Information technology is a significant cost for any business, but there are ways to save money while improving services, especially with recent innovations.
Cloud-based phone systems are growing in popularity, especially as more workers are remote or want the flexibility to have a seamless connection with customers and colleagues. The cloud offers a seemingly limitless opportunity for companies to operate systems and securely house data. It also limits or, in some cases, eliminates the need to purchase and maintain hardware.
How Do Cloud-Based Systems Work?
Cloud-based phones operate with software and use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for voice and multimedia communications over internet protocol (IP) networks. Services including voice, fax, Short Message Service (SMS), and voice messaging operate over the internet instead of regular phone lines. Over the last few years, the functionality and features of cloud-based systems have advanced, while PBX landline systems have continued to operate basically the same as they always have…albeit with more bells and whistles.
Cloud-based systems are heavy on features and are priced lower than traditional phone systems. Extra features often include an auto attendant, call routing, toll-free number options, video conferencing, and analytics to allow you to review how your service is best used. Businesses generally pay only for the features that are used and don’t incur any charges for onsite hardware. Cloud-based systems require a strong internet connection to ensure reliability and high performance.
The systems use various devices to operate, including traditional phones with a VoIP adapter, dedicated VoIP phones, computer software (which creates a softphone), and smartphone applications. Data is securely saved to the cloud. Employees can have seamless access to the services, which is especially helpful to remote workers and those who travel for their jobs.
What Are the Key Features?
Cloud-based phone systems have all the bells and whistles that businesses have come to expect. Familiar features including faxing, caller ID, voicemail, do not disturb, and call forwarding are among the most well-known options. More advanced options include video calls, instant messaging, and file-sharing collaboration tools that make businesses run more efficiently while simplifying administration. Cloud-based management is possible for numerous coordinated services including telephone systems and customer relationship management systems.
Messaging helps teams collaborate through shared screens and files, conference calls, and the ability to edit shared documents. Ring groups can send calls from certain customers to specified teams at the business. Voicemail-to-text transcription options include email and text. Automated attendants answer the phone and help direct callers to the parties they’re trying to reach.
Cloud-based phone systems can combine or allow real-time collaboration with other business communications systems, including CRMs, live chat, and analytics. Called Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), this advanced option combines calling, messaging, and video conferencing services into one cloud-based option. Businesses with phone use related to, for example, customer support, may benefit from a cloud-based Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS), with specialized customer service technology that manages all customer interactions with a goal of providing customers with technical support, customer service, and sales support.
CCaaS, which is cloud-based, also supports marketing and sales efforts by keeping data on customers, potential customers, sales, call volume, and other key information. Phone services can be further integrated with other business applications through Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), which allows IT teams to customize features, usually via SDK and API integrations.
Cloud-based phone systems allow online management through a portal or an administration system. Administrators can add users, assign numbers, create ring groups, and view data. Users of the system typically will have access to voicemail, directories, system services, and the ability to set call forwarding.
Is a Cloud-Based Phone System a Good Fit?
There’s a lot to consider when making a change in your phone system, everything from simply swapping systems to starting over from scratch depending on business needs. If you’re thinking of making the switch to cloud, here are a few things to consider:
- Equipment. Check existing equipment to see if it is compatible with or readily adaptable to VoIP systems. Equipment can be a substantial expense, but it could be replaced by softphones depending on cloud phone system offerings and business needs.
- Features. Cloud-based phone systems offer a wide variety of features. Businesses should do a needs analysis to make sure they know what their “MUST HAVES” are in order to compare that against both their current phone system features and any new vendor offerings. Businesses can save money by paying only for the features they need.
- Internet. Reliable and secure internet is needed to keep a cloud-based system functioning at its best. Be sure to confirm your internet speed and that other specifications meet the requirements of cloud phone systems you’re considering.
Make sure you include both current and forecasted business needs in the decision-making process. Cloud-based systems can provide the flexibility needed as businesses change and grow. Installation and maintenance fees tend to cost less when systems are cloud-based and cloud also allows for near instantaneous software updates. Businesses can control the systems through an administrative portal, adding and removing seats at will. The portal confirms the system’s security and any information transmitted meets your business needs, especially if sensitive data is handled often.
How Do You Select The Right Cloud-Based Phone Provider?
Reviewing potential cloud phone system providers requires considerable time and research, especially with the variety of providers, services, and price options available in the marketplace. As noted above, it’s recommended you start with a needs assessment to ensure you know exactly what is required.
- How many employees need a phone or access?
- Do you require a new system, a replacement for an existing system, or an expansion of a current system?
- Are physical desk phones needed?
- Is there a budget for cost per user or cost per seat?
- What are mandatory features (i.e. voicemail, call distribution, DID management, fax support)
- Do you require Contact Center functionality?
- Does the system need to connect to other systems like customer relationship management software?
- What are the Service Level Agreements (SLAs)?
As outlined above, selecting the right cloud-based phone solution can be a lengthy, time-consuming process. Service providers offer diverse options at numerous price points so that decision-making can be drawn out and complicated. vCom can help. We have extensive experience sourcing, vetting, and contracting UCaaS and CCaaS services and providers, with hundreds of successful engagements for clients of all sizes. Our team of experts can help you find the solutions that work best for your organization. Click here to find out more or contact us today.