History of Business Telephony
Business Telephony is unrecognisable from the 1980s when British Telecom (BT) as a brand was created out of the national Public Switched Telephony Network (PSTN). Then, voice calls were still analogue and not digital. Business calls came into company switchboards using a PBX system (Private Branch Exchange – tools allowing calls to be moved from one extension to another via some on-site phone hardware).
Telephony has moved on apace with the rise of the internet and the upgrading of the core national network from copper to super-fast optical fibre. Fibre offers speeds between the speed of light vs electric current and up to 100Mbps to 1Gbps of bandwidth capacity. This digital infrastructure has bought huge change to office phone systems for business and allowed corporates and SMEs to take their telephony system and service off-site and into the ‘cloud’. So whilst that phone on your desk looks like a traditional phone, it is more than likely (over 50% likely) operating via a cloud-based (VoIP) Voice of Internet Protocol/ SIP (session initiation protocol) based system.
What is VoIP?
A VoIP communications service allows users to make calls using the internet rather than the traditional copper phone lines. It is significantly cheaper than traditional PSTN or ISDN lines and is incredibly reliable if you have good connectivity.
Many businesses have already moved to VoIP solutions as it offers fantastic opportunities in terms of flexibility, scalability and its ability to integrate with existing and new technologies.
The reliability of initial versions of VoIP could be patchy because it was dependent on achieving even internet speed. ‘Packets’ of data were often messed up en route. To solve the problem SIP (session initiation protocol) was developed. SIP allowed internet-based communication ‘packets’ (Voice, Messaging or Video) to be correctly signalled and prioritised so calls could be sent and received correctly. The resulting quality improvements have made VoIP calls almost indistinguishable from the original copper wire, analogue versions.
Whilst there are on-premise VoIP PBX telephony solutions available, they are designed with larger corporates in mind. This article looks explicitly at hosted cloud VoIP business telephony solutions that give SMEs access to the high levels of telephony service and functionality they need to thrive in today’s digital marketplace.
Cloud-based office phone systems for business
Cloud-based business phone systems offer a VoIP based telephony solution that sits virtually in the cloud rather than on-site. As a result, they benefit from an excellent telephony service without investing in expensive physical hardware, wiring, analogue or ISDN business phone lines. It also means that an enterprise doesn’t have to budget for equipment maintenance or upgrade costs in the longer term. Software updates are carried out in the cloud by the service provider as part of the subscription cost.
Provided via the cloud, your business phone system principally transforms into specialist communications software that only needs a stable internet connection to operate. It can enable any company device, with internet access, to carry voice and data communications.
Should any problems occur, cloud-based backup data centres with recovery procedures in place will keep systems up and running to ensure business continuity. This is a particular benefit for SMEs who are unlikely to have the internal resource or backup procedures to manage this effectively.
Other benefits are:
• Scalability – as a cloud-based software solution, new users can be added at the touch of a button. Great for small and growing businesses or those who need flexibility for special projects or busy periods. It is also ideal for those who rent their business premises or have remote workers as numbers and devices are not tied to a single physical location.
• Cost control – most cloud office phone systems for business are based on paying a monthly fixed fee. However, most providers are committed to keeping call costs low and usually offer internal calls for free. As a result, people can easily work from home without generating additional cost.
• Flexible – cloud-based phone systems can be accessed by a business and its employees from anywhere with an internet connection, from multiple devices. It is also possible to programme software to make it appear that staff are calling from specific locations – useful for those working from home but still using their usual line or remote workers acting as local agents.
• Integrates with existing technologies – Allows integration of voice, video, chat, text and enables dynamic, interactive conferencing across your communications and phone solution. Some cloud VoIP
providers allow integration with the leading CRMs and facilitate interaction between key programs such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Teams.
• Security – Cloud phone systems implement high levels of cybersecurity to protect businesses from the most common threats – fraud, spoofing and phishing. They routinely look for vulnerabilities and offer security measures like data encryption, network security and voice and video security as standard.
If you’re an SME and don’t already use a hosted cloud office phone system, now is a great time to evaluate the options available.
What’s the right cloud telephone system for your business?
There are some excellent cloud business phone systems available in the UK from established providers. However, it is essential to find a telephony solution that will work hard for your business and its goals. For example, are you growing, are more of your employees working from home, where are your suppliers or customers based, do you need great video conferencing?
Here are some important questions to consider when you are looking at office phone systems for business:
1. What do you want to transition to? – Swap for a similar product (phone on a desk, etc.) or make the leap to Unified Comms, where you use a cloud portal that merges voice, video, messaging? This is a Board level decision and will involve canvassing the staff to see how they want to work in a post covid world.
Leaving this choice solely to the IT department is the wrong option because it’s so fundamental to what everyone does day in day out.
2. What device do you want to use? – Many firms are now removing the telephone handset and using a headset on a laptop and for calls. An application on mobile phones can be used for when you or your employees are away from your computer. This is an excellent opportunity to retire ‘old tech’ like desk phones, and fixed PC’s so you can enable all your staff to use a range of ‘mobile’ devices – laptops/tablets and phones – so they can work from the office or home seamlessly.
3. Do you want to integrate Communications with your CRM? Many firms are now wanting to get one total view of the customer and log all communication with clients. Any voice, video or message with customers can be attached to customer files and recorded. This can be quite complicated to achieve, so a business needs to be sure it is committed to both its CRM and Comms platform for a number of years. Many firms do this as a second stage after successfully implementing a Cloud VoIP solution. But, you need to ensure the CRM applications you want can be easily integrated.
4. What is your view of Microsoft or Google? – Due to the predominance of these operating systems and applications like Microsoft Teams, it is very likely that a business will want their carrier-grade VoIP communications solution to integrate into Gmail or Microsoft. VoIP ensures a higher level of service due to its ability to monitor lines and manage traffic efficiently.
5. Be Happy with the partner you choose. Changing how you communicate is a rare decision and one you need to be happy with for 5 plus years. It would be best to find a solutions partner that understands your business and implements a product that you know can evolve with the market. There is an enormous number of product options available and, as the market develops, some products will fail or not have the resources to keep up as technology moves forward. Excalibur would always recommend choosing well-known business telephony product from established brands like Gamma, BT, Microsoft and Google, who will support you over many product cycles.
6. Make sure the other pieces of the IT jigsaw are ‘fit for purpose’ – you need to check your internet speed and that the quality is as strong as possible.
Also, make sure your WIFI and internal cabling are sound. The product experience is often injured by these component parts and not the Cloud communication application itself.
Excalibur and Business Telephony
Cloud-based VoIP business telephone systems clearly offer a great solution when it comes to effectively managing communications across an organisation for employees and with customers.
At Excalibur we partner with industry leaders such as Gamma, Vodafone and Ring Central to offer a high-quality range of hosted cloud VoIP telephony solutions that meet the different needs and features required by the business.
You can read more about the hosted telephony solutions we provide here.