New technology is reshaping the workplace. The widespread availability of high-speed broadband and new mobile technologies is opening up exciting new possibilities.
The way we work, the way we communicate and the way we interact with technology to do our jobs is quite different from ten years ago. One of the key trends to emerge is the so-called move to the cloud.
Typically, an organisation will outsource its IT requirements to an external specialist, instead of maintaining and updating its own hardware and software onsite. Applications and data are hosted centrally ‘in the cloud’ – the provider’s network.
Users then access the software and files simply and securely via their web browsers. This has two key advantages. First, it eliminates the need for extensive in-house IT resource and second, it means organisations can effectively rent the service they need – on a per-user, per-month basis.
Hosted telephony is becoming a significant part of this outsourcing picture. In simple terms, hosted telephony is a telephone system that sits in the cloud rather than in your office.
Users access the system using a traditional IP handset or a ‘softphone’ – a screen-based virtual phone. Calls are transmitted using a broadband connection to the service provider’s network, from where they are routed to fixed and mobile devices.
Hosted telephony means you no longer need to maintain and upgrade costly PBX hardware onsite. The provider, who hosts your system, is responsible for the hardware and software, including system upgrades.
As well as giving your organisation access to low-cost and free IP calls, a hosted system puts a huge range of smart call management features at your fingertips. Mobiles and other devices can also be integrated.
More importantly, hosted telephony gives organisations a high level of control, meaning their entire communications system can be managed easily, right down to the individual user level, using a simple interface.
Increasingly, hosted telephony is available to suit any budget, usually sold on a monthly rental basis, with no initial capital outlay and targeted at delivering a solution at a set price to the customer.
One person can manage an organisation’s entire phone system through an easy-to-use web interface. The system can be configured and settings changed at the click of a mouse – right down to the individual user level.
This means your phone system can be optimised to meet your business needs at any point in time. New users can be added easily by the administrator, without having to contact an external engineer.
Using an IP phone is as easy as using a traditional handset, so there’s little training required. Users can manage their own phone settings, for example, if a user wants to work from home or on the move, they can log into their account and divert calls to their home phone or mobile.
This kind of flexibility can contribute to boosting employee productivity and enhancing customer service levels by ensuring key people can always be reached.
Because a hosted system sits in the cloud, there’s a clear business continuity advantage. Say, for example, a heavy snowfall shuts down your workplace for a few days in winter. Call forwarding can provide an automated ‘failover’ to a user’s mobile, or as long as the company can log into the system via the web, they can easily divert calls to home phones, mobiles or to another site unaffected by the bad weather.
The flexibility of the technology also means you can use a standard geographic number even if calls are being answered in a completely different location. This is due to the fact that the number is hosted in the cloud rather than being tied to the local exchange.
Moving your organisation’s telephony to the cloud clearly has a number of potential advantages – enhancing management control, raising employee productivity, improving customer service and cutting call costs.