What is a Cloud Phone System?
A cloud phone system is one that provides business telephone services via Voice over IP (VoIP) technology. Rather than being hosted on physical hardware, a cloud phone system is hosted on a cloud server and call routing is performed programmatically, rather than being literally hardwired into a Private Branch Exchange (PBX).
This makes for impressive savings in servicing costs as there is no physical hardware to maintain, and no wasted budget on an IT technician to manage! Moreover, cloud phone systems are typically more capable, secure and feature-rich than their physical counterparts, as security patches and feature updates can be rolled out by developers over the internet for the immediate benefit of the end-user.
Why Move to a Cloud Based Phone System?
Phasing Out Old Technology
Traditional phone lines are due to be phased out completely by 2025, with telecoms providers now encouraging the move to full-fibre vs traditional copper lines. BT are rumoured to have already stopped selling ISDN/PSTN phone line products, whilst Openreach is working with new build developments to roll out full-fibre to the premises (FTTP) instead of copper, aiming to reach 10million premises by 2025. Even traditional providers are now positioning themselves to transition with the market, with BT offering BT VoIP Cloud Phone and Virgin now offering Virgin Cloud Voice for business. This reflects an ongoing shift in the industry towards cloud-based communications in favour of traditional technology.
The beauty of being programmatically-based is that teams of developers are now at work at competing companies to bring the biggest and best features to their cloud phone system in order to attract business and keep existing customers happy. This competition drives innovation in a way that just wasn’t possible with old technology. Features like full call-routing control and advanced call monitoring, as well as the ability to choose from a list of owned, alternative caller IDs on demand, make mobile working and office collaboration a breeze, whilst the proprietary voice API and CRM integration offerings of higher-end providers make it possible to step into new data-driven territory.
Scalability and Lower Cost
Gone is the need to bring in a team of servicemen to make necessary but costly changes to a physical PBX as your business brings in new hires. Instead, with a hosted PBX service, new users can be added, or existing users modified, with just a couple of clicks. This makes a cloud phone system perfect for a growing business. Moreover, the best cloud phone providers will offer softphone apps that can be rolled out to users at speed and en masse, no matter where those users are in the world, meaning your cloud phone system can go global with you as soon as you are ready.
Moving offices is the perfect time to invest in a new phone system and, due to the low maintenance costs for not just yourselves, but also your provider, the combination of savings upfront and those passed onto you make for a pleasant surprise upon receiving your bill each month.
How do Cloud Phone Systems Work?
Cloud telephone services work by virtualising all the elements of a phone system that traditionally would be achieved with physical hardware. This is achieved by recreating the functions of all those elements in written code (software). This software uses VoIP technology and the SIP protocol to transport voice data packets across the internet using your data or WiFi connection.
Since that software is hosted in the cloud, cloud based phone systems can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This process of virtualisation includes your phone lines, so a login and password can link you to your business phone where, in times past, you would only have been able to access your office phone line by picking up the receiver of the desk phone it was plugged into.
Features of Cloud Telephone Services
Since all necessary infrastructure is virtualised as software and, because you just need a WiFi or data connection to access them, cloud based phone systems offer a great many features that traditional telephone services cannot.
Like any software-based service, your cloud phone system can be accessed with an app and used, with no penalty to its feature set, from your smartphone or desktop computer. This frees you from needing a physical device to conduct your business calls.
Work From Anywhere
The freedom to use any device also frees users up to work from anywhere, while preserving caller ID selection; Caller ID selection is a feature unique to cloud based telephone services that allows users to present as any phone number they own while calling out using their VoIP phone system. The backend configuration of the phone system itself makes it possible to receive calls to any number of phone numbers from a single account as well. When it comes to phone calls, these features combined allow for entirely location independent working.
Cloud phone system providers like Yay.com offer more than just voice calling with their VoIP apps and cloud telephone services, unifying multiple means of communication in a single service, combining business instant messaging and secure file sharing to give you and your staff even more ways to communicate and collaborate.
The hosted nature of cloud telephony also makes user management and other administrative tasks relating to your phone system much easier. The process becomes streamlined, conducted via an intuitive UI designed with less technically experienced users in mind, making creation of call routes and other phone system tasks achievable by anyone in the business, whilst user management becomes a matter of clicking a few buttons, rather than plugging and unplugging cables in a cabinet.
Finally, cloud phone systems deliver a heap of new features that you just won’t find with traditional phone systems. Those that are comparable will have been upgraded. Call recording, for example, you can set to occur automatically for all calls, setting exceptions and listening permissions as you go. Yay.com even gives Enterprise customers the ability to automatically synchronise these recordings to a Dropbox or Google Drive account. Other features exclusive to cloud telephony include:
- Searchable call logs
- Integration with CRMs and other software services
- Call statistics and reports
- Voicemail to email
- Mobile push notifications for missed calls
How to move to a Cloud Phone System
Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to make the switch, there are a number of considerations. Firstly, be aware of whether or not you’re currently tied into a contract. Even if it’s possible to leave early, there is likely an early exit fee associated. Some of the more customer-centric providers try to mitigate this obstruction by offsetting exit fees against their new subscription, but this is something you would need to investigate further.
Second, you will need to port your numbers over to the provider of your new cloud phone system. At the cost of a small fee per number, the process is simple and easy and won’t require any business downtime on your end. Your provider should keep you updated at all stages of the process, making your numbers configurable via their online portal not long before the transfer completes. This way, your call routes and other features can be fully set up when the switch occurs officially.
Finally, if your current telephone provider also provides your broadband, then be sure to have a new ISP in place before making the switch, as no broadband means no VoIP calls!