The (Brief) Ultimate Guide to CPaaS
Since the day humans created smoke signals, we’ve been developing ways to send messages to one another. From letters tied to pigeon legs, to the pony express, to the abandoned pay phones we now use as Instagram novelties, people continue to find new ways to communicate. Now, with the rapid growth of smart devices, the connected life is becoming more connected. New voice and messaging capabilities are becoming the most important features for businesses to include in their online applications.
What is CPaaS?
Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) solutions provide APIs to developers so they can add telephone or communication functionalities directly into an internet-enabled application. It removes the need for businesses to own extra hardware in order to deliver simpler, quicker, and more cost-effective access to calling and texting features.
Ok, but what’s an API?
An application programming interface (API) is a set of tools and protocols that allow programs to talk to another. Consider them a software shortcut. You’ve encountered these more often than you think. Remember that time Candy Crush asked if you wanted to log in using your Facebook account? That was an API connecting the two programs with your information.
They have wider uses than letting apps access your Facebook, though. When a doctor’s office texts you appointment reminders, or when you click a link in a mobile app to call the business directly, or even when a bank sends you authentication codes to verify your account, those are all actions taken using communications APIs.
CPaaS & APIs
What does this do for businesses?
Implementing communications features into applications creates a more enhanced customer experience. For instance, it’s now easier than ever for customers to book appointments, schedule meetings, or answer quick questions with the implementation of the click-to-text functionality. More than that, however, there are some very important and life-saving implications for this technology. One of which is the ability to call 911 within apps thereby making it faster and easier to get help when you need it most.
Take your pick!
The best (and worst) thing about the rise in communications providers, means you have a rather large pool of potential partners. Before you jump into the deep end, make sure you’ve done all your homework and really understand what your business needs.
First, know the difference between a CPaaS and UCaaS. You’ve likely seen both phrases, but you know they’re not one in the same, right? United Communications as a Service (UCaaS) deals with all the company’s communications, from the physical to the digital. So while a CPaaS may be part of their offerings, they’re also in the business of handling things like your desk phone. Essentially, consider the UCaaS like the hardware and CPaaS like the back-end software powering that hardware.
The next step is knowing the two main types of CPaaS partners: the ones who provide APIs, and the ones who provide APIs and networks. API providers are ideal for startup situations. They have quick speed to market and lower network traffic. They have very few business requirements and are typically more affordable. On the other hand, keep in mind they are providing the bare bones, and that doesn’t always scale as a business grows.
API providers who are also network owners (like Bandwidth) are also known as “business-grade CPaaS” providers. They have the same speed to market as the API-only providers, as well as a large phone number directory, quality voice and messaging services, more insight into call routing, and an overall larger offering of APIs, allowing them to scale with your business over time. Choosing a provider with their own network also means you, along with the provider, have total control over the code and the quality with which communications travel from point A to point B. You have a say and impact in deliverability, cost, network availability, latency, and more.
Ok, actually there is a third player in this game. The big network giants are making their way into this arena, but they offer a limited number or no APIs – just a network. As you’re narrowing down your options, consider what’s important to your business. What features do you need? Call forwarding? Call recording? Call tracking? How much support will you need? How much are you able to spend now and in the future? The bright side to having a lot of options is that one is definitely going to be the right fit.
Make your move.
Migrating systems can be a tricky endeavor. Once you’ve decided on a partner, make sure there’s a proper plan in place to make the entire process as smooth and seamless as possible.
Know your APIs.
All CPaaS providers will (or at least should) have the basics of communication covered. It’s a matter of how they deliver them that matters to you. Most will offer either REST API and Callback or VXML. That’s a lot of letters so let’s go through them.
- REST API and Callback is essentially the set up that gives your business full control over code configuration. You’re in charge of every step of the communications process.
- VXML, on the other hand, relies on XML documents for a pre-configured backbone of call flows. It simplifies complex scenarios like conference calling.
Know which one you use now, and which one you’ll need for your migration.
Determine what’s got to change.
As you’re sifting through the code, prepping for migration, identify the pieces that interact with your current CPaaS provider. Evaluate how much work needs to be done to change them before you begin the next step which is…
A system migration can take varying amounts of time depending on the business logic around your company’s code. The trick is to keep a close watch on the details. Make sure you go through everything with a fine-toothed comb. Look for tricks and hacks that may have been used to achieve certain flows because they’re likely to cause problems down the road.
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