The biggest breakthrough in business phone systems of recent years was Voice over Internet Protocol VoIP, which suddenly unshackled companies from the static structures of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). However, for small to medium enterprises and startups, the true Eureka! moment was the advent of cloud communications and the cloud based phone system.
If you need to update your phone system, it’s best not to get too bogged down in terminologies such as ‘cloud-based’ and ‘VoIP’. Simply, VoIP means Voice over Internet Protocol—a telephony system that runs via software on an Internet server, to which VoIP phone are connected using the IP network.
Where the cloud-based business phone system differs from VoIP is in the lower cost factor. If you’re managing your own in-house VoIP system, it requires investment in a server to connect your phones with the PSTN, and additional investment for security, configuration, and maintenance.
The cloud based business phone system in simple terms is hosted VoIP, or a hosted business phone system. Substitute the word ‘Cloud’ with ‘Internet’ and you get closer to it. The host, or phone service provider, hosts the software for your phone system on the Internet (in the ‘Cloud’) and as a subscriber, you pay a monthly fee for connection to this internet-based communications system.
With a hosted business phone system, you don’t have to invest in IT and in-house personnel or contracts for monitoring and maintenance. Cloud communications means that simply need an internet connection and handsets.
If you have already done the research and are ready to leap to the Cloud, why not contact Conversation Piece to discuss our great 50pc trade-in discount offer. Trade in your old phone system and get a 50% discount on a new Cloud phone for business system.
Five Main Points to consider about a Cloud Based Phone System for Business
Here are five of the main points to consider and questions to ask when choosing a Cloud Based Business Phone System.
1. What is the nature of your business phone communications?
Do you really need a phone system that includes traditional physical office telephones, or could you use more flexibility with a virtual cloud communications phone system that uses mobile devices instead of these traditional office handsets?
Landlines, of course, are reliable and time-tested. However, many phone providers are moving away from them, making them trickier and more expensive to purchase, and also to repair if something breaks. Increasingly, the traditional landline system works best for large corporations with budgets that can provide for in-house monitoring and maintenance. They are also necessary if you are in an area without high-speed internet access.
A VoIP or virtual service uses the same internet connection that you are already using for your online work, and also provides you with features, including automated attendants, call queueing, video and other IT integration that would have been unimaginable in the SME sector until recently. They also give remote workers access to the business’s comms system from their mobile devices.
2. Do you need or want your phone system to be in-house, or do you want it to be hosted by a provider, and based in the Cloud?
The greatest benefit for an in-house phone system is the degree of control you have over your service. But this is a double-edged sword. Not only is it more expensive, in terms of the initial outlay, but you also need to have someone within your business who can service and maintain it.
For smaller businesses, the hosted Cloud based phone system is ideal, because there is no maintenance or hardware to worry about, apart from the IP phone handsets. The service provider will also maintain and upgrade the system for you on an ongoing basis, and adding or taking away lines is a simple matter of contacting your provider.
For some businesses, however, the Cloud based solution will not work, such as those entities that have regulatory or compliance requirements that may be difficult to meet if the phone system is hosted on the Internet.
3. Do I even need a system? Can’t my employees simply use their own mobiles?
The short answer is, yes, you do. No business that wants to present themselves as professional across the board can afford to be without a phone system to connect their employees internally and with their customers externally.
The answer to the question of employees using their own mobiles is, yes… but be cautious. It definitely does not work as well as having a virtually-hosted or in-house VoIP service, with their features geared towards quick and efficient processing of calls.
4. The traditional phone system is tried and tested. Do I really need to change it?
From the point of view of functionality, absolutely not. However, there has been an industry-wide move away from research and development into the technology that’s used in traditional landline systems. There are no new developments coming down the line for traditional landline systems. Industry-wide, the R&D trend is towards VoIP, unified communications and Cloud architecture.
Traditional parts will become more difficult to obtain, and more costly, while technical expertise is already dwindling and will eventually disappear.
