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Cloud phone systems: Making the complex simple

Take a good look at your phone system. If it’s more than five years old, it’s probably slowing down your business compared to your competitors. Such has been the acceleration of phone technology over recent years.
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Rafael Cortes, Foehn head of marketing, explains how cloud phone system developers must adopt a philosophy of “total communications” to eliminate complexity and cost for the user.

Keeping it simple

Take a good look at your phone system. If it’s more than five years old, it’s probably slowing down your business compared to your competitors. Such has been the acceleration of phone technology over recent years.

Cloud hosting, simple API integration, reliable SIP connectivity and the agile, open-source programming have come together to bring an unprecedented level of intelligence into cloud phone and call centre systems.

Whilst the complexity of these solutions challenges development skills, the critical objective should always be to make the system simple and pleasing to use for customers and their customers too.

With the mention of “simple and pleasing” in describing any technology, one cannot help but think of Apple, the ultimate proponent of creating the simple user experience. The Apple approach can be compared with the swan-on-the-lake metaphor, where an apparently simple and elegant entity is actually working like the clappers below the surface.

The principle was used also by Johann Cruyff, one of the greatest and most innovative footballers of all time, who created a style of play called “Total Football”, based on a philosophy that: “Simple football is the most beautiful. But playing simple football is the hardest thing.” The key challenge in developing communications software is very similar.

Taking a “total communications” approach and eliminating complexity from a cloud phone system end-to-end, it’s possible to identify seven key areas where businesses like yours can benefit:

Simple phone support

Cloud hosting means upgrades and maintenance plus the cost of monitoring, service-level management and general support are covered in the ‘per unit’ price. Equipment is always maintained at the highest, most up to date specification.

Simple phone pricing

The cloud-based “per seat” pricing model has gained huge popularity amongst businesses that prefer to put money to work in the P&L rather than incur capital expenditure. Consider also the cost of upgrades, maintenance and depreciation – all additional costs that a hosted pricing model normally includes in the monthly payment.

Simple phone hosting

Data centres employ the latest, state of the art network security, anti-virus software and data backup that wouldn’t be affordable to most SMEs. Furthermore, the data centre building offers far greater protection and environmental control to ensure the physical protection of equipment, all backed up by business continuity systems and “redundancy” to support disaster recovery.

Simple phone control

A hosted system also keeps you in control, usually equipped with a management console that lets you change configuration of the system, add or remove users, assign features to specific employees and monitor performance. In this way, you gain the upside of ownership, with management and control of services you can do yourself, and you don’t inherit the downside costs of help from a trained technician.

Simple phone expansion

Whilst delivering all the benefits of a hosted solution, the cloud is also about providing access to high performance applications and delivering on-demand services anywhere on any devices. The impact of the cloud on communications has resulted in an explosion of productivity-boosting applications that use the versatility of the cloud to make integration simple. Furthermore, the scalability afforded by the cloud infrastructure makes a phone system easy to expand as your business grows.

Simple phone integration

Gone are the days when lengthy and costly integration projects were required to create the bespoke feature sets you need. Now, with applications built on service orientated architecture (SOA) and invariably equipped with an application programming interface (API), integration is simplified to the point where software development skills are no longer required.

Simple phone connectivity

With the advent of converged networks and reliable SIP, unified communications networks are simpler, more reliable and less costly compared to the ISDN and analogue alternatives. The addition of intelligent session border controllers has also enabled reliable control of latency, jitter, echo and the other issues that threaten voice quality of service.

Microsoft: the not-so-easy option

On first thoughts, you could be forgiven for thinking Skype for Business (Skype4B) would also offer a simple solution but, certainly for smaller businesses, you’d be wrong. This first becomes apparent when attempting to understand the complex pricing and bundling of services. From day one, even the larger businesses have been caught out by pricing that, in a typical Microsoft way, tries to lock you into the extended suite of Skype4B services. Many early adopters who took on basic features for free have since been surprised at the upscaling of prices for voice and video licences.

Starting with the on-premise based Skype4B Server, Microsoft has expanded out to integrate with the cloud based Office 365, incorporating Cloud PBX to marry Office 365 applications with comms features. These Online Services achieve full voice capability by combining with additional features, including their Skype4B PSTN Calling Service, to provide breakout to the public telecoms network, and Skype4B Cloud Connector to enable cloud access from a premise based phone system.

From here on, the complexity and variations in licence options increase while service tie-in escalates – all at odds with the needs of all SMEs to maintain simplicity and freedom to change. The fact is, Microsoft is a relative newcomer to the world of voice and communications. The attempt to catch up and deliver voice in the shortest possible time has created a bottleneck of solutions, and it shows. SME’s that want to remain agile, simple and not locked in to one vendor will think twice about Skype4B.

Make it simple

Often, small businesses fork out significant sums of money to third parties for technical support and system configuration. At Foehn, we eliminate this expenditure as far as possible by making management and control easy. But easy for one person isn’t always easy for another, so we ensure we give the training to the administrator to ensure they are self-sufficient and, therefore, saving money.

This situation arose with our customer Investium, a small property investment company focused, quite rightly, on their customers not their phone system, and having no experience in phone systems management. Foehn changed that by giving appropriate training to allow configuration of the system to suit management of calls on a daily basis.

Managing partner Alex Taylor commented: “We have complete control over our telephony and are able to ensure all our customer calls are handled with the highest level of professionalism – by the right person at the right location. That control also includes the ability to access the system ourselves and change the dial plan – thanks to Foehn’s excellent training.

“Aside from all the intelligent features that are configured within the system, the thing that has impressed us most is the way Foehn tackled the project and the on-going help advice and support they continue to provide. The education aspect is really important for SMEs, who are not always tech-centric, and this is where Foehn scores highly.”

To learn more about Foehn cloud phone systems, download the Buyers Guide to Intelligent Cloud Phone Systems.

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