Arguing that business communications is about more than just voice, providers of cloud-based communications services say the traditional office-based PBX phone system is a thing of the past. Cloud communications services deliver integrated voice, video, text, chat and other forms of communications to customers without those customers having to make a capital investment in purchasing equipment to do that themselves. It offers the same advantages of cloud computing in general, which also include paying only for as much of the service as is used, scalable capacity, better reliability and the avoidance of maintenance costs.
Cloud communications was explained in a webinar Thursday hosted by OnState Communications, a cloud communications vendor, Light and Electric, a management consulting firm, and the publication Internet Telephony. Turning to the cloud for communications technology enables a company to more quickly innovate with new technology because it doesn't have to budget for buying new equipment that may or may not meet their needs, said Thomas Howe, CEO of Light and Electric. "That, for many businesses, is extremely powerful because it means that you don't have to justify [purchases] on a long time ROI basis, you can justify them operationally," Howe said.
Today, businesses are forsaking their PBX systems for IP (Internet Protocol) phones where calls go out online. In some cases, a business may not even need desk phones because employees' mobile phones can be integrated into the cloud service. The communications system can expand as the business grows. "It doesn't require you to call your VAR and say 'I've hired four more people, please come and install four more phones,'" said Howe.
Cloud communications easily incorporates new technology such as speech recognition, integrated voice response, text messaging and short-message service (SMS). Voice, as in one person talking to another on a landline, is no longer the main method of business communication so a dedicated PBX, for instance, is insufficient.
Cloud communications is the ideal alternative to building call centers, Howe added. Call center operators can use computers to manage calls and use a headset plugged into the computer to make calls over the Internet. All the other elements of the call center such as networking equipment, switches and call routing software are delivered in the cloud.