Technology plays a vital role for each of us. Our personal and professional lives are impacted by it in so many ways. And there’s no shortage of new applications, or devices to access them.
As an experienced provider of business phone systems powered by the Internet, we are tuned into the ebb and flow of how a company communicates – with the outside world between clients and vendors, and employees on the road. And operationally between all employees, regardless of location.
Your phone system is still the lifeline of your business. But voice communication is no longer confined to the physical office space. Thanks to the Internet and cloud-based technology, you can be geographically dispersed, but still collaborate as if you were in the same office. Allowing you to accomplish far more than you ever could, and at a lower cost.
We are often asked about how voice over IP (VoIP) can improve the way a company operates. And during this discussion, “the cloud” usually comes up in conversation. Which often leads to 2 questions:
- “What is the cloud?”, and
- “What’s the benefit of hosting my phone system in the cloud?”
Before we dig in to each question, let’s first understand that cloud-based applications aren’t new. Although today’s version of “the cloud” looks, feels, and functions a lot different, cloud-based solutions date as far back as the 1960’s.
But we didn’t begin to see dramatic growth until about 2008, which is when IT services began to shift from company-owned hardware and software, to what’s become so common today as a monthly subscription model. Instead of purchasing to own, you subscribe to those same services for a monthly fee (pay per use).
This eliminates the burden of having to purchase, maintain, update, and then eventually upgrade to something completely different due to end of life or obsolescence. Today the focus is on access. As in access from anywhere, on a device of your choosing, as long as you have the appropriate login credentials.
In addition to technological advancements over the past 10 years, significant increases in broadband speeds have made the cloud-based model more functional and attractive to the masses. Which has led to its substantial growth in recent years.
And as smartphones have taken over, visibility with cloud-based applications has spiked even higher. At this point, there is no turning back. Cloud-based voice and data solutions are being deployed at warp speed. And for good reason.
So let’s get back to the 2 questions that most frequently come up.
Q1: “What is the cloud?”
Answer: The cloud is nothing more than a physical place (outside of your office) where your phone system resides, computer applications and programs run, and data is stored and backed up. This physical place is known as a data center, and is built in a secure facility that meets the most stringent requirements to deliver high availability and maximum uptime, 24 x 7 x 365.
At a minimum, this includes redundant sources of commercial power, Internet connectivity, and carrier telco services so the facility can function in the event of an outage or natural disaster.
Events that would typically take our businesses offline for days or weeks. As in the case of the ice storms a few winters ago that took down power lines. Or the heavy rains and flooding that affected power, and prevented so many companies from gaining access to their offices. Both storms left their mark, and wreaked havoc for a couple weeks. And of course, who can forget Hurricane Sandy and the devastating effects she left behind.
Data centers (aka “the cloud”) replicate the systems and data that’s housed in their location at other secure, off-site facilities in the event they need to provide a hot standby failover at another site. And they maintain the highest security policies.
The cloud makes it easy to access your voice and data applications wherever you are. Overall, the cloud reduces cost and allows users focus on their core business, instead of being impeded by IT obstacles.
Q2: “What’s the benefit of hosting my phone system in the cloud?”
Answer: There are many benefits of a cloud-based VoIP solution. How does reliability, flexibility, scalability, and survivability sound? I know, it sounds great to me too. But you also have less “stuff” to maintain, repair, support, upgrade, protect, insure, and replace when its useful life expires.
Think about how quickly technology becomes obsolete these days. It’s impossible to keep up with it if you’re acquiring it. Instead, consider hosting it as a way of paying for what you’re using.
Hosting your phone system in the cloud has other significant benefits, including these six:
- Business continuity and disaster recovery – you can access your phone system and operate your business from anywhere. This includes on your smartphone from a Wi-Fi or 4G cellular signal. And regardless of an extended commercial power or Internet outage, storm or weather-related emergency, and inability to gain physical access to your office, your phone system is always running, which means it’s always taking calls. And built-in network failover provides redundancy between multiple data centers, which are geographically dispersed throughout your cloud provider’s network. That’s peace of mind.
- Secure access from anywhere – your cloud provider’s application is built on a secure network with up to date security policies. You and your staff can access your phone system and data applications from anywhere. And your access is secure with password protection. It’s a huge benefit to be able to work from anywhere and stay connected. And if your office relocates, moving your phones is simple.
- Universal phones – we install industry-standard, SIP-based IP phones. This means phones are no longer proprietary to one system provider. They’re supported on other platforms, which gives you ultimate flexibility.
- Stay current with technology – your new cloud-based phone system will remain current with technology. This encompasses feature/functionality along with the latest software updates and security policies.
- OpEx vs. CapEx – the monthly subscription model allows you to treat your phone system as an operating expense. Like your old phone bill, your new cloud-based phone system is billed monthly. Unlike your old phone bill, your new phone bill is all-inclusive of phone system functionality and carrier services. All for one, low monthly cost. The cloud delivery converts traditional capital expenditures, where you purchase to own the equipment and software, to an operating expense (OpEx) where you subscribe to those same services for a monthly fee (pay per use). By leveraging the benefits of a monthly service instead of the traditional large purchase capital expenditure (CapEx) model, you only pay for what you need, while gaining the flexibility to expand or contract as your business changes.
- Improved functionality – if you’re concerned about losing capabilities by hosting your phone system off-site, your perception is not reality. Your cloud-based system will function the same or better than it would if it was installed in your office. Not convinced yet? Think back to Hurricane Sandy. Were you making and taking calls? If you were, there are only 2 ways that could’ve happened.
- You had a cloud-based service installed at the time. If you did, congratulations!
- You were one of the rare, lucky ones that didn’t lose power and still had limited phone service. But unfortunately, luck is not an effective business strategy.
We could go on, but these six benefits rank the highest.
But here’s another question as we wrap up… “Is a cloud-based solution always the best option?”
It’s rare today for an office to be encumbered with low-speed Internet access, or poor quality service, but it can occur. If all users are accessing the cloud server(s) from the same central location; from your office for example, a slow or unreliable internet service can become the Achilles Heel of a well-intentioned cloud-based deployment.
And this is true for both data and voice requirements. But you do have a few options:
- Evaluate a fiber-based Ethernet dedicated Internet service.
- Deploy a premise-based, pure VoIP solution. But make sure it’s not a “digital” phone system. And don’t waste your money on one of those “hybrid” systems that still supports 2-wire digital phones.
- Consider a temporary premise-based VoIP solution until you relocate your office with higher speed Internet.
In all 3 cases, IDeACOM can assist. We look forward to helping you explore the benefits. Contact your IDeACOM representative to discuss your situation in more detail.