The cloud is quickly becoming ubiquitous. One key indicator? The development of specialty solutions and services, such as cloud private branch exchange (PBX), designed to supplement (or supplant) existing tools. But along with the increasing impact of hosted PBX offerings — No Jitter notes that the market is now conservatively worth $20 billion — there's also substantial hype. That's why this month's FAQ installment will answer two critical questions: What is cloud PBX, and how can it benefit your business?
What is Cloud PBX?
The key to cloud PBX lies in location: The technology to power traditional PBX systems and their IP-switched offspring resides onsite, requiring regular oversight and maintenance to ensure stable performance. Cloud solutions — also called hosted PBX — shift hardware to provider stacks.
For a relevant comparison, consider software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms: Instead of buying and downloading software to local machines, SaaS deployments provide cloud-based access to services. Cloud PBX does the same. By leveraging current internet connections, businesses gain access to all the features of typical PBX systems without the need for costly hardware or support.
By combining ease of deployment, speed of service, and long-term potential, cloud-based PBX offers credible gains for enterprise calling.
Cloud PBX supports traditional landlines, IP phones, and mobile devices, and providers charge a monthly fee for service. Initial criticisms of cloud-based PBX were similar to that of VoIP: Connection and traffic issues occasionally caused QoS problems such as dropped or poor quality calls. Improved cloud infrastructure combined with widely available broadband connections have significantly reduced the likelihood and severity of these issues, especially when combined with solid QoS policies that prioritize PBX network traffic.
Compare and Contrast
How does cloud PBX stack up against on-premises offerings? Consider a recent CommsTrader piece that discussed the shift of call-recording services from local solutions to cloud providers, which highlights several key comparisons. For example, 75 percent of call recording solutions remain on-premises in part because of their legacy nature. If they are complicated systems with several years of life left that don't play well with new technology, it may not be worth making the switch. Another often-cited reason for keeping local PBX is security; because hardware is under the direct control of local IT, the chance of a security breach may be reduced. However, the specialization of cloud services has led to substantial developments in cloud security such that they often equal — or outmatch — on-premises offerings.
With the cloud, meanwhile, companies aren't locked to a specific phone system or network, and can easily access data — from call recordings to histories to access logs — anytime, anywhere. In addition, pricing is straightforward and deployment doesn't require large upfront costs.
The Case for Cloud
Change for change's sake isn't a good model for technology investments, but cloud PBX has proven itself both viable for enterprise deployments and reliable over the long-term. So, what does shifting to cloud PBX really do for your bottom line?
- Ease of Integration: Cloud PBX systems are inherently vendor-neutral, meaning they play nicely with any existing cloud technology. Since no hardware installation is required, configuration is typically much faster than onsite solutions.
- Virtual IT Support: If something goes wrong with on-premises solutions, local IT has to diagnose and fix the issue or call in outside help — both options that could take days or weeks. Under a cloud-based model, all IT support, system upgrades, and feature additions are handled remotely.
- Scale on Demand: Your PBX needs change over time. Adding capacity to local systems is both time-consuming and could impact existing service — and it's virtually impossible to pack up local tech if you move to new offices. Cloud PBX, meanwhile, scales in the same way as any cloud resource: on demand. More bandwidth can be allocated to your PBX to address sudden traffic increases or the addition of satellite offices. When this capacity is no longer needed, you simply revert to your original agreement.
- Alignment with New Technologies: The next step forward in enterprise telecomms? Unified communications, which combine voice, video, and rich-media calling, in turn empowering employee collaboration and ease-of-use. But UC deployments naturally require both large bandwidth pools and flexible resources, making them a tough sell for onsite services and the ideal match for cloud PBX.
What is cloud PBX? It's the evolution of businesses telecomms and the natural progression from on-premises VoIP-switched systems. By combining ease of deployment, speed of service, and long-term potential, cloud-based PBX offers credible gains for enterprise calling.
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