Written by Julia Watts Updated on September 18, 2023 On this page How Does Unified Communications Work? The Benefits of Unified Communications Why Is Unified Communications So Important? Unified Communications as a Service The Features of Unified Communications Technologies The Challenges of Unified Communications Unified Communications: Key Takeaways Expand Our site is reader-supported – by clicking our links, we can match you with a potential supplier, and we may earn a small commission for this referral. Unified communications (UC) is the integration of several business communication tools — such as voice calling, instant messaging, content sharing, and video conferencing — within a single interface, accessible across multiple devices.Unified communications technology includes messaging apps and business phone systems, and it can be expanded to encompass other solutions, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The seamless integration of different platforms can massively improve user experience and productivity.In this article, we'll cover why unified communications is so important, along with its main features, benefits, and drawbacks. How Does Unified Communications Work?Unified communications works by bringing the functionality of several back-end applications to a single front-end interface.The back-end is largely comprised of hardware and is the structure on which your UC system will run. These will include anything from headsets, cameras, conference room devices, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones.The front-end, on the other hand, is mainly application-based. It unites programs that allow your employees and colleagues to instant message, content share, and video call each other, using the devices connected on the back-end. The Benefits of Unified CommunicationsReduces CostsRather than having multiple technologies to deal with, all with varying costs, UC provides an all-in-one service. Additionally, it allows your employees to easily work remotely, reducing the need for office space. UCaaS solutions also reduce operational costs and the manpower needed for maintenance.Enhances Collaboration and TeamworkUC allows teams to collaborate more easily, which breaks down silos. Employees have access to each other and the same software across the organisation, no matter where they are based. This makes sharing and staying in touch easier, and gives employees greater flexibility.Increases ProductivityUC simplifies communication and streamlines processes, which allows teams to accomplish more than before within the same timeframe.Improves Customer EngagementWith UC, businesses can solve customer problems faster, and in turn improve their business’s reputation.Gives Greater MobilityUC gives people more freedom to work as they choose, which increases business mobility.Easy to Set UpUC setup can be done by a provider and so doesn’t require vast IT knowledge. It can simply be migrated to your existing infrastructure. This also reduces the need for maintenance staff.Good for Businesses of All SizesUCaaS allows you to have bespoke features, so you can pay only for what you need – whether you’re a company with a thousand employees or 50. ▶ Read more: How Does Telecommuting Improve Productivity? Why Is Unified Communications So Important?Unified communications is important to business as it fosters collaboration and helps with the management of new remote work arrangements, which have steadily risen throughout the globe from 2020 onwards. Some recent research shows:Global unified communications market is projected to reach a value of $167.1 billion by 2025.This market is also expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.4% between 2023 to 2030.By 2030, 3 in 4 companies will be using UC for business communications97% of organizations say remote work boosted interest in UC.44% of businesses expect UC to help deliver better customer outcomes.As of now, two in five US workers work remotely in some capacity (according to a Stanford University survey published in February 2023). In our own research, conducted in August 2023, we found out that a whopping 95% of the companies we asked plan on continuing with hybrid and remote work.This shift to the digital workforce has led companies to think more carefully about how they can best communicate with employees whilst everyone is working from different locations. For example, there was a sudden need for IP voice telephony, which aided in accelerating the growth of UC.Businesses are diverse and complex. They are made up of various teams using differing technologies, information systems, and devices. One employee may have multiple different ways of contacting customers or collaborating with colleagues, including VoIP, instant messaging, emails, project management software, and document sharing.This makes tracking communication with customers and keeping track of various projects and information difficult. This can lead to repeat work, and the delivery of poor customer service. Unified communications exists to make communication a whole lot more streamlined and interconnected.To put it simply, rather than having a patchwork quilt of various technologies, unified communications allows you to have an all-in-one solution. Unified Communications as a ServiceCommonly referred to as UCaaS, this refers to unified communications software that is hosted by an external provider on the cloud. This means you don’t have to set up your own technology infrastructure – instead it is installed by a specialist UCaaS provider. Many UCaaS providers also offer contact center capabilities, including call routing, auto attendant, and CRM integrations.There are two main types of UCaaS:1. Single tenancyWith single tenancy software, each user has their own custom UC package. This makes it more flexible to an individual’s needs, however it's usually more expensive.2. Multi-tenancyMultiple users still have their own secure login, but packages are the same across all users. This makes it a cheaper option, however it lacks the flexibility that single tenancy provides. The Features of Unified Communications TechnologiesUcaaS offers hundreds of different features, and the flexibility of the offerings means that you can get a bespoke package for your company. Here are just some of the most popular features:Email/Instant MessagingOne inbox for allYou can get your voice messages, fax, emails and regular text messages sent to a single mailbox that can be accessed either with a telephone or a regular email.TelephonesPresencePresence