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CPaaS allows developers to add any variety of voice, video and messaging features to their own applications | Photo source Pixabay

What Is CPaaS?

Tech Explained

CPaaS allows developers to add any variety of voice, video and messaging features to their own applications, without the need to build costly backend infrastructure and interfaces.

The number of internal and external business communications options are multiplying rapidly. From Slack to chatbots, communications channels are constantly evolving. So, how will companies stay relevant and current with the changes? 

One rapidly-emerging method is CPaaS — communications platform as a service. This is a platform that allows developers to add any variety of voice, video and messaging features to their own applications, without the need to build costly backend infrastructure and interfaces.

So, how does CPaaS work, and how will it help businesses to communicate better?

CPaaS: A communications foundation

A CPaaS platform is a piece of software that acts as a foundation for other communication applications, such as voice, video or chat. These other applications can be “plugged in” to the CPaaS without the need for any additional software or hardware.  

You can think of it a bit like a set of legos. You start with the base and a few pieces (the CPaaS platform). Then, you decide you want to build a castle, so you buy some pieces shaped like a drawbridge and some knights and click them into place. If you change your mind and decide to build a truck instead, you might buy some wheels, and so on.

With CPaaS, developers can purchase the complete development framework for building real-time communications features. CPaaS providers offer packages that include software tools, standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs), sample code, and pre-built applications, along with support. Some providers also offer software development kits and libraries for building applications on different desktop and mobile platforms.

CPaaS: Uses and advantages 

Businesses tend to use CPaaS to create secure customer communications, such as video-enabled help desks, appointment reminders and authentication services that are built into the existing app.

For example, imagine that a customer is using a mobile banking app and requires technical support. Generally, they would need to exit the app and call their bank. However, using CPaaS, the bank can build communications directly into the app, allowing the customer to jump into a live chat from their app. 

By allowing integrated communications, CPaaS users can also design systems to, for example, send push notifications, such as automated appointment reminders, to customers. Integrated communications also make it possible to store phone records, chat transcripts, email conversations, and other contacts in one place, providing a comprehensive view of each customer’s interaction with your company.

CPaaS can also be used for marketing, for example by integrating a survey application into their CPaaS platform to generate a survey at the end of a phone call or live chat; or to automate marketing campaigns.

Designers can also integrate human resources applications into CPaaS platforms. For example, to review call, chat, and email-reports, or to keep track of payroll and tax documents, and manage performance reviews and training.

By allowing developers to focus on building their applications, rather than on the underlying IT infrastructures, CPaaS helps create savings on human resources, infrastructure and time to market. This can be a particular benefit to smaller companies, which have fewer resources and expertise. Most CPaaS systems use a subscription model, which allows businesses to pay only for the services they need. Again, this can help save money on start-up costs.

However, because CPaaS systems are custom designed, they require developer expertise. For some businesses, especially small ones, this may not be feasible. But there is an alternative.

Alternatives to CPaaS

United Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is similar to CPaaS, in that it lets businesses chose the software features they need. However, rather than provide these as add-ons to a company’s existing platform, UCaaS is a cloud-based system that centralises and manages all of the hardware and applications.

UCaaS is a plug-and-play system, which means users do not need to have any developer expertise. All set-up and maintenance are handled by the vendor. Similar to CPaaS, most providers offer a pay-as-you-go model, where businesses pay a monthly rate which varies with the number of add-ons.

UCaaS is more often used for managing internal communications, and it can be used in conjunction with CPaaS — with CPaaS systems used for customer communications and UCaaS used for employee communications. 

CPaaS offers greater customisation than UCaaS, but UCaaS is easier to use. Whether to use one or both systems depends entirely on what the individual business needs.

The future of CPaaS

The CPaaS market is storming ahead, growing more than 40 per cent in 2019. At the same time, market analyst IDC forecasts the global CPaaS market is expected to grow from €1.9 billion in 2017 to €10.1 billion in 2022.

The market leader in the CPaaS space is Twilio, which has around a 30 per cent share of global business, but companies such as Vonage, Bandwidth, Nexmo, MessageBird, Sinch and Voxbone are also growing rapidly.

This rapid growth is largely down to the flexibility and pay-as-you-go service model of CPaaS, which allows the service to adapt rapidly to new digital requirements. The next stage of CPaaS to develop tools that will make it easier to create and add applications in CPaaS, making the service available to those without development expertise.