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into the Cloud
To hear some people tell it, computing “in the cloud” is the greatest innovation since the telegraph. Yet
many business people are not so sure, especially when it comes to the central nervous system of their
enterprise: their communications system.
Basing phone systems in the cloud has a number of advantages, but plenty of companies are satisfied
with their trusty old PBX systems. Perhaps they are leery of the Great-Thing-They-Must-Buy-Now,
considering that a new one seems to arrive every week. Whatever the reasons, only one in five
businesses currently uses a cloud-based phone system.
Why are companies resisting the call to leap into the cloud? Why should they make the switch? Is there
a way to get the advantages of a cloud-based system while holding on to the dependability of traditional
phone service? Fortunately, the answer to that question is yes.
You can’t read three paragraphs of technology news these days without seeing somebody declaring “the cloud”
as the solution to pretty much everything.
There’s common sense behind the hype. Storing software, services, and data in a central location accessible
to any device is leaps and bounds more efficient than scattering all that computing power on remote PCs,
smartphones, and tablets.
But let’s be clear on one thing: The cloud is nothing new. It’s been around since 1878, when the first commercial
telephone exchange opened for business in New Haven, Connecticut. Little more than a switchboard, the
exchange centralized call-processing power for people connecting through a simple user interface — the
Early mainframe computers amassed processing power in the cloud. People who learned to communicate with the
mainframe using punch-cards welcomed the arrival of innovative “dumb” terminals.
The rise of the personal computer and packet-switching routers dispersed computing
power across vast global networks. It made perfect sense until the arrival of the 21st
century mobile era, when a blizzard of new portable devices revived the demand for
centralized computing power.
So now we’re back in the cloud. But given that the cloud was with us 25 years before
the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, it’s not like we ever really left.
The Cloud Isn’t New
Cloud computing is serious business. Gartner Research expects public cloud computing services to grow by 18.5
percent to $131 billion in 2013 alone, and it projects the industry will expand at a compounded rate of 16.8 percent
The cloud can be free and easy like Google’s Drive, which allows users to stow
documents on Google’s servers and share them with friends and colleagues.
Cloud computing also can be complex and expensive, like the high-end
design tools Adobe sells through its Creative Cloud service.
The common denominator in the cloud is efficiency: Instead of having to
support software licenses across thousands of PCs or smartphones, IT
departments update everything once in the cloud and deliver the software
over high-speed Internet connections. Because cloud service providers have
a vested interest in preserving clients’ data, systems are built to be secure and
redundant, keeping hackers out and preserving backups of everything.
But a recent Gartner report revealed one of the challenges of the push to
move everything to the cloud: Only 8 percent of enterprise users are using
the cloud for office-services software (primarily email). Similarly, only a fifth of
businesses use cloud-based VoIP services for their communications despite
the prospects for saving money and improving efficiency by moving to these
The Cloud Today
Gartner Research expects public cloud
computing services to grow by 18.5
percent to $131 billion in 2013 alone
Clearly, not all businesses are crazy about the cloud. Why the reluctance? In office systems, highly regulated
companies like banks and utilities have to make sure changing their office software passes muster with state
and federal regulators. Industries that require extreme security like defense and aerospace want to keep their
data under lock and key in-house.
In the VoIP sphere, small and midsize businesses want better choices. Most VoIP providers offer two solutions:
an on-premises system or one hosted in the cloud. Either way, businesses often have to give up their standard
telephone service to enjoy the cost savings and flexibility of VoIP. Some remain concerned about reliability.
Fonality is clearing the path for a third way: Hybrid systems that preserve the dependability of traditional phone
systems while taking advantage of the Internet-enabled possibilities of cloud-based VoIP.
The Cloud Today
A traditional phone system is simple and reliable. But it can’t do much beyond helping people talk to each other
over a dedicated line.
VoIP gives businesses voice, video, text, and contacts management in a single user interface. Standard Internet
technology takes much of the pain out of the setup and a suite of software tools creates an engaging user
experience. Here’s a quick look at some of the advantages of VoIP:
Today’s workforce is dispersed. Some are at home, some are in an airport,
some are in the C-Suite. Whether they are sales people, executives,
software coders, or production line supervisors, they all need to be
able to share documents, swap emails, discuss strategy, and make
sure they’re all moving in the same direction.
