By Brendan Maree
The underlying technology first appeared in the late 1990s, yet many small and medium businesses are only now discovering the benefits the cloud can deliver to communications.
The systems began as rudimentary services favoured by tech-savvy early adopters, but have since evolved into valuable business tools. Improvements in networking technology now enable service providers to offer highly reliable cloud communications solutions with outstanding call quality - on par with traditional phone systems.
The big benefits of cloud
There are six key benefits awaiting an SMB when it shifts its telephony system to a cloud-based service provider. They are:
1. Enhanced productivity through advanced phone features
In the past, many SMBs that invested in on-premise PBXs had to make do with basic phone features such as voicemail and call forwarding. It was only big businesses that could afford additional features like extension dialling, auto attendants, email notification of voicemail and corporate directories.
Cloud platforms make these types of features available to businesses of any size. As well as being convenient, they can have a significant impact on employee productivity and workflow efficiency.
2. Consolidated telephone and conferencing services
To reduce travel and training costs, many SMBs opt to use audio and video conferencing services. While they are less costly than travelling, they can still add hundreds of dollars to a monthly telecommunications bill.
Many cloud communications providers allow an SMB to consolidate telephone and conferencing services and pay just a single monthly fee. This provides the benefits of conferencing but ensures costs are kept under control.
3. Elimination of PBX maintenance and upgrade costs
Legacy business telephone systems are usually based around PBX equipment installed in an on-premise telecom closet. This means the business must maintain and operate the equipment which can be a very expensive exercise.
When a shift is made to a cloud-based solution, there is no longer a need for a PBX, or the associated maintenance and upgrade fees. Instead, a predictable monthly fee is paid to a service provider.
4. Easy configuration changes
Traditional PBX-based phone systems can be difficult to change or expand. Consequently, a business may end up purchasing excess capacity initially just in case it is required in the future. Also, when new employees need to be added, it often requires the help of an IT team or specialist outside consultants.
A cloud communications solution, on the other hand, can be easily expanded and changed as business requirements shift. Some service providers allow an SMB to add additional lines by simply logging in to their account and placing the order.
When it comes time to move an employee, it’s as easy as unplugging their phone and plugging it back in at the new location. A web-based system management makes it simple to set up and modify ring groups, auto attendant, voicemail boxes, and many other features. This can all be achieved without purchasing a service contract or hiring an IT consultant.
5. Lower monthly phone bills
Many SMBs have a distributed workforce, a distributed customer base, or both. This usually requires separate phone systems for each location with local, long-distance and international call charges quickly adding up. Then there is the complexity of managing multiple bills and service contracts with various local and long-distance carriers.
By migrating to a hosted cloud platform, an SMB can substantially reduce all of these costs while at the same time streamlining service contracts.
Because the phone infrastructure is hosted in the cloud, all your locations and workers can use the same phone system, regardless of their physical location. Also, cloud communication services offer call rates that are typically much lower than is the case with traditional phone services.
6. Avoid long-distance and international call charges on smartphones
Using a mobile phone is convenient but can quickly become very expensive, especially when making long-distance and international calls. Cloud communications services can reduce mobile phone charges by allowing employees to use their smartphone as an extension of their office phone. Instead of paying expensive cellular rates, they will be able to pay low-cost cloud based rates, even when using their device overseas.
SMBs that choose to remain with a traditional PBX will continue to pay significant amounts of money for equipment that offers just a limited set of features. This is why many thousands of SMBs have already made the switch to cloud communications. Make 2018 the year that your business makes the move into the cloud. The benefits for both your employees and customers will be significant.
By Brendan Maree, Vice President Asia Pacific for 8x8