Inefficient business communication causes serious frustration in both consumers and employees — in addition to causing your profits to take a major hit.
You want to update the way you connect with your customers, but you’re not sure which communication channels will be the most valuable both now and in the future.
Studies show that over 80% of consumers want to get text message updates and appointment reminders from businesses, and that over ¾ of shoppers still want to connect with customer service on the telephone.
But if you’ve already built a business application, or if you’re using other business software, you don’t want to have to rebuild your business tools from the ground up just to improve your communication process.
That’s where CPaaS providers come in.
In this post, we’ll break down how to choose a CPaaS provider and the most important features to look for. Then, we’ll review the top 5 Communications Platforms as a Service solutions for 2021.
Table of Contents:
- What is CPaaS?
- How to Choose a CPaaS Provider
- Top CPaaS Providers in 2021
- Learn More About CPaaS Solutions
CPaaS, short for “Communications Platform as a Service,” is a cloud-based communication platform that lets companies/developers add communication and customer service functionalities to existing applications.
Unlike a pre-built UCaaS solution, CPaaS platforms require users to program API integrations and SDKs for specific features and real-time communications channels like SMS messaging, VoIP telephony, and web conferencing.
This means you can get the communications solutions and customer experience tools your business needs, without having to pay for the ones you don’t. With CPaaS, there’s no need to buy any additional hardware or software — or completely redesign your communications infrastructure from the ground up.
Instead, you can integrate APIs with existing platforms, such as your business’s social media page, or rely on an open-source user and development community to access new apps and features.
Most of the time, CPaaS pricing follows a “pay-as-you-go” model, as opposed to a per-user, per-month model like the majority of other business communication tools.
For a more in-depth definition, check out our guide to understanding CPaaS.
In addition to basic considerations like the channels/features your business needs, pricing, and available programming language, there are a few more advanced things to take into consideration when understanding how to choose a CPaaS vendor.
You’ll need to examine:
- The overall API selection
- The user/development community
- Network infrastructure/reliability
- Current security and data privacy policies
Evaluate the Quality of API Selection
By exploring the quality and number of available APIs, you’ll be able to better evaluate whether or not a provider has all the features and channels your company needs to improve the customer experience.
What’s more, you’ll also need to evaluate how easily these APIs integrate with the systems you’re currently using — as well as their overall reliability.
Remember that just because you don’t need certain API capabilities now, this doesn’t mean you won’t need them in the future. Scalability and customization are two of the biggest benefits of CPaaS tools, so ensure that the provider offers APIs that don’t just help your business to grow, but also grow with your business.
In other words?
Voice and text messaging APIs alone aren’t enough.
What about video calling, team chat messaging, WhatsApp, social media messaging, and email?
In addition to these communication APIS, these platforms should also offer features like:
- User authentication/verification
- Real-time analytics
- Caller ID
- Omnichannel communications
- Speech recognition/Natural Language Processing
- Appointment/meeting scheduling and reminder notifications
- SIP integration
- Call logs
- Forms and surveys
- Call recording/transcription
Especially if you don’t have an in-house IT team, you should also consider how intuitive it is to install these APIs. A CPaaS platform only saves time and money if you have the skillset to program APIs.
Remember that the quality of current APIs is a good indicator of how quickly a provider will be able to keep pace with future communication, automation, and AI trends.
Study the Extent of the User and Developer Community
Before you commit to a service, make sure they have an active user and developer community creating new and updating current APIs.
You can also use the community to request new features, offer feedback, and access essential code samples and scripts. Plus, you’ll know that APIs will have been created and tested by top-notch developers and SMEs.
Some providers even offer a dedicated developer Slack channel for real-time communication with other users and developers.
In addition to a robust developer community, providers should also offer community forums, installation guides, free trials, and support wikis. Make sure that all forums have a moderator to ensure you get a prompt answer to your requests.
