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Chapter 4: Cloud Phone Systems

Learn Whether Cloud-Based Phone Systems Are the Right Solution for Your Business

This is the final chapter of The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Phone Systems: Cloud phone systems. To learn more about multi-line phone systems, VoIP phone systems, and PBX phone systems, check out the previous chapters.


 

The Top Cloud Phone Systems in 2018

 

Mitel5312 CiscoSPA303 Avaya9608G
 

Mitel 5312

 

Cisco SPA 303

 

Avaya 9608G


 

What Is a Cloud-Based Phone System?

A Cloud-based phone system is a VoIP phone system that is hosted on a secure server off-site. The server and phone system are accessed over the internet. A host PBX (private branch exchange) is an example of a Cloud-based phone system.

These systems offer the features of a complete phone system without the space requirements and equipment costs that often come with on-site setups. A Cloud PBX system can offer hold music, call transfers, automated assistants, conference calling, and more. They are also easier to scale, since there is no physical equipment to upgrade or install.

Keep reading to learn the answers to common questions about Cloud phone systems, understand the benefits and drawbacks of these systems, and determine whether this could be the solution your business needs.

 

cloud phone system infographiccloud phone system infographiccloud phone system infographic

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Do Cloud-based phone systems offer any special features?

In addition to the standard features you’d expect from any business phone system, Cloud-based systems can take advantage of their online nature to offer unique benefits to your business. One feature a Cloud-based service might offer that a traditional system can’t is a webphone. A webphone is a browser-based application that allows you to make calls right from any web browser.

Another useful feature of Cloud phone systems is CRM integration. The phone system can access your CRM (customer relationship manager) software and log any calls you make, which can give you more time for other tasks. Many of the advantages of Cloud-based phone systems revolve around freeing up time and resources—two commodities that small businesses often lack.

An auto attendant is another great feature of cloud phone systems. These are automated voice messages that say, “press 1 for customer service, press 2 for sales,” and so on.

Like other VoIP phone systems, it’s really easy to obtain a toll-free number—or to obtain additional phone numbers—for your office. You can have unlimited inbound or outbound calls without worrying about bandwidth problems, as you may have with a cell phone service provider.

Cloud VoIP providers include RingCentral, Skype for Business, Grasshopper, Ooma Office, Business VoiceEdge, and Frontier Business cloud telephony.


 

What are the advantages of a Cloud phone system?

Cloud-based phone systems offer several major advantages over traditional, on-site setups:

man making a call on hosted voip

  1. Low Up-Front Cost—Because it’s hosted by a service provider, you don’t have to worry about maintenance and day-to-day upkeep of a Cloud-based phone system. You also don’t need to worry about purchasing and installing equipment, which is one of the major hurdles of an on-site business phone system. Employees represent users in the communications software, but no new phone lines or desk phones need to be added to the office. This offers significant cost savings compared to older business phone systems.
  2. Ease of Use—Making changes and administering the phone system is easy thanks to management portals offered by service providers.This management can be especially noticeable when it comes to maintenance. With a cloud based system, the hosting provider is responsible for upkeep and ensuring the system remains functional. Small businesses may not have the resources to dedicate to maintaining a phone system, making this service a huge help. The web apps many cloud phone systems use for management are also typically very user-friendly, so it’s easy for users to adjust their own preferences—without needing an IT pro to help.
  3. Scalability—Scaling with a Cloud phone system is as easy as logging in and adding a user and phone. This is a major benefit for fast-growing small businesses. Any business with multiple employees and phone numbers will find this very useful. Each employee, whether inside or outside of the office, is simply a new user in the business communication software, and there is no need for additional hardware. This makes it a very scalable solution.
  4. Easy Remote Access—You’re not tied to any physical location for communications with a Cloud phone system. All you need is a working internet connection and an IP phone or softphone app. This is great not only for remote workers but also for businesses with multiple offices, since you need only one administrator, rather than one for each site. Many cloud communications providers also offer web and mobile apps for easy access and use. This makes cloud phones a highly practical unified communications solution. Research has shown that companies who use internet phones can increase employee productivity by 3.9 hours per week by keeping them connected to work more easily.
  5. Reliability—Thanks to what is known as geographic redundancy—having multiple servers in different physical locations that act as backups for each other—downtime with Cloud phone providers is extremely low. This is, of course, critically important for a business. If phones are your main line of communication with customers and clients, this additional reliability is a major advantage for cloud communications. 

3.9HoursProductivity


 

Are there any disadvantages to getting a Cloud phone service?

There are some drawbacks and things to consider before moving your phones to the Cloud:

  1. Lack of Control—You’re at the mercy of the hosting company and cloud service provider. If the service goes out or the host experiences server issues, your phones could stop working. Although reliability is generally excellent with Cloud-based phone systems, no provider can guarantee 100% uptime. It’s important to consider backup plans in the event of outage.
  2. Reliance on Internet Connection—You are depending on the reliability of your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for not only internet access but also phone access. If your ISP experiences issues, you run the risk of losing phone service. Internet phones use about 100 Kbps upload and download speed per device during voice calls so keep this in mind.
  3. Different Equipment—Since Cloud-based phone systems are VoIP systems, you’ll need a different type of phone, called an IP phone, to use them. If you have a larger organization with lots of traditional phones, switching to the Cloud could represent a significant cost. 

