Many people believe hosted voice and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) are the same thing. I suppose you could argue they’re similar, and certainly Hosted Voice is a component of UCaaS since you can’t have UCaaS without a dial tone. However, I think there are several differences. When considering moving away from an on-premises phone system (or any system for that matter), customers must look at the risks and rewards, along with the use cases of doing one versus another. My colleagues and I are finding there are many different reasons customers are looking into moving their communications systems to the cloud. 

UCaaS and hosted voice were actually some of the first “cloud” technologies. They weren’t called cloud initially though; there were terms like Centrex, audio and web conferencing and Skype. These types of technologies have evolved, but ultimately they maintain the same premise: Pay for what is consumed and owning, housing or maintaining these systems isn’t the responsibility of the customer. As a result, using cloud services for UC has become considerably more commonplace than owning. Would someone maintain their own web collaboration server today? Very unlikely given WebEx, Lync Online and many others have changed the game when it comes to UC. Once again, customers have become accustomed to firing up a WebEx or making a Microsoft Office Communicator call.

At the end of the day, UC and the subsequent components are becoming more widespread. Most customers who have a major event (e.g., merger, acquisition, new venture or a pending end of life or support scenario) are now considering cloud as a consumption method for UC.

Hosted voice is really a use case for a customer who says, “I simply want dial tone, and I want it cheap.” I argue hosted voice is simply voice services delivered over a network. Most clients opt for delivery over the public Internet, basic calling features and – potentially – mobility. That’s it: no bells and whistles, and no need to pay for them either. Think companies who have tons of old analog lines (public switched telephone lines or plain old telephone service [POTS]) who are paying an average of 40-plus dollars per month per line. Hosted voice provides the promise of delivering over the public Internet, receiving a new phone and proving some level of redundancy with mobility applications, as well as auto fail-over to another phone number. Many clients in retail, healthcare, food services and others find they have a need for basic dial tone and a low cost. We are finding pricing (taxes excluded) are less than 25 dollars per month per line usually including a new phone, mobility software, unlimited minutes and full support. It just makes sense for these types of customers and adoption rates (given the disruptive pricing in the market) are quite high.

UCaaS, on the other hand, takes more due diligence than a simple hosted voice setup. Integration with existing applications, investment in assets which may not be fully depreciated and vendor lock-in are all areas clients can explore as part of UCaaS deployment. What type of instant messaging, chat and video is needed or supported? How does the call center software integrate with the existing applications setup (e.g., supply chain or manufacturing automation)? UCaaS and hosted contact center, specifically, will require a longer review period, be more granular, as well as potentially more difficult. Both consumption models (e.g., dedicated versus third party hosted) have benefits, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons for what’s best for your company.

CDW is uniquely positioned to assist clients in making these decisions. We have no preference to specific consumption models, nor do we align with only one supplier, partner or vendor. We will help customers decide where they can leverage existing assets and investments, and how to effectively consume these technologies with an eye toward the past, as well as the future.

Interested to learn more about what Unified Communications solutions are right for your organization? Contact your account executive or check out our collection of UC white papers, data sheets and articles to learn more.