Strong developer communities help you solve problems on your own, meaning you won’t need to reach out to the provider’s support network and wait longer for an issue to be resolved.
Examine the Network Infrastructure and Reliability
None of the communication capabilities a CPaaS platform offers will matter if the provider doesn’t offer a high guaranteed uptime — aim for more than 99% and make sure that uptime is mentioned in your SLA (Service Level Agreement.) Remember, even just a few minutes of downtime can cost you serious revenue and cause a loss in online sales.
24/7 monitoring and support mean that a provider will be able to learn about an issue the moment it happens and work towards preventing it from happening again in the future.
High-quality providers should also offer a service status page, so you’ll be able to see service updates and learn of outages in real-time. Make sure you understand how the provider monitors connectivity, as well as which carrier networks they partner with.
The higher the number of global data centers, the more carrier networks the provider will be able to work with and reroute to in the event of a problem.
This helps ensure a high level of redundancy in case one carrier fails or in the event of a power outage.
Understand the Level of Privacy and Security Provided
A high level of privacy and security doesn’t just help protect your data, but also that of your customers.
It’s no secret that data leaks can mean disaster for your company’s reliability — not to mention open you up to heavy regulatory fees and lawsuits.
Your provider should be GDPR, ISO 27001, and SOC2 compliant. Depending on what you plan to use the tool for, you may also need it to be HIPAA compliant. They should also frequently conduct third-party audits of their security and privacy infrastructure.
In addition to these standards, also be sure that the platform has a strong fraud prevention plan in place. How does the provider mitigate DDOS attacks, verify user identity, (especially through two-factor authentication) and what kinds of support do they offer to developers to keep APIs secure?
Flexible Pricing Models
Everyone wants to find the best deal when it comes to business and customer communication solutions.
One of CPaaS’s biggest benefits is its flexible pricing model.
In most cases, you’ll be able to choose from a pay-as-you-go model or a bulk use discount. When evaluating your options, consider if you need tools that let you pay on a per-minute or per-text basis, or if you would rather pay in text or call minute intervals.
Be sure to also examine which features come with APIs, and which ones require an add-on payment.
Most providers will also offer bulk use discounts, which can save serious cash for larger companies.
You’ll also need to be sure that the tool you choose is in line with your industry’s compliance regulations.
All platforms should be GDPR and TCPA compliant, and some may be HIPAA compliant, as well. High-quality options will also offer private IP infrastructures that have end-to-end encryption.
Supported Programming Languages
Since you’ll be implementing the code yourself, you also need to ensure that the tool you choose supports your preferred programming language.
Top languages include:
Now that you know more about how to choose a CPaaS provider, let’s discuss some of 2021’s most promising CPaaS providers.
Leading providers in the CPaaS market include:
- Avaya OneCloud CPaaS
MessageBird is an advanced CPaaS solution focused on offering numerous communication channels to improve the customer experience.
Users can connect via SMS messaging, voice calls, social media platforms, live chat, and email.
What sets MessageBird apart from its competitors is that it allows users to add numerous popular communication channels through only one API, called “Programmable Conversations.”
This makes adding omnichannel communication to your apps simple and allows you to connect with customers on multiple channels throughout a single interaction. WhatsApp Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Telegram can all be added to your platform with just one API.
Customers can choose their preferred channels, and agents can access a 360-degree customer profile and unified conversation threads. This way, when an employee picks up the conversation, they’ll be able to see all previous contact with the customer.
MessageBird integrates with essential CRM and team collaboration tools like Salesforce, Microsoft Office365, GSuite, Zendesk, and Zapier. Users can purchase their own local, multi-channel, and masked phone numbers from the MessageBird REST API, or port in existing numbers.
Plus, it integrates with Google Business Messages, so you can message consumers from google maps and search.
