company's UCaaS platform is known as RingCentral Office. While cloud-based UC services initially appealed to the small business market and startups, the RingCentral Office platform has evolved to the point where larger enterprises should also consider it as a viable alternative to on-premises options. Office is also fully supported in 80 countries. This is better than can be said for virtually any other competitor. Thus, it's a great option for highly distributed global businesses.
Businesses can purchase office licenses in one of four different tiers: Essentials, Standard, Premium and Ultimate. Licenses can be purchased monthly or annually. Differences between the licenses include the number of users that they can accommodate and toll-free minutes included, as well as feature enhancements such as internet fax, call recording and advanced video conferencing capabilities.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: RingCentral Office offers a user-friendly desktop and mobile app for those that want to use their business phone but don't sit at their desk. RingCentral also sells recommended third-party desk and conference phones to customers directly on its website, including phones from Cisco, Poly and Yealink. The company also supports several other third-party phone manufacturer vendors and models.
Technical support options: For all licenses, RingCentral offers 24/7 year-round phone and web support. Additionally, customers are granted access to a knowledge base and user forum.
Company overview: Atos is the parent company of the Unify UCaaS platform. Atos is a French multinational IT service company headquartered in Bezons, France. In 2016, the company acquired Unify from Gores Group and Siemens. Since that time, the company has been successfully acquiring a sizable enterprise customer base for the Circuit platform.
Product overview: Circuit is a voice, messaging, file sharing and video conferencing platform that is very much app-focused as opposed to hardware-focused. While PSTN calling is available, it's not what sets this SaaS product apart from the others in the UCaaS market. That said, it does have most standard office desk and conference phone features that businesses demand.
Licenses come in one of three pricing tiers: Team, Professional and Enterprise. The differences between them largely revolve around what UC features the user needs. Voice calling does require either a professional or enterprise license.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: Most customers who gravitate toward Circuit will likely opt to use the integrated softphone features available in the Circuit desktop and mobile apps. That said, Circuit offers what it calls "telephony connectors" to connect to a separate, on-premises VoIP PBX or phones using SIP. These connections can then add SIP-capable phones if the customer desires. Unify does not sell its own desk or conference phone hardware.
Technical support options: Unify has English-speaking, 24/7 year-round call-in support with help desk centers located in both the United States and Europe. Unify offers support in German Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central European Time. Other support options include an FAQ, user and administration documentation and an active user community.
8x8 X Series
Company overview: 8x8 Inc. is a cloud-focused collaboration service provider headquartered in California. Since 2002, 8x8 has offered VoIP as a service. Over the years, the company has added other UCaaS services, including online meetings, team chat and a contact center.
Product overview: The 8x8 X Series platform is the company's flagship product that encompasses UC services such as voice, online meetings and an inbound and outbound contact center. Customers purchase one of four different license types depending on their needs. X2 is the cheapest license and includes features such as unlimited calling to 14 countries, an auto attendant, call recording, video and audio conferencing and integration opportunities with third-party apps, such as Google G Suite, Salesforce and Zendesk. The next license level is X4, which adds unlimited calling to 47 countries, additional analytics capabilities and an operator switchboard. Both the X6 and X8 licenses are for call center employees. These licenses add features such as interactive voice response, queued and web callback capabilities and contact center reporting and analytics.
Collaboration hardware and software endpoint options: 8x8 supports a range of third-party SIP phones from companies such as Cisco, Poly and Yealink. Companies can purchase these phones directly from 8x8 or purchase them independently. 8x8 also supports its own desktop and smartphone app that integrates voice, video and team chat into a single application.
Technical support options: 8x8 manages global support in three different geographic locations: the U.S., U.K. and France. Customers can create online support cases or communicate with support technicians via phone or through web chat.
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