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Mobility and application program interfaces (APIs) are driving the UC as a service (UCaaS) market, as organizations take a mobile-first approach to unified communications, according to a recent Gartner Magic Quadrant report for the global UCaaS market.
Many organizations today have employees who only use mobile devices and softphones, and are deploying location-based services on mobile devices to develop communications-enabled business processes (CEBP).
Many UCaaS providers now offer APIs to allow organizations to integrate UC with cloud applications, such as Salesforce, Dropbox and Zendesk. APIs help organizations operate more efficiently by allowing them to embed direct calling in Salesforce or add a call-recording feature that archives data in Google Drive.
The Magic Quadrant named three leaders in the UCaaS market: RingCentral Inc., 8x8 Inc. and West IP Communications.
RingCentral is one of the largest providers in the UCaaS market, and is expanding its capabilities through integrations with Google Apps for Business and Office 365, Gartner said. But RingCentral lacks strong brand awareness for businesses with more than 2,000 employees and is still maturing its services for large enterprises with more than 5,000 employees.
Gartner said 8x8 has expanded its contact-center capabilities by integrating them with its Virtual Office service and is adding features, including security, compliance, analytics and APIs. Gartner cautioned that 8x8's Virtual Meeting service lacks integration with leading third-party video platforms and offers limited group tools for larger Web conferences.
West was recognized as an established provider that offers multiple UCaaS services for midsize enterprises ranging from 500 to 5,000 employees. West has augmented its offerings with high-end video conferencing, contact center and integration with Skype for Business. However, West is weak in supporting advanced capabilities, such as analytics, mobility and business application integration, Gartner reported.
Other ranked vendors in the UCaaS market include Microsoft, Google, BT and Verizon in the challengers quadrant; ThinkingPhones, Mitel Networks Corp. and Orange Business Services in the visionaries quadrant; and NTT Communications and ShoreTel in the niche quadrant.
CenturyLink launches hosted VoIP app
CenturyLink announced the release of its new application, Business Communicator, which connects business VoIP users to their UC services from computers and other devices. The app provides access to UC tools, such as voice and video, regardless of whether an employee is working in or out of the office.
The app's features include high-definition voice and video calling, conferencing, desktop sharing, instant messaging and presence through CenturyLink's hosted VoIP service. The app lets users make calls from their mobile devices with their office phone number.
The app is available for Android and iOS devices, as well as on communication service provider BroadSoft's BroadWorks platform, which allows CenturyLink to offer hosted VoIP and Session Initiation Protocol trunking services.
CenturyLink was recently ranked as the No. 2 SIP trunking provider in North America by IHS Infonetics Research. According to the ranking, CenturyLink jumped up from the bottom of the pack after making a concerted effort to grow its VoIP business and building partnerships.
UC tools driving employee productivity
The two UC tools that have the most direct, positive impact on productivity are presence detection and multichannel contact centers, the study found. Presence detection allows users to see who is available and the best method of communication. Multichannel contact centers decrease the average time it takes to resolve customer issues.
The study, commissioned by hosted VoIP provider XO Communications LLC, examined the usage, perceptions and adoption of UC tools. The majority of end users surveyed said their organization provides employees with instant messaging, desktop sharing tools, and Web, audio and video conferencing.
But the study found that some UC and collaboration tools are widely deployed, but rarely used. For example, half of the users reported having access to video conferencing, but held conferences less than once a week.
Training has a large impact on the value users reap from their UC tools. One in four users said they hadn't received sufficient training to get the maximum value from their tools, and nearly half of the users said their training was only somewhat sufficient. One-third of users said they felt like they needed more training to use tools like video conferencing.
Lifesize releases WebRTC conferencing app
Lifesize announced the launch of its Lifesize Cloud Web App for users of the Google Chrome Web browser. The WebRTC-based Web conferencing service includes high-definition video, chat and screen sharing.
The app aims to support IT initiatives to move to the cloud and bring video conferencing to an organization, without the need for proprietary technology. The app also offers single sign-on to minimize workflow disruptions. While the app is currently only available on Google Chrome, it will soon roll out to Internet Explorer and Firefox.
"The implications of WebRTC are profound. By 2019, there will be more than 6 billion devices supporting WebRTC," said Craig Malloy, CEO of Lifesize, based in Austin, Texas. "Until now, video collaboration tools haven't met the needs of the growing number of organizations migrating to cloud-based apps. CIOs can now scale video -- and empower employees to freely reach all internal and external stakeholders -- without increasing complexity or demands on infrastructure and support."
Lifesize Cloud will also offer a voice and content-only Web conferencing mode that allows users to connect and share screens with up to 40 participants, without needing to open a new app.
The UCaaS market is not just for small businesses anymore.
WebRTC makes conferencing with Lifesize Cloud easy.
Is training necessary for adopting UC tools?