SMS features include:
- Campaign builders
- Verify API for account access controls
- Flow builder tool lets you customize incoming message routes
- Email to SMS
- Automated communication
Voice feature include:
- Scalable Elastic SIP trunking
- Global points of presence
- Instant call setup
- No jitter
- Caller ID
- Text to speech
- Custom hold music
- Call transfer
|Local SMS Messaging||Free inbound messaging, $0.007/outbound message|
|Dedicated SMS Number||$1.00/month per number|
|Dedicated Short Code||$700/month, with a one-time setup fee of $1,300|
|Dedicated Voice Number||$1.50/month|
|WhatsApp Messaging||$0.005/session message, $0.0085/template message|
|Numerous communication channels combined in an omnichannel interface||Requires strong programming knowledge to set up|
|Integrates with key third-party business communication tools||Can take a long time for support agents to resolve issues|
|Smart Routing feature finds high-quality affordable message routes||Occasional delay of SMS delivery|
Best For: MessageBird is best for enterprise-level companies that need to add real-time omnichannel communication to their applications. It’s also ideal for businesses of any size that primarily connect with customers on social media messaging platforms.
Twilio is a customizable cloud communications call center built for a global scale. It offers SMS, chat, WhatsApp messaging, voice, video conferencing, and email APIs.
Twilio also offers strong security APIs designed to present fraud. Users can authenticate logins and transactions with two-factor authentication or validate users with SMS, voice, and email messages.
The Lookup API helps increase conversions and ensures you deliver the message using the best medium possible based on user carrier and phone number data.
The drag-and-drop builder makes managing your communication workflows simple, while the Autopilot feature lets you create cross-channel AI bots to improve the customer experience and allow for a higher level of self-service.
SMS capabilities can include:
- Mass text message alerts and marketing offers
- Two-way texting
- Appointment reminders
- Advanced opt-out features
- Messaging Insights including delivery rates, opt-out rates, OTP conversions, responses, and more
Voice API features include:
- Call recording
- Call queueing
- Answering machine detection
- Call recording and transcription
- Advanced routing options
- Speech recognition
To learn more about Twilio products, read our complete Twilio review.
|Inbound Voice Call||From $0.0085/minute|
|Outbound Voice Call||From $0.013/minute|
|Send/Receive Text Message||From $0.0075/message|
|SendGrid Email API||From $14.95/month for 100,000 emails|
|WhatsApp API||From $0.0042/outbound message, from $0.005/inbound message|
|Programmable Chat Messaging||From $0.03/active user per month|
|Programmable Video||From $0.0015/minute per participant, up to 50 participants|
|Offers an extremely high level of customization across multiple channels||Creating response sequences isn’t always intuitive, and message routing needs to be improved|
|Flexible pricing models on a per-hour or per-month basis||Not able to preview messages|
|Authy API’s push authentication notifications offer a higher level of security than passwords alone, plus soft tokens||More expensive than other platforms|
Best For: Twilio is best for small businesses and larger companies that want to build a bespoke contact center from the ground up. Those looking for the CPaaS platform with the most customization options will be the happiest with Twilio. It’s also ideal for those who need omnichannel (cross-channel) communication, as well as industries with major security concerns and regulatory requirements.
Vonage APIs (formerly Nexmo) is a CPaaS tool offering authentication, management, and communications APIs.
Communication APIs include SMS, SIP trunking, video, social media and social chat messaging, voice applications, and email. Multichannel message delivery is also available. Authentication APIs include number insight and verification features, while management APIs offer advanced reporting and analytics, account auditing, and per-project subaccount creation.
Vonage also offers local numbers and dedicated short codes.
Its video API is especially popular, as it allows in-app, face-to-face communication in real-time. Video features include screen sharing, large-scale video broadcasts, and SDKs (Software Development Kits) for creating Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux apps. Best of all, video calling with Vonage is both GDPR and HIPAA compliant.
