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.
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A Cloud-based phone system is a VoIP phone system that is hosted in one or more secure off-site data centers. 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. Also easy to add or move extensions when employees are added or moved to a new office/desk.
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.
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 AnyWare.
Cloud-based phone systems offer several major advantages over traditional, on-site setups:
There are some drawbacks and things to consider before moving your phones to the Cloud:
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.
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.
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.
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.