Blog | Should you invest in hosted telephony

What we do…

As a trusted managed service provider we constantly review the services we provide to ensure that our customers receive the best possible technologies available to them. Our business structure and solutions enable us to stay agile and responsive, allowing us to adapt to the changing trends within the market and our customer base.

In order to enhance our offering, we regularly review providers face-to-face. This allows us to onboard new products and services that will allow our customers to take advantage of newer, more advanced technologies. This puts us in a unique position and enables us to give you the best advice in the industry.

This buyers guide has been collated to help you choose which path to take with your telephony investment. Unlike other providers, we don’t believe there is a right and wrong way; it’s merely what services your business better.

Introduction

Communication throughout your business is changing. Handset display size is no longer the priority for most businesses; all the focus is now on apps and collaboration. What’s more, the decision you make now has the potential to grow and adapt with your business needs for the next ten years or more. If you get it wrong then you could find yourself doing the same reviews in just 3-5 years’ time.

What do I need to consider?

Everyone calls hosted telephony something different. The one common theme or phrase we hear through our partner meetings is VoIP (or Voice over Internet Protocol to use its full name). There are currently over 3 million VoIP users throughout the UK, with growth in both on-prem (on premises) systems and hosted systems expected.

The two main talking points leading into 2020 have been the Openreach copper network switch off in 2025 (watch our video – WLR Switch Off) and GDPR Compliance. These talking points, coupled with the huge demand for home working solutions at this current time, generate a lot of purposeful questions when considering your new communication system move.

Do you need on-prem or hosted?

A simple answer is that we don’t know until we have had an in depth discussion about your business requirements. However, hosted generally offers more flexibility and benefits to Small Businesses. Most providers out there will advocate one over the other to all of their customers, but we are different. We can confidently say that any feature, function or service you wish to implement in your business can be provided with either an on-prem system, hosted product or hybrid solution.

Reliable and cost-effective solutions

Take your time to review the infrastructure of the vendor you are talking to. Remember that the Unified Communications market is set to reach $143.5 billion by the end on 2024, meaning new and upcoming brands are always arriving on the scene due to the growing potential.

Although it may seem less time consuming and easier to choose the cheapest option, this may damage your ability to communicate effectively in the future. You could find yourselves searching for a replacement solution sooner than you may think.

Business applications

It’s essential that you review your business before you approach a provider. Work out which applications and services you currently use internally and find out which promote the best productivity. It’s also important to identify any business critical applications that you simply can’t operate without.

Use these applications to shape the communications element of the project and see which ones can be incorporated into a wider communications eco-system.

Feature set

The future of telephony is all about collating a plethora of features into one single pain of glass. For this reason, you should always look for a Unified Communications platform that takes you beyond the standard voice features. Although you may only take advantage of voice now, a more versatile solution will open doors for you as your communication requirements develop.

Ideally, your provider should offer voice services as a minimum and allow you to expand into the feature set with apps, bolt-ons and additional services that are designed to enhance their platform. Allow your chosen partner to design a communications strategy that ensures you only pay for features you actually use.

Accessibility and control

Your communications platform is an integral part of your business and should be accessible from wherever you are. Meshing your business’ successful applications together requires a powerful management system that is easy to use.

Check that your provider can deliver a fully interactive portal that allows you to make adjustments on the fly and adapt to your everchanging telephony needs. Having management, call recordings and call logging capabilities in one place simplifies the user experience, saving time and improving efficiency.

You will also need to think about how you would like to deploy your communication strategy so that you can ensure ease-of-use. Do you want something that’s entirely on-prem or something that combines on-prem and cloud solutions? Perhaps you want the freedom of a technology stack wholly built on the cloud.

Try and avoid too much disruption to employee productivity

Finally, make sure that the communication strategy you choose is something that is easy for your employees to adopt and take advantage of. Ideally, you want something that combines simple installation and set-up with the features that your employees genuinely need in order to maximise productivity and efficiency.

Choosing a small business phone system isn’t an easy task

There are many methods of communication available to businesses including SMS, instant messaging, videoconferencing and more; but the phone system still remains the most important tool for communication in the workplace.

At this stage, it’s probably worth mentioning what a small business is. Here’s a rough guide of how businesses are categorised within the phone systems market:

Micro Business = 1-10 users

SMB (small to medium size business) = 11-250 users

Mid-Market = 250 to 1000 users

Enterprise = 1000+ users

Nowadays, most phone system capabilities are primarily software controlled and therefore scalability over the years has dramatically increased (due to improvements in the hardware they reside on). For example, you can now buy a phone system the size of a shoe box that will easily support 100 users or more.

If you have a virtual server (e.g. Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware), a single host can potentially support hundreds, if not thousands, of users.

How to buy the best small business phone system

The impact that the right business phone system can have on your company is huge.

In a world of collaboration tools and apps, it’s easy to overlook the potential of the standard phone system. However, statistics show that something as simple as switching from a traditional PSTN line to VoIP can be game changing. The average savings that occur after switching to VoIP can range between 50 and 75%.

So, what should you be looking at when you are thinking of investing in a new phone system? Which considerations are crucial to your success? Let’s take a look…

1. Features

The first and most important thing to consider when choosing a phone system is which features are offered. Critical systems like call queues, conferencing capabilities, and IVR are common for many small businesses. Some of the other components you may want to look for include:

Video or multi-media calling options

Automated directories that allow you to find employee extensions rapidly

Voicemail to leave messages for employees that aren’t immediately available

Call recording features

Intelligent call queueing and call hold for when the correct agent is not available for a customer

Call forwarding, for when you need to move a conversation over to someone new

Music on hold to give your callers something to listen to while they’re waiting

Sometimes, even the simplest of features can make the biggest difference to your telephony experience, for both agents and callers. Ensuring your callers receive a good experience is essential when it comes to your reputation and professionalism, so make sure you know you’re getting the best before you invest.

2. Size of the system

You will need to think about the scope of your phone system – how large is it going to be? You might need phones throughout your offices, in your reception area, in a conference room, even in a shop or warehouse floor.

Determining the size of your phone system will help you figure out how many lines or “trunks” you’ll need to implement in order to manage the number of incoming and outgoing calls your employees handle each day.

Remember, it’s important to look for a phone system that can scale with you. For instance, as your business grows, you might decide that you want to bring new employees on board or add new features to your telephony strategy. If that’s the case, you’ll need a phone system that can manage this growth.

3. Initial investment and total cost of ownership (TCO)

Although price shouldn’t be the only thing on your mind when you’re buying a phone system, it’s no