What is CPaaS?

Your Guide to Cloud Communications Platforms as a Service

What is a CPaaS Communication Platform as a Service?

CPaaS stands for Communications Platform as a Service. A CPaaS allows developers to add real-time communications features such as SMS messaging and voice calling to their applications without the hassle of dealing with the complex telecom infrastructure.

As industry analyst IDC describes them, "CPaaS platforms offer cloud-based communications APIs that make it easy to integrate services into critical business processes, such as customer relationship management (CRM), logistics, transactions, and customer support. CPaaS also allows the rapid implementation of customer engagement solutions at scale using real-time APIs to engage with customers across a variety of channels and use cases such as voice, SMS, and two-factor authentication."

At Plivo, we like to think of it as your business communications as a service. Now that many customer interactions are remote, mobile, and virtual, a CPaaS can help you keep your business communications agile to match the rapid changes we’re seeing in telecom today.

What’s the difference between CPaaS and UCaaS?

CPaaS is a cloud-based platform that offers communication APIs and SDKs for developers to integrate into applications, while UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) is a managed cloud-based service that combines communication tools such as voice, video, messaging, and collaboration into a single unified solution for businesses.

How does a communication platform as a service work?

Cloud-based communications platforms provide a bridge between businesses and telecom carriers, programmatically connecting a business’s devices and applications via application programming interfaces (API) that provide all the code a business needs to incorporate communication functionality into their applications. On the back end, cloud communications platforms connect to telecommunication carriers and operators to route messages and voice calls on behalf of businesses.

The best CPaaS platforms (including Plivo) automatically optimize for changing traffic patterns and assess which route is best suited for each message or call. We also receive real-time deliverability feedback from handsets across the globe to ensure that messages are actually being delivered to the end users. And we have a team that manages relationships with carrier networks and monitors impactful changes to telecoms infrastructure.

To use a CPaaS, businesses choose virtual phone numbers to send and receive SMS messages and make and receive voice calls. They can programmatically control conversation flow within their applications using the platform’s Voice API and SMS APIs and via instructions within their code to manage the routing of incoming and outgoing messages and calls.

What are the benefits of using a CPaaS?

A CPaaS provides businesses and developers with a suite of communication tools and services that are accessible via the cloud. It can integrate messaging and voice calling into mobile and browser-based applications.

  • Because it’s a cloud-based service, a CPaaS is scalable and flexible.
  • CPaaS eliminates the need for costly infrastructure investments, thereby reducing capital expenses, and because businesses pay only for the services they need, it reduces operational expenses as well. Eliminating on-premises hardware also reduces the need for highly skilled (and highly paid) systems administrators.
  • CPaaS providers architect their platforms for high levels of security and reliability.
  • With an API-driven architecture, developers can customize communication features, ensuring they meet the unique requirements of each business.
  • The agility of a cloud-based model enables organizations to respond quickly to changing market dynamics and customer needs.

What types of CPaaS providers are there?

CPaaS providers differentiate their services and go-to-market strategies by focusing on one or more specific areas.

  • Vendors with a telco background tend to have a strong focus on voice connectivity, with a comprehensive suite of APIs to manage services such as purchasing phone numbers, provisioning Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks for VoIP calls, and configuring advanced voice scripts.
  • Others providers have built a strong messaging offering or may focus on supporting video collaboration use cases.
  • Some vendors have a strong focus on the customer experience, providing support for a wide range of messaging apps (e.g., WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger), or may seek to differentiate based on advanced capabilities to support the customer journey, such as Conversation AI or Customer Data Platform.

How do I choose a CPaaS provider?

Here’s a short list of questions you can ask to see which CPaaS providers are right for your business.

1. What channels do I need?

Determine what kinds of communications you need — voice? SMS messaging? others? — and make sure the provider supports them.

2. Will I be able to scale?

Make sure the provider can grow with you, adding features and capacity as you need them as well as helping to manage costs with volume discounts.

3. Is it easy to get started?

Check to see whether the provider has well-documented APIs and SDKs for smooth integration of their platform into your existing systems.

4. Is it reliable?

Ask about the provider’s carrier network, uptime SLAs, global points of presence (PoP), support organization, and data center redundancy.

5. Is it secure and compliant?

Your provider of choice should demonstrate compliance with relevant industry standards and recommendations such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. Ask for details on how the provider ensures physical, network, application, data, and payment security.

6. What does it cost?

Ask for a breakdown of costs for items such as phone number rentals, incoming and outgoing message units, incoming and outgoing voice calls, and carrier surcharges.

7. How is customer support?

Start by checking out the documentation, then look at the support portal. Find out what support plans and levels are available, and what’s included in basic support compared to premium plans.

8. What do other customers say?

Look at review sites such as G2 and check the provider’s site for customer case studies and testimonials.

9. Can I try it out?

Many providers offer a free trial so you can get a feel for how their platform works without spending money.

