Only 5% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) currently use cloud-based hosted voice services as their primary phone system. That means that 95% of SMBs don’t — leaving money on the table.
I believe this surprisingly low adoption rate is due to both lack of awareness and confusion in the market. Hosted voice is a subset of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services, which have been around since the late 1990s. Standard VoIP required a significant hardware investment to get up and running, from servers to phones. The payoff is typically worth it, but the steep cost of entry often scares SMBs away. VoIP also sounds intimidating. New equipment, internet-based service, cloud this-and-that. Without a technical background, it’s not easy to understand what it all means. For many small businesses, phones fall squarely into the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category.
Recent advances in VoIP have further complicated the landscape. Businesses can now choose between the traditional model, set up on-premises (the old server-in-the-closet approach), or “Phone as a Service/PaaS,” otherwise known as hosted voice or cloud telephony. Cloud telephony means that all audio services are delivered as a solution using the cloud. It’s unfortunately jargon-y, but in a nutshell, hosted voice enables your phone system to work just like any other SaaS product, with all the attendant advantages. It’s the early promise of VoIP, finally realized.
Which brings us back to all that money on the table. Hosted voice solutions benefit SMBs in seven main ways.
Minimize Upfront and Maintenance Costs
Unlike on-premises VoIP options or old-school PBX (private branch exchange) systems, cloud telephony doesn’t require any on-site equipment. That means that it’s no longer cost prohibitive to get set up; in fact, hosted voice works on traditional phone systems, mobile devices, even laptops. Not only do you no longer need to buy equipment that will become outdated quickly, you don’t need to maintain it either. No more expensive technician bills or headache-inducing upgrades – cloud-based phone service ensures you’re always up and running without your IT or consultants getting involved.
Best of all, most cloud-based services have reliability built in, including disaster recovery. That means should something happen, like a power outage, you and your company will still have service. Your on-premises solution, or your IT personnel, may not be able to say the same.
Support Mobile-Friendly Working
Gone are the days when we sat at one desk, all day long. We need phone systems that can keep up when we work from home, the car, or the neighborhood coffee shop. Think of hosted voice as the next iteration of BYOD (“bring your own device”). It offers all the phone features you need, on the device of your choice, wherever there’s an Internet connection. Calls to your business line can find you on any device, including your personal phone, without having to use your personal number; if you have your mobile device or laptop, you’ve got your “desk phone.” As a result, you’re more productive, which means your business is, too.
Scale Communications With Your Business
Like all cloud products, one of the main advantages to hosted voice is the ability to scale up and down as required. This is huge for any business that deals with seasonality, such as retail, education or hospitality. Pull back in slow seasons, or increase when you need more bandwidth. It only takes a few clicks to add or remove users, but can save countless dollars – and you can do it yourself. That same agility applies to pricing as well. With a month-to-month subscription model, you’re never locked in and can adapt as your business evolves.
Make Your Company Look Bigger, More Unified and More Sophisticated
Today’s businesses no longer operate within the confines of one city or state. You may not even have a traditional office. There’s a good chance that you have employees in different cities, states or even countries – or maybe it’s just you.
But you still want to present a unified, professional company – maybe even one that seems larger than it really is. Hosted voice delivers this in spades. A cloud-based system means that all of your employees can be on one system, with one number supporting multiple extensions and departments, no matter where the employees are located. Whether you’re a one-person shop or have team members across the globe, hosted voice gives you the sophistication to compete with the big boys. A sales department, customer care, technical support, returns and exchanges, single-line extensions – you can support them all from your office or your living room.
Get Predictable Billing
Phone service used to be a capital expense: buy the hardware and then watch as it depreciates. Chances are good you pay for help and support on your hardware as you need it – an unpredictable cost. Under an “as a service” model, your phone solution becomes an operational expense. It’s predictable and reliable. You’re not only paying just for what you need, but you know exactly how much you’re paying every month. Service can dial up and down (so to speak) with no surprises for your accounting department.
Bundle Services to Save Time and Money
Hosted voice gives you the opportunity to consolidate all of your communication needs under one vendor for true unified communications (UC). With the right UC solution, your phone, conferencing, collaboration, instant messaging, presence, webinars and more can all sit under the same roof – or on the same metaphorical cloud – so they work together seamlessly.
Typically UC providers bundle solutions together for deeper savings; that means it’s often cheaper to choose one provider rather than a handful of them. It’s more convenient, too. Forget configuring integrations or hoping isolated pieces of software will talk to each other. Instead, a single vendor can feed data into your customer relationship management (CRM) system, marketing automation tool, and more. As a result, you have fewer contracts and less technology to juggle, and more time and money to spend on other things.
Focus on What Matters – Your Business
Lastly, the right hosted voice solution enables both business and IT managers to focus their attention on customers and core competencies rather than disparate technologies and vendors. All of the benefits described above really roll up into this one. When you’re not worried about the quality of your calls, the maintenance of your infrastructure, the integrations between your stack, the perception of your brand, the ability to afford top-notch UC, support for mobile, etc., you can focus on growing your business. That’s what true unified communications is all about.