Flexibility and Remote Access Issues for Cloud Based Phone Systems

Should Your Next Phone System Be Cloud Based?

The fourth installment of our blog series on cloud phone systems, Obsolescence and Scalability Issues for Cloud Based Phone Systems, covered the advantages of an internet based communication system in preventing early obsolescence and the ease of scaling a cloud system vs. an on premise system. Because a large part of any cloud based system is simply software, it is upgraded on a regular basis like any computer program or operating system, which gives a distinct advantage over some or most on site, hardware based system. However, some providers do charge for upgrades even of software, so be sure to understand their contractual commitment upfront. Again with scalability, a cloud system is built on software that is much more cost efficient to scale than hardware. Also, you can usually add devices one at a time, rather than having to buy an entire on premise system from the start. Be sure you understand any costs you may be responsible for, both for expansion and downsizing; some providers charge for both.

Flexibility

The nature of the ‘cloud’ allows any cloud based VoIP telephone system much greater flexibility than a traditional, on site system. Many businesses now rely on employees bringing their own smart devices which will work on a cloud system with a simple application. And because it is not centralized, your workers are not constrained by a physical business location.

Hardware based systems are not standing still, though. To compete with the rapid expansion of cloud based systems, business based systems have been improving rapidly. Now many offer similar flexibility to the cloud, while providing, in some cases, superior hardware and software. Plus, your telephones and other peripherals will be part of system designed from the start to work together, rather than pieced together and/or employee owned and connected only through apps that don’t necessarily work the same on all brands of device. In fact, with many new digital terminals, you can run applications just like on a smart phone while maintaining the integrity of an integrated system. The lines are also blurring between with two systems, with some on premise systems allowing for a combination of some VoIP and some traditional systems, based on your business needs.

Remote Access

Because all your data is stored in ‘the cloud’ rather than at your business, it can be accessed from almost anywhere you have web access. This makes a cloud based system ideal for any business with offices spread across many cities or states, as well as any company with a traveling sales force. It allows you to communicate with customers and partners from anywhere, sharing ideas, documents and even videos in real time. You can work from any branch office, home or even a coffee shop, using a single your desk number and still having caller idea, voice mail and more. But don’t count on premise systems out. As mentioned before, they are rapidly adding features to stay up to date, including very comparable remote access features.

Before you make an investment in a cloud based communications system, be sure your network is ready to handle the speed and quality required for voice communications. And before you commit to a service provider, be sure you understand their SLA and all other costs you will incur for growing or downsizing your system. Always consult with a reliable, trustworthy expert in the communications field. SoundTel will be pleased to answer any questions you may have and can help you decide if moving to the cloud is the right decision for your business. Call 1-800-797-3663 or 425-481-5493 for a free communications analysis.

Should your next phone system be Cloud Based: Part 2

Is your network ready for Voice over Internet Protocol?

In the first blog post in this series, Cloud Based Communication vs. On-Premise Solutions, we provided an overview of cloud vs. on-premise communications systems and discussed the first of five major considerations before investing in a cloud based network: total cost of ownership (TCO). These included the size and number of locations of your business, if your employees used their own devices and more. Be sure to check out the first post at the link above.

Network Assessments and Service Level Agreements

Your next consideration should be an assessment of your local area network (LAN) and a thorough understanding of what your provider is offering in terms of a service level agreement (SLA). A careful analysis can determine if a cloud based communications system is even possible. A poor analysis can leave you with an under-performing network and/or force costly upgrades.

Network Assessments

When you add voice to your LAN, it’s important to know your network is capable of handling this additional traffic without degradation of call quality. Everyone is used to the call quality a standard circuit-switched telephone connection offers to deliver clear voice. This quality can only be accomplished over the internet if it meets the unique requirements for on-time voice traffic, which are much different than that needed for moving data alone.

Quality of service (QOS) or traffic prioritization, available bandwidth, low latency and no packet loss are all required for regular voice service to work correctly and to be delivered effectively through the cloud. With data traffic, the network quality can vary without interrupting your work, as long as it is generally fast enough (for example, the difference between old dial-up service and modern high speed internet). With voice traffic, it must move linearly, rather than in separate packets, and must arrive through the internet complete and in real time. Any loss or delay of voice packets can be very unsettling and disruptive, with pauses, gaps, missing syllables and even missing words, resulting in unacceptable call quality, and in worse case, disconnections. A network assessment will test and measure important performance criteria to determine if your network is ready for voice over the internet (VoIP) and provide valuable diagnostic information if upgrades are needed.

Service Level Agreements

Next you need to know what guarantee the provider you are considering will offer you. You should know up front exactly what level of support is included in your contract. Check if they assure sound quality, uninterrupted service or if they have any kind of guarantees in writing. Find out what they will do if the sound quality is poor or any of the problems above happen. Finally, what will they do for you if their system is down and you lose service (and potential customers).

Here is a checklist of five levels of service to consider. Be sure to ask any potential provider for full details on these:

  1. Carrier (what phone carrier will be providing service and what are their SLAs)
  2. Data Center (where are they, who runs them, how reliable are they)
  3. Unified Communications Level (will this be a simple phone system or a fully unified communications system)
  4. Delivery (what kind of connection will the service be delivered over: guaranteed call quality requires more expensive connections)
  5. User (who will install the equipment, what kind of training will be provided, who will you call if there is a problem?)

Before you make an investment in a cloud based communications system, be sure your network is ready to handle the speed and quality required for voice communications. And before you commit to a service provider, be sure you understand their SLA and all that it entails. Always consult with a reliable, trustworthy expert in the communications field. SoundTel will be pleased to answer any questions you may have and can help you decide if moving to the cloud is the right decision for your business. Call 1-800-797-3663 or 425-481-5493 for a free communications analysis.

Our next blog will cover call quality and reliability of a cloud based system.