What is Cloud Hosted PBX?
A Hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is a cloud-based telephony service that delivers private branch exchange and calling platform features. Since the solution is cloud based, the PBX functionality is hosted and managed by the cloud phone system service provider. Hosted PBX solutions provide small, medium and even enterprise organizations with an advanced cloud telephone system while minimizing cost.
A Hosted PBX can generally be defined by:
- A platform hosted in remote data centers, and delivered through the cloud
- Advanced calling capabilities
- Geographical flexibility, enabling employees to work from any location and access the service
- Scalability to grow or shrink as your business does
Since the service is hosted, businesses do not have to pay for expensive equipment and hosting charges. The hosted PBX provider does all of the heavy lifting so you do not have to, while still maintaining a high level of service. These cloud-based solutions rival both standard telephone service as well as on premise VoIP solutions.
Hosted PBX providers deliver the same standard of service, as well as the same features and functionality, just through the cloud. Cloud PBX providers maintain their own data centers in order to offer services to a massive number of businesses. Normally providers will have multiple data centers in different locations to ensure perfect service all around the world, as well as redundancy in case of any outages.
Hosted PBX service provides businesses with the same level of service one would expect from a Fortune 500 Enterprise phone system, just without the hassle or capital investment necessary. Some power features provided by these solutions include:
- Auto-attendants and IVR
- Automated greetings
- Advanced call forwarding
- Call queuing
- Call recording
- Paperless faxing
- Unlimited extensions
- Conference calling
Overall, a Hosted PBX provides your business with an impressive list of features. These solutions are also more cost effective than their on-premise counterparts, enabling any size organization to take advantage of these powerful platforms.
How Do Cloud PBX Solutions Work?
A hosted PBX works much in the same way an on premise PBX solution would, but with the gritty work handled behind the scenes, all within the provider’s data centers. The entire phone system is operated and maintained by the provider, who generally provides multiple data centers to ensure redundancy – if one center goes down, your calls will simply be routed out of another data center so you never miss a beat.
These providers have a team of IT professionals and engineers working around the clock to ensure your system is up and running and its highest potential in terms of efficiency, call quality and security. As a subscriber of the service, users don’t have to mess with any configuration and hardware installations on their end, simply log into an online Account Management portal with your provided information, and you’re all ready to hook up desk phones or even make calls directly from the web.
Why Use a Hosted PBX Over On-Premise Solutions?
Without the need for on location phone infrastructure and hardware, a hosted PBX frees up your business to deal with much more important matters. The main advantage of a hosted PBX is the simple fact that everything – from setup to hardware to security to reliability – is handled on the end of the provider. There is no need to spend extra money on the infrastructure, IT, or switches to power your system. Adding additional phone lines can be done quickly through the online portal, and is not limited by the number of free phone jacks in your building’s server or telephony room. Utilizing a Hosted PBX even provides flexibility and mobility unrivaled by other systems.
Most Hosted PBX providers allow users to make calls not only on their desk phones, but also desktop soft phone applications and even mobile phone applications. With the ability to make calls from anywhere, as long as you have an internet connection your workers can truly stay connected away from the office. If anything goes wrong, it won’t be up to your team of Tech Support to handle the situation, but rather your service provider will be on the case, and most times before you’re even aware of a problem at all. Between cost savings, flexibility and ease of use, choosing a hosted PBX provider is an easy step to ensure your business will maintain a high level of quality.
What to Look for in a Hosted PBX Provider:
When you rely on external services to host, manage and maintain your phone system it is important to ensure you choose a provider you can rely on. With the vast number of providers out there, it can be daunting to choose one – where do you even begin? With promises of service guarantees and satisfaction rates it can be difficult to confide in one sole provider. However, when you break the information down and focus on the objective points it can be easy to come to a conclusion about who would provide the best service for your business.
First and foremost, the features included in your cloud phone system are key.
- When comparing providers, one of the easiest factors to locate and compare are the comprehensive feature lists normally found on the provider’s website.
- With a breakdown of every feature offered on the different plans, this first step offers an easy introduction to the services, and allows you to quickly knock out providers that don’t suit your price point and telephony needs.
