There’s a steady buzz about VOIP phone systems, but choosing the right system for your business is a challenging study. CNet says, “Even the most savvy technology guru may have a blind spot when it comes to office phone systems.”
Your office environment will dictate the necessary features, such as intercom, voice mail, call transfer, etc. A small proprietorship may be interested in a “cloud” solution, such as offered by Internet Service Providers (Comcast, Vonage, TDS Metrocom, AT&T, Time Warner, Speakeasy). In addition, there are companies that use your existing broadband Internet connection to set up cloud-based phone service. These include Ring Central, One Box, 8 x 8, and many more.
Cloud refers to the majority of the phone equipment being hosted off-site, or “up in a cloud”. These are actually server farms that your phones connect to through a modem. The equipment in your business consists of the phone handsets and the modem.
As you study VOIP options, be aware of the challenges. David Trad, a Pre-Sales Consultant and Engineer at Connect Tel North Pty Ltd., in Brisbane Australia., posted this advice on LinkedIn:
Hosted services have to be setup properly, using second rate hosted providers will eventually be your undoing
Hosted services require you have sufficient amount of bandwidth. To date this is my sole biggest headache, we have this exact problem with a client that we deployed a Cisco system where the phone system is hosted at the head office and all the branch offices (9) have their phones connect back to the HQ system (Centralized setup which is identical to a hosted or “Cloud” setups).
Have contingencies in place… in the event that the network goes down.
Cloud, Hosted, Centralized or anything way you wish to call it, relies on the very network it overlays. …Calls that travel over the Internet (Public or otherwise) are subject to Contention Ratios, Back-Haul constraints, Upstream Links, Public Utilization, Competing Network Data etc..etc… the list can go on. As long as you know this, are aware of it, and are willing to spend some money to protect you (shield you) from it as much as possible, your experience should be a fairly good one.
While these Internet-based phone systems offer many features, the music on hold service typically falls short. Files must be uploaded to the “cloud”. This is a hands-on, manual application. If you want to use your on hold time as a marketing tool, you may be in for a disappointment. Changing messages is much easier when using an external music on hold device. Such messages-on-hold players are usually not compatible with VOIP “cloud-based” phone systems.
Internet and phone system providers are pushing hosted PBX (VOIP phone/off-site cloud based) systems. Getting locked in to an off-site system is not your only option. Consider a Hybrid PBX system that you can use on-site. The CNet article quoted earlier will cover these options.