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    VOIP vs. Unified Communications: What You Need to Know

    By: Matt Kanaskie
    June 21, 2019

    When I begin working with a customer, the first thing we have to uncover is how their business communicates. What ways are employees talking to each other, and are your current means of communication supporting your employees and your business overall?

    Among other things, it's the answers to those questions that will help to determine whether their business is better serviced by VOIP or Unified Communications. But before comparing these two options, let's take a brief overview of each ...

    What is VOIP?

    A business woman walking outside, looking at her cell phone and holding important documents. VOIP (voice over IP), also known as Hosted VOIP and Cloud PBX, all reference the same thing: a voice-centric communication solution. VOIP refers to a traditional phone system that includes phone lines, phone numbers, extensions and voicemail boxes. VOIP is an audio-only communication solution. 

    What is Unified Communications?

    Unified Communications refers to a communication solution where different streams of communication are all integrated. With Unified Communications, you have different streams of communication and different types of media unified into a single platform. It includes methods of communication like chat, voice, video, text messaging and email. It's an integration of all the different ways professionals communicate. 

    VOIP VS. UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS: THE BASICS

    When you start to compare these two solutions, a simple, albeit not perfect, way to understand it is to think about mobile phones. Some of you reading this may remember the early cell phones (I'm talking about before texting was invented) - that's VOIP. Now, if you look at the smart phones of today, where you can text, email, make video calls and download applications - that's Unified Communications. 

    I should clarify one thing: In the example above, the mobile phones are devices, whereas VOIP and Unified Communications are software solutions, but it's a good way to start understanding the difference between the two. 

    So, Unified Communications is a sophisticated, integrated system that also makes phone calls. With it, you can still have an extension, and you can still do all of the simple phone stuff. But you can also do so much more. 

    VOIP VS. UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS: WHICH DO I NEED?

    To understand which solution your business needs, it's important to understand how your employees are communicating. I meet with some customers for the first time and they say, "I just need a phone system." And while sometimes that's true, after digging a little deeper we uncover that their employees are using lots of other communications tools in addition to their phones. 

    How Do Your Employees Really Communicate?

    Typically, organizations will have clusters of employees who communicate using alternate streams of communication. Most companies have an email platform that everyone uses. Beyond email, there's usually a group of employees who use a chat feature and another group that uses Skype or Google Hangouts for video conferencing and another group who uses a different platform to communicate. 

    There are a few things that are problematic with all of these different communication platforms:

    • They do not communicate with each other
    • They're not designed for professional use
    • They don't all keep a history of communications
    • You cannot seamlessly switch from one to the other

    Unified Communications is Different

    With Unified Communications, you can be having a chat with another employee, press a button and turn that chat into a phone call. Then, if you have a question, it's just another button to invite another person to join. If something isn't quite making sense, you can escalate to a video call by, you guessed it, hitting another button. Additional features, like screen sharing, are another single click away. Not only can the communication flow easily from one stream to another, but there is a log, or record, of the conversation that you can return to later or share with an individual who was busy in a meeting during that time. 

    When your company communicates with Unified Communications, everything is integrated, and everything is handled through a single vendor. It's specifically designed for simplicity and user-friendliness. 

    To find out which communication technology is best suited for your business, try our flowchart

    What Communication Technology is Best for Your Business? Try Our Interactive Flowchart

    Topics: Voice, Unified Communication, UCaaS, VOIP
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