Reliability and Network:
However, the features included with your service won’t make much difference without a solid, reliable network. If the provider’s servers go down, your phones go down.
- Ensuring the provider, you choose has a redundant, and robust network with a high service level guarantee – most providers promise over 97% uptime.
- It’s important to look for a provider that operates data centers in multiple locations, not just around the world but also redundancy such as an East coast and West coast data center in the U.S. This way if one goes down, your calls can be rerouted to the backup without interruption.
- Entering a Service Level Agreement is a good way to ensure the status and reliability of your service.
If your provider’s servers do in fact go down, or you have any other issues with your service, it’s imperative that your provider offers consistent and accessible customer service.
- Certain providers will offer U.S. based customer service.
- Methods of contact can vary with phone calls, email, online tickets or even web chat.
- Some providers even offer 24/7 customer service, but may limit this to their higher paying customers.
- You can take a look at our round up to see which business VoIP provider keeps you on hold the longest.
As the one of the major benefits of adopting a hosted PBX, you would want a provider that is as flexible as the service can be.
- With a hosted solution scaling up and down is, and should be, very simple.
- A provider that allows this flexibility at little to no cost will be much easier to work with when it comes to expanding not only users, but also features and overall service.
- Some providers may charge fees extra for adding or removing lines, or turning features on and off.
And of course, no one wants to be ambushed with hidden costs or cancellation fees.
- Many providers will supply transparent price quotes, but it’s important to keep an eye out for any extra fees or charges you may not have expected.
- Cancellation fees can also be common if you decide to interrupt your service before an agreed upon date.
Benefits of a Hosted PBX Solution:
- Cost Savings – Between the initial setup, and ongoing maintenance and upgrade costs, a hosted PBX removes most of the extra fees associated with establishing and running your own phone system on premise.
- Ease of Use and Setup – As the initial setup is handled by the service provider, there won’t be many headaches on your end to get your system running. Adding lines or changing features is as simple as logging into the online account management portal and ticking different boxes.
- Local Presence – Hosted PBX providers have access to an unlimited amount of local numbers so customers don’t have to dial out to a big, faceless cooperate 800 number.
- Location Flexibility – With desktop soft phone applications and even mobile phone applications, your workers can access your phone system from anywhere. No longer are you tied down to just your desk phone, as you can also set one number to ring every device.
- Scalability – Since your system isn’t limited by what hardware you have on presence, you can scale your system either up or down at the flick of a switch to best fit your needs.
- Credibility – Ensure your business projects the professional image you deserve with a robust phone system that will never fail. Combined with features normally reserved for large Enterprise systems, like an auto-attendant and call routing, a hosted PBX will transfer your business’ image.
Don’t Forget To…
Make Arrangements Regarding Your New (Temporary?) Phone Number – This can vary depending on what your decision is regarding porting your number. if you are porting over your existing number, DO NOT cancel with your existing provider until the number is completely ported to the new carrier. If you have a new number, be sure and let everyone know, say, with an email blast; if you have a temporary number (which is needed during the number porting process), it may be easiest to have all calls routed to your cell phones for the brief time that your number is being ported. More on Number Porting.
Tip: If you cancel your service with your old carrier before your number is ported, you’ll lose it.
Configure Your Dial Plan – One of the first things you need to do is organize how your calls will be routed. You’ll have to define a number of call rules, including:
- What hours for your desk phones to ring
- How to handle off-hours—whether calls go to voice mail or another phone, such as your cell
- How to handle faxes
- What buttons activate certain features, like pressing 1 for voice mail
- Setting your dial-by-name directory
- Simultaneous and sequential ringing/Find me & follow me rules
Tip: Be sure to configure your E-911 settings when you first set up your hosted VoIP service.
Review Your Bill – Review the first and second month’s bill to make sure that you have all the services you paid for. There are setup fees that may or may not be waived, activation fees, and number porting fees. If there’s something you don’t understand about your bill, be sure to call in to customer support, as they will explain it to you or fix the problem.
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