Since its conception, the internet has been rapidly transforming the way businesses operate. Already, your business is reliant on the web to communicate with leads, customers and clients, as well as store all your data and structure your organisation. The rapid growth of reliable high-speed broadband in the UK is continuing to alter the way businesses operate, and making the transition to hosted telephony is the next logical step for many organisations.
In the same manner that cloud computing and offsite data storage is becoming the norm, hosted telephony allows for a business’s entire communications system to be hosted and managed virtually by a service provider. Gone are the days of on-site PBX boxes and cramped telecom closets full of hardware, ports, and wires.
By reverting to the Cloud for your telecommunications needs, you can host your business phone system in a Data Centre that sits within the cloud. Users from any office location can connect to this centrally hosted system via a business broadband connection or even using a mobile network. Calls can be made and received by IP Phone, softphone applications and headsets. The Cloud is connected to the PSTN (public switched telephone network), and acts as a simple, centralised platform from which all telephony can be administered and routed easily.
A hosted system is not only more cost efficient and easier to handle than an analogue system, but offers a plethora of advantages that were previously beyond the reach of most SMEs. Here are a few.
Initial and long-term cost savings
Hosting not only provides a higher quality of service with a broader range of options, but it does so at a lower cost. With hosted telephony, the prohibitively high expenses associated with traditional telephone systems are either removed or become the responsibility of the service provider. Gone is the need for expensive hardware purchases, installation fees and upgrade/maintenance costs.
Any technical issues that arise can be resolved by the hosting service provider, as part of a fully managed service. When it comes to payment plans, similar to mobile providers, you only pay for what you need as you need it, on a monthly licence-per-user basis. The only hardware expenses you incur will be for a central router and IP handsets.
The beauty of using cloud telephony is its simplicity. With a centralised cloud, you are connected to your telecommunications centre from anywhere in the world you have an internet connection. Whether at home, on their mobile device, or in a different country, employees have access to all the same tools, such as conference calling, IM, and messaging services they would have from their office desks. For organisations with expansive field operations, this kind of system can prove invaluable.
VoIP in the Office
Switching to an IP phone system can also streamline office productivity. Installing quality IP handsets and software, such as Mitel's MiVoice or Avaya's IP Office, permits employees to share data and conduct conference calls from anywhere in the world. What’s more these systems can often be integrated with your existing telephony infrastructure. Amidst a plethora of other benefits, IP phones retain their configuration no matter where you place them, so your extension will work in a different office or even on a Wi-Fi enabled aircraft. If you want to free up clutter on your desk you can integrate multiple functions, such as video conferencing and e-fax, or even remove the handset entirely and rely on a ‘soft-phone’ that runs off of your computer.
Growth and flexibility
With Hosted you can add additional extensions and lines to accommodate a growing business in minutes instead of days. With a cloud based service, your communication needs can fluctuate on a regular basis and still be met. Since the hardware is taken out of the equation and the telephone system is maintained off-site, it doesn’t require additional installations, or even the need for new lines to be in the same business location. Cloud hosting is so flexible that you can even maintain a single business number with multiple extensions from a mobile device. If your business should consolidate, unused lines can simply be cancelled or redistributed.
Choosing the right hosting provider and package
Your business isn’t always going to remain the way it is today, and neither are your communication needs. Adjusting often and easily is one of the great advantages of hosted telephony. So start small, with a minimal system that will sufficiently meet your business’s current and imminent telecommunications needs. Leave room in your subscription for adjustments and make certain that your service provider is going to be as flexible as your company needs them to be. Also ensure that a service-level agreement is in place to guarantee that the call quality and reliability are delivered. Most importantly, sign up with a provider you can trust. There will always be room for adjustments and growth later.
By Patrick Lincoln, founder of Unified Communications Company Solution IP, which he set up in 2006. Patrick has spent many of his formative years building relationships within the telecoms community in the South West of England. You can connect with Solution IP on Twitter.