Contact center features
VoIP gives all businesses the capabilities of a
professional contact center that deals with huge volumes of telephone calls: organizing
and directing inbound calls, documenting call volume, and providing a host of
customer service, support, and telemarketing functions.
Why VoIP is Better
Improved visibility for management
The best business VoIP systems tell managers where their workers are as long they’re at work. They also allow
employees to provide their preferred contact numbers so incoming calls always get routed to the right people.
Tracking systems, meanwhile, provide performance metrics for contact center activities.
Integration with mobile devices
VoIP systems bring mobile phones into the company phone network. Calls can be forwarded directly to cell phones
and tablet computers can be integrated into a company’s communication workflow.
Centralized user interface with one vendor
A single company designs a uniform interface and keeps
everybody’s phones, apps, and devices talking to each other.
This saves a load of headaches for a company’s IT support
A dedicated phone line wastes a lot of bandwidth when
nobody’s talking on it. In contrast, VoIP lets phone calls share
bandwidth with other data traveling on the Internet, which is far more
efficient. That’s why VoIP customers typically can expect much lower
monthly fees and forget about long-distance charges.
Why VoIP is Better
Hosted in the cloud
A hosted, cloud-based system packages all VoIP services in a centralized off-site location. In the cloud, phone
service costs can fall dramatically because the host takes care of all the software, equipment, training, and support.
This deployment leaves businesses dependent on their Internet connections, and for many that works well. Others
feel like they need a more robust solution.
An on-premise VoIP system is backed up in the cloud, but it stations equipment at the customer’s site to enable
communications via the Internet. The best systems combine the reliability of a traditional phone line with the rich
array of VoIP features.
On-premise VoIP can be tailored to the exact needs of individual companies, and the best providers can set up
the system so it automatically switches voice communications over to the traditional phone line if the Internet goes
What the future holds
It’s a safe bet that in 15 years, all wired telephone systems will be hosted in the cloud. It’s simply getting too
complicated for businesses to maintain on-site communications systems. And given that wireless is getting stronger
every day, there will be less and less need for traditional phone lines.
To many entrepreneurs, installing that first PBX system feels like tangible proof that their company’s going to make
it. They’re getting enough calls from enough customers to enough employees that those calls need to be managed.
Plenty of businesses never get that far.
So they wire up their PBX system and get back to work. They dial 9 for an outside line and it works. It’s not broke.
Why fix it?
Companies have a simple explanation for not putting their phones in the cloud: force of habit.
It’s a comfortable habit that isn’t causing problems, so they stick with it.
Trust is another issue for established business owners: Many are more inclined to
go with venerable, old companies. The cloud may have been around for more
than a century, but cloud-based VoIP is a relatively recent arrival, as are many
of the companies providing the services. In contrast, their phone company
may have been around for ages.
VoIP must be able to overcome one of the strongest forces in human nature:
the tendency for people to do what they’ve always done.
Reservations About Cloud-Based Phone Systems
There’s no doubt that some people’s impressions of business-quality VoIP have been colored by experiences with
low-cost providers of consumer services. Skype and Vonage, to name two examples, provide basic, economical
voice and video services. As the saying goes, people get what they pay for.
Skype uses peer-to-peer networking. A “call” starts out on one computer, travels to a nearby computer that’s also
on Skype, makes its way to an ISP, then travels through even more peer computers until the two users establish a
data stream. Nobody is “in charge” of maintaining the quality of the stream.
Building a video stream across a multitude of points around the Internet does allow incredibly economical video
communications from around the world. Likewise, discount VoIP providers like Vonage can optimize their networks
to hold down costs rather than hold up quality.
That means hit-or-miss user experiences. One call will sound fine, another will
have a low hiss and a third will cut off people’s voices off in mid-sentence. The
end result is that people who are familiar with low-cost VoIP have may not realize
the quality of business VoIP is much higher.
Confronting Misconceptions About VoIP
Free and discount services suit the needs of thrifty consumers, but the quality sets off alarms in the minds of
brand-conscious business people. Picture the small-business owner trying to pitch her software services to a big
potential client. Can she afford to make do with discount-quality voice or video?
Cloud-based VoIP providers face :
• Educating potential clients about the reality that business-class VoIP is nothing like some providers of consumer
• Convincing potential consumers that their service is optimized for the best possible user experience, not the low-
est possible cost.
