Just about every business that has existed since the invention of the telephone has had a need for more than one handset. Today, it’s common for even small businesses to have 10 or more handsets.
Multiple phones means a switching system is needed to manage them. The industry standard for business phone systems is the PBX (private branch exchange) system, which has been in place for decades now. The typical business phone handset with various buttons allowing you to redirect calls to other handsets on the property is a good visual example of how this system works, allowing calls to come in to one handset and be routed and isolated to other handsets as required.
PBX systems consist of physical hardware that represents both an up-front and ongoing cost, as the equipment has to be maintained regularly and replaced when it becomes outdated. There’s also the cost of making outgoing calls. Generally speaking, businesses contract out to a specialised provider (such as BT) who “rents” the use of ISDN lines or SIP trunks to a business on a monthly basis.
Enter the Computers
Businesses that run a PBX system generally have a completely separate network for their computing and data needs. Servers and computers are similarly connected to their own data switches, which connect through routers to the internet.
For a long time, there was no option but to maintain two separate networks; one PBX network for the phone lines, and an IT network that might make use of those phone lines but was otherwise entirely separate and serviced by a different provider.
Increases in technology and bandwidth availability have now made “voice over IP” (VoIP) a possibility. To put it as simply as possible, this means having your existing computer network pull double duty by also providing phone services as well. Modern VoIP systems are capable of performing all the same functions of the PBX system.
Obviously, that represents a significant cost savings, and many companies have already made the leap to VoIP. The standard VoIP setup still requires a physical phone server to be present at the office, however. So you’re dealing with computer equipment instead of a phone switchboard, but there’s still a similar cost in terms of purchasing and periodically upgrading the server, ongoing maintenance and obtaining needed peripheral hardware and software.
A relatively recent development allows for businesses to finally rid themselves of hardware expense and trouble in their telephony once and for all: a hosted VoIP system.
The shift to cloud computing has thus far mostly centred on data; storing files and using virtual services through an internet connection instead of physical software installed on a local computer, for example. Hosted VoIP allows businesses to also port their telecommunications systems over to the cloud, removing the need for any specialised phone hardware at their business locations. Employees and managers can simply use their smartphones and computers to field calls, but handsets can also still be incorporated at the office if desired.
Why Make the Move to Hosted VoIP?
- It greatly simplifies your business telecommunications network, as well as eliminating training costs for new employees.
- No capital expenditure on buying or maintaining equipment. The cost model is controlled with one monthly fee covering all your service needs.
- It’s much easier to scale, regardless of whether you need to expand or contract. Temporary additions and reductions of service are much simpler, and if you need to expand for a one-time project you don’t have to worry about being stuck holding a bunch of surplus equipment afterwards.
- Remote work becomes infinitely easier to manage. You can set up one number to work with multiple devices — no more “you can catch him on his mobile” and related communications snafus. One extension number can be set up to follow you at your office desk handset, through an app on your smartphone or even on a laptop or desktop computer with a headset connected.
- Related to remote work, you’ll see a major improvement in productivity. With the ability to have the complete phone system functionality available from wherever there is an internet connection, staff will get more work done when at client locations or working from home. It also frees them up to work more effectively during non-traditional hours.
- Technical risk is eliminated. With no phone hardware, there’s nothing that can break! You also don’t have to worry about securing phones in an office environment not necessarily designed with high security in mind. Hosted VoIP infrastructure is based in highly resilient data centres that are purpose-built to keep intruders out and protect servers from natural disasters.
- Billing is so much simpler to manage. There’s no need for a maintenance contract with a support company just to get basic changes made. If an employee switches desks, you don’t need to log a “trouble ticket” to get someone to change the extension number over.
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