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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Integrating unified communications products and other UC trends

CPaaS vs. UCaaS platform: Which should you choose?

While the CPaaS vs. UCaaS debate might focus on overlapping features, the two technologies can be complementary, according to industry analyst Michael Brandenburg.

On the surface, unified communications as a service, or UCaaS, and communications platform as a service, or CPaaS,...

provide similar services, such as voice, video and messaging. However, the distinction is how businesses or users interact with a CPaaS or UCaaS platform and the specific use cases the platforms may serve.

A UCaaS platform focuses on providing a high-quality experience for business users by giving them consolidated access to communications and collaboration tools. Consumers often use a desk phone, desktop client software or a mobile app.

UCaaS is often seen as replacing or consolidating existing telephony, conferencing and collaboration services, such as on-premises PBXs and stand-alone web, desktop or video conferencing services. UCaaS platforms provide a front-end interface to allow users to communicate and collaborate with co-workers, suppliers, partners and customers.

CPaaS, too, offers voice, video and messaging services. But, with CPaaS, the business applications -- rather than the users -- largely interact with the service because of the use of APIs. Developers use CPaaS technology to embed communications within their third-party business applications to create an integrated experience.

The most common CPaaS use case today is integrating SMS notifications into an organization's scheduling application. For example, a doctor's office can have its medical practice management software automatically remind patients of upcoming appointments or when it's time to renew prescriptions. Customers can reply via SMS on their device to acknowledge the notification, and the application can record their response.

CPaaS can also drive other machine-to-person interactions, such as interactive voice response, or allow developers to incorporate core communications within an application. Tapping an icon within a retailer's mobile app, for example, can connect a customer directly with a personal shopper or customer service representative without leaving the app, using CPaaS as the communications bridge behind the scenes.

The relationship between UCaaS and CPaaS is actually very complementary. Today's customers are increasingly demanding communication with businesses in their preferred method, whether it's voice, SMS or even social media. A CPaaS platform on top of a UCaaS platform can extend an organization's ability to interact with a wide range of customers without complete ripping and replacing its communications infrastructure.

Do you have a question for Michael Brandenburg or any other experts? Ask your enterprise-specific questions today! (All questions are treated anonymously.)

This was last published in March 2018

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