Best Cloud Based Phone System Comparison
Modern business owners are continuing to use cloud based technologies in growing numbers in order to support their operations. The solutions often remove the requirement to purchase and install costly hardware as well as the need to meet the ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs associated with traditional phone systems.
You have more than likely come across the phrase ‘cloud based phone systems’ before but without an intricate knowledge of the telephone system industry may have been left wondering what exactly it means. We are so used to hearing about the ‘The Cloud’ and what can be stored there that we can often forget to delve a little deeper and find out precisely what benefits this type of technology can offer us and aid our everyday working lives.
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What Benefits Are You Looking For In a Cloud Based Phone System?
Luckily for business owners and work forces that use phone systems on a daily basis cloud based phone systems are an excellent way to advance your communications structure while saving costs, and improving efficiency at the same time. It is advantages like these that make cloud phone systems such a good choice for startups and small business through to largest of corporations. This guide will take a look at the best cloud based phone system reviews, helping businesses find the ideal solution for their needs. It will explore a number of areas related to the cloud but if you’re completely new to the topic it is well worth visiting a specialized resource explaining what the cloud is.
What is a Cloud Phone System?
Cloud phone systems refer to the off-site hosting of a company’s telephone service.
Rather than housing your business’s phone system infrastructure in your office, your provider keeps the equipment at a remote cloud data center. This means your data is securely stored in a server that can be reached over the internet, which for most modern businesses can be additional extensions to their existing data storage.
Also known as virtual or hosted PBX, cloud based phone systems take advantage of secure data technology to offer businesses the opportunity to completely remove the need for expensive office based hardware and unnecessary wiring.
Day-to-day phone use is no different than an on-premise service. However, the provider oversees all maintenance and upgrades at the off-site location. This means hosted PBX VoIP providers take care of any technical issues that may arise and deal with any maintenance or upgrades that need to take place. This leaves you with a modern phone system without the inconvenience of the management and tech support that goes with it.
How do Cloud Based Phone Systems Work?
When it comes to a cloud phone system, all of the software required by a business to deliver their customer service function is located on a secure server and accessed through a web browser. Without the need to locate hardware on your premise as well as maintain it your business can concentrate on what it is good at.
Cloud phone systems are handed completely by the Hosted PBX provider, all you need is a reliable internet connection that can keep your work force connected whether at their desks or remotely.
Cloud based solutions provide businesses with a range of features which allow them to offer a number of customer service based functions.
Cloud Based Phone System Provider Reviews
Unlike most providers whose cloud services are maintained by a third party, ShoreTel Sky runs its own proprietary platform.
Its cloud services include a long list of standard cloud-based VoIP features, plus integration with your CRM to monitor customer experience, and Conditional Management, which assigns different ring instructions depending on who’s calling. The average cost for clients is around $36 per month, per user, but the rate varies depending on call volume and the client’s particular needs.
Installation requires an additional cost, and varies for the number of users and locations. ShoreTel Sky is ideal for mid to large-size businesses.
Grasshopper’s cloud system is ideal for small to medium businesses. Its popular Grow plan is $49 per month, per user, and includes 2,000 minutes, as well as 2 toll-free numbers, unlimited extensions, and all of its available features.
Grasshopper’s other plans range from $12 to $199 per month, per user. Features include full message management, advanced call forwarding, voicemail transcription, and more.
Nextiva’s cloud services begin at $19.95 and range through $29.95 per user, per month. The more advanced plans carry unique features such as voicemail-to-text transcription, a mobile app, and call recording.
Nextiva can meet the demands of all business sizes, though small and medium companies may benefit most.
VirtualPBX has 2 different plans: Office and Anywhere.
Office is ideal for companies that have a normal amount of phone traffic, and need a full phone solution versus inbound call-routing only. Prices start at $19.99 per month, per user and include unlimited minutes, an automated Greeting Manager, and advanced call routing.
Anywhere plans are best for businesses with light phone traffic. They start at $9.99 per month, include standard cloud VoIP features, and offer a la carte upgrades.
Virtual Communications Express is Verizon’s cloud-based phone service. In addition to its suite of standard features, the company emphasizes its disaster recovery plan, accompanying mobile app, and pay-as-you-go plan.
Verizon’s packages are built around their phones, which include IP office phones at $185 per phone, and advanced conference phones at $634.99 per device. Virtual Communications Express is best suited for enterprise-level businesses.
RingCentral’s cloud-based plans begin at $24.99 and range up to $49.99 per month, per user.
It offers many common cloud-hosted phone options, but the company stands out from its competitors in that each plan comes with call management, mobile apps for iPhone and Android, and HD video conferencing. You can also integrate them with Outlook, Dropbox, and more.
RingCentral’s services are ideal for large-scale businesses that need a full suite of options.
Virtual PBX Features
Messaging – Cloud systems enable businesses to easily manage messages and record voicemail which can improve customer service standards
Call Forwarding – Calls can be easily diverted to any phone in the network, making it ideal for use where businesses have different departments or teams
Voicemail – Easily record company voicemail messages and offer the ability for your customers to also leave messages when you are unavailable. Multiple voicemail messages can be created and voicemails can be delivered as text to mobiles or laptops
Business Text Messages – Marketing or customer messages can be distributed to your customers through a text message using a local telephone number
Versatility – The systems are extremely versatile, either using traditional office phones or using a mobile device
Benefits of Cloud Hosted Phone Systems
Many businesses prefer cloud based systems over the traditional phone network because it brings a number of benefits including;
Resource Savings – Cloud phone systems are much more affordable than a traditional landline network, not only in terms of initial installation and ongoing costs
Setup – As there are no telephone lines to install, a cloud based system can be installed and set up quickly and easily
Remote connectivity – Cloud systems can facilitate operations when teams are geographically dispersed with remote staff being able to connect and take calls regardless of their location
Advanced Functionality – Cloud systems have a range of advanced features that can be added such as extensions, management of messages, call forwarding and business messaging.
