Business technology is always advancing. This decade saw the rise of cloud-based data storage and software. These cloud-based systems offer incredible flexibility, allowing users to access their systems from anywhere without expensive hardware investments. However, there are even more ways to use the cloud in modern business settings. The most recent trend is cloud-based phone systems.
What Is a Cloud-Based Phone System?
Essentially, a cloud-based business phone system is a phone service that runs through the internet instead of a traditional landline. So how does a cloud-based phone system work?
When you sign up for a cloud phone system, your business selects a single phone number with your account. Then, you make that phone number accessible to all verified users through their computer system or cell phone. Users can then see incoming calls and answer with a digital phone, cell phone or even their computer no matter where they are.
Because the phone system runs through the cloud, it stores all phone data in the cloud as well. Companies using these systems can access call records and store them on the company cloud without investing in new storage hardware. They also allow the setup of specific rules for incoming calls. For example, users can automatically route phone numbers or number types to specific staff members instead of going through a receptionist, speeding up customer service and response times.
Benefits of Using a Cloud-Based Phone System for Business
The prospect of switching your landline phone service to a cloud-based phone system may have piqued your curiosity, but you may still be struggling to understand how this is any better than your existing landline system. Some of the benefits of using a cloud phone system for business include the following.
- Improved customer experience: With a landline system, your business may need multiple numbers, one for each separate location. It can get very confusing for customers, and can also increase the amount of time they spend on the phone trying to reach the right person. With a cloud-based phone system, your business only needs a single number to access every location and contact any employee, reducing confusion for customers. Additionally, automation, auto-attendants and rules-based routing can reduce customer wait time overall, further improving their experience.
- Expanded integration: Cloud-based business tools integrate more easily into other business processes, which is a significant benefit to any company. According to research, integrating business communications with everyday workflow applications helps improve overall efficiency. Additionally, workflow integration makes the system more user-friendly for training purposes.
- Employee accessibility: Any cloud-based system is accessible from any location at any time, and cloud business phone systems are no exception. This reason is the primary driver behind 42% of companies that have chosen to switch operations to the cloud. With a cloud-based business phone system, any employee with a computer, smartphone or connected desk phone can have access to all their standard calling features. This technology enhances remote capabilities, allowing employees to work efficiently and respond to requests from any location. It also makes multi-location companies more connected.
- Maximized efficiency: Cloud phone services don’t just improve efficiency through improved integration and access. Web-based phone systems are also easier to manage from an IT standpoint. IT staff can more efficiently use insights to troubleshoot and reconfigure the system, resulting in fewer phone system errors overall and maximum uptime.
- Advanced features: Cloud phone systems for businesses come packed with a multitude of features, and many configurations have customizable options so you can select only the ones you need. Some advanced features include the capability to use multiple physical phone options, add a variety of extensions, manage messages and voicemail, forward calls and even provide business SMS options. Automation options are also available, including call routing, virtual assistants and auto attendants.
- Increased scalability: Business cloud phone services are scalable to fit your needs. If your business grows or downsizes, your phone system can scale up and down with your needs. Cloud-based systems allow you to add and remove extensions as needed and only charge you for the ones that you use. These systems also allow you to temporarily add premium features during busy seasons.
- Business continuity: One of the most notable benefits of cloud phone systems for businesses is their ability to provide excellent continuity. Cloud-based communications systems remain safe from severe weather or disasters, ensuring your communication lines remain open during storms. Additionally, the capacity for remote work allows your business to function even if your brick-and-mortar location becomes temporarily unavailable.
- Simplified setup: Another significant benefit of cloud phone systems is that they are exceedingly easy to implement. Cloud-based phone systems are fast and straightforward to set up and will integrate easily with much of your existing hardware and resources. Instead of rewiring and reprogramming a traditional phone system, you can skip all that and move straight to calling with cloud-based phone services.
- Reduced costs: The ultimate concern of any business is the bottom line, and cloud phone services can and will save businesses money. Cloud-based phone systems are significantly less expensive to install, maintain and upgrade than traditional phone systems. Even better, cloud business phone systems allow companies to access advanced features without higher costs. All of this means your business will experience improved functionality and profitability with one straightforward switch.
Should You Switch to the Cloud?
Even with all the benefits of a cloud phone service for business, you may be wondering if it’s worth it to switch right now. Here are a couple of things to consider to determine if your business phone systems should move to the cloud.
- Age of your system: If you’re using a phone system that is over five years old, you’re overdue for an update. Newer technological advancements are quickly leaving IP PBX and TDM systems behind. Soon, it may be difficult to find technicians, replacement parts and compatible software with these systems. Get ahead of the technological curve by upgrading to a cloud system that will continually update to integrate with the latest technology.
- Future transitions: If your business is looking to move within the next few years, you can’t afford to have any service downtime. On-premise phone systems can’t continue operating smoothly during a physical move, but cloud-based systems can. Considering a cloud-based system is vital if your business is looking to expand operations to multiple locations or increase its remote access capabilities. With a cloud-based system, your customers can reach all your locations and even remote employees with a single number.
