Cloud VoIP (also known as a hosted phone system) is when your phone system is located in the “Cloud”. With the cloud, you generally get more features, redundancy and flexibility for a small to medium sized business at a lower cost point than purchasing an on-site system. Here are some of the “table stakes” available in most Cloud VoIP solutions:
- A private phone number for each phone.
- Mobile phone integration where your private number rings your desk phone and mobile phone simultaneously.
- Desktop collaboration software for chat, presence, desktop share and video conferencing with people inside and outside the office.
- One phone system for multiple sites.
- Phones work from anywhere there is an internet connection.
- Soft phones so your laptop or mobile phone can make calls over the Wi-Fi or office network.
- Monthly fee includes dial tone, phone system, support and all other phone costs.
When is Cloud VoIP a Bad Idea?
So, good marketing makes new products seem like the “must have” product that fits every company and every budget. Cloud VoIP, just like many other products, is not right for everyone.
Remember, the phone system server for Cloud VoIP is running in the cloud. Your phones have to connect to this server from your office. Depending on how the phones make this connection can help determine if it is a good idea for your company or not.
Cloud VoIP Over Open Internet
Connecting to the cloud over the open Internet is the most common method of Cloud VoIP for small companies. It is a very compelling sales pitch and is hard to say no to. It provides a high feature set for a seemingly low cost.
The problem with going over the open Internet is the quality of the Internet you are using. We service VoIP customers in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. In these three different cities, there is a vast difference between Internet quality of different providers. Depending on what Internet provider you choose, it could have a drastic difference in the quality of your phone calls.
Think of it this way- if you buy a sports car and take that sports car out on a road with a lot of pot holes, you are not going to have a good experience. The ride will be rough and you will not receive the “performance” you expected out of the sports car. It is the same with your Cloud VoIP solution. If you Internet is a road with pot holes, you are not going to enjoy the product.
But My Data Runs Fine!
Yes, your data may run perfectly fine and you may still have issues with your voice quality. Why? Well, this answer can vary and can be quite complex. In its simplest form, the Internet was designed for data. With data, if you lose some of the data or if some of it gets there before the rest of it, no problem. The Internet will just resubmit the data or wait for the rest. Have you ever loaded a web page to see a picture take a little while to load? Basically, the text got there before the graphic. No big deal, you just wait for it to show up on your screen, right?
Now, consider a conversation in the same scenario. The end of your sentence gets there before the beginning of the sentence. Maybe some of the conversation got dropped? You can just sit there and wait for the rest of the sentence. You also would not understand what they said if you hear the end of the sentence before the beginning. What is this, Pig Latin?
Does that Mean Cloud VoIP Over the Open Internet is a Bad Idea?
As with most of my blogs, NO, this is not what I am saying. It is just a good idea to have an understanding of the technology before you spend money and time implementing it.
Over time, Internet has improved substantially. In many environments, Cloud VoIP is a wonderful solution for our clients. Over the years, to ensure our customers have a better experience with hosted VoIP, we help our customers with the following:
- We utilize a hosted VoIP testing software. This software simulates calls between their facility to our Cloud. We then have a report that shows the quality they would expect with our solution. These tests are no charge to our clients. If you would like to schedule one, just reach out to us here. You may want to check back with our blog later this week too. We will be releasing a blog that explains exactly what is included in our Cloud VoIP Assessment.
- If a customer is not satisfied with their cloud solution, for no additional charge from ICS, we will put a server on their site or allow the customer to install a private circuit to our Cloud.
What Else Can I do to Ensure a Good Cloud VoIP Experience?
Another alternative is to deliver a private connection from your office to the Cloud provider. In most cases, this only makes financial sense for larger organizations.
In addition, it is always recommended to avoid asynchronous Internet providers and providers that utilize a “shared” Internet service.
Make sure you know how you will receive support and if the company can help resolve network issues. Many times, if the provider only does cloud VoIP, they will not be much help if you have network problems. Go back to the car analogy- if you take the car back to the dealership and complain, are they going to fix the road? VoIP providers that also have full service Managed IT services are more capable of resolving your problems from A to Z.
Avoid Asynchronous Internet
Asynchronous providers would be DSL or ADSL services from AT&T or similar company. These providers have faster downloads than upload speeds. Since voice needs quality going BOTH directions, this is generally not a good idea. An exception to this may be a single user at their home.
Avoid Shared Internet
Shared Internet is your cable provider coax Internet. Sure, they advertise 50 Up and 50 Down speeds, but it is shared with everyone in your area. If Internet usages is high, it will lower your voice quality. These types of service also generally have service level agreements tailored more for a home environment than a business.
All of the above items will help you make a better decision for your Cloud VoIP Solution. If you need help in Houston, Austin or San Antonio, please contact us. A professional Technology Consultant will come to site and guide you through the process from beginning to end.
Since ICS is a full-service cabling, VoIP and Managed IT provider, we can assist you to ensure your data network is ready for your VoIP experience. Since we also provide on-site business telephone systems, we can also let you know if Cloud VoIP is just not the right solution for your company.