Available chat messaging channels include:
- Facebook Messenger
Voice communication features include call tracking, advanced call routing, IVR, and voice alert notifications.
|Verification API||$0.055/successful verification|
|Video API||From $9.99/month for 2,220 minutes|
|WhatsApp Messages API||From $0.0063/message|
|Facebook Messenger API||$0.0011/message|
|MMS Messaging||Quote-based, contact sales|
|SMS Messaging API||$0.0068/Outbound Message, $0.0062/Inbound Message|
|Social channels allow users to provide customer service via social media chat messaging||The interface is outdated and not intuitive and has a large learning curve.|
|Excellent API documentation||Frequent mentions of poor customer service in user reviews|
|Affordable pricing||Consistent issues with integrating third-party applications|
Best For: Vonage API is used often in the logistics and transportation sector, especially for final mile delivery updates. It’s also popular within the hospitality and travel industry, along with eCommerce businesses. Companies that often communicate via video chat will also benefit from Vonage.
Avaya OneCloud is a CPaaS solution offering voice, messaging, carrier services, and phone numbers.
Voice capabilities include:
- Automatic Speech recognition and IVR functionality
- SIP registration (world with IP PBX and SIP endpoints)
- Text-to-speech in 20 supported languages
- Global phone numbers
- Audio voice conferencing
- Real-time call analytics
- Near real-time transcription of phone calls
- Voice Effects
- Caller ID
- Split channel call recording
- Works with AI providers
- Call tracking
Avaya texting features make it simple to send automated text messages that are still personal, while also providing you with valuable analytics to evaluate the success of your texting campaign. MMS capabilities let you send video and images to customers, and you can even enable SMS messaging on your existing business phone numbers. Shared or dedicated shortcodes, automatic long text splitting, and custom sender IDs improve the business texting experience.
Avaya also offers carrier services that allow you to look up information about any phone number, including BNA and CNAM lookups. They also offer local and DID toll-free phone numbers in over 100 countries, and both dedicated and shared shortcodes. You’ll also enjoy one-click Google Contact Center AI integration.
|Send SMS Local Message||$0.005/message|
|Send/Receive SMS Toll-Free Message||$0.0085/message|
|Send/Receive MMS Local Message||$0.015/message|
|Send/Receive MMS Toll-Free Message||$0.02/message|
|Receive SMS Local Message||Free|
|Make Local Voice Call||$0.015/minute|
|Receive Local Phone Call||$0.02/minute|
|Make Toll-Free Phone Call||$0.015/minute|
|Receive Toll-Free Phone Call||$0.03/minute|
|Excellent analytics features for voice calls and SMS messages||Complex set-up can make processes longer than they need to be, as most require assistance from customer support|
|Voice Effects feature lets users augment pitch, octaves, tempo, and more||Outdated interface, could be improved by automation|
|Easy to embed AI in interactions from providers like Google Cloud, IBM, and more||Frequent crashes, especially when answering calls|
Best For: Avaya OneCloud CPaaS is best for SMBs looking for a solution that provides advanced two-way business text message customer service and marketing. It’s currently being used by healthcare providers to offer valuable updates about COVID-19 vaccinations, to schedule a curbside pickup at retailers, and even to improve the contract tracing process.
Bandwidth is an API platform provider that owns its own Tier One nationwide network, allowing them to offer competitive pricing and a high level of service with a strong infrastructure.
It offers voice and messaging capabilities, along with 911 access and phone numbers.
Voice capabilities include:
- Call routing and IVR phone system
- Call recording and transcription
- Billing in 6-second increments
- Audio conferencing
- Call tracking
- SDKs and developer documentation
Bandwidth Voice APIs are compatible with phone numbers from many carriers, meaning you can port in your existing number. Note that Bandwidth doesn’t support calling from international numbers currently, but allows you to make outbound calls to international numbers.
In addition to using your current number, you can purchase up to 5,000 local phone numbers, toll-free numbers, and add caller ID. A user-friendly number dashboard simplifies number management by letting you search available numbers and update current ones.
