VoIP vs. UCaaS – Understanding the Differences


Cloud technology has led to just about everything being offered up as a service, and unified communications (UC) hasn’t been left out. The result is UC as a Service (UCaaS).

With some vendors offering hosted voice over IP (VoIP) communications, there has been some confusion over whether UC or UCaaS is the better solution. To determine which solution makes more sense for your organization, you must first understand the differences between the two options.

VoIP: The Key Components

VoIP solutions have made a name for themselves in most businesses because of their flexibility and the cost savings they offer. With a VoIP solution, you can move a phone to any physical location with a live network jack. Because the phone is programmed, the number remains the same; it also means that you can rely on your existing network infrastructure for your communications system. There’s no need to run separate lines for your phones, as with a private branch exchange system.

Key features of a VoIP solution include:

  • The ability to make and receive calls over an internet connection;
  • Use of softphones installed on a computer rather than a traditional handset;
  • Call logs;
  • Call transcriptions;
  • Number porting;
  • Call monitoring;
  • Dial-in conferencing; and
  • Call forwarding.

Some VoIP solutions include options for mobile phone applications, as well.

UCaaS: The Key Components

UCaaS allows for the same features as a VoIP-only offering. The distinguishing feature of UCaaS is its focus on communications.

A UCaaS solution takes communications much farther than VoIP, with the key feature being video. If you want to enable your co-workers to make face-to-face calls or participate in video conferencing that allows file sharing, then UCaaS is the route to take.

Adding video isn’t the only communication rolled into UCaaS solutions, however. Some solutions allow for:

  • Chat communications;
  • Text messaging;
  • Shared calendars;
  • Joint file storage for document sharing and increased collaboration;
  • Group project management; and
  • Sending and receiving faxes.

With the help of integrations into other applications, such as customer relationship management solutions like Salesforce, help desk applications, and personal information managers like Microsoft Outlook, you can launch calls from other platforms directly.

The Cloud Difference

UCaaS is a traditional cloud service, so you have the added benefits common among other cloud technologies. For instance, you don’t need an on-premises infrastructure to make this work. You have the option to host communications entirely on the severs and data centers your vendor provides—no capital outlay required.

UCaaS plans are also flexible. They’re often based on a subscription model, so you pay only for what you need. If you have seasonal needs or your business experiences increased growth, you can easily add or remove users to meet those needs. You pay only for what you’re using at that time.

Curtis Peterson, senior vice president of cloud operations at RingCentral, sums up the differences like this:

“VoIP is usually just a voice service provider, inbound and outbound calls. UCaaS is basically looking at all business communications and putting them over IP . . . . VoIP is a single mode. UCaaS is multimodal: texting, chatting, video conferencing, screen sharing, video meetings. But, it uses VoIP to power the voice part.”

So again, it all comes down to which type of communications you expect in your organization. If standard phone calls are the norm and you don’t use anything more, then VoIP may be the better bet. If you plan to expand how your users communicate or intend to foster a highly collaborative environment, then UCaaS may be the better option.

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