Cloud-based phone systems have been around for a while now, but it's only in recent years they've become more popular, driven by a variety of things, from improved call quality and a reduction of costs, through to greater flexibility and an ever-increasing range of useful features. Without doubt, cloud phone systems are the future of telephony and with all of our internet connections improving all the time and BT phasing out ISDN they're only going to become more prevalent among businesses. In this, our guide to cloud-based phone systems, we'll walk you through what they are, how they work, the features you can expect and much more.
If you've landed here and already know that you'd like a cloud-based phone system for your business, then please request a quote to get started.
What is a cloud-based phone system?
A cloud-based phone system is one that is hosted somewhere on the internet, rather than being in your office, typically, it will be located in various datacentres, in our case around the UK.
Where confusion often arises is the vast array of names that there are for cloud phone systems, with all of the following meaning pretty much the same thing:
- Cloud phone system
- Hosted phone system
- Hosted VoIP
- Hosted PBX
- Cloud PBX
- Cloud VoIP
The list goes on...
To help explain why there are so many names for a cloud-based phone system lets take a quick look at what each of these words actually means.
Cloud and hosted - where it's located
The words cloud and hosted refer to where the phone system is and in this instance, they mean the same thing. The phone system is located in various internet-connected data centres.
VoIP - the underlying technology
VoIP, or voice over internet protocol to give it its full name, is the technology that the telephone system operates on. All internet-based phone systems use VoIP.
Want to learn more? Read our What is VoIP? guide. guide What is VoIP?
PBX - the formal name for a phone system
PBX is an abbreviation of Private Branch Exchange, which is a more formal name for a business phone system.
Combine these terms to make your own name
What tends to happen is people will interchange and combine these words, along with "phone system" to create their own new names for a cloud phone system. Perhaps you'd like to speak to us about a "Cloud-hosted VoIP PBX" or even a "VoIP PBX hosted in the cloud", don't worry, whichever you throw at us, we'll know what you mean.
Benefits of a cloud phone system
The advent of cloud phone systems has heralded a new era of telecommunications, fuelled primarily by advancing internet technologies. The internet has the tendency to really shake up industries, and that's precisely what's happened with telecoms and VoIP. By moving phone systems to the cloud and providing them as a service rather than a one-off purchase, businesses are benefiting from a "crowdfunding like" effect, where all of their resources are pooled into one system, that is continually upgraded and improved. Gone are the days where individual businesses need to fork out for upgrades and maintenance of their individual phone systems, instead, with the power of the internet, they share the same system allowing providers to concentrate their efforts in making continual improvements. Simply, put it's nothing short of a revolution in the telecoms world. Without further ado, let's look at the core benefits of a cloud-hosted phone system.
One of the most attractive parts of a cloud-based phone system is the incredible cost savings that can be made. Some businesses can reduce their domestic call costs by up to 50% and their international calls by up to 90%! With services such as our own including large amounts of free minutes for each user, it can even be the case that there are no, or very little actual call charges to pay each month. Our own cloud-hosted Horizon service includes a huge 2000 free UK landline minutes and 2000 minutes to UK mobiles, per user per month!
Alongside the significant savings on calls, is the reduction of other costs associated with having your own phone system hosted in your office. As you will be paying for a service rather than buying a piece of equipment, you will no longer be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the phone system. Also, as VoIP calls are delivered over the internet rather than ISDN or analogue phone lines, you can reduce your connectivity costs and get rid of expensive phone line contracts. Finally, as the calls are transmitted over your computer network, you remove the need to have separate cabling for your phones, so when you come to add more people to your team, you only need to run one cable to their desk.
As we say, the cost savings are significant, so much so it's difficult to quantify exactly how much you'll save by making the switch!
Stuffed full of call management features
Cloud-based phone systems are literally jam-packed full of useful features that businesses of all size will find valuable. As VoIP providers like ourselves can concentrate on the improvement of and investment into a single system, it means progress and development happens much faster, benefiting everyone on the platform. Small businesses can access the same great features that larger businesses enjoy, for all intents and purposes, it levels the telecoms playing field.
As we'll detail later in this article, our Horizon platform has a diverse set of features, from call recording and hunt groups through to analytics and music-on-hold and we're adding to it all the time. By signing up to Horizon with us, you'll ensure that you'll always keep up with the competition and have the latest and greatest VoIP features.
Better voice quality
As the speed and consistency of internet connectivity has improved over the years, so has the quality of voice calls. Today, VoIP phone calls are as good if not better than traditional analogue and ISDN ones. With our Horizon being compatible with some of the best handsets on the market, from industry-leading manufacturer Poly (firmly Polycom), your team will never miss a word and enjoy crystal clear call quality.
Softphones and mobile apps
Unlike traditional phone systems which are only compatible with certain handsets and headsets, once you switch to a cloud-hosted VoIP system you will release yourself from those confines and be able to make and receive calls from your computer or your smartphone. With softphones for PC and Mac, along with apps for Android and iOS, you can take your business phone (and number) with you anywhere that has an internet connection.
