One of the virtues of Voice over Internet Protocol is that your business can have a sophisticated phone system without installing a phone system. With a VoIP system hosted on the Internet, all you need are the phones.
One situation where this particularly makes sense is if you run a relatively small (or lean) business with lots of locations. Rather than have each office install its own phone switching equipment, you can have all locations tie into the hosted system. By putting all locations on the same VoIP system, you make it possible for them to call each other toll-free. Each location can have its own local phone number for local customers, while also getting the ability to 3-digit dial or transfer calls to anyone at any other location – what Kiwi VoIP calls an ‘extension to anywhere’ setup.
Other scenarios are possible, of course – you could buy VoIP equipment to install in your home office or data centre and have other locations access it over the Internet. So the decision still comes back to the central trade-off associated with any cloud computing scenario – would you rather buy and manage the technology yourself, or have someone else do it for you? Would you rather have it on the books as a capital expense, or as a monthly service fee?
We have a client who is the director of information technology at a local Construction company, he had just enough experience from a previous job working with the “archaic servers” powering a predictive dialing telephony systems “that I knew I didn’t want anything like that.”
Since a primary goal was to keep NZ and AUS. staff in touch with each other, sound quality”was one of my concerns,” he says, “but it’s been clear as can be.”
As part of the contract, Kiwi VoIP assigned a project team to help with details like naming conventions and network setup, so there were few technical details for our client to master. The phones work on power over Ethernet, so they can be set up anywhere you can string a network cable, without needing to also be plugged into a power outlet.
“Kiwi VoIP has made the switch of our old system to VoIP so easy,” he says. He takes care of administrative actions, like assigning new extensions, by signing into a Kiwi VoIP’s web portal. Each employee can also go to the portal to make some basic changes, like setting up call forwarding.
Kiwi VoIP offers unified communications features, such as voicemail-to-email forwarding of sound clips, in its hosted VoIP service. But the basic phone features were the ones our client is most enthused about. ”One of the things that are phenomenal is the call forwarding, and the auto-attendant that kicks in after hours,” he says. “That’s particularly good for our sales force, which is predominantly out of the office. We can forward those extensions transparently to the customer – just forward to a cell phone when they’re out in the field.” If a customer calls in to the Auckland office and needs to talk to someone in Wellington, that call can be forwarded from office to office “and it’s very seamless and transparent to customers,” he says.
I’ve heard a lot of other arguments in favor of hosted VoIP over the past year, from all sorts of startups and small businesses that want to reduce the technology overhead for their businesses, or make it easier to support home office workers. If the organization is buying into a range of cloud services, hosted VoIP is usually on the list. Aside from the benefits for day-to-day operations, many mention disaster recovery as another reason for choosing such a setup. In the event of a fire or a flood or a snowstorm, your phone system need not go dead or be left unattended. With hosted VoIP, you can move your work extension to your house using a computer and a headset, or a phone you brought home from the office. Larger organizations with their own phone systems can replicate them at a backup data center, but SMBs are better off choosing a cloud-based phone system that has backup and recovery built into the package.
For many small businesses, the question is not so much “why hosted VoIP?” as “why would I do anything else?”