Answering this question was much simpler just a few years ago. Before cloud hosted business phone systems, a business would purchase or lease a premise based phone system. Supported by a manufacturer the phone system, or PBX, would work with a local authorized vendor of their particular phone system for support.
Over the past few years clouded based or hosted phone systems have made the evaluation process more complex because businesses are not limited to a premised based business phone system. Cloud based technology along with Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, as the mode of communication has introduced a mobility option and Unified Communications (more on this later) or UCaaS.
What Are Some Challenges with Premise Based Phone Systems?
- They are expensive to purchase and support tends to be expensive as well, often not affordable for a new business or a small business.
- Most phone systems are proprietary. If you buy an ABC made phone system then you have to buy phones made by ABC company along with the licenses required for the phones to work.
- Some premise based phone systems do not support VoIP, only digital and analog phone lines can be used.
- Many do not support remote users.
- Many do not support remote support and on site technical support can be expensive.
- As adoption to cloud based solutions continues to grow sourcing local support for an older phone system can be difficult.
- Premise based don’t scale easily and inexpensively.
- With a premise based phone system you have to manage two vendors: the phone system vendor and the service provider. This make troubleshooting problems difficult.
The Big Gains of Using Cloud Based Phone Systems
- An internet connection is all that’s required for connectivity, wherever you have internet you’ve got access to a VoIP based phone.
- Hosted phone systems are much less expensive than traditional telephone service, often less than half the cost and a cloud based system is your single source provider for both the phone system features and the phone service.
- Disaster recovery in the event of a network out is simple and quick to implement.
- Most cloud based phone system providers are not proprietary when it comes to the different brands of phones a business can choose to use.
- Integration with software and databases like Sales Force CRM are much simpler to implement.
- Cloud based contact centers are very sophisticate but user friendly and work very well with remote workers.
- Most cloud based communication services off a mobile app that allows a smart phone to become you desk phone. Business related calls route to your VoIP mobile app and personal calls route to your personal phone app. Alternatively, you can make calls from your business mobile app just like you would from a desk phone.
- Installation and support are touchless. Phones and other devices and be supported remotely.
- Host VoIP phones systems are very scalable, the only limitation is a business’ internet capacity.
- Cloud phone systems and constantly being updated both with new features and for improved security which guarantees you a future proof solution.
- As internet service has become more reliable so have hosted phone service.
How do I Choose the Right Hosted Service Provider?
Hosted VoIP service has matured a lot in the last 5-7 years and almost all businesses regardless of size would do well bypass purchasing a premise based phone system (especially small/new businesses). Exceptions to this may be large government enterprises (FBI, NSA, CIA) who require a private network for communication.
- Rich set of phone system features is a must. When initially engaging a hosted provider talk in as much detail as you can about the features you currently have with particular attention to those features you know you can’t run your business without. A best practice suggestion is to talk with the heavy phone users (e.g. receptionist, customer service, sales) about the features they can’t live without, you might be surprised.
- Make sure the provider has a proven mobile app for your team to use as well as a feature rich Unified Communications app.
- The most challenging time working with a cloud provider is the migration/service installation time. Check customer references and ask about the installation process. Was it smooth? Did the carrier set expectations of how the installation would go? Was user training available? Did call quality degrade?
- Support after the sale should be discussed as well. Is monthly support included? How responsive is customer support and how knowledgeable are they? As with most industries the larger the provider can mean service that’s not as attentive.
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