Business Buyer Guide: Cloud-based Business Phone Systems

June 8, 2023

Businesses of all sizes use business phone services daily to contact customers and their hybrid and remote workforce. Increasingly, companies are moving from on-premises phone systems to phone systems hosted in the cloud.

If your business is considering upgrading its business phone system from an on-premises system to a cloud-based one, you must know the ins and outs of the cloud-based solutions available. In this blog, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about cloud-based phone systems, including what it is, types of cloud business phone systems, key features and how to select the right cloud phone system for your business.

What is a Cloud-based Phone System for Business?

A cloud-based business phone system is a phone service that allows organizations to make and take calls over the Internet and store relevant communications data in the cloud. Cloud-based systems offer reliable service, increases in employee productivity, low costs and business-grade feature functionality. But not all cloud-based phone systems are the same, so which one is right for your business?

Types of Cloud Business Phone Systems

Organizations have a few key options for their cloud-based business phone system, including a hosted VoIP deployment, unified communications run over the top of their hosted VoIP implementation and cloud contact center platforms.

Hosted VoIP

Hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is an Internet-based telephony communication service offered and managed by a hosted VoIP service provider to a business client.

VoIP hosted service will convert a user’s voice from audio signals to digital data packets and send that data through the Internet.

Hosted VoIP replaces traditional plain old telephone services (POTS) lines, analog equipment, and hardware with a cloud-based phone system.

Businesses can learn more in our blog detailing what is hosted VoIP.

Unified Communications

UCaaS is an acronym for unified communications as a service. It combines Internet-based phone and messaging into a full-featured communications platform. Companies adopt UCaaS to provide staff with collaboration tools to work anywhere – in the office, at home or on the go. UCaaS services function across a user’s computer, desk phone and smartphone.

Unified communications integrate communications technology, including phone, chat, messaging and video conferencing. Rather than having each technology be a separate application, businesses can benefit from each system in an all-in-one platform.

Interested in learning more? Check out our blog that breaks down what is UCaaS.

Contact Center

A contact center is a central point from which organizations manage all customer interactions across various channels. Contact center services’ main purpose is to offer customers efficient and effective technical support, customer service and sales assistance.

Contact centers typically include one or more call centers but may also have other types of customer contact channels, including emails, webchats and social media interactions.

Common Features of a Cloud Business Phone System

Organizations of all sizes should expect several core features from their cloud business phone system, including:

  • Unified communications functionality (including built-in video conferencing and instant messaging)
  • Unlimited calling
  • Extension numbers and easy number changes
  • Automated attendant
  • Customized call forwarding and routing
  • Number porting support
  • Multiline hunt groups
  • Find-me, follow-me
  • Call waiting/hold
  • Voice mail and unified messaging
  • Caller ID
  • Simultaneous ring
  • Call paging/intercom
  • DID (direct inward dialing)
  • Conferencing bridges
  • Disaster routing
  • Emergency call notification
  • Call recording
  • Real-time call transcriptions
  • Call analytics and reporting
  • Custom data retention policies
  • 24/7 U.S.-based nationwide support via phone calls and text messages

Enterprise businesses can determine what requirements they need from their cloud-based phone system in our blog on enterprise VoIP solutions.

When Should You Upgrade Your Phone System to the Cloud?

Knowing when to switch to a cloud phone system depends on your overall business objectives. Getting your company leadership why they should transition legacy systems that have been in place for years or even decades can be a challenge, but we’ve outlined in detail why you should move your phone system to the cloud. The benefits of hosting your phone system in the cloud, particularly if you’re leveraging a cloud phone system provider, include the following:

  1. Avoiding capital expenditures on systems and equipment and converting them to operating expenses – usually in a predictable monthly or annual subscription.
  2. Scaling on-demand with the growth of your business or seasonal spikes (or decreases) in usage.
  3. Seamlessly integrating mobile and remote workers by enabling anywhere access to applications from Internet-enabled devices.
  4. Creating competitive advantage by unifying communications and making apps always accessible so you can collaborate with internal teams easier and respond to customers more quickly.
  5. Future-proofing vital infrastructure with automatic updates and upgrades that are part of your subscription.
  6. Offloading management of communications and IT hardware and software so you can focus on your business.
  7. Decentralized resources – Both from a personnel perspective (i.e., you can hire talent working from anywhere) and an asset perspective since your company doesn’t physically house or maintain these assets, so there is little risk and no maintenance.
  8. Cost savings – Your budget is a concern in any decision you make at the best of times, but especially in uncertain economic times like now. The good news is that cloud solutions typically can reduce costs. Advocates usually point to the cloud attributes as cost benefits:
    • Avoiding upfront costs
    • Paying as you go
    • Paying for what you use
    • No-cost updates/upgrades
    • Risk and maintenance costs fall to the provider
    • Reducing travel time and expenditures with video conferencing and web meetings.
    • Lowering operating overhead of office leases by enabling some or all employees to work from home.
    • Automating tasks to reduce or redeploy staff by using auto attendant or interactive voice response systems to help your customers help themselves to get to the person or information they need.
    • Reducing churn through better customer experiences by integrating customer relationship management (CRM) applications with communications systems for quicker service.
    • Ensuring seamless business operations and revenue generation even during an outage or natural disaster.