Work from anywhere
As we've outlined, once you switch to a cloud-based VoIP system you can work from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Need to work from home for a while? Simply pickup your office handset and take it with you. Away for work for a couple of weeks? Use the mobile app to ensure you never miss a call. You could be on a far-flung sunny beach somewhere in the tropics (sounds good doesn't it) and you could still be making and receiving calls on your UK based local business number. This is what we call unified communications.
When you have your own phone system hosted in your office you'll be aware that you've got several single points of failure that could take the system down and stop calls coming through. The system itself could fail, you could have a power cut or worse a fire. Whatever the circumstance, it's difficult without significant investment to achieve full resilience in the face of potential disasters. By using a cloud-based phone system you remove these risks.
Cloud-phone systems are typically spread across geographically diverse datacentres (ours are in the UK), so even if one suffers a catastrophic failure, the other will continue to operate and deliver the phone system. This type of disaster recovery and reliability is simply unattainable unless you're a large corporate business that has significant resources. What's more, even if your office were to burn down, we could send your team new handsets within a couple of hours and have them all working from home before you know it. When you look at what you get in terms of technology and reliability and cost savings it's almost impossible not to agree that a cloud-solution is a significant improvement on what you currently have.
VoIP and cloud phone systems, in particular, are at the cutting edge of telecoms technology. As we've already mentioned, we are continually investing in our Horizon platform so it stays at the forefront of the market. What that means is that the longer you stay with us the better the service you will get. No more replacing a system once every 7 years or so.
Easy to manage
Finally, one of the most significant benefits of a cloud-based phone system is that it's simple and straightforward to manage. Via a web portal, administrators of the system can log in and make changes, add users, configure hunt groups and much much more. This is in stark contrast to phone systems of old which you really needed to be a trained engineer to interact with.
As we've alluded to in this article, our market-leading cloud-based phone system is called Gamma Horizon and it's the perfect fit for businesses of all size and description. With thousands of companies using it every day, it's fast becoming the goto defacto choice for businesses looking to move to the cloud.
In this section of our guide to cloud-based phone systems, we'll detail some of the brilliant features that are available to you, if you choose to join T2k.
The Horizon Desktop Client allows you to connect your office phone to your laptop or PC. The soft client works seamlessly with the cloud phone system, allowing you to control your account and handle calls from wherever you are. As the soft client lets you make calls without a business handset, it can be used to actually reduce the overall cost of entry of a hosted solution. Added to that, by having the soft client installed on roaming laptops, you can minimise the cost of calls while your users are on the move.
Horizon Integrator (paid add-on)
Horizon Integrator is a powerful companion to our cloud-based phone system that allows you to integrate with popular applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Skype for Business. Not only that, you can connect it to many of the leading CRM packages so that you're team can accurately keep track of conversations with clients. The top features of Horizon Integrator include:
- Call Preview - Help your users prepare for the call by showing them information about the caller before they answer.
- Click to Dial - Initiate phone calls from Outlook and even web pages. Using click to dial saves time and reduces the change of input errors.
- Desktop Control - Give your users instant access to Call History, Call Forward and a large number of additional features.
If you operate a call centre or a business that handles a significant number of calls, Horizon Integrator can save a huge amount of time and make your team more efficient.
Call Queuing (paid add-on)
Horizon Call Queuing allows you to manage incoming calls and deliver them to groups of users as soon as someone comes available. It's a low-cost way of managing your incoming calls professionally, providing continual info and options to your calls, to avoid the risk of losing calls.
The benefits of Call Queuing include:
- Customised messaging - Create bespoke welcome messages and set up options like timed comfort messages to ensure you don't lose calls.
- User breakout - Add an option to the Call Queue that lets a caller break out of the queue and leave a voicemail instead.
- Queue up to 25 calls
- Simultaneous Hunt Group - Deliver the call to all available contacts within the Call Queue Group
Receptionist Console (paid add-on)
The Receptionist Console allows you to manage incoming calls and route them effectively via a simple to use interface. Using the Receptionist Console ensures that all of your calls are answered professionally, improving customer service and increasing business efficiency. The benefits of the Receptionist Console include:
- Full control over inbound calls to one or multiple sites.
- Access to up to 800 directory contacts, meaning call routing can be done quickly and precisely.
- Manipulation and monitoring of call queues.
- Creation of multiple conference calls, connecting contacts to inbound callers.
- Have multiple receptionists managing one or many sites.
Horizon call centre (paid add-on)
Horizon Call Centre is an addition to your core Horizon subscription with a significant number of call centre specific capabilities all managed via an easy to use web portal.
This add-on allows companies to effectively manage their call centres and boost the productivity of call centre agents. Some of the benefits of Horizon call centre include:
- Intelligent call distribution - makes sure that inbound calls are answered by the right people and efficiently.
- Quality caller experience - monitor your inbound call activity.
- Quickly escalate calls - easily manage escalations ensuring that difficult calls are handled as efficiently as possible.
- Gain insight - use historical and real-time data to help address training requirements and identify any potential issues with resources during peak times.
- On-demand service - only pay for what you need and scale up and down as needed.
How to get started
Hopefully, by this point, you can see the power and advantages of moving to a cloud-based system, so all that's left for you to do is to get in touch to get started.