In my last article, I highlighted how unified communications (UC) and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) are expanding at a rapid pace. The adoption of these platforms has only increased as more people work from home due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

In a recent survey sponsored by my company, Ribbon, we learned that while the majority (57%) of large companies (those with more than 1,000 employees) plan to invest in UC solutions within the next two years, it seems that traditional UC providers are winning, edging out other nontraditional challengers when it comes to who they will purchase UC services from.

Further, with the majority (62%) falling victim to IP-based attacks like robocalling and toll fraud, security will be a critical factor in the type of service provider they plan to entrust with their UC transition.

Based on our survey findings and my analysis of the industry, I see the following two trends emerging as key factors in UC adoption today and well into the decade:

1. Traditional providers are winning.

As companies make the decision to transition to UC systems over the next few years, traditional providers of UC, such as those referenced in Gartner’s UC Magic Quadrant (Leaders and Challengers), seem to be the preferred choice versus nontraditional challengers when it comes to purchasing these systems for several reasons.

Many businesses already have existing relationships with traditional service providers, and that familiarity creates a certain level of comfort. Price and feature availability are two other factors that may give traditional service providers a competitive advantage.

Other important considerations when evaluating a UC provider include:

• Which type of provider can offer the lowest monthly recurring costs.

• Who has the best customer service.

• Who offers the best service-level agreements.

• Who offers the best system management.

But regardless of these factors, service providers that don’t rank as high as traditional providers may want to explore what they are lacking in their offerings. Is it product, price, relationship or some other key consideration? Consider collaborating with traditional providers on an expanded offering. The bottom line is that there is a huge opportunity for traditional service providers — one in which they can leverage their inherent advantages.

2. UC solutions will need advanced security capabilities.

Security breaches such as robocalling and distributed denial of service attacks can bring down an entire network. In addition to these types of malicious attacks costing companies more than ever, businesses can also face fines and reputational damage that can take years to recover from. Having the ability to analyze and detect these types of attacks before they occur can be invaluable.

Our research revealed that 85% of companies feel their UC provider should be responsible for protecting them from UC security issues. So, if the UC providers should be responsible for security, what security features should be included?

A great way to fortify a UC system is to ensure all solutions are supported by behavioral analytics in order to quickly and accurately identify security threats. These behavioral analytics must be specifically geared for UC solutions. Not only can behavioral analytics — along with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL) and reinforced deep learning (RDL) — help prevent advanced cyberattacks, but it can also help companies optimize network operations. The efficiencies, insights and cost savings that this can bring is one way businesses can maximize the return on investments in UC and plan for the future.

UC is set to soar.

Given all of the benefits that UC offers and its rapid unprecedented adoption — due, unfortunately, in large part to some of the unforeseen impact of COVID-19 — it is clear that UC will be embedded into the fabric of how we work and collaborate for decades to come. But who companies get their UC solutions from and how secure they are will be just as important as the solutions they select.

Will traditional providers continue to be preferred vendors when it comes to who companies trust to be their UC providers? Or will other nontraditional challengers and upstarts overtake them? Will these providers listen to their customers when it comes to securing their UC systems? While we don’t yet know the answers to these questions, what we do know is that UC is set to soar in 2020 and beyond.