• Demonstrating that they can deliver telephone-quality voice and sharp streaming video in a package that costs
substantially less than standard telephone service.
Providers that can do all this — and of course provide a stellar suite of features — are the ones that understand the
communications needs of small and midsize businesses.
Confronting Misconceptions About VoIP
NOTHING LIKE SOME
OFFERS THE BEST
VOICE & SHARP
CLIENTS MUST BE CONVINCED OF
3 MAJOR POINTS BUSINESS
It’s not only about shaving the cost of every phone in an office. That’s more like the appetizer. The entrée is the
savings in technology costs across a rich suite of VoIP services.
Functionally, VoIP gives any office virtually the same suite of services used by large contact centers. A dedicated
user interface makes sure contacts, email, incoming calls, videoconferencing, and more are always within a few
easy clicks. And it’s always the VoIP provider’s job to keep all that software up to date, secure, and backed up.
All of these features fall under the umbrella of Unified Communications, which will continue to grow
as innovations in bandwidth and processing power allow providers to pack ever more
communication services onto desktop computers and mobile devices.
Furthermore, knowledge workers who bring their devices with them everywhere
will gravitate toward companies that bake Unified Communications into their
corporate structure. The best talent expects access to the best tools.
Another consideration: the complex interactions of all these tools makes it
increasingly untenable for companies to support on-site telephone systems,
especially in light of the money they’ll save when outsourcing. It makes sense to
leave phones to the phone experts.
The Business Case for Switching
No matter how strong the case for cloud-based VoIP may be, the
industry is crowded with younger providers that need to earn the trust
of business owners, many of whom would just as soon go with more
The best VoIP providers understand why people are reluctant to dive
headlong into every new high-tech trend: infinite choices collide with
finite resources. One option is to entice businesspeople with a small
sampling that will make them want more in the years ahead.
A midsize business might want to try out VoIP features in single
department. Another might want to turn its sales staff loose
with a suite of customer-collaboration tools but isn’t ready
yet for a complete conversion.
And here’s a way youthful providers can set themselves
apart from long-of-tooth telcos: Offering plain-language
contracts that are succinct, easy to understand, and free of
surprises buried in the small print.
Getting Businesses to Trust
Breaking Through with a Hybrid Solution
Most VoIP providers force a company to go all-in on the cloud and abandon their traditional phone sys-
tem. The skeptical are left locked into their PBX-based systems.
Fonality bridges this gap with a hybrid system that allows companies to install their own equipment and
software on-site, back everything up in the cloud, and maintain always-on voice service by automatically
switching to traditional phone service in case of an interruption in Internet service.
It’s Not About the Nines
Internet outages present a nagging argument against cloud-based VoIP. Outages are rare, but they do
Some providers are fond of the number 9 in a decimal place in their uptime promises. They make prom-
ises like 99.9999 percent uptime. Some take the nine to five or six decimal places, as if a hundred-thou-
sandth or a millionth of a percent is a meaningful statistic.
There are not enough decimals in the universe to change the reality that VoIP providers have outages.
What matters is how companies plan for outages, and how they respond to them, and how transparent
they are about them with customers.
Nines aren’t part of the problem or the solution.
Feeling better about our old friend the cloud? Ready to reap the benefits of unified communications while saving
money? Ready to leave the responsibility of managing a phone system to someone else and getting back to what
you do best?
Here are four things to look for in a provider of VoIP telephone systems:
1. A company you can trust
Your VoIP provider must be willing to earn your trust by understanding your needs and providing VoIP services that
are specific to the needs of your customers.
2. One focused on SMBs
Your provider should have a track record of helping small business add
high-end communication features that make it easier for everybody in
your sphere of business — customers, employees, vendors — to stay in
3. One that’s moved beyond phone calls
VoIP is about using voice, video, text, and high-end software to keep
people connected. As long as people talk on telephones, calls will be a
key component of VoIP, but the best providers understand calls are only a
part of the equation.
4. A company that gives you options
A hybrid offering combines the efficiencies of VoIP and the dependability of traditional phone service.
What to Look for in a Provider
Fonality can take your company’s communications to a whole new level, improving customer service, productivity, mobility, and
reducing costs. Fonality helps you work smarter not harder. If you’re interested in increasing customer retention and referrals
and saving time and money, Fonality has the tools to help. Learn more visiting www.fonality.com or calling 1-888-768-3770.