Posted On 24th February,2017
Cloud Telecoms has evolved rapidly over the last few years – great news as this new technology has driven prices down and enabled features previously unavailable with a traditional telephone system, also known as a PBX (Private Branch Exchange). In fact, telecoms is the only utility which has experienced a consistent downward trend in costs over the last 10 years. You have a plethora of options available for your organisation so we hope this article provides a little helpful guidance in a jargon free digestible way.
A quick analogy
In the industrial age, the most successful factories had the largest water wheels to produce the energy they needed to drive machines. Since the birth of the national grid, we “pay-as-you-go” to use instantly available electricity and the thought of operating and maintaining your own water wheel seems absurd.
Like Microsoft Office and Microsoft Exchange with their Office 365, there is an increasing trend to switch to “pay-as-you-go” subscriptions. The days of purchasing and maintaining expensive hardware and software is becoming a thing of the past and is best left to the developers who are the experts – and have a vested interest to keep their services operational and offering good value – or you will stop using them.
What is Cloud Telecoms?
Cloud telecoms in its simplest form is providing a dial tone using the Internet. Typical examples of consumer based services are; Skype, Facebook Messenger, MSN Messenger etc. Whilst these consumer services are great for talking with family whilst incurring minimal or no call charges, they are not suitable for business operations.
Cloud Telecoms is best generally suited to organisations who:
wish to adopt a subscription model for services, like Office365
require agile working for staff that wish to work at other locations
have multiple sites and wish to work in harmony
would like to administrate their own system with a web browser
have a desire to improve their business continuity planning
A PBX may be more suitable for organisations that mostly make internal calls (like a department store or local government), or have bespoke software which has been optimised for a specific PBX vendor, like hotels. Also not suitable for a global organisation that has adopted a global standard for a specific PBX vendor.
“My Internet is rubbish so I cannot adopt Cloud”
Is a response I often encounter. Whilst this is true of most cloud services, a well designed broadband and router combination can overcome these obstacles. I have clients who are happily using a secure and reliable Cloud Telecoms service in offices that have notoriously poor broadband.
Who provides cloud telecoms?
A provider of cloud telecoms is classed as an Internet Telephony Services Provider (ITSP). There are a few major ITSP’s and hundreds of minor ones. A major ITSP will have invested in a fully secure and resilient architecture replicated across multiple data centres – whereas a minor ITSP may operate from a server in their garage. A major ITSP will also have ongoing investment to ensure their systems stay operational and evolve with operating system updates and new features.
When selecting your Cloud provider, you are likely to enter into an agreement of 3 years or more, so it is important to choose carefully. Think about their financial health and trading longevity and the architecture behind the system being offered. Also ask for reference sites and contact them to talk about their experience.
It is also important to select your provider with expert networking skills to ensure your cabling and wireless infrastructure are suitable for real-time traffic streaming such as VoIP.
Is Cloud Telecoms for me? In most cases, absolutely yes.
Modern Cloud Telecoms solutions have matured and offer better reliability and call quality than a traditional on-premise PBX solution and with many more features and often lower call costs.
Most reputable telecoms company will talk you through your options, but chose your provider carefully and try to avoid excessively lengthy contracts. Either on-premise or cloud, if you’re reliant on traditional telephone lines, an upgrade will be necessary in the near future as all telecoms move to internet based channels. See our article BT to switch off PTSN.
Lastly, I often observe telecoms software that has been purchased but is no longer operational, because the PBX is not using the most up-to-date firmware, or because the software vendor has not released an update for the required operating system. With Cloud Telecoms, the software is usually provided on a subscription basis, so the developer will only receive their income if it continues to work. This approach offers the best protection for software longevity.
About the author
Richard Gwilliam, Founder and Managing Director of Easy Networks, has been consulting on network and telecoms technology since 1991. Richard is well versed with many traditional PBX vendors and also an expert with LAN and WAN implementations.