5. How reliable is the connection on a Cloud based phone system, versus traditional landline?
At this point, it is almost impossible to discern any difference between calls on a landline and those on the Internet. However, you must ensure that you have sufficient bandwidth to guarantee a priority bottom-line standard for quality of voice call. As said earlier, if your business is based in an area without high-speed broadband access, the Cloud based phone system may not be for you, until such time as the access issue is improved.
While it is, of course, possible for small businesses to disregard VoIP, or to bury their heads in the sand due to lack of IT know-how, the evidence supporting VoIP advantages continues to amass, with traditional phone systems for business systems offering few more advantages than familiarity and quality of voice call.
As we’ve seen in other posts, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology enables operators to provide cheaper, and more diversified communications, including voice, data, imagery, audio, and video, to a larger, global customer base, using an IP-based network, rather than traditional, landline-based business telephony systems.
One fact that’s impossible to ignore is that VoIP usage has bucked even the uncertainties of the 21st-century economic climate. The combined business and residential VoIP industry were worth a total of $74.5bn by 2015 (according to Infonetics Research), while a separate 2016 report by IBISWorld measured a 15.3% year-on-year growth of the industry to the end of 2017.
A separate report released in January 2017 unleashed another key statistic providing ample food for thought for any SME operators still using a traditional phone systems for business. Mobile VoIP usage worldwide is expected to shatter the one-billion-users barrier by the end of 2017—a communications way marker that, in terms of business telephony, cannot be ignored.
Here are some facts about VoIP advantages for small business, and what makes VoIP solutions the ideal phone systems for business.
1. Cost Savings Are Increasingly Measurable & Demonstrable
In the US, landline systems typical cost businesses $50 per month, compared with the sub-$25 per month asking price for monthly VoIP plans. The typical VoIP package also includes a number of features that would not be available on a business landline service.
Here’s another fact that speaks volumes about VoIP advantages. We’re probably all familiar with the claim that VoIP allows for greater mobility in the workforce. That’s quite a claim. But here is some data to back it up. By enabling telecommuting for its employees, computer giant Dell saved some $39.5m, an estimated 25m kWh of energy and 13,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions between 2014 and 2016.
2. Concerns over Voice Quality & Reliability are Increasingly Unfounded
In 2015, Daniel Harris of the company Software Advice researched the VoIP needs of 362 decision makers in business, and not only found more than half of them already considering VoIP, but also determined that reliability was, in fact, a key factor in many businesses transitioning to VoIP, rather than working against it.
This has been attributed to end-of-life problems associated with legacy systems—availability of parts for such systems, as well as technicians qualified to service them.
Indeed, Harris’s report determined that reliability was the chief attraction of VoIP, more so even than its cost savings advantages over traditional phone systems for business. For that reason, reliability works against VoIP in more sparsely populated areas with less than an optimal internet connection.
However, for the most part, this report would seem to indicate that concerns voiced by businesses around the turn of the decade about voice quality on VoIP are no longer an issue. Only one respondent in Harris’s survey expressed any dissatisfaction with call quality.
3. Business Reliability Focus makes VoIP a bearer of numerous gifts
One of the greatest requirements among small business operators is for extensions for individual employees and departments. At the level of functionality, certainly in Harris’s report, there has been a marked demand for basic auto-attendants to route inbound calls via voice menus, and for conferencing applications.
After that, everything is a bonus, and in those terms, VoIP, with its functionality to deliver multi-data functionality, is the gift that keeps giving. IP delivers a level of communication service that would, a decade ago, have been unimaginable outside of the corporate sector.
4. Hosted VoIP’s ‘Plug & Play’ User-Friendliness is Enticing
One of the big VoIP advantages for small businesses is its no-muss no-fuss hassle-free operation. In-house maintenance solutions are not essential, and that is music to the ears of small businesses. Most ‘plug & play’ VoIP providers use phones that easily connect with the provider’s network for automatic download of the configuration settings.
