Worldwide, organisations are working smarter – outsourcing computing and communications to improve efficiency. Although it is relatively common in New Zealand to outsource email, web and some line-of-business applications such as CRM (customer relationship management), very few businesses know they can do the same with their phone system.
Traditionally, organisations have purchased a PABX or key phone system from a local company that is the agent for an international company, then signed up to a telco for the phone services. The PABX provider is not proactive in monitoring or supporting the system and the telco knows nothing about the PABX . This can lead to:
- Incomprehensible bills – no-one quite knows whether everything on the telco bill is needed: "It’s just always been like that.”
- Finger pointing – when something goes wrong, who owns the problem?: "We haven’t changed anything.”
- Lack of timely support – when your phones stop working you’re massively affected, but you’re rarely anyone’s top priority: "We’ll get someone out within 24 hours.”
Benefits of a hosted phone system
There are a number of reasons why organisations are so excited at the prospect of relying on a hosted PABX service, including:
No major capital expenditure
With a traditional PABX you have to choose how big and expensive a PABX to buy to accommodate what you might need one day. With a hosted service you can start as small as you want and grow to unlimited size, paying only for the lines and services you use each month. You can add or remove services when you want them.
No long-term contracts
Traditional phone systems are either leased over a fixed term or are sold with an associated fixed-term maintenance contract. This can weigh your business down like an anchor when your requirements change. Most hosted phone service providers don’t lock you in to a contract beyond a month-to-month arrangement, meaning you can make changes quickly without financial penalty.
No upgrades, maintenance, licences
Hosted phone service providers frequently update their service to add new functionality, which means the system never gets out of date. Monthly fees cover things like maintenance costs, breakage repairs and add-on licence costs. Predictable monthly payments make budgeting easy.
With a hosted phone service, the service provider invests in the system. This effectively shares the cost of the hosted PABX across all their customers – giving everyone the advantages of a sophisticated phone system at a fraction of the price.
Not everyone can afford the standby servers, redundant network connectivity, or back-up power that is required to have a highly reliable phone system. Any decent hosted phone service provider will already have this in place, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Better ongoing service
With a traditional system, once you pay for the PABX, the vendor’s interest reduces. The hosted service provider wants to keep you happy, to keep earning their monthly fee from you. You’re more likely to get the help you need, when you need it.
There is a lot of talk at the moment about cloud services, virtualisation and hosting. If you’re looking for this kind of solution, you generally want better features and more flexibility for a cheaper price. But take care not to replace one set of problems with another; unless you buy a service, rather than a box, you’ll still have to worry about things like upgrades, capacity, backups and security. If you outsource your communications to a service provider, they’ll take care of all that, leaving you to take care of your business.