30 Jul 2014

Cloud-based Telephony; the undiscovered gem for SMEs

Small business are increasingly aware of the value that Cloud can bring to their organisations. Despite this awareness, there are some Cloud opportunities that many SMEs are less familiar with and not yet capitalising on.

One example is IP telephony. Many SMEs and start ups have the perception that the only option for a fully-featured phone system is the traditional solution whereby the business would purchase a physical phone system and then pay to get someone to install it in their office. Then the business would connect the handsets into that system through direct cabling; a time and resource-intensive project if a small business takes off and is adding staff rapidly.

When looking for less capex alternatives, businesses are of course aware of the existence of Skype and other free communication tools, but these are not adequate for business. For instance, Skype doesn’t allow you to execute call flows between people. One of the most basic requirements of a business phone system, even for the smallest of businesses, is the ability to easily transfer calls between staff. Skype also lacks the ability to set up broadcasting, which is a key feature for businesses that, for instance, want all the phones of the sales team tied to an important account to ring when that person calls in.

Some businesses still try to make do with such tools, but increasingly, small businesses and start ups are understanding the limitations of Skype. Skype doesn’t work well when a small start up of 10 is spread across three or four different locations. It also doesn’t work well in terms of voice quality; a single large attachment or video project can cause all the Skype conversations using the same broadband link to stutter.

So many businesses feel trapped between a rock and a hard place, with no ideal solution. The awareness of Cloud-based IP telephony among SME and start up businesses is low; a report from ACMA from January this year found that just 28 per cent of businesses with fewer than 20 employees were making use of IP-based telephony, and 39 per cent of medium-sized businesses (20-199 employees) were making use of the technology.

But there are multiple benefits to Cloud-based IP telephony that do make it an ideal solution for many SMEs. These benefits include (but are by no means limited to):

  • Business Continuity; if a business location is inaccessible for whatever reason, phones can be quickly and easily relocated without hardware installation. For another example; if WAN connectivity is loss, systems allows users to route calls and faxes to their mobile devices with call forwarding or simultaneously ring and still receive incoming calls and voice and fax messages. This is the benefit of not relying on local power or Internet to continue functioning.
  • When businesses have multiple offices, Cloud-based systems consolidate the phone systems into a single system that can be accessed online and connects remote locations and employees.
  • Because management is so straightforward, a business with limited resources, such as a SME, is able to recommit resources towards other, more important strategic tasks.