A cloud-hosted, VoIP-powered PBX is an attractive and preferred option for a modern business telephone service. It is extremely cost effective, available for use anytime and almost anywhere, and requires none of the hardware investment that traditional on-premises systems needed in the past. With maturing technology and the desired convenience in business communication, now is the right time for change.
Switching to a hosted private branch exchange (PBX) may sound complicated, however a well-thought-out transformational process can be smooth and hassle-free. Let’s discuss the main points to consider when moving from a traditional voice system to a cloud PBX.
PBX systems – traditional vs virtual
To begin with, it is important to understand the main differences between a traditional PBX and a cloud PBX. A legacy PBX is an enterprise phone system stored and hosted on the customer’s premises, and consists of specialized hardware, generally connected using circuit switched networks.
The equipment routes individual incoming calls to corresponding desk phones, and the hardware typically demands special storage conditions, professional system configuration and management, as well as regular maintenance and repair.
The virtual PBX is a phone system in the cloud, and is provided as a service with no need to maintain and operate a PBX hardware unit in the office. Configuration is achieved through a web application, easily accessible via a smart phone, laptop or desktop, or a VoIP-enabled desk phone. Without the requirement for proprietary and complicated hardware, this system offers freedom of mobility and professional call management with multiple features.
Usage of a cloud PBX – Who and When?
A smooth transition to a hosted PBX requires an accurate determination of WHO and WHEN. First of all, it is highly advisable to define who will be using the new system. Different individuals within a business will need to use the system in different ways.
Thus, identify the users who are primarily involved in making, receiving and directing phone calls. This will minimize any unwelcomed downtime and the negative impact on a business.
Likewise, it is advisable to know when the employees need to use your hosted PBX solution: during regular office hours, outside of business hours, or round-the-clock. A clear picture of how the company uses its telephone system and what PBX solution is the most effective will be decided after identifying when and where the staff is most likely to make and take calls. The outcome should be the best reflection of what your business needs, both now and in the future.
The choice of equipment – covering all bases
Switching between the systems may serve as a timely opportunity to evaluate the overall workstation needs of your employees. In spite of potential challenges, the conversion also offers a different perspective on existing tasks that can stimulate creative solutions. Think through the specific requirements of each individual or team to determine the best suitable hardware.
Then, specify the means currently employed for the functions such as the desktop phone, mobile phone, and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) application. Perhaps your company has several locations and the employees travel extensively. Does the business involve only remote work? The solutions based on demands of different roles can vary greatly. Anticipate a positive impact on your staff productivity when making a choice of the most favourable hardware in combination with the cutting-edge features and intuitive user interface of the new PBX.
The service provider – what’s the best fit?
Analyse, compare and be picky! There are numerous cloud-based PBX service providers, and you need to identify a proficient and reliable vendor. Before committing, you might want to consider the following:
• Are there any combined hardware or software solutions on offer?
• What about the ability to use your current phone numbers?
• What are the options for remote and mobile employees?
• How would you change the number of users or lines required?
• Are there any startup or system support costs?
• Does the provider have a back-up plan in case of natural disaster, unexpected emergency or system outage?
• What about available cutting edge solutions or projected technological advancements?
Make a list of the features you require and single out the “must haves” and the less important ones. It is advisable to select a provider that is able to offer a complete package of communications solutions that will enhance your day-to-day operations. Furthermore, take the opportunity to test the proposed solution. Most cloud PBX providers set up a free trial to help you decide how well the new service meets your needs.
Solid connectivity is the key
All cloud solutions are dependent on Internet connectivity. A cloud PBX works by connecting to your Internet provider, therefore, there must be a VoIP compliant device or system available on your premises. The first thing to do when implementing a hosted PBX solution is to check for any problems in your Internet connection, such as:
• Is the flow of data susceptible to bottlenecks?
• Is the data flow ever paused or interrupted?
• Does the Internet connection have sufficient capacity for handling the increased volume of traffic?
• Is there a problem with one or several devices on-site?
• If you encounter such technical hitches, consider the option to reconfigure, upgrade or replace the relevant devices or services.
WiFi. It goes without saying that a wired Internet connection is preferable to wireless, due to constant flow of data and no disruptions by external factors. A WiFi signal may be interrupted, blocked or weakened by any obstacles it passes through. Therefore, to guarantee the best service, make sure that your connection is not limited to a WiFi setup only.
However, you can incorporate wireless into your network design as a backup and it will serve as an important aspect of survivability for a hosted solution.
Bandwidth. It is also important to have sufficient bandwidth available, as all the information (standard Internet usage data as well as call data) is being transferred over the Internet. Bandwidth is the maximum rate of data transfer across the network, and because VoIP technology transmits voice as data, this is one of the main factors determining the number of concurrent phone calls the Internet connection can manage.
The required Internet bandwidth is subject to the business needs and call quality and may differ between organizations. The safe estimate to be used is 0.2Mbps per call. Without proper bandwidth, the quality of calls may be reduced by jitter, latency or interruptions.
Taking all the above into account, together with careful planning, will make the move to a hosted PBX smooth and painless. Focus your attention on getting as much applicable information as possible, educate yourself, and share that knowledge with relevant company personnel. In this way, the switch to the next technological level will be particularly rewarding.