What are common CPaaS use cases?

At Plivo, we think of use cases in three ways: product, industry, and business type.

Plivo’s approach to multicloud CPaaS

Many organizations add fault tolerance to their IaaS and PaaS platforms by using multiple providers. We’re seeing the same trend in SaaS software, and particularly with CPaaS — and for excellent reasons.

In a report based on the 451 Research Voice of the Enterprise (VOTE) survey, 451 Senior Analyst Raul Castanon says, “As mainstream enterprise adoption continues to grow, we expect CPaaS will mirror key trends driving the evolution of the larger IaaS/PaaS market.”

Three of the most important reasons for a multi-cloud approach include gaining 100% uptime, getting access to unique platform-specific features, and optimizing costs.

1. Resiliency

Using multiple cloud communications platforms keeps your team from having to depend on a single point of failure. Redundancy is a must for mission-critical systems and applications.

2. Platform-specific features

Selecting a secondary platform allows you to send messages or calls through the provider that provides the best call quality or message deliverability, ultimately offering better service to your customers.

3. Cost optimization

Providers have different rates for services in different countries. With multiple providers you can plot out the best rates and optimize your costs.

A CPaaS platform success story!

In the summer of 2021, marketing company Fluent turned to Plivo because, Senior Manager Sharita Passariello says, in Canada, “I wasn’t seeing great engagement as far as click through rate goes, and I didn’t have any clear line of sight into our deliverability stats … to understand what variables were in play and what I could do to optimize.

“I wanted to better our Canadian SMS program long-term, and I didn’t have months to do that — to wait for the perfect solution.” One of her colleagues who was familiar with Plivo suggested she give it a try.

Passariello says, “I was able to set up a business account on the spot, link a credit card, and begin testing. I was blown away by how easy the initial setup was.

“Over the next four weeks we were able to double our SMS revenue in Canada and increase our revenue per subscriber by over 30%. It was a game-changer.” Passariello says Fluent has since started using Plivo for some of its US SMS traffic.

Not only was Plivo easy for her to use as a manager, it was also easy for Fluent’s technical staff to work with. “Our developers had us up and running with very minimal back and forth. The documentation is clear. Our testing was straightforward. It was one of the most seamless integrations that I’ve been a part of. I think we were running within a day or two of creating an account.”

Plivo is a pioneering CPaaS provider

“Plivo can be considered among the pioneers for CPaaS and continues to innovate, with novel approaches such as multicloud CPaaS, which can be instrumental for enterprises looking to address challenges related to resiliency, scalability, global coverage, and regional regulation requirements.”
SMS API Platform
Raul Castanon, 451 Research / S&P
SMS API Platform

5 lessons we’ve learned as a leading CPaaS provider

#1 — Having our own carrier network matters

We knew we couldn’t build our own carrier network overnight, but we also knew that for our customers to be able to reliably reach their own customers, we couldn’t rely on aggregators. Our infrastructure and technology layers all had to have the same commitment to quality as our premium carrier network.

#2 — We have to take care of our customers, and we do

Our documentation and support portal have a lot of the answers you need, including how to get started. But we also pride ourselves on offering white-glove customer support. To us, that means keeping an eye on how you’re doing and reaching out when we see a problem. We understand that glitches can be frustrating, so we do our best to offer solutions quickly.

#3 — Reliability rules — our customers can count on Plivo’s CPaaS

We connect directly with Tier 1 telecom network operators in more than 100 countries, and have direct connectivity with carriers in 190+ countries overall, along with seven points of presence (PoP) on five continents to give customers the best voice call experience. We staff geographically distributed network operations centers (NOC) in Austin, Texas, and Bangalore, India, to deliver round-the-clock support from trained engineers.

#4 — Feature parity empowers CPaaS migration and redundancy

To be the top alternative to Twilio, we need to offer customers feature parity. Everything you can do in Twilio you can do in Plivo — but we offer more than that. Twilio can’t match our reliability, call quality, and pricing. Plivo is easier to use, has a wider global reach, and offers better tech support.

#5 — We know the importance of managing costs at scale

What costs do businesses that use cloud communications platforms have to consider? They start with unit costs to send messages and make calls, but they also include things like support contracts and sometimes phone number rental. But there’s more to the cost equation. Consider quality of service. If your CPaaS can’t reliably deliver text messages across every locale where you have customers, you have to add in the cost of resends. Similarly, with voice calls, poor connections can require people to hang up and try again. You pay for every voice call made and received, so if you need multiple attempts to get a clear line as a result of poor quality, the costs increase quickly. Lower quality also leads to higher customer support costs.

Plivo is the #1 cloud communications platform on G2

Software review site G2 invites users to rank more than 170 vendors in their CPaaS category. Plivo is the top-rated CPaaS in the category and has been number one for the past eight quarters. We’re also rated number one in satisfaction, with a 99/100 score.