- 8x8 eXperience: eXperience
- Nextiva: Nextiva
- 3CX: 3CX
- Slack: Slack
- Cisco Webex: Webex
- Zoom: Zoom
- RingCentral: RingCentral
- Microsoft Teams: Teams
As businesses have become increasingly globalized and remote work-driven, unified communications platforms have become an essential tool to stay connected and maintain team collaboration. By definition, unified communications platforms provide a single interface for communication between customers, teams and colleagues from different parts of the world.
SEE: Mobile device security policy (TechRepublic Premium)
In this guide, we’ve evaluated some of the top unified communications platform providers and their features to help you determine the best option for your own business. Whether it’s a small business or a global enterprise, UC technology can be right-sized for your organization.
- Top unified communications platforms
- An introduction to unified communications platforms
- Benefits of using unified communications platforms
- How to choose the best UC platform for your business
Top unified communications platforms
Unified communications platforms help businesses streamline communication and collaboration between individuals, teams, departments and organizations. This section examines the top unified communication platforms available today, discussing the features and benefits of each one.
|30-day free trial
|Yes (Team chat available as a separate app)
8×8 eXperience is a comprehensive cloud communications and contact center platform designed to help businesses of all sizes improve customer service and collaboration. It offers features such as unified communications, a contact center, video conferencing, analytics and artificial intelligence.
It is built on a single, secure platform and provides a unified experience across voice, video, chat and team collaboration. 8×8 eXperience also provides powerful insights into customer behavior and agent performance, enabling businesses to make smarter decisions. 8×8 eXperience is designed to help businesses increase customer satisfaction, reduce operational costs and drive growth.
Features of 8×8 eXperience
- VoIP phone system: The virtual phone system can be integrated with existing phone lines or used as a stand-alone system. The system offers features such as an auto attendant, call routing, voicemail and call recording.
- Video conferencing: 8×8 eXperience supports up to 500 participants in HD quality and offers features such as screen sharing and recording.
- Chat and collaboration: Its chat and collaboration solution can be integrated with email, calendars and other applications, offering features such as group chat and file sharing.
- Cloud storage: Its secure cloud storage solution can be used to store files, documents and other data.
- Contact center: The contact center solution includes features such as call routing, customer analytics and reporting.
- Security and compliance: 8×8 eXperience is compliant with industry standards such as HIPAA, GDPR, FISMA and Privacy Shield and offers features such as encryption and two-factor authentication.
- Integrations: A comprehensive set of application programming interfaces allow businesses to integrate their communications systems with other applications, such as customer relationship management systems.
- HD audio and video conferencing
- Unlimited calling within U.S. and Canada
- Mobile and desktop applications
- Customer support could be improved
- The user interface could be more intuitive
This vendor offers six pricing plans. They include the following:
- Express: $15 per user per month
- X2: $28 per user per month or $24 per user per month billed annually
- X4: $57 per user per month or $44 per user per month billed annually
- X6: $85 per user per month
- X7: $110 per user per month
- X8: $140 per user per month
Nextiva is a business voice over Internet Protocol provider that provides cloud-based unified communications solutions. These include VoIP phone systems, email, messaging, customer surveys and team rooms.
Nextiva offers additional features and services, including call center solutions, analytics and workflow automation. It also provides desktop and mobile apps, letting users make and receive calls, send and receive faxes, and manage contacts from any device.
Features of Nextiva
- Unlimited calling within the U.S. and Canada: Nextiva offers unlimited calling within the U.S. and Canada, helping businesses reduce their phone bills and maintain consistent communication.
- VoIP: Nextiva’s VoIP technology allows businesses to make and receive calls over the internet, eliminating the need for a physical phone line.
- Fax to email: Nextiva’s fax-to-email feature allows businesses to send and receive faxes via email rather than using a physical fax machine.
- Call queuing: This feature allows businesses to manage call volume by creating queues for incoming calls.
- Hold music: This feature allows businesses to play music while customers are on hold.
- 24×7 customer support for all plans
- Mobile and desktop apps
- Integration with calendars, such as Google and Outlook
- Real-time system status alerts
- Steep learning curve
- Some users have reported that the mobile app infrequently crashes
Nextiva uses a sliding scale to determine rates; the more employees you have, the lower the cost. The pricing information below is for businesses with 100+ users.