9. Business continuity – A cloud phone system’s ability to support business continuity includes:

    • Getting always-on access to business communications and applications, which are hosted in the cloud and are accessible from any internet-enabled device, even if your telecom provider has an outage or your building is not accessible.
    • Leveraging built-in geo-redundancy and backups from your cloud phone system provider ensures your data is safe and accessible.
    • Ensuring data integrity and security by leveraging your cloud phone system providers’ experts and protocols.

What Cloud Business Phone System is Right for Your Business?

Deciding on whether to migrate to a hosted VoIP solution and deploy a UCaaS platform and/or contact center platform over the top is best guided by a qualified cloud business phone system provider. However, here are a few real-world use cases from the experts at FlexIP Solutions on deploying hosted VoIP, UCaaS and contact center services in tandem:

Use Case 1: Hosted VoIP & Contact Center – Equity Company Leverages Call Center Agents at Home

One of our customers, an equity company, first came to us to help them fix inefficient call handling. Customers were calling into individual salespeople, giving the company no visibility into when, how, or if their calls were answered. The company wanted to maintain the personal relationships customers had with individual salespeople but also ensure a consistent customer experience. We helped them to do just that by deploying cloud-based Flex Hosted VoIP and Flex Contact Center. Now, if a caller reaches a busy salesperson, they have options to wait on hold for their rep, send an email to their rep, or get into a queue for the next available representative. Plus, the equity company now gets metrics, such as caller wait times, from the contact center solution on how calls are handled.

When shelter-in-place orders came down in their state, our customer was able to quickly enable their call center agents to work from home with our help. Because their communications system is hosted in the cloud, all we had to do was have each rep download the contact center application on their home desktop or laptop computer. Now, more than half of their call center agents are working from home, and the company still has access to vital call-handling metrics as if those reps were in the on-site call center.

Use Case 2: Hosted VoIP & UCaaS – Dermatology Practice Keeps the Doors Open

Another customer, a dermatology office, had an older phone system that could not keep up with the daily volume of calls the practice receives. At the same time, they had acquired other practices and were looking to consolidate their disparate communications systems. We recommended they move to the Flex Hosted VoIP service, which scales easily to meet their expanding practice’s current and future needs.

Coincidentally, during our discussions about this approach, the outbreak prompted orders to shelter in place. The company’s aging and disparate systems also were no match for enabling quarantined remote workers. Forwarding calls to workers’ home phones required two call legs (one from the office to the home worker and one from the home worker to the customer), which tied up their telephone lines, making it more difficult for patients to reach them.

We recommended they accelerate their transition to Flex Hosted VoIP and Flex UCaaS, which includes desktop and mobile applications that their staff members could access from home, so the practice could keep serving its patients.

Use Case 3: UCaaS & Hosted VoIP – A Criminal Defense Law Firm Goes Remote in Four Days

Another longtime customer, a criminal defense law firm, first came to us with an aging phone system on its last legs that needed to be rebooted every day. We replaced that system with Flex Hosted VoIP and Flex UCaaS hosted services that would easily work around the clock and handle increasing numbers of users.

When the pandemic hit, the firm suddenly needed to support its 150-member team remotely. With Flex UCaaS in place, we simply activated the browser-based UCaaS client for their employees to use with their laptops and smartphones at home. As a result, the law firm’s entire staff transitioned to remote work in only four days. With their previous on-premises system, this move would not have been possible.

How Do You Find the Right Cloud Business Phone System Provider?

We’ve broken down a list of key items your business should look for when selecting a cloud business phone system provider:

  • 24/7/365 U.S-based Support
  • White-Glove, Guided Installation
  • Customization for Each Seat in Every Business Department
  • Dedicated Telecom Expertise
  • Resources & Nationwide Scalability to Grow with Your Business
  • Technology to Monitor Packet Captures & Signaling to Resolve Issues
  • Quality of Service Tools to Guarantee High-Quality Voice Calls & Traffic Prioritization
  • Customized Pricing – One-size-fits-all pricing tables are designed to make you oversubscribe for services. To get the latest communications and collaboration solutions for one department – or even one seat – you have to get it for all of them. A high-quality cloud business phone system provider will customize each hosted seat for each user at your company, so you only pay for what you actually use.

Taking Your Business Phone System to the Next Level with FlexIP Solutions

FlexIP Solutions delivers managed cloud communications services customized for businesses of all sizes and optimized for the best value and performance. The company was founded in 2009 on the principles of consultative solutions engineering; white-glove service implementation; ongoing monitoring, management and reporting; and on-demand customer service from real people.

Today, those best practices are the foundation of the FlexIP Perfect-Fit Promise.

Our Perfect-Fit Promise takes a holistic view of your company’s needs and objectives and delivers a white-glove, fully managed communications solution that:

  • Lowers your costs by providing only what you need when you need it
  • Offers the most advanced features and customization in the market
  • Scales affordably and reliably
  • Enables fast and efficient multilocation and remote workforce management
  • Offloads setup, training – and ongoing training for new employees – to our team
  • Provides you with a true, single point of contact for fast resolution of any issues. We even interface with your data provider, so you don’t have to.

Don’t take our word for it; you can see how we helped longtime customer Advanced Enviro Systems avert communications disasters three times – check out this success story here. 

Ready to move your phone system to the cloud? Let’s talk. Call or text FlexIP Solutions at 833.779.7700.

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