For some SMEs, cloud telephony is viewed as relevant only to enterprise businesses, with their countless offices, thousands of members of staff and a globally dispersed mobile workforce. But the ground has shifted. Today cloud is not only available to businesses of all sizes, but necessary for all businesses to compete.
However, there are concerns. Moving telephony to a cloud system is not as simple as the flick of a switch. SMEs in particular should be thinking about time, service levels and data storage.
This blog looks at some of the big questions SMEs should ask as they embrace cloud technology.
1 – Can this help my business journey?
For many SMEs, the next five years will see rapid, exponential growth. Indeed Business Matters magazine recently reported an average of 37% growth for businesses with up to 249 employees. The knock-on effects of growth can be the need for extra space, branch offices and new staff. Each of these comes with its own challenges, not least telephony. And SMEs need systems that are on their side.
The benefit of the cloud is that it is much more flexible. Giving you the ability to easily add new lines in any location. It takes no time to get a new colleague set up and working. So whether you are growing with permanent or temporary staff, the cloud can work with you.
2 – How reliable is the cloud?
For most companies, telephony is business critical and constant access to customers a must. With a traditional, fixed phone system, an outage means that an individual employee, a bank of desks, or even a whole office can be out of action for days.
Cloud voice providers offer resiliency built in that ensures that even in the event of unplanned service interruption, incoming calls will be automatically rerouted via a secondary line, or redirected to an alternative device for each member of staff (for instance, a mobile phone). Cloud based systems also offer an increased level of control for users, allowing you to make changes to call routing plans quickly and easily via an online portal.
3 – How long does it take to install?
Alongside cost, this is probably the most important question for an SME making a big telecommunications decision. A good cloud provider will work with you to scope out the job in hand, consider your priorities and develop a plan that means minimal disruption and maximum reward at the end of the process.
Naturally if you are installing across two or three offices, or in remote workers’ homes, the timeframe will be longer. But the key thing is to know that with a good provider your business will not suffer from excess downtime. The best providers will ensure a seamless transition from your existing system to new and in some cases the phones arrive pre-configured making the installation process even easier.
4 – So what about the cost?
It is no secret that upgrading to any new system will lead to a level of financial outlay. How much is specific to each business and its needs. But the key is to think long term.
The cost of a missed call can be expensive. And though it is hard to adequately state what the cost is for a given business, knowing that two missed calls a week equates to 104 potentially missed sales a year gives a scale of the problem.
Because cloud technology mitigates against downtime with automatic call redirection to named numbers, that kind of negative impact on sales can be completely avoided. Also, because there are no up-front hardware costs business cash flow will not be negatively impacted.
Cloud providers will not hide the costs and readily admit that broadband is cheap. But it isn’t always the most reliable. The choice is between the certainty that comes with always-on telephony, or a significant business risk.
5 – Is the storage safe?
Recent media stories report a rise in targeted cloud cyber-attacks. So it is only natural that a data owning SME might have one eye on safety when contemplating cloud technology. Again this comes back to provider choice. The best will have the most contemporary data safety solutions in place and will always have one eye on EU regulations.
As a customer, make sure you know where your cloud voice provider’s datacentres are and that they are located within your country, otherwise you may not be conforming to data protection requirements. And ask to see their compliance certifications for that extra peace of mind.