Cloud-based phone systems for small business

Should you use a cloud-based phone system?

IP telephone services (sometimes called ‘cloud’ phone services) have been heralded as the future of business communications. However, outside the hype, it is useful to consider whether moving to the cloud could deliver worthwhile benefits for your business.A cloud-based phone system is simply a service that delivers calls and PBX-style functionality over your internet connection. No need for expensive PBX equipment. No need for multiple landlines. The cloud is a viable alternative for business communications, trusted by some of Australia’s largest public- and private-sector organisations.

Cloud telephony can benefit smaller businesses too. In fact, the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) reports that cloud services are increasingly popular with small and midsized businesses. (Australian Communications and Media Authority, January 2014, Australian SMEs in the Digital Economy, 5-6).

Today, 29% of SMBs have their telephone services delivered over the internet. So is your business missing out?

What does the cloud cost?

A cloud phone service is more cost-effective than traditional landlines. It doesn’t use traditional phone lines, so there are no line-rental fees. And it doesn’t require a big, expensive PBX system.

Instead, call functionality is delivered (you guessed it) using the cloud. This means your calls can be delivered at lower rates. The savings are passed on each time your business phones suppliers, customers or employees. If your business depends upon regular phone communications, the savings can quickly add up.

Which phone solution is right for you?

The cloud offers many options for SMBs looking to improve the cost, features and scalability of their phone system. For start-ups and micro businesses, a basic two-line cloud-based system is a good-value starting point. So too, if your business is growing, a cloud system will grow with you. It is quick and easy to add phone lines and enhance functionality as you need it.

If your business is growing, it’s quick and easy to add phone lines and enhance functionality as you need it.

We don’t have the budget for a modern PBX phone system

Traditional PBX phone systems allow businesses to manage multiple phones and utilise call-handling features (like call forwarding, voicemail-to-email or extension dialling). Call features are valuable because they can improve caller experience and productivity.

However, installing a PBX unit in the office is often beyond the budget and patience of many small businesses. By contrast, a cloud-based ‘virtual’ PBX system will eliminate the need to purchase and maintain PBX hardware – while delivering business-grade call features. (Some cloud phone providers offer these call-handling features at no extra cost. So, when comparing providers, check if their features incur extra charges.)

Since there is no central hardware in a virtual PBX, your phones can be connected at any location and unified into an organisation-wide phone service. So a virtual PBX is suitable for organisations with multiple offices, or when employees are working remotely.

We have already invested in a modern PBX phone system

A modern, IP-enabled PBX phone system is a big investment. If your business already has a PBX, you can still reduce calling costs (without needing to switch to a Virtual PBX) by using a SIP trunking service.

SIP trunking is the business-grade version of VoIP (phone calls over the internet). This allows businesses to connect their PBX to the phone network using the internet, instead of using landlines.

This helps you to recoup your investment through reduced call costs. Indeed, businesses report savings of up to 60% by connecting their IP PBXs via SIP trunking.

When comparing SIP trunking providers, check which PBX brands they support. A rule of thumb is to ensure that at least the leading brands – Microsoft Lync, Citrix, Avaya and Panasonic – are adequately supported.

We already operate an internal cloud phone system

Many SMBs believe they’re enjoying the benefits of cloud communications, but often they’re merely using residential-quality VoIP. While cost-effective, this type of service does not provide business-grade call features, and won’t easily scale to multiple lines.

By upgrading to a business-grade solution like a virtual PBX, your business can present more professionally and improve customer service, while still enjoying the savings that come with cloud communications.

Cloud communications are not just the domain of big companies. No matter the size, ambition or needs of your business – there is a cloud-based phone solution to suit.