- Potential automation: If you’re looking for more control and automation in your system, a cloud-based phone system is a good way to go about it. Cloud-based phone systems allow for an expanded set of features and integrations, including group conferencing, video calling, simple transfers and call recordings.
- Other cloud transitions: If your business is planning to transition other aspects of your operations to the cloud, it’s worth looking to see if your provider offers cloud-based phone services as part of their bundle. If so, making the switch all at once may be a good choice.
If your business meets any of these criteria, you might be the perfect candidate for a new cloud business phone system.
Switching Your Business’ Phone System to the Cloud
If you think your business is ready to make the switch, the next step is to start planning the transition. While cloud-based phone systems are a cinch to use and maintain once implemented, the changeover requires some time and planning. When you’re ready to make the change, here are a few guidelines to consider to help with the process.
1. Choose Your Vendor Wisely
The most significant factor in implementing the successful transition to a cloud-based business phone system is the right vendor. Your business needs to be able to trust your vendor, their credentials and their ability to manage your data appropriately and securely. Some of the major things to look for in a potential vendor include the following.
- Prioritizes security: Your vendor needs to take security as seriously as you do. Often, your vendor will shoulder the responsibility of making sure your cloud-based data is secure, so choosing a vendor with loose security protocols can endanger your data and potentially result in downtime.
- Carries essential features: When assessing vendors, ensure the companies you’re looking at can provide all the features your business wants. Additionally, look to see if they offer scaling and customization options — you don’t want to pay for functions your business doesn’t use.
- Provides support: Ask any potential vendor about the extent of their support services. Do they provide setup assistance? What is the availability of their support team, and how easy is it to reach them? You may also look into online reviews from businesses similar to yours to determine the quality of the vendor as well as their customer care practices.
- Exhibits reliability: Downtime is a danger to any company. While every company encounters some amount of downtime in their history, look into any potential vendor to see how often they’ve encountered downtime in the past, how long the incident occurred and the steps they took to handle it.
Don’t select a vendor until you have assessed a few viable options and have received detailed bids from each vendor.
2. Notify Your Current Provider
As soon as you select a provider for your cloud business phone system, notify your current phone service, if you have one. Determine if you have any contract to honor with your old service and set up a transition date. Ideally, this transition date will be slightly before your termination date with your old provider — this allows your business some time to set up your new system correctly and prevent any downtime.
3. Select or Hire a Team
With any migration or transition, you need a team dedicated to ensuring the transition goes as smoothly as possible. Select a few employees to lead the transition as soon as you have a transition date, and choose one to serve as the project manager. This team will be responsible for communicating with the old and new service providers, coordinating any hardware changes and implementing the changeover.
If your company is relatively small or cannot spare employees for the switch, look into hiring a company that specializes in cloud transitions. A specialized team from a trusted vendor can assess your current system from a third-party perspective, coordinate potential changes and help implement the transition smoothly.
4. Back up Your Data
If your company needs your old phone system data, back up and store this data consistently before and during the transition. Copy all critical information to cloud drives for easy access, or see if your provider offers extra storage for pre-transition data.
5. Set up Your System
On the day of the transition, it is your team’s responsibility to handle all the physical and technical changes. These will include making some choices and setting up some system fundamentals, such as the following.
- Choosing your number: With a cloud-based system, you can select a local or 1-800 number for your business.
- Set up automation options: Aim to implement essential automation options in your new system as quickly as possible. These include setting up your basic call routing rules or auto-attendant services.
- Set up user access: Select a group of individuals to access and test the system immediately after installation.
Again, it is generally best to set up your new system before the termination date for your old service, if you have one. This timing allows your business some leeway to set up your new system correctly and undergo appropriate testing.
6. Test the New System
Once your chosen vendor has installed your system, it’s time to test and adjust. Your testing team should implement any call routing rules or custom configurations and place test calls to ensure the new service is working as intended. Ideally, your testing team should have enough time to implement all configurations and do thorough testing, including dummy traffic tests, to be confident your system is working properly before launch.
Let Merlin Communications Help Move Your Business to the Cloud
If you’re ready to make the switch to a cloud phone service for your business, but don’t quite know where to start, Merlin can help.
Merlin Communications, Inc. is a telecommunications consulting firm in Central PA that focuses on simplifying technology acquisitions for our customers. We know there are hundreds of providers for every possible service, and sifting through them can be overwhelming. That’s why we study the industry and work with top providers to select the best options for our clients. We’ll provide your business with comprehensive plans and services to help you get the technology you need without the hassle or confusion.
At Merlin, your satisfaction is our primary goal. We pride ourselves on providing outstanding support for every customer, regardless of their needs. We go beyond the role of a sales rep selling you a plan — we serve you as a trusted partner who can help you navigate the complex world of telecommunications and technology services.
If you’re ready to get more with Merlin, contact us today for more information or to receive a free, no-obligation quote.