As a prelude to its spring webinar, Metaswitch Networks and Edgewater Networks released data from its most recent Unified Communications (UC) survey. For it, the company sampled 1,250 North American SMB decision-makers. The results suggest that 60% to 70% of businesses still cling to landline solutions. That said, the majority intend to migrate to the cloud within the next two years.
Research thoroughness is the main cause of hosted PBX implementation delay. Businesses want to move to a proper replacement solution. They are looking for a permanent service—not a temporary improvement. In fact, more than half of respondents said they would pay extra for the right hosted service.
But how do you go about finding an ideal service?
Getting familiar with the technology will help discern differences between solutions. It will also help gauge what you need to do to prepare for the service and how readily others will adopt it. The rest of this article discusses the chief considerations for implementing hosted phone systems.
Is Your Business Ready for a Hosted Phone System?
This post leaves out cost considerations. Hosted PBX promises great savings, but the price-points set by providers differ greatly. Rather than focusing on budget, let's consider value: What does the service offer and how can it improve your communications? The sections below provoke such reflection.
Location & Connection
The location of a hosted phone service has little effect on its usability. So long as there is internet, you can place and receive calls. Voice-over-IP calls are also lightweight and consume little data. In fact, one concurrent call only occupies 0.01Mbsp.
Although an IP-based solution, hosted PBX does not add anything to a network physically. Phones plug directly into existing components like routers and modems. In fact, you can even opt to use programs called softphones through your computer.
Regarding devices, consider each user's need. Most workers require multiple methods of contact. For example, many employees bring smartphones into the workplace. Understand what phone packages are available and how many users/devices come bundled within them.
Customization & Experience
Visualize the call flow you want for your office, then assess providers accordingly. Which solution allows you to attain your communication goals fastest? Which leaves room for growth and change?
To illustrate a simple call flow, consider the example requirements below:
- Auto-attendant for greeting new callers and directing them towards certain extensions/departments
- Voicemail for catching missed calls
- Time-routing to maintain hours of operation and accommodate many timezones
- Call recording for service monitoring and legal compliance (depends on the industry)
- Conferencing facilities for team meetings, client conversations, and more
- Phone integration with other software solutions
If the above requirements were to match your own, you would want a phone service that allows for a painless implementation of each. This relates to the user experience.
Some PBX systems are harder to use than others. Find your level of comfortability then decide on a solution. Ideally, look for a solution that accommodates a spectrum of skill levels. You may want quick configurations initially, but as you learn more you'll tweak and tinker.
Support & Reliability
As with any cloud-based solution, you should read the Service Level Agreement (SLA) to determine reliability. Most providers boast an uptime guarantee above 90% or so. Beyond such a claim, ask about the infrastructure and support policies. Should something go awry, how might it affect you?
Support, in particular, is an interesting topic. Many online phone services adopt a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) model. They proffer the tools and resources necessary for independent setup and maintenance. This approach works well, considering clients deal only with the local implementation. Nevertheless, know what level of customer service to expect.