“In recent years, voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) has proved itself a stable, quality successor to ‘dumb’ telephone systems, a technology that not only saves costs but also improves efficiency and enhances business processes,” says David Meintjes, MD of Connection Telecom.
Recently, low-cost uncapped ADSL made it viable to host VOIP infrastructure in the ‘cloud’ (Internet), giving customers a managed telephony service with all the benefits of a VOIP solution and none of the problems of owning and running it.
With this development, it is timely to reassess the benefits of VOIP in its most recent incarnation as a cloud service.
Business efficiencies – VOIP offers clear possibilities for altering the ways organisations communicate and even do business. It serves as a common environment in which multiple communications and collaboration applications can coexist cost-effectively – such as multimedia conferencing, call centres, instant messaging, e-mail, instant office productivity and more. It can even integrate communications into business processes, for instance alerting the finance department when call costs exceed a certain amount. ‘Presence’ technology further allows staff to reach colleagues simply by consulting their communications console, thus cutting wastage. And telephone management systems allow managers to keep a keen eye on productivity.
Managed service – another central benefit to hosting your PBX in the cloud is that everything is taken care of. Issues like moves, adds and changes of office extensions as well as version and feature upgrades are seen to by the provider without any interruption to the service or office proceedings. Indeed, the best cloud PBX providers don’t charge for (automatic) upgrades, while on-site PBX providers may well charge for another module, server or licence. This means sophisticated, full-service telephony is at your fingertips for a low, predictable monthly fee. In addition, matters like security (including call encryption) and redundancy (doubling up infrastructure to guard against line failures) are the provider’s duty. And providers can offer a stable, quality service affordably with the help of database replication, backup lines and more.
Why buy? The other bonus of a cloud service is that the infrastructure (excluding on-site devices such as IP phones, mobile phones and conferencing end-points) belongs to the provider. Without an upfront investment and ongoing technology refresh costs, you can have all the benefits of VOIP without much of the upfront investment, instead staggering the cost over as many as 60 months.
Lower charges – Due to various cost-saving methods, VOIP phone charges are on the whole lower than cellular or fixed rates. Even overseas calls can be cheaper than a local fixed-line call. Such methods include:
- ‘On-net’ savings (using only the provider’s network for calls between branches, to top suppliers, or between in-house mobile phones),
- Least-cost routing (equipping the PBX to allow cellular-to-cellular, fixed-to-fixed and VOIP calls),
- Per-second billing, responsible for an average 25% reduction in call charges,
- Web integration (allowing customers to phone in from click-to-call websites, thus reducing customer call charges and improving the company’s image).
Open standards – Most VOIP providers, including cloud PBX suppliers, use Asterisk, an open standards-based PBX that works with any customer device (such as handsets), access line (such as ADSL) and PBX. Should you wish to use your own devices and retain your old PBX – as backup and to ‘terminate’ incoming calls to fixed-line numbers – this introduces flexibility and savings into the equation.
Best-of-breed credentials – Along with the Asterisk brand underpinning the carrier-grade voice offering of modern VOIP providers, the best cloud telephony providers partner with a range of best-of-breed providers, such as Polycom for client devices, top-end hosting partners, tier-one network providers and top-brand data centre infrastructure.
More for less
Cloud telephony extends the many proven benefits of VOIP, including greater business efficiencies and process enhancement, at a lower total cost of ownership than an on-site telephony solution.
David Meintjes, Connection Telecom MD