There’s been a major game changer introduced into the telephone services industry recently. It’s the rise of hosted PBX or HPBX. You’ll also hear it called hosted VoIP or communications in the cloud. Like everything else “in the cloud,” this is truly a revolution in technology. In a decade or two, we’ll look back and wonder why we didn’t always do it this way.
“Cloud, schmoud,” you say? I can see how you might feel that way, especially if you’ve been burned by a poor implementation of VoIP technology. VoIP isn’t a particular product or even standardized methodology. It’s a general class of voice communication based on packet switched network technology. VoIP runs the gamut from software running on a laptop computer at the coffee shop, to dongles that let you plug your telephone into a PC, to broadband phone that shares an Internet connection, all the way up to enterprise and even carrier level solutions that are indistinguishable from traditional phone systems to the caller.
What successful enterprise implementers of VoIP telephony know that others don’t realize is that you need a carefully engineered network from the telephone handset to the service provider to protect fragile voice packets from being crushed by more numerous and robust data packets. In most cases, that means stay off the Internet except when you absolutely have to in order to include a remote worker or someone traveling. One reason is that the Internet does not support Class of Service controls to ensure the integrity of voice packets. Other parameters, such as bandwidth, latency, jitter, packet loss and out of sequence packet arrivals are uncontrollable on the public Internet. All of these are readily managed on private lines, MPLS networks and SIP trunks.
With the connectivity issue solved, there is still the issue of reliability. Won’t an in-house hardware solution that’s been proven over years of operation be inherently more reliable than “something out there, somewhere?” Not when you realize that the “something” you are referring to is the latest high quality servers set up for redundant protection with multiple levels of backup power and complete environmental controls. Like everything else in the cloud, there is a lot of virtualization involved so that resources are available in depth and instantly scalable.
The hosted solutions provider absolutely must provide high quality service or they’ll go out of business. After all, this is either a major part of their business or all of it. They almost always have technical staff on duty 24/7 and keep up with maintenance activities. How about at your company?
This is where the superiority of in-house PBX starts to become suspect. First of all, is your system really that rock solid? Parts never fail? The power never glitches or goes completely off? You may have duplicated the security, environmental control and power backup of a SAS 70 Type II data center, especially if you need this facility for your IT equipment. On the other hand, if your PBX is simply sitting in a “telephone closet” or maintenance room where the phone and data lines come in, you may not be all that well protected against disasters.
How about the age of that machine? We know that computers go obsolete almost before they are unboxed. PBX phone systems aren’t quite that bad, but they do start to degrade as the years go by. At some point, it’s hard to find replacement parts or even someone knowledgeable to maintain the system and make repairs. New features are introduced into the telephony marketplace, but you can’t take advantage of them. Your system is just a bit too old to be upgraded. This is how obsolescence begins. Pretty soon, you’re patching together a dinosaur that should have been hit by a meteor years ago.
It is being recognized that hosted VoIP solutions can be as reliable and even more reliable than in-housed PBX telephone systems. You need to pick a quality supplier and install highly reliable network connections to gain the benefits of high reliability in the cloud. If you do that correctly, you’ll enjoy reliable communications, access to the latest productivity features, integration with mobile devices, and the cost savings of paying by the month only for what you need.
Has this discussion piqued your interest on how hosted solutions might be a better choice than what you have now? If so, get pricing and features for Hosted VoIP solutions that meet your particular requirements. See if you can’t get more value for the same or less cost than your current business telephone system.