allows you to know the availability of other users, whether they are online, offline, or away.Click-to-dialSimply refers to calling someone at the click of a button or text. These connections can occur via phone call, SMS or VoIP.Voicemail to emailTried to call a client but they won’t pick up? Instead of leaving an awkward voicemail on their phone, voicemail to email converts the audio into text and gets sent via an email.Find me, follow meThis refers to technology that enables incoming phone calls to be received at different locations, meaning you don’t need multiple numbers for different devices – instead using a one-number-for-all solution.Call controlCall control simply refers to telecom networks monitoring and maintaining connections once they have been established.Speech recognitionSpeech recognition can be used as an effective way of gaining customer requirements and complete identification and verification before being automatically routed. It can also aid in caller sentiment analysis. Although speech recognition is never 100% accurate, it continually learns from callers to improve its success rate of automatic recognition. If the caller is not understood, the call can be sent to a person without the caller knowing.Screen popsA screen pop simply refers to a window or dialogue box that automatically displays all relevant caller and account information on your screen during a call.Disaster recoveryCalls can be re-routed to other locations to ensure no call is missed, and data can still be accessed so that opportunities aren't lost.Call reporting and analyticsSome unified communication systems include analytics solutions, allowing you to gain insights into call duration, call conversion rate, and more.Cell phone twinningCell phone twinning refers to connecting your cell phone to your business desk extension, meaning any call to the desk extension will result in both phones ringing.Auto-attendantAllows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without the intervention of an operator or receptionist.Call routingEnsures the call goes to the most appropriate person through pre-established criteria.Productivity/ConnectivityCRM integrationsHaving the right CRM alongside, or integrated into, your UC system is essential. Integrating the two means you don’t have to look up the same customer separately in both your CRM and billing software. This reduces the time spent looking for customer information.Calendar SyncThis allows you to see when your colleagues or clients are available, so you don’t double book them into any calls.File sharingOften, unified communication technologies will include the ability to share documents and work on them simultaneously. These can be annotated on by those they're shared with.Meetings/EventsVirtual meeting roomA virtual meeting room is a collaborative space that is hosted on the cloud. It's always open, so you don’t need to set anything up. Virtual meeting rooms are perfect for spontaneous calls with three or more participants, weekly team meetings, or customer meetings.Video conferencingVideo conferencing is available across devices, allowing you to share presentations with remote teams. The Challenges of Unified CommunicationsAdoptionPersuading people to change the way they work and adopt more technologies can be a challenge. Companies using UC will need to give training to ensure that uptake is high, and employees properly understand the benefits of this new approach and that it will actually allow for more flexibility. Thankfully, UC is easy to use and adapt to.Security RisksWhen you move your UC to external controls, you are no longer responsible for protecting the sensitive data contained within. However, UCaaS providers understand these risks, and so are ensuring best security measures that utilize session border controllers (SBC), an imperative aspect of UCaaS protection.SBCs can perform encryption and are needed for UC cloud services where firewalls are ineffective, as they don’t understand caller IDs and temporary sessions. All service providers should have an SBC, but it's worth asking to make sure, and to be sure it's compatible with your own.Data EncryptionAll data that passes through your UC provider's network should be encrypted – not just in storage, but also in transit. Voice traffic needs to be encrypted to prevent hacking during the flow of data.Secure Data CenterA UC provider should have its own technology infrastructure with strong protections, redundant power and cooling, remote backups, disaster recovery, and secured entry, and its security should be backed by independent certifications. Find out whether the platform is kept continuously secure through frequent updates.The Risk of Using Personal DevicesThere are risks associated with employees using their personal devices for work, such as data leakage. Furthermore, it is difficult to apply updates on personal devices in a centralized way, as different devices require different data encryption.The Reliability of the ConnectionA key consideration is network connection. UC depends heavily on reliable internet connections, and therefore a local ISP won’t be efficient. It may result in a low quality phone line and slow connections, rendering the purpose of UCaaS ineffective. Ensure your UCaaS provider offers fiber-optic internet connectivity.Customer Renewal RateLooking at (or asking for) a provider’s customer renewal rate can give a clearer indication of how satisfied customers are with the service. Unified Communications: Key TakeawaysUnified communications can provide a more seamless and collaborative way of working that allows your employees to be productive in different work setups. As remote work remains a popular arrangement worldwide, the shift to making communication and collaboration easier is a key course of action for your company to remain competitive.Even taking an office setup into account, UC is still a solid investment, as future workplaces are expected to use more cloud-based communication solutions, with over half of IT spending in the US being redirected to cloud systems by 2025. Adopting UC now is a killer way of keeping up with the current trend and efficiently future-proofing your business. Written by: Julia Watts Software Expert Specialising in business software, Julia writes jargon-busting guides about VoIP, fleet management, dash cams, fuel cards, and more. Having spent almost a decade writing for entrepreneurs and reviewing business solutions, she loves helping exciting ventures – big or small – to flourish.