- Essential: $24.95 per user per month or $20.95 per user per month billed annually
- Professional: $29.95 per user per month or $25.95 per user per month billed annually
- Enterprise: $39.95 per user per month or $35.95 per user per month billed annually
3CX is a unified communications solution that allows companies to manage their phone system and communications easily. It is an open-standard, software-based IP private branch exchange that works with popular IP phones, Session Initiation Protocol trunks and VoIP providers to provide a full PBX solution. This approach to PBX comes without the inflated cost and management headaches of a traditional PBX.
3CX provides unified communications features such as video conferencing, web conferencing, presence, chat, softphones and webRTC. 3CX also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android, allowing users to make and receive calls, schedule conferences, have video calls and chat all from their mobile devices.
Features of 3CX
- Unified communications platform: 3CX’s unified communications platform integrates the features of a modern business telephone system with VoIP, video conferencing, instant messaging, presence and CRM.
- Mobile apps: Mobile apps are available for iOS and Android, allowing users to make and receive calls and manage their contacts from mobile devices.
- Web conferencing: 3CX offers web conferencing solutions with screen sharing, video conferencing and audio conferencing.
- Auto attendants: 3CX provides auto attendants, which allow incoming calls to be automatically answered and routed to the correct person or department.
- CRM integration: Integration with popular accounting systems, ERP and CRM tools allows users to access customer information while on the phone and quickly respond to customer inquiries.
- Call recording: 3CX includes call recording capabilities, so conversations can be easily saved and reviewed.
- Advanced call reporting: Advanced call reporting allows managers to track call volumes and durations while analyzing other call trends.
- Free plan available
- Support for WhatsApp integration
- Allows document sharing, chat and polling
- Extensive integration capabilities
- Mobile app interface could be improved
- Requires a local integrator during SIP trunk setup due to its complexity (applicable to most SIP solutions)
3CX provides six different payment options: Three hosted plans, two self-managed plans and a free plan for organizations with up to 10 staff members. Pricing depends on the number of users, with a sliding scale in place. The rates below are for 0 to 20 users, but you can check the 3CX website for quotes tailored to your needs.
- Startup Free: Free for 10 users
- Startup Pro: $275 per year for up to 20 users
- Dedicated Pro: $515 per year (8 sim calls)
- Dedicated Enterprise: $575 per year (8 sim calls)
- Dedicated Pro: $265 yearly (8 sim calls)
- Dedicated Enterprise: $180 annually (4 sim calls)
Slack is a collaboration hub that brings together teams, information and tools for workplace communication and collaboration. The platform makes it easy to share messages, documents and files as well as search for information in a unified system. With Slack, you can create channels for different teams, departments, topics and projects, and you can set up direct messages for one-on-one conversations.
Slack allows users to communicate and collaborate in real time and is used by teams across different industries. The tool allows you to integrate apps and services from around the web, giving you direct access to the other business tools you need to stay productive.
Features of Slack
- Team messaging: Teams can communicate in real time using Slack’s messaging feature.
- File sharing: Slack makes it easy to share files, photos and documents with team members.
- Video and voice calls: Slack has integrated video and audio features that allow teams to communicate face-to-face.
- Automation: Slack can be integrated with other software to automate workflow processes.
- Customization: Teams can customize their workspace to fit their specific needs and preferences.
- Third-party integrations: Slack can be integrated with other software to add extra functionality.
- Channel organization: Teams can create channels to organize conversations around specific topics.
- Searchable history: Slack stores all conversations and allows users to easily search for past conversations.
- Security: Robust security measures are in place to protect data and user accounts. The platform includes SAML-based single sign-on, data loss prevention and HIPAA compliance features.
- Integrates with over 2,000 third-party tools
- Highly customizable
- Easy to use
- Easily accessible from mobile devices and tablets
- Robust search capabilities
- Low audio and video call quality
- Overwhelming amounts of information and channels
- Can be expensive for large teams
Slack offers three paid plans and a free plan.
- Pro: $8.75 per user per month billed monthly or $7.25 per user per month billed annually
- Business+: $15 per user per month billed monthly or $12.50 per user per month billed annually
- Enterprise grid: Contact sales for custom quotes
Cisco Webex is a cloud-based collaboration platform that provides a comprehensive set of tools to enable teams to work together from anywhere. It specializes in audio, video and web conferencing.
