What to look for when buying cloud phone systems

Companies switching to cloud phone systems from their previous telephone set up has become more commonplace, especially as businesses are increasingly understanding the benefits of moving more of their IT into the cloud.

The main difference between cloud phone systems compared to a traditional one is that instead of paying for upfront hardware and installation, all costs are covered by a low monthly fee and priced on a flexible and scalable per-user basis.

cloud phone systemsDespite the compelling cost benefits, however, getting the best and most appropriate arrangement isn’t always as straightforward as it could and should be. There are several other important considerations besides pricing, such as selecting the most appropriate features and choosing a system that will expand with the company’s development.

To help businesses see through the mist of market confusion that so often envelopes the telecoms market, we decided to produce a free and downloadable Buyer’s Guide that would help them better understand their options. It contains the key considerations for buyers and provides clear advice, guidance and tips for businesses to select a cloud phone system for their specific needs.

The guide highlights some of the potential pitfalls facing buyers, such as being hoodwinked into buying unnecessary hidden extras or paying more for service features they thought were in the standard price.

Buy flexibility and increase productivity

A cloud phone system isn’t just about having a phone system in the cloud! Companies can achieve so much more with the flexibility of a modern set up and this means their communications requirements are likely to alter and be more ambitious than in the past.

With more companies deploying Customer Relationship Management systems as well as other strategic IT applications, a cloud phone system should work seamlessly with them, providing a range of new efficiency and productivity benefits.

This integrated approach introduces a range of new opportunities for businesses to interact more efficiently and creatively with their customers. For example, companies can speed up the process of making and receiving calls, activate databases to instantly ‘screen pop’ information to help employees, and also achieve compliance with call recording.

Need all of the bells and whistles?

One of the main challenges facing companies is the sheer plethora of cloud telephone systems and features available to them nowadays. Throw into the mix plenty of jargon and loads of buzzwords and it’s easy to see how companies can become bamboozled and confused, especially those without technical nous.

As the cloud telephony market has grown, providers are energetically adding even more functions to enhance their standard offering. The grail for buyers is to find a provider who can offer a business all the features it needs with no hidden costs and one that is reasonably priced.

Cloud telephone systems can be incredibly sophisticated and the list of features on the salesperson’s check list can appear as never ending. While some companies price on an all-inclusive basis, with a single price per user per month, with all features included, others offer a very low starting fee, but then charge for additional features thereafter. It’s very easy to be attracted to these seemingly spellbinding low costs, but the pounds can start to rack up quickly.

Choose features to enhance performance

There are several basic phone system features that most if not all businesses should have and most providers will generally offer and supply these. The great advantage of the cloud is that it has opened up endless possibilities for company’s to achieve much more with their telephone set up than they could previously, resulting in higher and unanticipated levels of flexibility and productivity.

For example, with the right provider and features, even a relatively small business can run a full contact centre in the cloud, with skills based routing to particular departments and individuals, or other functionality such as hunt grouping and group pickup.

Select the line provider

Traditionally ISDN or analogue circuits have been used for telephone connections, however these come with their own set of challenges. When selecting the line type, companies need to consider the number of concurrent calls they expect and order the right technology to allow for growth. As lead times on circuits can be long, customers often ‘overbuy’ circuit capacity to allow headroom for growth. Traditional circuits also reveal the businesses location by enforcing geographical numbers – for example a business in rural Surrey can’t easily appear as a London 0207 number. The cloud has changed all that and companies can select their preferred number (if available) regardless of their geographic location(s).

The cloud revolution has taken a grip on the delivery of modern computing infrastructure services. This has been facilitated by the availability of affordable access circuits e.g. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), EFM (Ethernet First Mile), FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) allowing connectivity at high speed to the Internet.

Professional support or quite literally left to your own devices?

Cloud telephone systems provide companies with a lot more autonomy than their historical counterparts, but never rule out support, especially if your business relies heavily on its communications.

Companies can take control of their dial plan and make their own additions, moves and changes. There may be times, however, when professional support is needed and quickly. Always ensure that your provider is able to offer 24/7 support from qualified and experienced engineers so help is at hand if and when it’s needed.

Caveat emptor

The Latin adage ‘let the buyer beware’ is highly applicable to the purchase of a cloud phone system because there are so many things to consider before proceeding. If we were to highlight the top five, however, they would be:

  • Know what you need – do your homework.
  • Know what you’re getting – and you may not need everything!
  • Know how much it will cost with no hidden extras – total price transparency is a must.
  • Make sure that it’s flexible to adapt to your business.
  • Make sure your provider has a track record and can deliver exactly what your business requires.

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