Choosing the Right Communication Solution: A Step-by-Step Guide for Small Business Owners

Table of Contents

Introduction

Communication in a business is a vital piece of its operations. Effective communication is the glue that binds all aspects of a business together. It promotes understanding, facilitates collaboration, and contributes to an organisation’s success and sustainability. Businesses prioritising and investing in solid communication practices will navigate challenges, foster innovation, and build lasting relationships with customers and employees.

People need to pay more attention to the impact of a business’s communication channels on its performance and reputation. Here are some examples:

Dispatch Operators

Clear and timely communication with dispatch operators is essential to ensure that logistics and operations run smoothly, enabling real-time adjustments and efficient response to changing circumstances.

Customer Service Agents

Customer service agents are the frontline ambassadors of a business, and effective communication with them is paramount to providing exceptional service, resolving issues promptly, and maintaining positive customer relations. 

Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Cross-departmental communication fosters collaboration, breaking down silos and promoting a cohesive work environment where teams can share knowledge, resources, and expertise for the benefit of the entire organisation.

Adaptability to Market Trends

Maintaining open communication channels with various stakeholders, including management and customer service teams, facilitates gathering valuable insights, enabling the organisation to adapt quickly to market trends and changing customer demands.

In every example, it’s easy to understand how misguided communication systems create under-performing businesses. For a dispatcher, this could mean late deliveries or missed job opportunities. For customer service agents, it could cause frustration and negative reviews. For cross-department collaboration, teams do not pass along information and create gaps in service offerings and support. When adapting to market trends, management may need more information from their team to make informed decisions.

This Article's Purpose: Guiding Small Businesses in Choosing the Right Communication Solution

In this article, we will compare several phone systems for businesses, from traditional phone systems to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) to Unified Communications (UC). By the end of the reading, you should comprehensively understand what will work better for your business in the long term.

Types of Communication Solutions

Traditional Phone Systems

Traditional systems were previously one of the only systems you could purchase as little as 20+ years ago. For this article, we will define “traditional” systems as those using digital grayscale (no colour screens) telephones with analog landlines. Modern systems capable of traditional technology are usually hybrid, meaning they can work with VoIP services, too, utilising the Internet for voice communications.

Traditional System Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Reliability of using established infrastructure
  • Consistent call quality for local calls
  • Meantime between failures can be 20 years, depending on the manufacturer
Cons
  • Limited features for ring patterns and external devices like cell phones
  • Potential higher costs for long-distance calls
  • Loss in quality over long distances
  • Carriers are replacing infrastructure

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

VoIP is the transmission of voice over the Internet. The term ‘VoIP’ can mean several things, from on-premises systems where the phone server resides inside the business to cloud phone systems where the phone server resides in the cloud. The fundamental similarity is that both systems utilise the Internet for communications and rely on a business’s data network, sharing the same type of connection as a desktop computer. These systems are considered more scalable, only requiring licensing and end-user devices to expand.

VoIP Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Cost-effectiveness, often including long-distance calling.
  • Feature-rich with more choices of phones, cell phones, and ring patterns.
  • Scalability: Easily adjust the system size to match the company’s growth.
Cons
  • