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Should your office switch to a hosted phone system?

Some businesses still utilize a traditional on-premises phone system for their communication needs, but upgrading to an Internet-based phone system can offer some major advantages.

Going ‘cloud’ makes sense for most businesses, but not all.

If you’re looking to upgrade your legacy phone system and considering the move to a hosted solution, there are a few things to consider when making that call.

A few years ago, IP phones were often synonymous with dropped calls and spotty connections. But that’s no longer the case. Voice over IP (VoIP) has evolved and most businesses have access to faster broadband connections at much lower rates. They also have quality of service agreements and better management tools, making it a more viable option for many businesses.

So, should you upgrade your current PBX system or make the move to the cloud? Every organization has different requirements, but consider that the average phone system is expected to last at least six years — so you’ll want to consider your future requirements as well. If your business is expanding or employees are becoming more mobile, take that into consideration. Then consider these other three advantages of updating your system.

1. Saving money

Cost is, perhaps, the top consideration for most businesses, though it’s certainly not the only one. These days, phone systems do a lot more than make phone calls. They’ve become collaboration tools that allow you to work from anywhere with an Internet connection. Cost, while important, is only part of the picture.

2. Worry-free system upgrades

With a hosted approach, you don’t need to invest in hardware or software (unless you require IP phones). That means there’s a low upfront cost and you can quickly get the system up and running. You pay a monthly subscription fee and add new users on an as-needed basis (no guessing how many licences you might need five years from now). Keep in mind, though, for some businesses an on-premises VoIP solution could potentially offer lower monthly costs after initial expenses are covered.

3. Forget about internal maintenance

Ongoing maintenance and software upgrades are handled by the service provider, making a hosted solution ideal for businesses that don’t have the resources or expertise in-house. It’s also ideal for any business looking to offer the latest collaborative tools to employees, allowing them to work remotely or on-the-go — the same tools that would typically be too cost-prohibitive for some businesses to deploy on-premises.

Manitoba school division makes the switch to hosted

For the Seine River School Division in rural Manitoba, moving to a hosted IP solution from MTS was a no-brainer. The school division was using decades-old phone technology to support buildings within a 150-kilometre radius. The hosted solution allowed them to save money, while adding new features and functionality for staff and faculty.

“It was a natural fit for us,” said Don Driver, Information Technology Manager with the Seine River School Division in Lorette, Manitoba. “It allowed us to upgrade from an obsolete system to a new IP system with little staffing or internal cost.”

He also liked the fact that Cisco, which provides the Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), was at the table with MTS, offering a one-stop solution. But for Driver, it wasn’t just about cutting costs. Staff like the versatility of the new phone system, which provides call forwarding, group calling and IP paging.

Is a hosted system right for my business?

You might be asking yourself this very question, and for good reason, since a hosted system may not be the answer for every company.

Although organizations in most industries can benefit from a hosted phone solution, any business that must comply with regulations requiring data to be stored on-site (such as voicemail messages and chat conversations) would be better off with an on-premises solution. Same for any business that wants complete control of their data, or the ability to manage and customize the solution to fit their specific requirements.

For some businesses, a cloud solution likely offers a higher level of security than they could provide on their own. But make sure your regulatory and compliance environment will allow you to move to the cloud.

If you’ve decided on a hosted phone solution, look to partner with a trusted service provider that offers quality of service guarantees and geographic redundancy (for disaster recovery), with a strong track record and customer support organization.

A hosted phone solution has a range of benefits, aside from the obvious lowering of capital costs. For IT pros, it offers standardization and interoperability across a converged network infrastructure, as well as built-in disaster recovery. IT pros don’t have to worry about maintenance or upgrades, and new features and services can be rolled out almost immediately. The system can be scaled up or down as needed, which reduces those licensing headaches.

But users will notice the difference too, with new multimedia communications and collaboration tools that allow them to work from anywhere with an Internet connection — helping to drive productivity. And that’s a win-win for everyone.

Up Next: More about whether a hosted phone collaboration system is right for your company.

Vawn Himmelsbach

Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.

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