It is a great solution for online meetings, real-time messaging and file sharing, and whiteboarding. Webex provides secure and reliable communication solutions for businesses of all sizes, from small startups to large enterprises.
Features of Webex
- Video conferencing: Webex allows users to host video meetings with up to 100 participants, with features such as screen sharing, whiteboarding, breakout rooms and file sharing.
- Audio conferencing: Webex provides VoIP audio conferencing services, allowing up to 1,000 participants onto a single call.
- Webinars: Webinar capabilities allow presenters to share slides, videos and other content with large virtual audiences.
- Training: Tools for virtual training include live chat, polling and reporting capabilities.
- Integration: Webex integrates with popular applications such as Salesforce and Slack and Cisco’s own unified communications platform.
- Security: Various security features protect users’ privacy, including end-to-end encryption, password protection and identity verification.
- Highly scalable and able to accommodate large meetings
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android devices
- Integrates with many popular business applications and platforms
- Ideal setup for remote work and communication
- Not transparent with pricing
- Steep learning curve
Webex pricing plans are available upon request, but pricing is not listed on the provider website. Cisco’s approach to pricing for Webex allows companies to customize their plan according to their particular needs and budget.
Zoom is a video and web conferencing platform that facilitates communication between users and allows them to collaborate on projects remotely. It is designed to be simple and user-friendly, allowing users to host online meetings, webinars and virtual conferences.
The platform includes features such as screen sharing, chat, audio conferencing, whiteboarding and video conferencing that can support up to 1,000 participants. Zoom is available on desktop and mobile devices and can be used for one-to-one and group meetings. It is one of the most popular video conferencing tools used by businesses, educational institutions and home users.
Features of Zoom
- Meeting scheduling: Users can quickly and easily schedule meetings with colleagues, clients and other contacts with Zoom’s simple-to-use drag-and-drop interface.
- Screen sharing: Zoom allows users to share their screens with others in their meetings, which is particularly helpful for presentations, collaborative project work and document sharing.
- Video conferencing: High-quality video conferencing capabilities let users connect remotely and securely. It supports up to 100 participants in a meeting and provides features such as video recording, background blur and virtual backgrounds.
- Chat rooms: Zoom allows users to create private chat rooms for their meetings, which makes it easy to communicate with participants.
- VoIP calling: VoIP calling allows users to make and receive calls without needing a traditional phone line. This feature is beneficial for users who are working remotely or who are in different countries.
- Virtual backgrounds: Zoom’s virtual backgrounds allows users to customize their video call backgrounds with various images or videos. This can help create a more professional and engaging environment.
- Breakout rooms: Zoom allows users to divide a meeting into multiple breakout rooms. This feature makes it easy to have small group discussions within a larger meeting, which is beneficial for large meetings with many participants.
- Free version is available with limited features
- Easy to use with an intuitive user interface
- High-quality video and audio streaming
- Advanced features for screen sharing, whiteboarding, breakout rooms and virtual backgrounds
- Available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android devices
- Time limit for free tier
- Add-ons cost extra
- Video and audio quality can be unreliable and laggy at times, especially in large meetings
Zoom offers several pricing plans for businesses of all sizes.
- Basic: This is a free plan. It’s best for small businesses and teams of up to 100 participants. It includes up to 40 minutes of meeting time per session with HD video and audio.
- Pro: The cost is $14.99 per month per user or $140.90 per year per user.
- Business: The cost is $19.99 per month per user or $199.90 per year per user.
- Enterprise: Contact sales for custom pricing.
RingCentral is a cloud-based business phone system that provides an all-in-one solution for businesses of all sizes. This unified communications platform includes video conferencing, messaging, voice, SMS and MMS, and team collaboration tools. It also integrates with popular third-party applications such as Salesforce and Microsoft Office.
RingCentral offers add-on services, such as the RingCentral rooms license ($49 per room per month or $468 per year), additional vanity numbers ($30 one-time fee) and additional international numbers ($5.99 per user per month). The tool is designed to simplify business communications, helping businesses save time and money while improving employee productivity.
Features of RingCentral
- Integrations: The platform integrates with various third-party applications, including Salesforce, Google Workspace, Salesforce, Zendesk, Microsoft 365 and Dropbox.