Harris reported, even in 2015, that fewer than 6 percent of the decision-makers he surveyed in his research had IT job titles, while fewer than 14 percent of those businesses without on-site IT support encountered any networking problems with their VoIP technology that could not be handled by their providers.
Hosted VoIP is a huge bonus for small business operators for whom budgetary constraints would have typically ruled out the option of a phone system as featured rich and flexible as VoIP.
5. Ongoing Innovation
The main trend at the moment is innovation in and development of services. For instances, any business requiring extensions for employees—basically, any companies with more than two employees—really need a PBX system. PBX is a private telephone network sharing a number of outside lines for making external calls. This was prohibitive until quite recently. But not only are there PBXs designed for VoIP, but there are also hosted Internet-based PBX solutions which are significantly less expensive to purchase and maintain than traditional PBX.
It’s interesting that for businesses, reliability, as noted, has become the main of several VoIP advantages over traditional phone systems. One of the possible factors at play here is that no doubt due to the uncertainties of the post-crash economic climate, a significant number of small businesses are relying on mobile phones.
This has actually given rise to a specific phenomenon—Bring Your Own Device or BYOD. These policies are on the increase, and in a business environment where cost-saving is essential, the prediction that half of all businesses will soon require employees to supply their own device is hardly surprising.
The message is clear. The system is the thing. The challenge, increasingly, will be its ability to seamlessly, and securely, accommodate a growing number of mobile devices.
VOIP is one of the principal solutions being considered by business owners — particularly in the small to medium enterprise sector — as they consider joining the significant global migration from landline and other legacy communications technology. There are three principle VoIP trends to remain alert for when planning a move from traditional systems.
IP telephony voice systems remain the most solid value proposition for a small business in need of a modern phone business for the customer, inter-personnel and B2B contact, not just in terms of the call cost, but also the flexibility that they offer.
Three Important VoIP Trends for Small Business
Of the VoIP trends that will be decisive for customers researching the best telephone systems for small business over the next year, the three most significant are value for money, innovation, and continued evolution beyond voice.
1. Value for Money
From a small business point of view, the value proposition of VoIP is tough to top, and it will remain a primary factor in influencing SMEs to make the leap from legacy systems. IP telephony has not yet vanquished TDM, the phone technology based on circuits switched by PBXs that facilitated individual extensions, voice mail, conferencing, caller ID and other calling cards of corporate business phone systems. In fact, TDM remains profitable, but, according to experts, only for as long as a sufficient groundswell of businesses begin asking for and moving to VoIP.
VoIP entails further savings from the lack of physical infrastructure. It requires no in-house or external physical technical support to move phone extensions or increase or decrease the number of handsets, for example. This is all handled remotely, via the cloud, by VoIP providers.
It also has a richer set of features than available with legacy systems. In fact, the most advanced features available on legacy set-ups, such as caller ID, individual voicemail and many more, are standard with IP telephony, and the innovation is ongoing.
We live in an age of flux and change, and telephony has been at a certain plateau for so long that the ongoing developments in IP telephony ensure that innovation is certain to be one of the decisive VoIP trends in the coming months and years.
The world of the second decade of the 21st century is a world where it is no longer necessary to have a static landline on the desk to get business done by telephone.
However, while the operating system for the desk phone may be facing medium-term obsolescence, the desk phone itself is not.
Expect a period of improvement and innovation, perhaps touch screens, wireless connection, hi-res video displays, and other smartphone-like features, as vendors develop phones to make the most of VoIP’s potential at the desktop.
This is perhaps the most exciting of the VoIP trends likely to influence decision-makers who are considering the best telephone systems for small business.
VoIP does not limit the user to telephony, but puts a world of data dissemination and access at their fingertips, for the benefit of their organisations and their customers.
Smart Voice is viewed as the next step in telephony, using voice conversations as a data set in the Artificial Intelligence/Big Data movement. We’re already familiar with Siri and the Amazon Echo, voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant services that, in the case of the Echo, can control smart devices.
