What to look for in a great cloud phone provider

Cheering Worker

These days everyone with a website is offering Cloud Phone Systems.  Why?  Because until recently, only Enterprise Businesses could afford to deploy cloud solutions.  Now with the expanded high speed internet access, and the high costs that telco’s are charging for landlines, now even a 2 person company can afford the latest technology when it comes to phones systems.

First of all, why should you consider moving to the cloud?  

  • Increased Productivity – Communicate from anywhere as though you are at your desk
  • Lower Costs – No system hardware to install, upgrade or maintain
  • High Reliability – Even if you lose power at your office, you can be up with smartphones
  • Simplified Scaling and Management – Order licenses as you need them.  Need a change?  Do it yourself.
  • Business Continuity – Never miss an important call, and if you choose to, you will be notified right away.

So what do you get when moving to the cloud?  Well here’s the thing everyone makes it sound like we are all offering the same items, but read the fine print.  

Monthly Subscription – Often Based on length of contract, and number of users.

  • Auto Attendant (sometimes an addon) 
  • A soft phone (normally either a computer program, or a smartphone app, or both
  • Calling Minutes (read the fine print)
  • Phone Number (sometimes addon)
  • Voicemail
  • Collaboration Software
  • Chat with colleagues
  • SMS (often an addon)
  • Presence Indicator (often an addon)
  • Fax (often an addon)
  • Mobile Twining (or Follow Me)
  • Screen Sharing (often an addon)
  • File Sharing (often an addon)
  • Video Conferencing 
  • Webinar (varies by number of attendees)
  • Contact Centre (addon or premium feature)

Addons

  • Desk Phones
  • Head Sets
  • POE (Power over Ethernet) Switches

One time fees

  • Set up costs
  • Hardware Shipping Costs

Often not talked about costs

  • SIP Trunks
  • Business Internet Speed Requirements

A reputable company is very upfront with their offering and will take the time to find out your needs before signing you up.  They will check your internet capabilities, not by a 1 minute test on a Friday after everyone’s gone, but REAL companies that have a top service reputation will leave behind some test equipment that determines your overall business use, and leaves it in place for days.  The reason is that just because everyone is offering cloud phone systems, doesn’t mean that it is best for every situation.  If your bandwidth to your building does not cut it, or more importantly, one of your remote office’s internet is weak, then no matter how exciting cloud sounds, it may not be the right choice.

Also there are now a lot of companies that are only offering cloud set ups, so they may not care about quality service, or long term business benefits, most often they are focused on price, and making sure they are always filling their pipe, with little or no care about their clients.  These are the companies that have claims that you can start a cloud set up for $8.95 per seat, and really nobody goes with that one as it is way too small, but it makes their mid range price seem better.  This mid range price often looks like it has all the bells and whistles, but sometimes there are lots of little extras that sound exciting and maybe even like they are included, but then you find out that they are still upgrades.

So how do you know?  

Do your research before signing.  Start by making sure your internet connectivity will withstand the extra bandwidth that you will require.  Don’t just believe the sales person, if they are not willing to do a proper long term test, RUN!  

Most reputable companies will have some type of trial.  Even still, these trials can be a little tricky as you cannot really just switch your main line over on a switch, and drop phones on everyone’s desks to see how you will like your new set up.  These trial systems can give you a sense to how things will work, but mostly internally (within your own company), as you can dial out, but on the trial, clients cannot return your calls as if your main line was connected to the trial set up.  

The best place to start is to have a demo.  These demos can be onsite, or in a virtual meeting setup.  They take about an hour to set up, and you can have a demo tailored to your needs, so you can see all of the features in action

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