Helping SME business understand the benefits of cloud telephony

Helping SME business understand the benefits of cloud telephony


Introduction

Traditional ISDN phone systems are now coming to the end of their lives and BT have announced that new ISDN will not be supplied beyond 2020. Other solutions are now widely available and include cloud-based VoIP phone systems. These provide a real alternative to buying a direct replacement that sits in the corner of your office.

However, poorly designed and implemented cloud-based VoIP phone systems can suffer from serious issues, such as quality and reliability, that destroys many of the potential benefits of using this technology. This article discusses these benefits & pitfalls and looks at how businesses can get the most from any investment they make.

Background

Today’s business users need phone calls that are ‘rock-solid’ reliable and features & functions that help them work flexibly, such as working anywhere and receiving their calls on whatever device they choose. Many companies are still relying on traditional Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) technology for their business communications. This obsolete technology was first introduced in the 1970’s and is due for final switch-off by 2025. Many of the phone systems supporting ISDN are now beyond economic upgrade and as such are also defunct.

This leaves many business owners / decision-makers with the issue of what to do next. Do they upgrade their phone system by replacing the box that sits in the corner of their office? Or are there alternatives that can be considered? Cloud based VoIP telephony is now a stable and mainstream service which offers many benefits that include zero-capital expenditure and flexible terms. Such features that many business users already enjoy from other cloud-based services, such as Microsoft Office365 or Microsoft Azure.

iSDN vs Cloud Based Telephony

ISDN is heavily reliant on physical copper wiring, it uses its own set of physical equipment and adding / removing connections is time consuming, costly and often troublesome. When issues arise, it can also be problematic to fix in a timely manner and having a dedicated ISDN backup is costly. Not ideal in an ever more demanding business world!

Cloud-based telephony or hosted VoIP uses the Internet to connect the users handset device to the hosted switch or PBX (private branch exchange), which in tun connects the business to other VoIP users or the PSTN (public services telephone network). This means using the same equipment and technology as used by your computer network.

Benefits of Cloud based VoIP Telephony

Cloud-based VoIP telephony uses the Internet and the same technologies of your computer network. This means that cloud-based VoIP telephony is now much cheaper, easier to set-up, change, resilient and easier to support & manage than iSDN system. Let’s look at some of the factors behind this;

Internet based means that users and their handsets connect via the same LAN (local area network), comprising the same network switches, the same wi-fi and the same types of Internet connection already used in most businesses today. This commonality translates to cheaper, more flexible, easier to set-up, change and manage than the older dedicated systems of iSDN.

How the service is costed and financed is also a critical factor for many businesses. The ability to avoid large CapX (capital expenditure) and move toward on-going monthly rental or OpX (operating expenditure) is key to many businesses. Improving cashflows is vital to so many SMB (small & medium business). Cloud-based also means systems are centrally managed and updated, hosted on the best platforms in the most reliable data centres. This means they more reliability, have higher up-time / availability and are better protected against cyber-security than systems directly hosted and managed by a business. This generally means that cloud-based VoIP telephony provide features that are way beyond the budget of most small and medium sized businesses.

How does it work?

Using IP (internet protocol) VoIP handsets and devices automatically connect from any location with an active Internet connection. Simply plug-in the phone via your standard ethernet cable and you’re away! Behind the scenes, the phone handset connects to the voice server or PBX. The system is programmed to know which handset is assigned to which user and calls are routed from the PSTN via the cloud-based phone system to the appropriate user.

Users can also login and logout of the system, analogous to hotdesking on your PC network, allowing any user to login and receive their calls anywhere. Cloud-hosted systems are feature-rich and provide almost unlimited potential, such as incorporating the desk phone features in to your mobile device or software that shows comprehensive calls statistics about who is picking up your calls or how many are going unanswered.

Being able to connect with any Internet connected device, means having your phone calls whereever you need them, making your business agile, flexible and efficient. But done poorly, there can be few things more irritating or costly to your business, so here are some things to look out for when selecting a system.