Flexibility – Cloud VoIP systems allow companies to add an unlimited number of new users, no matter where they’re located.
This way, you never have to stress about exceeding your phone system’s capacity, and with many providers, you only pay for what you need. By contrast, expanding legacy and other on-site systems is complicated and costly.
Frees up resources – By hosting your phone system in the cloud, you can eliminate common IT headaches that arise from on-premises system glitches.
Instead of spending time and money fixing phone problems, your team is free to focus on more important tasks.
New features are easily added – If you host your phone system on site, you’re limited to the features that the system comes with out of the box. Upgrading is a painful and expensive experience.
Cloud systems use a single, centralized software platform. New features can be seamlessly added to all users at the same time without disrupting service, or requiring the use of additional hardware.
Disaster recovery – Some on-premises phone systems do offer redundancy and back-up features, but they require additional installation.
Many cloud system providers, however, offer disaster recovery services as part of their initial implementation.
In the event of a power outage, natural disaster, or in the unlikely event that the cloud center’s wires are cut, calls are saved and re-routed to alternate lines.
Premise Based VoIP vs. Cloud Phone System
It’s important to understand the differences between a cloud phone system and VoIP.
The two terms are often used interchangeably, and while using the internet to make calls is the foundation for both systems, they don’t necessarily mean the same thing.
When comparing on-site VoIP solutions with cloud based systems the easiest way to find the right fit for your businesses is to highlight the differences. This should allow you to identify which system is the most ideal solution for your needs.
Cloud-based phone systems are typically cheaper upfront, but businesses pay providers a monthly fee per user.
On the other hand, cloud systems are more expensive to set up, but don’t include a monthly fee.
After a certain point, it becomes more affordable for a company to own its equipment rather than pay ongoing fees. However, cloud systems have advantages for small and large businesses alike.
A major distinction between premises-based and cloud systems is infrastructure.
With on-site VoIP, a company’s hardware and equipment is kept in a dedicated IT space, much like traditional phone systems. With the cloud, the gear is stored at a separate location.
If you prefer to keep your legacy phone system and its existing equipment, some providers can connect your analog phone lines with digital voice services through additional hardware.
If you want an on-premises solution and anticipate growth in your business in the near future, you’ll need to buy a larger appliance.
But with cloud services, you can easily add or subtract extra lines and features, often at no additional cost. For more information on the choices available to your business visit our best VoIP providers page.
To help you decide whether cloud-based phone systems are the right choice for your organization we have put together two case studies below of businesses that have made the switched the cloud and thrived. As already outlined in this guide there are a number of benefits associated with hosted phone system solutions and why they’re the right choice for any modern business.
As one of the largest BMW dealerships on the west coast, Pacific BMW needed an advanced phone system to support its team of 150 employees. Previously, the Glendale, CA-based dealership had used an expensive, on-premises PBX system to handle its calls.
It answered basic communications needs, but failed to deliver the kind of efficient performance required by its diverse staff of sales associates and technicians. Given BMW’s reputation for technological sophistication, Pacific BMW switched over to RingCentral’s cloud-based phone service.
Previously, its system provider had to send out a technician to perform maintenance and upgrades, which was costly and cumbersome. However, since the switch, the company leaves oversight to RingCentral.
Plus, rather than giving out separate office and mobile numbers, the sales team now offers one phone number that rings on different devices.
Natural Running Store
Natural Running Store is an online outlet catering to runners who want shoes and products that support their body’s natural running technique. Patton Gleason, the store’s president, wanted to stand out from the competition, but was frequently on the go, attending meetings with vendors and customers, as well as giving presentations.
By implementing Grasshopper’s cloud-based phone system, Gleason established one central phone number. Customers and vendors can now reach him, regardless of location or time.
As a result, he’s improved existing business relationships, and created new ones.
Drawbacks of Cloud based phone systems
Although there are numerous benefits associated with moving to the cloud, businesses may find that they need to upgrade their telephone equipment so they are IP compatible. These telephones often require an Ethernet port which means that the business may need to purchase a larger router and additional Ethernet cables.
To function properly a cloud based system relies on the internet. If you can’t rely on your ISP to deliver a reliable internet service, the cloud system may not be able to cope or may drop out or disconnect frequently which can cause problems, particularly if the phone system is the way in which you handle customer communications. It is important that if you plan on using a cloud based system, your internet connection must deliver a consistent level of service with minimal downtime.
Cloud solutions are great for small businesses for several reasons such as extensions, voicemail and call forwarding, all of which operate effectively from a local number, making your business more polished and professional. If you are running your business on a strict budget, a cloud based phone system is ideal reducing hardware or maintenance costs.
Cloud based systems are a great fit for many start up businesses because they are scaleable as the business expands and the customer service operations become more demanding. As businesses grow, they become more mobile and require additional resources. Cloud systems are an effective way to unite the workforce, making remote connections a possibility allowing staff to work from home, from a café, hotel or train and access all the benefits of a cloud phone system.