You’re probably aware of “the cloud” as that semi-mystical place where online file storage facilities and document-sharing platforms like Dropbox and Google Drive are situated. What you may not realize is that the internet is also responsible for powering today’s most versatile and efficient telecommunications systems.
The days when a business phone system was a clunky old box taking up space in a closet in your office are long gone. Telecom capabilities now exist in the cloud – and in this article we’ll be answering some of the typical questions that business users have about them.
What Is A Cloud PBX?
A cloud or hosted PBX is a virtual Private Branch Exchange. Instead of you having to install a nuts and bolts PBX on your business premises and connect it up with cables, your cloud service provides this infrastructure in the form of its own remote hardware and software. The effect for you is the same as if a physical installation exists on site.
How Do Voice Calls Carry Over The Internet?
Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP technology converts voice signals (which are an analog wave form) into packets of digital information. This data can then be transmitted across the internet using a standard high-speed or broadband connection. For business users, this occurs ideally over private channels, in the form of your own Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN).
For domestic users of VoIP services, transmission typically occurs over the public internet. This channel may also be used for businesses to provide backup telecoms services in the event of a local network outage, natural disaster, or other unanticipated conditions.
Does Call Quality Suffer Over The Internet?
No. In the early days of VoIP, call quality was an issue, and unfortunately this reputation has persisted, even though such problems have long been overcome. Provided you have a strong, good quality broadband connection, call quality of IP calls is equal to, if not better than, those of an analogue call.
If call quality issues do arise, then they are usually solvable by prioritizing voice traffic on your router. Another solution is to set up a dedicated broadband that is only used for VoIP traffic.
What Benefits Does A Cloud PBX Give?
There are several advantages to using a cloud PBX service, including:
- No need for on-site PBX hardware – or the obligation to manage and maintain it.
- A single network handling voice and data traffic – which means less work for your IT staff in administration and monitoring.
- A host of telecommunications features, and the ability to integrate these with data-based office, document, and process handling applications.
- Flexibility and scaling of your system to meet changing demands – easily configured from a web-based administration console.
- The ability to port your business telecommunications service to domestic, mobile, and remote phones.
- Free and often unlimited calls to other users on your network, with many services extending this freedom to include the continental USA and Canada.
- Typical savings of from 40-80% over traditional telephone systems.
Will I Save Money With A Cloud PBX Solution?
Absolutely. Compared to a standard telephone system, the cost savings of hosted your PBX in the cloud are huge.
- There are no setup costs with a hosted PBX
- Equipment is hosted, maintained, upgraded and replaced as necessary in the cloud by the provider
- Internet calls are cheaper – and you won’t be paying a separate bill for a telephone line
What Equipment Will I Need To Make Cloud PBX Work?
Cloud PBX solutions can typically work with your existing telephones, dedicated VoIP phones, or a mix of the two. VoIP phones require the presence of a reliable data connection (preferably broadband). New connections will usually require one or more dedicated routers.
If your business operates a Local Area Network that your phones can plug into, then a set of IP (Internet Protocol)-enabled handsets and a data network connection to the host’s site are all that are required by some services.
Can I Use My Old Hardware?
Although IP telephony ideally works with desktop, laptop, or notebook computers, dedicated VoIP phones and a range of smartphones and mobile devices, if you have an existing office phone, it’s possible to fit it with a VoIP adapter which converts its analog output to digital signals for making calls and does the reverse process for incoming communications.
How Much Bandwidth Do I Need?
Internet calls create a two-way traffic, which means that the slower uplink speed is the governing factor. Generally, a hosted PBX VoIP call will use approximately 30kbps of bandwidth for the duration of a single call. This figure is multiplied by the number of users that will be on the phone at the same time (i.e. for two users it will use 60kbps, and for five it will be 150kbps).
This means that your exact requirements will depend on the call volume and call patterns that you experience and expect at your company.
Can I Keep My Existing Phone Number?
Cloud or hosted PBX subscription plans will usually give you the option of retaining your existing phone number, as well as offering a selection of numbers which you can buy or designate to extend the range of your business operations. These include toll-free, regional, and local phone numbers.
Find Me/Follow Me is a typical feature of VoIP-based systems which allows you to designate a domestic, office, or mobile phone number where calls coming into your business line may be redirected at any time, so that you can remain available to customers and contacts wherever you are.
Is It Easy To Port My Phone Number?
Very. In fact, from the user’s perspective, porting a phone number is as simple as giving authorization to your provider, who will then take care of the port for you, contacting your current provider on your behalf to initiate a port request, and handling everything else from there.
Does It Work With Mobile Phones?
One of the major selling points of VoIP telecoms systems and cloud PBX is that the full functionality of an office phone system (complete with virtual receptionists, subscriber presence and location capabilities, call routing, software integration, etc.) can be made available to users on their mobile phones. All that’s required is the installation of your VoIP system’s mobile app on a device, and provisions from your account’s administration console authorizing the system to recognize your mobile number.
What About Management And Maintenance?
Besides your own access to the administrative console governing your system settings, a cloud PBX service is managed and maintained by your service provider. Technical support is typically provided from your host’s central hub and often delivered in terms of system tweaks and software – so no need for site visits or expensive spare parts.
Service is typically year-round and 24/7, and top-grade providers won’t even charge you for it. System upgrades and software updates are also provided (often free) as part of your subscription package.
Is It Expensive?
Service contracts for cloud PBX are typically charged on a monthly basis, with a range of feature sets available to suit the needs of different businesses. And with free on-network calls and unlimited calling plans, it’s a very cost-effective option for businesses.
How About Security?
If you operate a private business network, your own IT staff should have measures already in place to monitor and govern its internal security. Cloud PBX and VoIP communications are typically configured to run on their own separate voice data network, segregated from your main network traffic. This protects both the stability and security of your telecoms network. In addition, your service provider should have their own set of comprehensive security measures in place to assure user authentication, service availability, network access and protection, and backup features for disaster recovery in the event of unanticipated downtime or security incidents.