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What is CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service): A Brief Overview

This article was published on March 25, 2022

Sometimes it feels like there are so many "X as a service" offerings that there needs to be an "acronym reminder as a service" to help us remember them all. Many people are familiar with software as a service, network as a service, and even unified communications as a service, but probably far fewer are aware of communications platform as a service, better known as CPaaS.

Illustration of  various parts of a communications platform, including phone, video, texting, chat, and more

What Is CPaaS?

It's a collection of tools that make it easy to integrate essential communications features — such as SMS, chat, or video calls — into various software. It provides the back-end communications infrastructure, presented "as a service" from a vendor, that is then tightly integrated with your own app offerings through extensive application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs).

How Does It Work?

APIs are really where the magic starts. They power CPaaS, meaning every high-end communications capability — from SMS to video conferencing and beyond — eventually comes down to the platform's API offerings.

Take a warehouse that wants to build SMS capabilities into its existing employee notification app. With an SMS API, the company can sidestep many of the technical and capital requirements and implement the feature quickly and with minimal disruption.

What Business Challenges Can It Solve?

CPaaS is primarily focused on enriching customer communications channels. Because of this, the technology is a great tool to help companies looking to implement high-tech communications capabilities that may otherwise be beyond their reach to develop and implement.

Automating and Improving Customer Service and Outreach

  • Healthcare providers and government agencies can use CPaaS for automating reminders, managing appointments, broadcasting civic alerts, and mass distribution of outbound voice calls and SMS notifications for a wide range of purposes. Particularly in light of the pandemic, it's been helpful for contact tracing, vaccine rollout and signup, and reaching priority populations.

  • Transport and logistics companies can easily send status alerts for deliveries through SMS and other means.

  • The travel and hospitality industry can integrate CPaaS with existing applications to offer contact-free services to guests, like in-app calling and messaging. Relaying information like discounts and offers, room swaps, and delays can be made easy.

Making the Most of Video Calling and Other Technology

  • Online learning providers, including schools and colleges, can easily access features like video calling, screen sharing, and call recording.

  • The real estate industry can use virtual meetings to visually guide prospective buyers and sellers through options and make meetings more interactive. Appointment scheduling and reminder services are also useful.

  • Retail companies can provide a fully integrated video experience that allows their experts to give advice to customers regardless of location. They can also provide SMS, chat, AI, and chatbots that support customer self-service applications.

These are only some of the creative use cases that show the ways CPaaS can transform how you do business. Truly, the problem-solving capabilities are as endless as your imagination.

Why Not Use Individual APIs?

The whitepaper How to Move Communications to the Cloud outlines several advantages to using an advanced CPaaS over individual APIs:

  • A single-solution provider offers seamless integration between front- and back-office teams, which allows for faster customer service.

  • There is simpler administration because the provider only needs to manage one account for each employee rather than multiple providers managing a separate account for each employee.

  • Problem-solving is easier. Should something go wrong, you only need to contact one provider rather than determining responsibility among multiple providers.

  • Single-stack providers have an incentive to add new innovations and third-party integrations. Single-providers may be less willing or less able to respond to innovation.

  • When a change is made to a CPaaS system, it applies to all applications at once. Changes to individual APIs may only be made on a piecemeal basis.

Illustration of people sitting on clouds and using laptops while floating over buildings
7 Reasons More Companies are Moving their Communications to the Cloud
With cloud-based communications, the potential to streamline processes and decrease costs is clear.

What Are the Differences Between CPaaS and UCaaS?

While both are scalable cloud-based solutions, the main difference is that CPaaS is made to order while UCaaS is one-size-fits-all. UCaaS offers complete access to high-tech communications tools, while CPaaS allows businesses to build communications functionality into the tools they currently have.

Another way to think about it is that UCaaS belongs in the software as a service category because it's effectively a large-scale communications application that both unifies existing tools and adds new services. CPaaS, meanwhile, is a platform as a service that involves enterprises in customizing, modifying, and implementing.

What Are CPaaS Advantages and Disadvantages?

UCaaS offers an out-of-the-box solution. At first, that might seem preferable considering CPaaS requires initial development time to calibrate the collection of APIs and integrate them with your workflows and processes.

But once that initial work's done, you'll realize the many advantages of a fully integrated, customizable platform. The features can be modified down to the development level, so you can adapt them to the way you work in any way you like. This will give your business far more flexibility and space to be creative.

How Do You Know if CPaaS Is Right for Your Business?

Here are four questions to ask yourself to help find the answer:

What is the Key Focus of Your Communications?

UCaaS is generally better suited for internal communications, while the customizable nature of CPaaS makes it naturally consumer-focused (and better to handle both).

What Level of Involvement Are You Comfortable With?

Customizable CPaaS deployments require either hiring in-house developers or partnering with trusted third parties to create and manage API implementations. Additionally, companies must keep a running tab of which APIs are in use, which functions they support, and how they affect the communications stack as a whole.

What Level of Customization Do You Need?

CPaaS gives you complete flexibility to add specific features to the tools you currently use. But if you don't require a lot of specific requirements, UCaaS might make more sense.

Could You Benefit From Both?

You can deploy a UCaaS solution to consolidate your corporate communications and then layer a CPaaS offering on top to improve your customer communications.

How Can Improved CPaaS Capabilities Strengthen Your Business?

  • Future-proofing: Having a noted platform at your back makes it easier to future-proof against evolving business/customer needs.

  • Time-saving: New features can be brought to all communications functions immediately, meaning less time waiting for rollout to individual departments or subsections of your business.

  • Simplifying: Easier, centralized billing means savings and less "human overhead" spent fixing errors, especially compared to juggling multiple vendors and billing types.

  • Accessibility: You can always meet customers in the platforms and mediums they desire, from social media to video to SMS and beyond.

  • Cutting edge: More flexibility means more power to stay technologically and experientially competitive.

CPaaS may not be the most prominent of the "XaaS" acronyms, but with the customized communications benefits it can provide, it may soon become the most important one you know.

For more info, be sure to check our in-depth white paper, How to Move Communications to the Cloud.

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