What is a Cloud Phone System?
The cloud simply refers to software and services that run on the Internet instead of equipment housed in your building. Since the documents, emails, photos and other software that live in the cloud are available from any device with an Internet connection, you can access the information from anywhere.
Chances are, you’re already using cloud technology in other aspects of your business. Google Drive®, Microsoft Office 365® and Dropbox® are just some examples of cloud-based applications.
Most people have heard of SaaS programs and the ability to have a secure, scalable and reliable application without having to install, configure or maintain hardware. Cloud phones, a SaaS application and sometimes called Virtual PBX, are hosted and stored digitally. This means there are no wires, tapes or a central server that your IT staff has to spend time managing. It is often less expensive, easier to use and much faster to implement. In most cases, cloud phone calls are transmitted over a secure Internet connection rather than public Internet, increasing the level of security to a business.
Virtual phone systems still provide the same features as an onsite phone system, but it is the cloud provider that manages the service, relieving IT of most or all of the maintenance and troubleshooting. You have all the same features of an onsite system, such as voicemail and call recording, but it is all managed in the cloud. Some cloud phone systems have even more features and benefits, such as the ability to turn conference calls into online meetings with messaging and video.
Who Needs Cloud Phones?
For small to medium-sized businesses, a cloud phone system can help stretch limited IT resources because the application is hosted and managed by a third-party. Anyone can start the process and implement a cloud phone, making this a popular choice in recent years for smaller companies without a dedicated IT department.
Mid-sized enterprises with an IT team can benefit as well, because of the ease of implementation and flexibility. Using a cloud phone system helps free up those valuable IT resources for other projects and applications that are key to your overall business strategy.
It is important to understand the pros and cons of any application before integrating into your company’s existing infrastructure and systems. Here is a great resource to help you evaluate your choice.
Benefits of a Cloud Phone System
Most on-premise phone systems involve an upfront purchase of the respective network hardware and software licenses. Hence, most businesses account for these transactions as a capital expenditure (CapEx). With the physical requirements and installation of on-premise systems, businesses must plan for future needs and thus, usually buy more units than current demands dictate to accommodate predicted growth. With a cloud phone system, beyond purchasing the phones or perhaps a business-class router, there are minimal hardware purchases. So cloud phone systems allow businesses to operate under an operating expense model. You pay only for what you need at the time of purchase and can add new licenses on the fly, which can help to moderate cash ow and reduce long-term total cost of ownership. And, unlike premise-based systems where the infrastructure hardware has a predicted lifespan, a cloud solution can also offer greater longevity.
Other benefits associated with cloud-based phone systems are listed below.
Because the cloud is often easy to integrate and managed by a third party host, you only pay for and use what you need. With a traditional phone system, it can be a hassle to add another user. Not so with a cloud phone system. You just add a user, and move on.
The cloud can grow as your company grows, which is why it is such a popular tool for many businesses just starting out. It is so easy to scale your phone system to what your business needs right at the moment it needs it. This means no waiting for an overloaded IT department to add more phones, or phone lines, or to download important phone data, allowing your business to move and grow faster.
Better Customer Engagement
Your phone system is part of the larger customer experience. It touches all aspects of your company. A cloud system can enhance this customer experience, and allow your company to fully engage with your customers at key touchpoints along the way. For example, a cloud system can send a text to remind someone their payment is due. Or, it can integrate with your CRM (customer relationship management system), building a foundation of trends and business intelligence. Operations can use this information to evaluate what times of the day have greater call volumes and ensure that they staff appropriately. Salespeople and account managers can use these insights to follow up with prospects or customers – for instance when a prospect calls, it automatically integrates information supplied from the CRM so a salesperson can follow up with a more personal touch (e.g. “I saw you called the other day.”). Cloud phones can be more than just a phone system; they can quickly turn into a strategic focus and a competitive advantage.
Users can be anywhere in the world and still use a cloud phone system. This ensures you will never miss a call, and that all users, no matter their location or device, will have access to the same features and functionality. Additionally, some cloud phone systems allow desk phone features to be used on a smartphone and tablet. This encourages uniformity and professionalism among mobile employees, and in-between varied locations.
A cloud phone system is just like a traditional phone system and offers call transfer, extension dialing, conference calling etc., and delivers all these features from the handset to a mobile device.
Mobility is important for both traveling employees and businesses with multiple locations all over the world. With a cloud system, your employees can conduct professional, reliable conference, online and video meetings from a stable Internet connection wherever they might be.
Having a reliable phone system is critical in today’s business environment. Cloud phone systems have the three “R’s”: Reliable, Resilient, and Redundant. Consider the following example. When your business experiences a power outage, and emails stop getting through or send a bounced message, most customers will assume they typed the wrong address. If they call and get a fast busy signal, however, many people assume that a company has gone out of business. This is never a concern with most cloud phones. ShoreTel’s cloud system, for example, has a triple layer of redundancy at the network, infrastructure and application layers, so there is no single point of failure.
Your phone system plays a critical role in business operations and the experience customers have with your organization. Migrating your phone system to the cloud can help you to better manage costs, give your team the time needed to focus on growing your business and prepare your organization to meet the future of business communications head-on.