As any small business owner can attest, it’s not easy keeping up with all the changes that have taken place over the past few years. Businesses have had to navigate the pandemic, supply chain issues, inflation, social unrest and more. It’s been enough to make even the most seasoned of entrepreneurs lose sleep at night. But as the saying goes, “with adversity comes opportunity.”
One of the most significant opportunities to have emerged from the turbulent 2020s is an easier, more efficient path to going global. Once relegated to malls, neighborhood shops and local office spaces, many small businesses today are able to expand their horizons thanks to innovative new technologies that enable them to work remotely and collaborate with partners, resources and customers from anywhere in the world. And to give their business an extra edge in the decentralized, global marketplace, many companies are turning to cloud telephony.
The cloud and the dispersed communication system it supports enabling entrepreneurs to conduct business from almost anywhere. But how does cloud telephony work? What are its main benefits? And most importantly, how do you choose the best system for your business?
What is Cloud Telephony?
“Cloud telephony is a phone system that operates via mobile data or the Internet. The cloud’s ability to host everything from files to messaging, voice communication and video transform these systems into unified communications platforms,” explained OpenPhone co-founder and CEO Mahyar Raissi. “With them, businesses can grow without being tethered to traditional hardware. And they can access and share their data and systems from anywhere in the world.”
OpenPhone is a cloud telephony service available for iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, and web browsers. Founded in 2018, the platform has grown in popularity among startups and small businesses, boasting more than 40,000 customers.
Also referred to as cloud calling, cloud telephony provides users access to business voice services via any mobile or Internet connection. These services are virtual solutions managed by third parties off-premise, so there’s no hardware or other equipment for businesses to deal with. And cloud telephony isn’t limited to basic voice calling; it includes SMS and MMS messaging, file sharing, business software integrations and more.
How Does Cloud Telephony Work?
“Cloud telephony offers a ton of flexibility,” said Raissi. “It removes the need for hardwiring and intermediaries by handling the entire call routing process, allowing businesses to access their phone systems through a web browser or mobile application.”
“Cloud telephony is essentially software that lets you use your business phone system from any computer or smartphone,” Raissi said. “This removes the need to use outdated, on-premise desk phones. Cloud telephony handles the entire call routing process through a business phone service provider. That way you can call and text from any device, automatically sync your business contacts across your devices, and work from wherever you wish.”
From a cloud telephony online dashboard, businesses can easily assign numbers to team members, initiate call forwarding and take advantage of numerous other calling features. The provider takes care of all the behind-the-scenes aspects, freeing businesses from overhead and the obligations to manage their own PBX/PABX. The service provider is the party responsible for building and operating the servers that run the business phone system.
What Are the Major Benefits of Cloud Telephony?
- Simple-to-use: No more PBX systems gathering dust in the closet or obnoxious copper wiring. And businesses won’t have to call IT whenever there’s an issue. As for old-school desk phone hardware, it’s history too.
- Scalable: With traditional business phone systems, businesses have to devote a large amount of time and effort to scale the system as their organization grows. Every time a new employee is hired, companies have to purchase a new desk phone, get the person trained, and deal with increased costs.
- Always up-to-date: With traditional PBX systems, all of the wires and hardware remain on-premises. That means a businesses’ in-house or outsourced IT department is in charge of maintaining and updating the system. So when updates happen, the business is usually required to purchase new equipment, servers, and other technology. In contrast, with cloud telephony, the service provider handles all of the technical aspects. All that a business will be required to do is occasionally update their mobile application to access all the new features and improvements.
- Flexible: Flexible working arrangements are on the rise. From remote and hybrid working models to bring your own device (BYOD) policies, businesses and employees alike are realizing the value of non-traditional working arrangements. And cloud telephony fits this model perfectly.
How Do You Choose a Cloud Telephony Provider?
One of the most important aspects of choosing a cloud telephony provider is finding one that offers all the features the business needs. Some of the top features to look for in a business cloud telephony system are voicemail, toll-free number availability, auto-attendant abilities, shared phone numbers, snippets and auto-replies and easy integrations with business systems (like a CRM).
Every business will have a different set of priorities. The trick is to identify must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. It’s also important to check customer reviews. Businesses make big claims about customer satisfaction and usability, but sometimes this is just marketing fodder. Using G2 or any other software review database, businesses can access product information, complete with a list of features and customer feedback.
It’s also extremely important for businesses to choose a system that’s easy to use. As Raissi highlights, an intuitive user experience can make a huge difference.
“When you have a business phone app that’s intuitive as your other apps, there is no learning curve,” he said. “You can easily customize your phone settings and onboard teammates without the need to pay for IT support. This helps save businesses valuable time and resources.”
Data safety, privacy and security should be prioritized as well. Businesses are trusting service providers with one of their most valuable assets, their data. And unfortunately, some providers will use everything a business shares to their own advantage. Businesses need to ensure their provider has encryption, follows data protection standards and in no way has permission to use, view or sell user data.
And last but not least, it’s essential to understand the full price of any cloud telephony solution. Account for setup fees, maintenance, and subscription costs. Sometimes, sitting through all the hidden charges to find the real price can be difficult. But it can save time and money in the long run.