What is a phone system and how is it different from phone service?
Phone system and phone service get confused a lot, but they’re not the same thing. It’s a little like getting your internet service confused with your router. Your router can hook to a number of different internet service providers, just like your internet service provider can hook up to a lot of different models of router.
The phone service is analogous to your internet service in this scenario. You’re familiar with companies like AT&T- they’re a phone service provider. If you still have a home phone, the service is likely hooked up to a telephone.
Traditionally, phone service has come from companies like AT&T, and phone systems have lived in a tangle of wires in the corner of a dark and dirty closet; but more recently, phone service is coming from a new generation of carriers that deliver service over the same network connection that you use to access the internet, and phone systems have disappeared from closets and moved into the cloud.
What does it mean to be “hosted”?
The “brain” has moved from a dark and dusty closet at your office to a clean but still pretty dark rack of servers somewhere else. Someone else is hosting that for you, so that every time someone needs to change something, they don’t have to come on location to make that change.
Newer phone systems are programmed through regular (password protected, secure) web pages, ensuring that they’re less expensive and more convenient to maintain. Full service hosted phone system providers will maintain them for you, so that no one in your organization has to add new employees to the system, or make changes to where incoming calls are routed.
Much of the confusion lately over phone systems and phone service stems from the line being blurred by providers that offer hosted phone systems, allowing the convenience of buying from a single vendor.
Why does it matter if you’re small or big?
Alright, so we’ve tackled phone service, phone systems, and hosted systems in the cloud, but when we’re looking at the basics of small business hosted phone systems, it stands to reason that we should explore why it matters if your business is small or big!
Small businesses are frequently pretty demanding on their systems, and bang for their buck means a LOT to a small business. It’s important to be able to turn up features as you need them and scale back those as you stop finding a use for them. This is one area where a hosted phone system is really a small business’ best bet.
Conferencing features may not be important now, but knowing that when it becomes something your small business needs, the phone system you’ve chosen can add that capability simply and inexpensively, paying for only what you need.
Is a Small Business Hosted Phone System Right for You?
If your small business is interested in flexibility of features, easy maintenance, and presenting a professional image, a hosted phone system can be very helpful.
Of course, it sounds like the perfect solution, but ensuring that your location has enough bandwidth to support the addition of voice over your network is key to a successful deployment. Also, if you are a sole-proprietorship, a phone system might just be overkill (though it can really help you look bigger, if that’s what you’re going for).
But for many small businesses, moving to a hosted phone system really can save you money and time, while providing callers with a professional image.
Tristan Barnum is the VP of Marketing at Voxox, the most comprehensive cloud-based rich communication service with applications that include VoIP, messaging, fax, voicemail and media sharing for consumers and businesses.