Amazon’s technology was four years in development and while there is unlikely to be any major evolutionary leap in business telephony in the next year, innovation is one of the VoIP trends likely to be most decisive in the medium term.
VoIP is a leap forward from traditional phone systems, and also the threshold of a world that is not yet fully realised, but which will be a reality in the near future.
The Internet has transformed how businesses communicate internally and externally, all over the world. Indeed, more than 75 percent of all businesses have already migrated from their traditional phone systems to hosted services based in the Cloud. Cloud phone for business is, increasingly, the way to go for many firms.
Cloud phone services offer a vast array of high quality, voice and unified communications services for businesses of all sizes. With phone features that would have been unimaginable outside of the corporate sector as recently as 5 years ago, the Cloud is, increasingly, the place to be, especially for businesses in growth.
And, as can be seen from a glance over the following 10 advantages of choosing a hosted Cloud phone for business service, the reasons for making the switch to Cloud communications have become more attractive than ever.
Conversation Piece Trade-In Discount Offer
If you’re ready to make the leap to the Cloud, contact Conversation Piece to discuss our incredible 50pc trade-in discount offer. Trade in your old phone system and get a 50% discount on a new Cloud phone for business system.
1. Cost Savings
Cloud phones offer business significant cost savings. It’s estimated that you can reduce your call costs by up to 60 percent! By moving to a hosted phone solution, based in the Cloud, businesses eliminate the need for costly on-site installations and regular maintenance. Charges are calculated on usage, hostage space and required bandwidth. Providers also offer set monthly fees per phone lines, while attractive features and upgrades are offered at low- to no cost.
2. Decreased Time to Value
Whether installing or adding new lines to a Cloud phone system, the cost-benefits to your business are swift. All that’s required is a call to your Cloud phone vendor. Implementation time for any decision—whether installing or expanding—is swift, and does require any on-site work by an IT professional. A hosted Cloud communications service enables you to execute decisions quickly and allows you to focus on the important work of growing your business.
3. Enhanced Security
Cloud phone for business service providers are required to operate to stringent ISO security standards. It is a myth to suggest that your business data security is compromised when you move beyond a local firewall onto the Cloud. If anything, security is enhanced.
In today’s fast-moving business world, continuous two-way communications between the team members and headquarters, between headquarters and customers, and between personnel and customers, is important. A Cloud based system is particularly well suited to businesses with significant numbers of off-site and remote personnel.
5. Communications Unity
If your business operates along multiple locations and remote offices, a Cloud phone system underscores your brand integrity by ensuring unified phone services across all locations, with all users benefiting from the same features and from uniformity in call quality.
6. Fewer IT Headaches
Business IT is a layered, multifaceted world, and an increasingly busy one. The last thing that hard-pressed business IT departments need is to be charged with the maintenance of a traditional static phone system. By shifting to Cloud communications, your business benefits—and more cost-effective deployment of personnel is assured—by having the provider manage your system off-site.
7. Feature-Rich Communications
A Cloud based system provides a variety of united communications features such as voicemail, advanced email, and automatic attendants. They can also help you ensure call quality and reliability through features such as traffic features, while some providers even offer voice services in the Cloud but on privately managed networks, keeping your comms off the public Internet.
Like the cost benefits from Cloud phone for business due to the lack of on-site server hardware, flexibility is just as attractive an advantage. Hosted Cloud phones mean that your system benefits from the latest voice developments without hardware upgrades, while a Cloud service is also ideal for a business experiencing growth right now or projecting changes in the future.
Small businesses aiming to scale, at whatever the rate of growth, need a phone system that can scale hand in hand with the company. Traditional fixed phone systems can be something of an albatross of a firm on the move, requiring upgrades or movement of bulky hardware. With a Cloud based system, you simply move the handsets and cables.
10. Emergency Support
Business phone systems need to be operational 24/7, whether as a customer service function, but also to receive new leads or inbound sales calls. When disaster strikes, a Cloud phone system provides peace of mind and minimises any potential loss of business, with reliable back-up at all times.