What to look out for

A VoIP call using the best quality takes around 120Kb/s. That’s a very small amount of data, compared to the routinely available speeds of 10,000Kb/s or 100,000Kb/s found in most LANs (local area networks). However, the problem isn’t speed, but delay. With computer data, the IP packets can be re-transmitted and jumbled up with no issue, as the receiving computer simply reorders the packets or asks for new ones to be resent. However, the human ear can’t do this and any delays or drops outs means that t*e c*nver*ation becom*s ra*her d*fficult t* foll*w!

To combat this a number of things can be done, such as separating the traffic in the LAN by having different voice and data networks. However, this doesn’t mean doubling up on equipment and losing some of the benefits of commonality mentioned above! If the right switching and LAN equipment is selected, then VLANs (virtual local area networks) can easily be implemented that provide this traffic separation.

Perhaps more importantly is how VoIP traffic is handled in the WAN (wide area network), where companies routinely use broadband services and where speed of connection is much lower. Because speed is lower, more is being ‘squeezed’ in to a smaller ‘pipe’, just like your water and therefore the flow or ‘congestion’ becomes more significant. To overcome this the best solutions offer QOS (quality of service), which enables bandwidth to be reserved for critical applications like VoIP.

Even in the best solutions things do go wrong and when they do, its important to have the ability to redirect calls quickly. Look for systems that offer automatic call redirect when the destination site goes down. I.e. when the broadband fails, calls are automatically rerouted to your mobile and / or other users or sites. But what happens if the hosted platform fails? This maybe a rare event, but we recommend using a different ICS (inbound call solution) to that of your hosted telephony platform. This ensures calls always go somewhere and are not lost.

Finally, look for voice server or PBX software that is mainstream and well supported, such as Cisco Broadsoft solution and look for a high rating from review sites like Gartner. The choice of software is critical and will be a main factor in the features, functions and stability of the system you select. Broadsoft for example is the market leader, it is designed to be run as a cloud-service and offers a wide range of easily configured features.

Summarizing the benefits

In summary;

  • Costs for SIP channels can be around 50% cheaper that the equivalent ISDN. The bigger the business, the bigger the saving is that respect.
  • It’s now main-stream with thousands of UK businesses adopting this technology, enabling them to easily grow and remain agile.
  • Cloud-telephony allows users to have the same phone number regardless of where they are in the world. This number flexibility means no issues when relocating your office, even if you are moving to a different geographic location.
  • Cloud-telephony is the perfect communications solution for growth, enabling the addition of new lines, remote workers and new office locations via a simple process.
  • Finally, its reliable and can now offer better recovery and easier support than the legacy ISDN. Modern solutions, like VOIP, now come with in-built resilience features. Immediate redirection of calls in the event of failure.
  • Finally, many packages now include ‘call plans’ that include bundles of call minutes, that can be shared across the whole group. This means that most companies have zero call charges and their cloud-phone solution becomes a fixed recurring monthly charge

Please contact Charlton Networks for a free review of your telephony today and prepare for the future growth of your business.

Useful Facts

  • Did you know that ISDN phone systems are coming to the end of their life? BT have announced that ISDN will not be supplied beyond 2020. Read our cloud telephony guide for SME business owners.
  • Get a better business telephone solution. Cut your existing business phone costs by 50% or more! Avoid changing your phone number when upgrading your phone system. Use the same phone number anywhere on the globe. Read our cloud telephony guide for SME business owners.
  • What to do if your traditional phone goes down? Find out how cloud-based telephony can provide reliable, easy to manage & cheaper business phone solutions. Read our cloud telephony guide for SME business owners.
  • Getting unexpected call charges each month? Understand how VoIP / Cloud-based telephony and call-plans can remove unwanted charges.

For more details contact our team or request a FREE business telephony review

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