Cloud-based business phone systems (PBXs)

Cloud-based business phone systems (PBXs)
Our journey into cloud technology continues. After having created the general guide and a series of insights, it is time to delve into a specific use. In fact, we are talking about cloud-based corporate telephone systems identified by the acronym PBX (Private Branch Exchange). As we will see, this is a solution that is becoming more and more popular thanks above all to its scalability and, at the same time, to the low economic impact in terms of implementation. It is no coincidence that the demand from companies is growing.

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What are telephone based systems on the cloud?

As mentioned at the beginning, PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. It is a private telephone network used within a company or organization. PBX phone system users can communicate internally (within their company) and externally (with the outside world), using different communication channels such as Voice over IP, ISDN or analog. A PBX also allows you to have more phones than physical telephone lines (PTSN) and allows free calls between users. In addition, it offers features such as call forwarding, voicemail, call recording, interactive voice menus (IVR) and call queues.

Traditional PBXs normally have their own proprietary phones, and there is no way to reuse these phones with a different system. This means that we have an armored system (we are bound because changing systems also means changing phones, which makes replacement costs prohibitive) or a supplier constraint (we are bound to the same supplier because the phones can only be used with systems of the same vendor, sometimes only within a particular range of systems).

Time and technology, however, have changed the landscape of consumer telephony, with the flag bearer which is the open standards based IP PBX. The point of "IP" in this new era is that telephone calls are sent using the Internet Protocol as the underlying transport technology. These phone systems are available as on-premise solutions to run on your own hardware or as virtual hosted solutions. In this second case the cloud intervenes, with the entire management system moved to the "cloud".

Advantages of using the cloud on corporate telephone systems

It is not just an economic question . The use of the cloud on corporate telephone systems brings with it a number of advantages, which we have tried to summarize in the paragraphs below. As always, however, everything depends on the specific needs related to your business or that of your respective customers. After all, technology must be used in the correct way, also because it often involves an important organizational effort. In fact, we will also analyze the disadvantages of using the "cloud". But let's proceed in order.

Reduced hardware requirements

This is probably the most easily understood advantage. Adopting cloud-based business telephone systems inevitably shifts the entire burden of the infrastructure towards the provider. It will therefore no longer be necessary to equip oneself with all the hardware, which will in any case remain minimally necessary but which will be enormously lightened. All this translates into an enormously lower economic expenditure and, at the same time, reduces implementation times.

Subscription model

One could speak of a sort of flat system. In fact, we have learned how the concept of scalability represents one of the greatest advantages offered by the cloud. With regard to company telephone systems, it is possible to apply subscription models: for example, a monthly cost is borne by a certain number of network users. When needs increase (perhaps due to a significant increase in business), nothing prevents you from increasing the cost of the subscription in the face of greater accommodation capacity.

Complete mobile compatibility

It is imperative nowadays to include a mobile solution in corporate telephone systems. Considering how, with the use of the cloud, the infrastructure part is fundamentally moved into the hands of the provider, it is clear that the type of terminals becomes almost superfluous. It is therefore possible to use fixed or mobile solutions, without having repercussions in terms of usability and, above all, continuity of the service. Without the "cloud" the integration of such a system would have exorbitant costs (as well as timing not compatible with normal working rhythms).

Remote systems and redundant systems

Providers offering cloud services generally apply redundancy to all levels of their infrastructure. By itself this approach is not sufficient to prevent failures or anomalies. For this reason, remote systems are also coupled, that is to say, located around the world, a concept very similar to what we have analyzed with cloud storage. So much so that a good practice for companies and organizations that use cloud storage is to adopt redundancy in turn, distributing cloud storage gateways and WAN links with deduplication logic associated with risk management.

Corporate data security

We have already analyzed this aspect in the in-depth analysis of the past weeks. The level of security in the cloud is the same as that of on-premises data centers, but without the maintenance costs associated with facilities and hardware. There is no need to manage physical servers and storage devices. You have software-based security tools that allow you to monitor and protect the flow of information into and out of your resources. Therefore, fewer physical devices, and this considerably increases data security, regardless of whether they belong to companies or individuals.

Simple IT administration

This aspect is also easy to understand. The figures of IT managers are practically disappearing from large companies and are destined to downsize even in SMEs. Merit (or fault) of cloud-based systems, which shift all IT administration to the provider. In this way, a contact person is always available (almost always 24 hours a day) able to remotely supervise the company telephone system and to intervene promptly in the event of technical problems or reports of anomalies by the end customer. All in a simple and quick way.

Disadvantages in using the cloud on telephone systems

It's not all roses and flowers, as we have already analyzed in the general guide dedicated to the cloud . There are indeed a number of disadvantages associated with this technology. In particular, in the case of company telephone systems, we have identified two critical issues that must be taken into consideration before opting for the "cloud".

Direct dependence on the internet connection

It is necessary to consider the need for perennial internet connection. A peculiarity that often takes a back seat but which is actually crucial in the daily usability of the system. In fact, it is not so rare to have problems of a technical nature regarding access to the web. In these cases, the company telephone system skips completely and is no longer able to receive (let alone make) phone calls. A limit that can have important economic repercussions and must therefore be taken into consideration upstream.

High costs extra fees

It is also important to separate the concept of scalability from that of cloud modularity. The advantage that this technology can be implemented with flat subscription services does not in fact exclude the high costs of extra tariffs. In fact, all services excluded from your subscription but which are then actually used in the business environment (perhaps for a change in the target to which the business is aimed) have a very important economic impact. It is therefore necessary, during the implementation phase, to carry out a careful analysis of the actual business needs.

What to consider before moving to a cloud-based telephone system

Having clarified what are the advantages and disadvantages, we just have to analyze together precisely those business needs that must represent the preliminary phase in the adoption of a cloud-based telephone system. Few and simple parameters which, however, as we shall see, are fundamental to avoid running into unexpected events, both on a technical level and from a purely economic point of view.

Number of users

It seems trivial but instead it is not. Establishing in advance the number of users that the system will be called upon to support allows you to immediately know the costs of the cloud service and, at the same time, to properly set the use of the infrastructure. In this way, there will be no disservices and the efficiency of the entire system will benefit. After all, the amount of users is a parameter that is fundamental in any type of cloud, from computing to storage.

Needs for conferences, meetings or collaborations

Any additional functionality inevitably needs to be considered before implementing the cloud. Areas such as conferences, meetings and, more generally, virtual collaborations represent needs that have an important impact on the "cloud" infrastructure. Company telephone systems can in fact also be used for these purposes as long as an adequate bandwidth is guaranteed, which however has a cost.

Complexity of call management

In this case, it is an extremely subjective aspect. In fact, there are companies in which telephone systems are basically used for one-to-one sessions, while in other realities they can turn into real work-sharing platforms, with dozens and dozens of people managed simultaneously. Therefore, even in this area, a preliminary analysis is essential to avoid implementing a service that may be inadequate with respect to business needs.

Hardware requirements

As already mentioned, a part of the infrastructure is external to the provider but internal to the company that chooses to adopt the cloud-based system. Of course, this hardware part inevitably has a cost and, above all, it must be technically aligned with the needs of the entire telephone structure. It is difficult, if not impossible, to be able to establish a sort of minimum standard in terms of requirements, as everything must be tailored to the individual realities.

Software integration with existing cloud systems

Finally there is a need for the company telephone system to communicate with the cloud systems already existing in the company. It seems obvious but it is not. In fact, there is a mistaken belief that technologies based on the "cloud" are conceived to be able to work independently of each other. This is not the case, and indeed making two cloud systems conceived by different infrastructures communicate is complex and costly.

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