One such advancement that’s been floating around for a few years now are Cloud-based Phone Systems.
The aim of this post is to provide a simple overview to help business owners decide it its for them (its definitely not for everyone!).
Overview: What is a Cloud Phone System?
To define a cloud phone system, its best to start by defining a traditional phone system first, which is comprised of two parts: the phones and the PBX (essentially your own mini phone exchange so you can call internal phones without involving the phone company).
A Cloud-based phone system simply changes up two things:
- The ‘PBX’ portion of the system is completely outside of your company and is hosted on the internet by a Cloud Phone provider.
- The system’s phones simply plug in to any computer network that has Internet access (their only requirement).
The simplified diagram below shows an example Cloud Phone system for an organisation with two separate locations and two mobile users:
Why Would I Want That?
As simple as they are, the two changes above manifest in a huge number of benefits (to many to list here), the key ones are:
Call & Line Costs
Cloud phone providers have great infrastructure and negotiating power, allowing them to get calling tariffs at exceptional rates. You no longer need to rent monthly physical phone lines from your telecom provider as this connection is replaced with the one over your Internet connection – this alone can bring huge savings if you have multiple lines.
Multiple Locations, One Phone System
As Cloud phone systems don’t use traditional physical wiring, you are no longer bound by the physical restrictions of them. This means if you have an employee that wants to work from home for a week, they can simply take their desk phone home with them and plug it in to their home Internet.
If you have multiple offices/branches, you will have a single phone system with free calls between all extensions. Despite this single system, your branches can still have their own numbers – the best of both worlds in terms of call routing.
Call Logistics / Flow
When designing your phone system, you can simply sketch out the call flow as a diagram on paper and then have that programmed via a website control panel. Generally you get all the features of only the most high-end traditional phone systems, including:
Call Groups: almost infinite groups (such as Sales, Accounts, etc.) and staff can be members of multiple groups
Call Queues: queues allow you to handle overflow when you have more inbound calls than staff to deal with them, generally you’ll play a recording advertising services/products to customers waiting.
Time Logic: you can divert calls based on the time of day (day shift staff, our of hours phones, office closed messages, etc.)
Auto-Attendant: provide callers with options to select where they want their call to go.
Traditional phone systems can be ‘tapped’ relatively easily outside or inside the building. Cloud phone systems can have encryption enabled, making ‘listening in’ much more difficult.
Portability / Disaster Recovery
As well as being able to pick up your desk phone and take it with you, most cloud phone providers also offer a ‘softphone’ version of their phone that you can run on a computer or mobile phone while on the move – this provides an elegant way to access your phones extension while on the move.
As with a physical phone, a softphone simply requires an Internet connection. This sort of flexibility can be a great addition to a Disaster Recovery plan (if your office is inaccessible or you switch location, relocating your entire phone system is very easy).