The 10 Hottest Collaboration Tools Of 2021
From the largest UCaaS and videoconferencing leaders, to the cloud communications newcomers that are making a splash, here are ten of the hottest collaboration tools on the market in 2021.
Not Just The Usual Suspects
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The adoption of collaboration tools, now a requirement for employees around the globe, reached a fever pitch over the last nearly two years as employees continue to work remotely or return to the office safely. These solutions, which include voice, video, chat, and content sharing, among a slew of other features, are growing more feature-rich by the day as vendors accelerate product development under the heavy weight of customer demand.
Nearly 80 percent of workers used collaboration tools for work in 2021, up from just over half of workers in 2019, an increase of 44 percent since the pandemic began, according to the Gartner Research. What‘s more, the firm predicts that by 2024, in-person meetings will drop from 60 percent of enterprise meetings to 25 percent, a trend that’s being driven by remote working and changing workforce demographics.
Leading collaboration players such as Microsoft with Teams, Zoom, and Cisco with Webex, may have emerged as the frontrunners in this space, but unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) and videoconferencing specialists quickly came to play with their own offerings packed with capabilities to help keep teams connected.
From the largest collaboration and videoconferencing leaders, to the UCaaS specialists that have been diligently building out their portfolios with new features, here are 10 of the hottest collaboration tools of 2021.
UCaaS provider 8x8 has always taken a one platform approach to UCaaS, contact-center-as-a-service (CCaaS), Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), video, and messaging. To that end, the company launched its flagship 8x8 XCaaS platform in May.
8x8’s cloud-based XCaaS offering erases boundaries between different communications tools and contact center products. XCaaS is built on a secure and compliant cloud platform that lets the company offer the industry’s only UCaaS and CCaaS platform-wide 99.999 percent uptime SLA, according to the provider. The offering can integrate with more than 50 third-party apps, including Microsoft Teams.
The provider in December announced it would acquire fellow cloud communications specialist Fuze for approximately $250 million in stock and cash in a deal that 8x8 said will help it build on its XCaaS platform.
Avaya Cloud Office
Avaya Cloud Office (ACO), the company’s high-performing UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) offering that it created in partnership with cloud UC leader RingCentral, was launched in 2020. Since then, it‘s gained quite a bit of traction with enterprises, according to the company.
ACO powered by RingCentral offers an all-in-one calling, messaging, video conferencing, file sharing and collaboration across any device or user location. The offering is built on RingCentral’s open platform that offers more than 200 pre-built integrations with cloud applications, so users can still use their legacy UC and collaboration tools – including Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce, and Google G-Suite. It can also be packaged with Avaya‘s desk phone line.
ACO is available in more than 13 countries and this year was made available in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Cisco from the start of the pandemic was one of the leaders that stood out in the collaboration space with its sought after Webex platform, which the company continues to build out with innovative features.
Cisco has rolled out more than 1,000 new features and capabilities in the last year alone to its flagship collaboration platform. The updates and new features range from enhancing its user interface, to offering AI-powered noise cancellation and real-time translation in more than 100 languages. The company since 2020 closed five acquisitions to boost its collaboration platform, strengthen its cloud contact center chops, and smarten up its camera technology.
Cisco in June announced it was lowering the cost of its new Webex Suite, a packaged Webex offering that includes Meetings, Events, Calling and Messaging. By purchasing the all-inclusive Webex Suite, which can include software and hardware, customers can save up to 40 percent off the price of buying WebEx pieces al la carte.
COING Inc. developed and launched Pumble last year, a self-proclaimed alternative to the likes of Slack and Teams. Business users can collaborate real-time in “channels” that can be organized by teams, projects, or any other important category. Users can communicate with each other and share files via threads that organize the conversations, according to the based company. Users can also invite in ”guests” in order to communicate with those outside of their company.