100KbpsVoice


 

Compared to Other Business Phone Systems

Cloud phone systems, or in other words hosted VoIP phone services or hosted PBX systems, represent the most modern communications technology right now. You don’t have to worry about expensive upfront costs or having your IT people do SIP trunking. These virtual phone systems have no need of on-premise equipment. All that you need is an IP phone or a computer. So traditional PBX systems and analog phones are things of the past.

Most business phone service providers offer some type of cloud solution. However, your business may not need it if you only need a simple 2-line office phone or you only use your cell phone. The additional features that unify communications between employees are not needed by many small businesses.


 

Who can benefit from Cloud-based phone systems?

man calling with a voip phone

Small- and medium-sized businesses that lack the budgets to cover the installation and IT costs of an on-site system are in an especially good position to benefit from moving to the Cloud. Even if your business can afford to go the on-site route, it may make more sense to go with a Cloud-based solution and allocate those resources elsewhere.

Small businesses in particular have a lot to gain by choosing cloud-based phone system solutions such as Frontier AnyWare. Having a provider host the system takes the burden of maintenance, IT support, troubleshooting, and other phone-related tasks off the small business, freeing up that time for more important tasks. And it does so without needing a dedicated staff member—something that might be necessary without this service, unless one employee is familiar with phone system administration.

If your business has a small staff, this outsourcing can be really helpful. Small teams have a lot of advantages, but they also tend to be pulled in more directions at once, so anything owners can do to keep the team focused on their jobs is critical.

On the other hand, if having complete control of your phone system and data is important, a Cloud solution is likely not a good fit. If your business deals with sensitive data, for example, you might not want your incoming calls being routed through a hosting provider.


 

The Top Cloud Phone Systems

If you’ve decided to make the move to a cloud-based phone solution, your next step is choosing the right handsets for your business.

Mitel 5312 IP Phone

Mitel5312

The Mitel 5312 Pro is the perfect desk phone for businesses on a smaller budget that prefer the straightforward access to the features the twelve programmable buttons offer. These buttons can be faster to use than the on-screen contextual menus many other phones use. The backlit displays also make them great for placing calls in offices where lighting might be dim. The price is reasonable but still a bit higher than other inexpensive options. It also features a great speakerphone system for conference calling and hands-free communication.

 Benefits:  Common Challenges:
  • Twelve programmable keys give flexibility.
  • Backlit display for easy calling in any light.
  • More expensive than some other options.
  • Display is somewhat small.

Cisco SPA 303 3-Line IP Phone

CiscoSPA303

The Cisco SPA 303 is an excellent budget phone for small businesses and offices that need reliable hardware that won’t break the bank. This handset covers the basic calling features you’d expect from an office phone, with a large display and easy-to-press buttons. There are some tradeoffs for that low price, though, including lack of a backlit display. Some users report the noise canceling on the speakerphone is mediocre at best, so that feature may impact conference calls. Finally, there may be some compatibility issues with certain consumer routers, so if you’re using this phone in a home office, double-check that your networking equipment is compatible.

 Benefits:  Common Challenges:
  • Sturdy and reliable.
  • Very affordable.
  • Lacks some advanced features.
  • Some possible compatibility issues with consumer routers.

Avaya IP Phone 9608G

Avaya9608G

The Avaya 9608G offers excellent call quality and a flexible user interface. This phone is more expensive than the other options we’ve listed, so it may be best suited to small businesses where call quality is paramount. Some users have complained that the display is hard to read, and it lacks a backlight, so be aware of that when choosing. Overall, though, we think this is a great solution for any desk if budget isn’t the top priority.

 Benefits:  Common Challenges:
  • Clear HD audio.
  • Simplified controls using flexible, contextual softkeys.
  • Pricey.
  • Display quality is lacking.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I look for in a cloud-based business phone systems provider?

Choosing the right provider for any service is important, but especially with a hosted phone system. That’s because the maintenance and uptime of your phones are in the hands of the hosting provider. Here are a few things to look for:

Affordable pricing. Look for a provider that fits your budget and provides the services you need at a reasonable price.
Great customer service. Make sure your chosen provider has a reputation for excellent customer service. In the event your phone systems go down, you’ll have to rely on that service to get things up and running again.
Advanced features. Hosted business VoIP systems can support advanced features such as conference calling and video conferencing. Look for a provider that offers these features at reasonable prices.

Can I choose my phone number with a cloud-based phone system?

Most cloud phone providers, including Frontier, allow you to choose a phone number for your business. Typically, you can choose from local numbers, toll-free numbers, or a vanity number.

Where can I find cloud based phone system reviews?

There are a number of good roundups available online. PCMag offers a pretty comprehensive one.

Are there any free cloud phone systems available?

Some systems claim to be free. We don’t recommend taking this approach. Your phone system is a vital part of your business, and cloud systems are often very affordable. Our advice is to spend the money and get a good service from a reputable provider.

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