- VoIP Phone Service: Its robust voice service includes auto attendant, call routing, conference calling and voicemail.
- Messaging and collaboration: RingCentral includes a team messaging and collaboration tool, which allows users to communicate with each other and share files.
- Multi-site admin and management: This is a great feature for managers that oversee distributed teams.
- Unlimited calls within the U.S. and Canada
- Mobile apps for iOS and Android
- Integrations with Citrix and VMware virtual desktop
- Real-time analytics
- 24/7 support not available for the Essentials plan
- Software is a bit buggy
- Add-ons cost extra
RingCentral offers several paid plans. It uses a sliding scale to determine your rate. Pricing for the contact center plans is available on request.
RingCentral MVP plans are best for teams with one to 20 users.
- Essentials: $32.99 per user per month billed monthly or $19.99 per month billed annually
- Standards: $40.99 per user per month billed monthly or $27.99 per month billed annually
- Premium: $47.99 per user per month billed monthly or $27.99 per month billed annually
- Ultimate: $62.99 per user per month billed monthly or $36.99 per month billed annually
RingCentral Video plans are best for teams with one to 99 users.
- RingCentral Video Pro: Free
- RingCentral Video Pro+: $11.99 per user per month
Microsoft Teams is a collaboration platform that combines workplace chat, video meetings, file storage and application integration. It enables teams to collaborate and communicate securely in an organized way from desktop and mobile devices.
Teams features a persistent chat functionality, allowing users to send messages, share files and collaborate in real-time. It also offers audio and video calling, integrated applications, task management, and polls and surveys. With Teams, users can access and share files across the organization, work on projects and tasks together in real time, and quickly find relevant information and conversations.
Features of Microsoft Teams
- Video and audio conferencing: Microsoft Teams allows users to host virtual meetings with over 200 people, either through video or audio conference.
- Chat and collaboration: Users can chat and collaborate in real time, with features such as threaded conversations, @mentions, and group chat options.
- File storage and sharing: Users can store and share files with other team members. Teams also integrates with OneDrive and SharePoint, making it easy to access and share files.
- Task management: Teams allows users to create tasks, assign them to team members and track their progress.
- Customization: Workspace colors, backgrounds and themes can all be customized.
- Integrates well with other Microsoft apps
- Free plan
- Live captions
- Over 250 integrated apps and services for Teams
- Up to 30 hours of one-on-one meeting durations for all plans
- Works best in Microsoft-centric environments
- Can run slowly on occasion
- Limited number of channels
Microsoft offers four paid plans, as well as a free plan.
- Microsoft Teams: Free
- Microsoft Teams Essentials: $4 per user per month
- Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $6 per user per month
- Microsoft 365 Business Standard: $12.50 per user per month
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium: $22 per user per month
An introduction to unified communications platforms
Unified communications is an umbrella term used to describe a set of communication tools that facilitate the seamless integration of voice, video, messaging and other communication services. UC platforms are designed to help organizations collaborate and communicate consistently, efficiently and securely.
UC platforms can provide features such as presence, instant messaging, teleconferencing, unified messaging, video conferencing and mobility. They are becoming increasingly popular for businesses that want improved communication, collaboration and productivity on a highly scalable platform.
Benefits of using unified communications platforms
There are several benefits to using UC platforms, including the following:
- Improved productivity: Unified communications platforms enable employees to communicate more efficiently, allowing them to focus on more important tasks and get more work completed in less time.
- Increased mobility: These tools allow users to access their messages and other data from any device, making it easier to stay connected while on the go or working remotely.
- Cost savings: Unified communications solutions can reduce hardware and IT infrastructure costs as well as high-cost, long-distance phone calls.
- Enhanced collaboration: They allow users to collaborate with colleagues and customers, regardless of location.
- Improved customer service: Unified communications platforms make it easier to respond quickly to customer inquiries and provide better customer service overall.
How to choose the best UC platform for your business
Finding the right unified communications platform for your business can significantly impact the success of your internal and external business communications. It’s essential to carefully consider your operational and compliance requirements, budget and potential options before you decide on a platform.
During your decision-making process, be sure to talk to other users, test the product and evaluate your options before selecting. Taking these steps will ensure you make the best decision for users across all departments and business use cases.
Read next: Best digital collaboration tools for your business (TechRepublic)
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