Cloud-based business phone systems use cloud technology and the Internet to facilitate communication. It is also usually associated with an Internet-based phone system or a VoIP platform.
The main edge this type of setup offers is affordability; that is, you do not have to put in a sizeable investment for installation, hardware, and maintenance. This is all sorted out by the provider. Low cost, together with agility, is inherent in cloud computing, hence its reputation as an efficient and practical solution.
Cloud VoIP phone solutions will move your business phone system to the cloud hence streamlining communications, taking advantage of advanced features, and operating at a higher security level. However, not all cloud-based systems are equal.
How do you know the best cloud-based phone system for your small business?
What to look for in a cloud phone system for small business
Saving money is a huge target for all organizations, but more so for those with less than 50 employees and in their first seven years of operation.
Business phone systems and cloud VoIP are ideal options for your organization's communication requirements, whether for country-wide communication with remote and office-based employees or for your customer service/support unit and call center. Cloud-based business phone systems have capabilities and features that small businesses can take advantage of and benefit from.
These features are as follows:
- Smart calls. 90% of customers prefer a live person over a bot at the other end of the phone. Intelligent call routing and forwarding features ensure that calls from customers go to the right agent or person for fast resolution or response.
- Mobility. Businesses can run on the go; you can collaborate with your team remotely, follow up with your potential clients, or answer customer questions anytime, anywhere. Cloud telephony gives you full phone system functionality that is always accessible from any device that is connected.
- Centralized communication. The setup gives you one platform or a central hub for all your communications regardless of whether they are voice or phone messages, text messages, chat, and fax. The system also gives you a unified inbox for all your emails.
- Teleconferencing. With this feature, you can meet, gather, and discuss with the team remotely. This saves you, your business, and everyone's resources, time, and money.
- Scalability. Unlike an on-site phone system that needs you to add new hardware whenever you add a new user, for cloud phone systems, it is as easy as opening a new account or adding another user to your existing one. The new user will experience the full features and functionality based on the plan you chose. This means, at a minimal cost, the system can scale.
- Admin portal. Most systems have an administrator portal that gives supervisors and managers full control and visibility over communications, history, calls, messages, reporting, analytics, and other relevant information and details.
Depending on the provider, other capabilities and tools may be included in the system.
For example, a lot of the hosted phone service providers have applications. By downloading applications for the service, small businesses can skip the desk phones – or the office – altogether. The apps let workers use their own devices and computers to make calls and send texts using the business phone number. They can even host video conferences and do more.
How to tell if a cloud telephone system is perfect for you
The best cloud-based phone systems are the ones that work for your small businesses. How will you know this?
Look at its offerings and its features, see if the plans fit your budget, and then if it has a free trial, test it out yourself. If they offer a free plan, start with that to jumpstart your business, then switch to a premium plan if the need for more features arises. There are numerous options out there with SMB-friendly prices and amazing features.
Here are some factors to consider in trying to find the best cloud-based phone system for your small business:
- Automated features: If you anticipate a high volume of calls, then go for a provider that has many automated call management features. These features can include voicemail-to-email or voicemail-to-text, auto-attendant, and hold music. To avoid keeping your customers waiting, look into plans that have intelligent call routing, forwarding, flip, and also transferring.
- Number of users: How many agents or people will be using your phone system? Because most service providers charge a monthly fee per user, more users would mean higher costs.
- Video conferencing: Does your company depend on video conferencing with clients or fellow employees? If this is the case, you'll want to pick a service provider that has video meetings in its most affordable plan. Those that offer it in their premium packages will increase your monthly cost per user.
- Customer service: If your company relies heavily on your phone system, find a service that offers round-the-clock support. The last thing you want to do when your phone system is down is submit a support ticket. Instead, you will want to talk to a real person to help you solve your problem quickly.
- Remote employees: If you have many remote employees, go for a service that has strong team communication tools and features. These can include video conferencing, a user-friendly mobile app, team, one-on-one messaging, and file sharing. Make sure you select a cloud-based system, not the on-premise PBX system that will support these remote features.
When to invest in a cloud-based phone system
It makes sense to invest in a cloud-based phone system because of cost, scalability, security reasons, and flexibility.
Companies shifting from on-premise to the cloud can easily replace old hardware that's too expensive and restrictive to run. Cloud solutions offer much cheaper and more secure phone services, and additional features that promote digital transformation, like analytics and software integrations. Plus, you pay for what you use only.
For remote teams, extending corporate communications across different locations can be difficult without the IT infrastructure. Cloud services provide this infrastructure remotely, enable softphone clients to mirror all the functionality of the physical business phones and connect your phone system to your CRM (customer relationship management) tools.
Therefore, a cloud-based phone system converts your phone into an application so that there is no need to be tied to a physical office space to run your company.
However, there are some caveats.
Before buying, you need to know how you are going to use it and how your existing system affects the costs and service. For example, are you replacing your old system or integrate it with cloud-based phones? If you have VoIP phones that can be added to the cloud system, that is great; however, traditional phones may require an expansive VoIP adaptor.
Cloud-based systems are completely dependent on two things: one, the Internet, and secondly, control over your data. Your cloud service is only as good as your internet connection; therefore, if your connection isn't strong, your business should not go for a cloud-based system. The traditional landline may be the better choice.
And if your business requires complete control over your system and data, the cloud-based system may be uncomfortable or impossible. A cloud system may not be the best choice since data is routed through the service provider and stored on their servers. This may mean insufficient security for your business.
Ready to explore cloud-based phone systems? Check out 8x8
8x8 is a phone service that combines video conferencing, calling, and messaging in one low-priced platform. The company's basic plan costs just $12/user per month and has an impressive choice of business phone features, including unlimited video and calling.
The Express plan by 8x8 has unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada, advanced call management, auto-attendant, meeting recording and transcription, unlimited chat, visual voicemail, team, and instant messaging, content sharing, and file sharing. The plan comes with unlimited video conferencing for up to 100 users. This plan costs $12/user per month and has a one-month free trial.
Additionally, 8x8 offers an X2 plan at $24/user per month, and the X4 plan at $44/user per month that may be a fit for some small businesses. The X2 plan has additional internet fax, unlimited calling to 14 countries, and integrations with Google Workspace and CRM platforms like HubSpot, Zendesk, Salesforce.
The X4 plan offers international calling to 47 countries and adds advanced call management and call quality reporting. Other pricey 8x8 plans offer contact centers and are best suited for bigger companies. Most small businesses will find the 8x8 Express to be the best fit.
Generally, 8x8 business phone service is:
- Based on a feature-rich IP phone system. You get about two dozen features in your cloud phone platform that has all types of calls – forwarding, transfers, waiting, routing; blocking and caller ID; on hold; auto attendant; and more. It offers group intercom paging, internet fax, local and long-distance service, voicemails, and many other tools.
- Built for business collaboration. The 8×8 VoIP service offers robust collaboration features like video meetings, web conferencing, instant messaging, contacts integration, conference bridge, and more.