South Africa’s telecoms infrastructure is slowly turning hosted or cloud-based PBXs (private branch interchange) into a viable option for small to medium sized companies.
That’s according to Ryan Miles, Itec Chief Operating Officer (COO).
Miles says that the absence of affordable uncapped or high-cap ADSL services for smaller businesses and bottlenecks in the country’s telecom infrastructure have held back the adoption of cloud-based PBXs up until now.
However, with bandwidth prices falling at a rapid rate and the prospect of local loop unbundling and faster yet cheaper mobile broadband on the horizon, cloud-based PBXs will become attractive for smaller businesses over the next two to three years, says Miles.
“Telkom’s control over the last kilometre is one final major obstacle to cloud-based PBX solutions,” he adds. “Once that starts to fall away, the cloud model for PBXs becomes more attractive since companies will be able to source their line, PBX and data services from a single supplier and will probably no longer need to pay for the rental of an analogue voice line.”
In the longer term, hosted or cloud-based PBX solutions will offer a range of benefits to smaller businesses that will prove hard to ignore, says Miles. The first of these is that they no longer need to rent dedicated PBX hardware since the intelligence of the PBX will run on a service provider’s infrastructure.
This removes a significant capital expense from their businesses, since they’ll simply need to buy IP phones or computer headsets to connect their staff to telephony services, Miles says. The benefits will multiply for companies that have branches around the country.
Another benefit lies in the rich functionality SMEs can access through hosted PBX services. They may be able to enjoy all the features of an enterprise-class PBX without needing to invest in an expensive piece of equipment. Functionality such as caller ID, voicemail, find-me and call routing is all affordable on a cloud service.
In addition, the service provider will take responsibility for upgrading and maintaining the system, says Miles. That frees SMEs of the headaches of installing software, firmware and security updates to the system or needing to upgrade hardware when the number of users grows.
Cloud services are also inherently scalable, says Miles, allowing for new users to be added with minimal inconvenience. They can also be accessed from anywhere, meaning that users can access the same switchboard services wherever they are in the world.
However, Miles still advocates caution for SMEs that want to migrate towards cloud-based services. They should ensure that their Internet connections are stable enough and offer enough bandwidth to cater both for their data needs and the voice needs of all their users. They should also ensure that call quality will be acceptable for their requirements.
“Voice telephony is one of those business services that an SME simply cannot afford to do without, which means that they need to plan carefully and stress test any new system they put in place,” says Miles.
“They must also do the maths to ensure that a cloud-based PBX will in fact be cheaper than their old systems once telephone line and bandwidth costs are taken into account,”concludes Miles.