What is a Cloud or Hosted PBX?
An IP Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is a specialized type of software that functions as the central hub of a business phone system. And a cloud solution is any software that is hosted on a remote server. So a cloud PBX is a hosted communications solution that provides private branch exchange, a voice calling platform, and a host of other modern communications functionality.
Because a cloud PBX is hosted remotely, it is managed and updated by the service provider. This affords any organization, whether small or large, access to a world-class phone system with advanced functionality while keeping costs to a minimum. Additionally, cloud or hosted PBX users take advantage of the power of scale. These providers service thousands of companies which means that their data centers are designed with a degree of redundancy beyond the means of many businesses, ensuring stable, reliable service.
Why a Cloud PBX May Be Right For You
While an on-premise phone system grants users full control over their phone system, wielding that control comes with the consequence of responsibility. Unlike a hosted PBX where a service provider will be responsible for maintenance and troubleshooting, choosing to deploy your phone system on-premise brings the responsibility to hire and keep on staff experienced system administrators capable of maintaining a modern phone system as well as fixing any issues that may arise.
The main advantages of a cloud or hosted PBX are cost, convenience, scalability, and flexibility.
Compared to the much higher cost of deploying thousands of dollars in hardware, the monthly subscription cost for a cloud phone service is incredibly manageable. Especially for small to medium businesses, avoiding the cost of hardware and installing the proper infrastructure can be a huge factor in deciding to adopt a cloud PBX.
The cost savings alone are often motivation enough for SMBs, but another factor that may make a cloud PBX right for your business is convenience. While a large enterprise may often have a dedicated team to handle projects like installing and maintaining a phone system, in a small to medium business, often every employee must wear multiple hats. With a hosted PBX, no time is wasted maintaining a phone system, and, in the hands of phone system experts, there’s no question whether a business can rely on their phone system.
Another key factor in whether or not a hosted PBX is right for your business: scalability. If your business is growing, that means that the number of phone system users is also growing. With a hosted PBX, you don’t have to predict how many users your phone system will need to be able to handle over the course of its operational life. When you need more users, you just increase the number of user licenses, and when you need less, you just decrease that number. This type of phone system is also perfect for businesses that work seasonally or employ seasonal workers.
As noted above, with a cloud PBX, a business is free to be flexible. They can easily increase or decrease the number of extensions they pay for. Their business can easily move locations or span multiple locations with the same phone system. And, importantly, with their phone system in the cloud, it is accessible from any location, whether through desktop or mobile device.
What to Look for in a Cloud Provider?
If a hosted PBX may be right for your business, here are some key things to look for:
While very unlikely, if your service provider’s network goes down, your phone system goes with it. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your chosen provider guarantees a solidly reliable network. Two vital ways to tell are to check how robust their network is by checking redundancy and uptime promises (most reputable providers promise over 97% uptime) and to enter a service level agreement (SLA) which ensures compensation for planned outages.
When researching service providers, compare feature lists for different phone systems against price per user, as well as whether all features are included at one price or if some are upgrades and additions. This will allow you to rapidly identify which providers are able to match your needs and budget while also providing a reliable service.
Along with ensuring that features your business needs aren’t an upcharge, it’s also important to be aware of any hidden costs associated with phone service, including fees to downgrade the number of users and cancellation fees if you decide to interrupt your service before an agreed upon date (depending on whether you sign a contract or pay month-to-month)..
Last, but certainly not least, you’re trusting an important communication tool with a professional service provider. While the one ultimately chosen by your business should be reliable, ensure they are also friendly and easy to contact. There’s nothing more irritating than finding a provider difficult to communicate with or, worse, a customer service team who either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about any questions or concerns you may have. Some providers offer customer service 24/7, while others may only offer around the clock access for a price.