Messaging API features include text and MMS messages that support videos, audio files, emojis, and GIFs. You’ll also enjoy toll-free SMS messaging, ideal for high-volume texts, short codes, and SMS Gateway capabilities. Real-time delivery and read receipts make analyzing your current business text messaging strategy even easier.
Advanced E911 capabilities make it easy to connect users to emergency services, provide dynamic location routing, or to embed emergency calling features into your existing app. Learn more about Bandwidth E911 capabilities in this post.
|Phone Number Line/Month||$0.35|
|Inbound Calls (Per Minute)||$0.0055|
|Outbound Calls (Per Minute)||$0.01|
|Inbound Text Messaging||Free|
|Outbound Text Messaging (Per Message)||$0.005|
|Reliability and high service quality thanks to Tier 1 nationwide network||Slow number porting process with few updates|
|Advanced E911 features||Currently unable to work with third-party, standalone business texting providers|
|24/7 customer support||Not ideal for companies with a high amount of international customers|
Best For: Bandwidth is an ideal tool for enterprise-level companies that are most focused on adding voice and texting capabilities to their applications. Updating order status on food or retail delivery apps, sending mass emergency texts to students in high school or at universities, and booking services like dog walkers or hair appointments – these are all common Bandwidth use cases.
Plivo is a pay-as-you-go enterprise-level business text and voice API platform.
Its voice API offers call forwarding, scalable IVR, conference call bridges, and voicemail transcription. Users will also benefit from voice alerts, which lets you build and automate voice notifications to send to customers. This way, you can send pre-recorded voice messages to customers reminding them about appointments, upcoming payments, and anything else you’d like.
The Voice Survey tool is another standout feature, as it sends out automated audio surveys to customers at set intervals or directly after a call has finished. You can customize these surveys, and customers can respond via selecting numbers on their dial pad.
Plivo also offers Zentrunk, which is cloud-based SIP trunking offering global connectivity and unlimited concurrent calls. IP authentication, encrypted trunks, and fraud protection and alerts provide an excellent level of security. Additionally, every trunk has its own SIP domain, which makes segmenting traffic much easier.
Other top features include:
- Caller ID
- Call queuing
- Call hunting
- Hold music
- Call whisper
- Multi-part calls
- Number lookup API
- Call recording
- Two-factor authentication
- SMS surveys
- SMS autoresponders
- Text message marketing tools
|Local Phone Number||$0.80/month|
|Toll-Free Phone Number||$1.00/month|
|Inbound Texts||Free for local numbers, $0.0050/text for toll-free numbers|
|Outbound Texts||$0.0058/text for local and toll-free numbers|
|Dedicated Short Code||$500.00/month|
|Consistent mentions of superior and well-documented APIs in user reviews||Occasional SMS deliverability issues|
|Affordable rates, especially when compared to its biggest competitor, Twilio||Some essential features, like conference calling, call recording, and speech recognition require add-on purchases|
|Easy and fast setup process, especially thanks to highly responsive customer support||Dashboard UI needs improvement|
Best For: Plivo is best for enterprise-level companies with a high daily call volume — especially when it comes to outbound calls and SMS messaging. It’s also ideal for companies that need several business phone numbers in multiple national and international locations, as well as businesses that heavily rely on automated communication.
Whether you’re ready to implement a CPaaS platform now, or if you just want to know what to look for when you need to in the future, these tools offer the most benefit to businesses of any size who need highly customizable and scalable business communication solutions.
If you have more standard communication needs, and if you lack the programming knowledge required to implement APIs, you may want to opt for a UCaaS (Unified Communications) platform instead. Learn more about UCaaS vs CPaaS here.
For a more in-depth breakdown and user reviews of some of the platforms mentioned here and other popular service providers, read our guide to top CPaaS providers.
For a side-by-side comparison of providers, pricing, features, and user experience, visit our CPaaS comparison table.