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Practical Barriers to Unified Communications as a Service

TMCnet Feature

August 02, 2013

Practical Barriers to Unified Communications as a Service

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
TMCnet Contributor

In the telecom acronym space, there are few quite as busy as UCaaS, otherwise known as unified communications (UC) as a service. The concept, in which a wide variety of communications applications are delivered to a user’s desktop by a third party over a network with a very high degree of availability, is much discussed in the press. In reality, however, the number of companies using UCaaS is still very small.

UCaaS will allow enterprise customers access to telephony, presence technology, enterprise messaging, videoconferencing, online meetings and events and more, from anywhere they have an Internet connection. It’s ideal for both small companies, large enterprises and everything in between…at least in theory.

According to many analysts, we’re not quite there yet. Many companies have deployed some variation of the idea, but few are using the whole enchilada. To date, most unified communications installations are premise-based.

“Fair to say the results to date for UCaaS have been modest,” wrote Joseph Williams for Unified Communications (News - Alert) Strategies. “Much of the cited growth in UCaaS comes from counting cloud-based point communication solutions (video, conferencing, voice). These may be aggregated on a price list but usually are not technically integrated with each other and rarely are truly unified in any meaningful way by identity, presence and with other productivity applications.”

Williams says one of the biggest obstacles to true UCaaS has been a lack of a robust multi-tenant UCaaS environment for service providers to sell, as well as a lack of credible demand generation from vendors for their UCaaS solutions. Microsoft (News - Alert) Lync, which is often held up as an example as a disruption to the unified communications marketplace, is ideally for messaging, some presence, video conferencing and collaboration, but it’s hardly a telephony product. Other products held up as true UCaaS are simply a collection of cloud-based point communications. Still more meet more of the criteria but aren’t truly multitenant, Williams writes.

Even where UCaaS solutions exist, many companies are still depreciating an expensive PBX (News - Alert) and are unwilling to make such a drastic switch. On the service provider side, many providers aren’t quite ready to administer a true UCaaS solution for a client with the kind of 24/7 demands it’s likely to make on them.

“Toss in issues with legacy handsets, mobile devices, regulatory requirements, and ill-defined enterprise requirements for UC (let alone for the cloud) and it really is not a surprise that UCaaS has not exploded yet,” concludes Williams.

While this certainly doesn’t mean that the market for UCaaS solutions will fail to thrive, it may take a little longer than the marketing brochures would have us think.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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