Pumble is available via the desktop or mobile app on IOS or Android and is free, however, the company also offers paid plans with additional features, such as priority customer support. Pumble can also be “self-hosted” for enterprises that need to keep their own data on premises.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said it has 28,359 teams using Pumble right now.
Intermedia, a company that has long prioritized the channel, has been coming to the rescues of small and midsized businesses, as well as enterprises, with its flagship Unite platform.
Intermedia Unite is a cloud-based communications and collaboration solution that offers voice, video conferencing, chat, file collaboration on one platform that can be managed by channel partners, on one bill.
The company in May announced the release of two new versions of Unite designed to work with Microsoft Teams. A longtime Microsoft partner, Intermedia carries a Gold Certified Competency in Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams, according to the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.
Microsoft Teams continues to dominate in the collaboration space with its sought-after platform that offers document storage, chat, and online meetings. It integrates with Office 365 applications that get used every day by many businesses, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, and Outlook.
Microsoft knows that hybrid working environments aren‘t going away, and the company has been busy building in more features for both remote and in-office meeting attendees. At Build 2021 in May, Microsoft unveiled new previews of ways to develop in the Teams app. In September, Teams came to Apple CarPlay to allow users to join meetings and make hands-free calls with Apple virtual assistant Siri.
Videoconferencing software and UC equipment provider Poly has spent nearly two years working through its loyal channel partner base to help customers tackle hybrid work with its suite of collaboration hardware and software offerings. The company‘s mission is to help create equitable meetings for both remote users, as well as for those in the office.
Poly believes that if the hybrid working trend has taught the industry anything, it‘s that a multi-platform approach to communications and collaboration is the only way to go. To that end, Poly RealConnect is a cloud-based interoperability service that lets users connect from traditional video conferencing systems to Microsoft Teams and Zoom video meetings while gaining high-quality audio and video, as well as PC screen share capabilities. Users can choose between cloud or on-premises hosting, and the offering lets users join meetings seamlessly while keeping the workflow they’re used to, the company said.
Vonage Business Communications
Communications specialist Vonage has stepped up to the plate over the last couple of years with a collaboration and voice solutions that are a great fit for students and remote employees of SMB and midsized organizations, according to the company.
The Vonage Business Communications platform offers file sharing, online meetings, videoconferencing, messaging, and SMS/MMS capabilities, as well as more than 50 calling features, such as virtual receptionist, mobile apps, desktop plugins, and visual voicemail. Businesses can also take advantage of Vonage’s standalone collaboration tools, like its video conferencing solution. The Vonage Business Communications platform is responsible for about 80 percent of the company‘s revenues today, Vonage said.
In November, Ericsson entered into an agreement to acquire Vonage for $6.2 billion in an all-cash offer, which is expected to close in the first half of 2022.
Zimbra Collaboration, formerly known as the Zimbra Collaboration Suite two years ago, is a software suite that includes an email server for micro, SMB and enterprise customers that have both in-office and remote teams. From the email server Zimbo Cloud, users can launch all their necessary apps that can be built in, including Zoom, Dropbox, Slack, and Webex, according to the Buffalo, N.Y.-based company.
Zimbra is going to market through channel partners and is currently in 140 countries globally. More than 200,000 businesses are using Zimbra in the cloud, including more than 1,000 government and financial organizations, the company said.
Zoom Video Communications has become the undisputed leader in the videoconferencing space, but the industry behemoth also has a cloud-based voice offering that it introduced in 2019 – Zoom Phone -- that‘s been growing in popularity with the master agent and sub agent partner communities.
Zoom Phone is now available in more than 40 countries and territories globally. The offering is available to customers and through partners for a combined voice and video offering and is also available via a simplified voice service plan for businesses with global locations.
The San Jose, Calif.-based company in September launched a reseller program for select partners to sell Zoom Phone Bring Your Own Carrier (BYOC) licenses, which lets enterprises keep their current PSTN service providers by redirecting existing voice circuits to the Zoom Phone cloud, or implement a hybrid solution with Zoom Calling Plans.