Hosted Telephony, Cloud Communications, Hosted VoIP, Cloud Voice, Virtual Phone Systems, IP PBX- whatever you want to call it, the trend of hosting your business telephone system in the cloud has taken off and is gathering momentum.
What is Hosted Telephony?
Put simply, which we like to do wherever possible, Hosted Telephony is a Telephone System that lives in a Data Centre hosted within the Cloud. Calls are made as usual via IP handsets and delivered over a broadband connection to the ISP network- from there they get routed out as necessary.
Some argue that Hosted Telephone systems are never fully hosted, that some element of circuitry still exists. From a business perspective however, the main selling point is that there is no PBX hardware to maintain on site or anywhere within your business premises. This is great news for businesses looking to adopt a new telephone system who might not have the PBX hardware in place already.
Are Businesses in the UK moving over to Hosted?
Like most emerging trends, response to Hosted Telephony and to Cloud in general have been mixed amongst the business world.
Some view the shift to off-premise solutions as a natural progression for a growing enterprise, as Hosted is quick to roll out, extremely cost friendly, and eminently scalable- all major plus points for companies with determined growth targets in mind.
Others have concerns about retaining control over their telephony, and many have voiced fears about the security risks associated with Hosted- more on this later.
These responses have been reflected in the actual adoption rates, which have also been varied.
According to research by Six Degrees, back in 2014, although 52% of respondents to a survey admitted to having Cloud for things like IT hosting, less than half of those respondents had thought about shifting their telephony to the cloud.
There has been, however, a steady but sure increase in adoption as 2015 progresses.
From our own experience, we have seen a healthy interest from the SME market in particular- which follows the pattern of these companies being generally more receptive and better placed to adopt new practices and technologies.
This anecdotal evidence is backed up with research from the Cloud Industry Forum, who have written a very concise report looking at Cloud adoption within the UK (although not specifically cloud telephony). There are many encouraging statistics within that show the SME market and also the larger private businesses (80% of cloud adoption in some form) are embracing cloud, either in its pure form, or a hybrid solution that combines existing technology with off-premise strategies.
This report also has valuable insight into some of the perceived barriers to adopting cloud and hosted- lack of budget, prior investment in expensive PBX hardware, data protection concerns as mentioned above, and difficulties in moving away from legacy systems. These are all traditional concerns that any reputable Hosted Telephony provider should be able to overcome with careful planning, reassurance, and a clear understanding of the long term cost-saving benefits to be had.
With these concerns in mind, it is easy to see why, commonly, businesses are trying cloud on for size before committing to it. ‘Try before you buy’ helps to combat those uncertainties and doubts inhibiting many companies when it comes to their IT and Business Communications strategies.
There is further evidence to suggest Hosted is now coming into its own. Specialist VoIP statisticians Cavell, at their excellent European VoIP Summit earlier this year (which we attended), presented research that showed that the Hosted VoIP market had grown by 17.49% in the early part of 2015, with over 245,000 seats being added to the cloud within the last 6 months. Largest growth had been seen in the companies of up to 50 members of staff, but there was also surprising growth in the larger companies with a few large contract being awarded that affected the statistics positively.
The Benefits of Hosting your Phone System in the Cloud
- Disaster Recovery
One of the major advantages of a cloud based system is that it helps with your Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity planning. Hosted makes it simpler to implement a robust plan, as your phone system is obviously off premise, meaning calls can be routed so that operations can continue from another site within a matter of minutes.
There’s that word again- for those of you serious about success, it’s a word that’s here to stay. Hosted systems integrate both mobile and fixed line services, and can be scaled up and down with ridiculous ease depending on your staff requirements and business strategies. New offices can be connected almost instantaneously to the central system, meaning that growth is not hindered by delayed roll-out dates for new infrastructure.
- Reporting and call management
Most Hosted solutions allow you to manage and configure your telephone system via a simple web interface, meaning it’s accessible at any time and from any location. There are a wide range of features available to allow you to manage your calls, but also the option to access detailed, granular performance information via real-time statistics add-ons.
- Control costs more effectively
With most hosted solutions, the capital outlay is removed, meaning that you pay a monthly set cost which is easy to plan for and accommodate in budgets. Additionally, calls are usually free from office to office and maintenance costs on hardware are significantly reduced.
- Embrace BYOD & Enterprise mobility
Cloud Telephony is an effective enabler of what we now call Enterprise Mobility– the practice of supporting your workers no matter where they are, or what device they are working from, by giving them that ‘in-office’ experience regardless of location.
- A secure system
When it comes to telephone systems being hosted in the cloud, it’s a little more complex. There have been instances of telephone networks being hacked or ‘phreaked’ in the past. To be honest, these concerns exist whether a telephone system is hosted in the Cloud or anchored to more traditional technology. However, routing a phone call over the internet as with Hosted VoIP could make it arguably more open to packet sniffing and other practices. This is why most solutions have layers of encryption to avoid any issues.
Providers of Hosted can offer reassurance in the form of many levels of anti-fraud measures, call encryption and voice data encryption as we mentioned above, virtual networks, Quality of Service traffic prioritisation, traffic scanning, diligent patching, gateway security…the list goes on.
Some Hosted solutions also allow you to place call limits on outbound calls being made. This means that a company can keep an eye on its outbound activity, and if 50% of the threshold has been reached, alert their provider, who can then closely monitor the calls for any unusual activity. Automatic call barring can be put in place when thresholds are breached.
What’s the future for Hosted Telephone Systems?
Well, so far the future is looking bright, as more and more companies take the plunge and realise that making the move is not as daunting a prospect as previously considered.
For larger companies, there is also progression- companies with large service centres and contact centres are now also beginning to turn towards hosting, largely because of the scalability it offers and for disaster planning considerations.
Security continues to be an overused worry-word, but as adoption increases and companies get more used to their new technology these concerns should be gradually assuaged with reassurances based on actual experience, rather than hear-say.
Lastly, with so many businesses looking to enhance mobility, increase collaboration and embrace the idea of truly Unified Communications, the steady pilgrimage towards Hosted heaven should, over the next year or two, become more of a race- expect to see many more providers of Hosted solutions enter into the fray as interest increases.
Find out more about our Hosted Phone Systems
Don’t forget you can call us on +44 (0)800 849 9149 to talk to us about Horizon Hosted Telephony!