Telecom options for businesses have historically been cost prohibitive, infrastructure heavy, and time consuming. In the past, your options were to either use whatever off-the-shelf software you had, or pay to develop a new communication channel just for your business.
That is, until the development of Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS). CPaaS is a cloud-based software model that allows you to easily integrate new telecom functionalities into your existing software—no huge in-house development team or massive infrastructure upgrade required.
The main benefits of CPaaS?
- Easily expand your business telecom capabilities. You can add extra security functions, improve your customer service, and add more channels for contact.
- Save money on development, deployment, and ongoing maintenance.
- Use just what you need, when you need it. No need to worry about paying for a large, expensive upgrade that you don’t use.
- Hands-off management. You provide the data, and your CPaaS provider takes care of the server and hardware.
Use Cases for CPaaS
Sounds great, but what does CPaaS actually do?
Think of CPaaS like a facilitator between your business’s software and other modes of real time communication like text, video calling, social media channels, and even password verification.
Instead of having to bring someone in to individually develop code or software for each of those things, CPaaS lets you plug them in to your existing business framework.
For instance, let’s say that you already have an app that your customer can use to check on their order status. But that app doesn’t have any video chat capabilities, and you’d really like to offer it to your customers.
With CPaaS, you can quickly and easily add that capability without having to massively change the code of your app or create a whole new app.
In fact, you’ve almost certainly interacted with several businesses using CPaaS. For instance, if you’ve ever:
- Used Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to sign into an account. Businesses use CPaaS to keep data safe by using SMS Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that provide a secure connection so two different platforms can talk to each other. This ensures that a user is who they say they are without risking that user’s data.
- Made or received a call from a platform outside your normal phone number. If you’re a sales rep who has dialed out from a CRM, you were likely using a CPaaS.
- Had a customer service rep already know what you were calling for. If you’ve chatted with a chatbot, then called customer service, and they already had your information up, that’s almost certainly because of CPaaS. Businesses can use it to make customer data accessible across various channels within a call center, regardless of the customer’s entry point into the interaction.
These widely diverse capabilities would be cost-prohibitive to develop individually. The coding alone would be expensive, not to mention the infrastructure you’d have to build, the servers you’d have to buy, set up, and maintain, and the ongoing issue of data storage.
Plus, depending on the type of information you were working with, you’d also have to worry about security practices and certifications. And, if you needed to make upgrades, you’d have to essentially start from scratch.
That’s what makes CPaaS such a valuable tool for your business.
What’s Included with CPaaS?
CPaaS platforms vary, but most include a dashboard that lets you build solutions to help solve just about any business communication issue you can think of. Many have drag and drop templates, like those shown in the Twilio Dashboard in the screenshot below.
If developers choose not to use the templates, they can also build flows from scratch using a number of elements.
Some of the most common elements included in CPaaS are:
- Code Samples—The whole point of CPaaS is simplicity and ease of deployment, so naturally, these platforms want to avoid users having to reinvent the wheel. Code samples do just that. They’re small snippets of code created by developers that demonstrate potential programming tasks that could be completed using the CPaaS. For instance, if your developer was trying to set up a new MFA function on your app, they could code that from scratch. Or they could look at the code samples provided by the CPaaS and then either use them as they are, or as a jumping off point for creating the kind of MFA that’s a fit for your particular situation.
- APIs—APIs are the backbone of CPaaS technology. They’re what allows all the different apps to talk to each other. You can think of APIs as being secured connections that different pieces of software can use to pass data back and forth with each other. For instance, in the case of a customer service department, you might have several pieces of software at play: a chatbot software, a CRM with data about your customers, an email software that receives emails from customers, and a preview dialer that provides customer service reps with information about customers. A developer could use an API to make all of these programs talk to each other, so that, for instance, every time a customer says something to a chatbot, a note about that conversation gets logged in the CRM. Or every time a customer sends an email, the text of that email gets pulled into the preview dialer profile about that customer.
- SDKs—Software Development Kits, or SDKs, are sets of tools designed to build software on certain platforms. For instance, you might find an SDK specifically for working with Zoom meetings, or creating apps for Android phones. SDKs typically include code samples and APIs, as well as debuggers and documentation that helps developers track issues and avoid common problems. A developer might find themselves using a SDK with a CPaaS if they were, let’s say, trying to make it possible to make Zoom calls to customer service from a business’s app. Rather than starting from scratch, they’d use a Zoom-related SDK to speed up the process.
- Pre-built apps—Sometimes all you need is a simple app that can integrate into whatever it is you’re building without you having to do a whole lot of coding or development, and that’s where pre-built apps come in. Also sometimes called widgets, these components are usually at least somewhat customizable, but they’re also robust enough to use as is. In the case of the sales rep dialing out from their CRM, a developer might use a pre-built voice calling app to make that call possible without the rep having to use a phone or a separate calling program.
How is CPaaS Priced?
CPaaS is typically priced on a subscription model, and may have additional pricing per service, depending on which services you add to your stack.
Most of the commonly-used CPaaS services like Twilio and Nextiva start at around $15 – $20 per user per month, with more expensive plans running about $35 per user per month.
If you’re using a service that has pay-as-you-go pricing for specific services, that can range from less than one cent per text message up to five cents per security verification all the way to 100 dollars or more per month for features like customer data analysis or contact centers.
CPaaS vs UCaaS
If you’re looking at options for CPaaS, you might come across Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) as well.
While CPaaS and UCaaS are pretty similar in that they both make it very easy to upgrade your communications, they have one key difference: UCaaS is a complete, all-in-one communications platform, while CPaaS is a platform you use to build your own specific communications platform.
To put it another way, UCaaS is like a toolbox that comes pre-loaded with a specific set of hammers, wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers. CPaaS is the hardware store, where you can pick up whatever you want and build with it.
For instance, you might have used Zoom’s UCaaS platform, which provides calling, internal messaging, cloud Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling, among other features. Microsoft Teams is another commonly used UCaaS.
- An all-in-one communications platform
- Not flexible—every business that uses a UCaaS gets the same features
- Turnkey, without requiring any development work. You sign into the platform and you’re done
- A tool that lets you integrate multiple communications channels into your platform
- Incredibly flexible—you use what you need, when you need it
- Built for you, meaning it requires some plugging-and-playing before you can use it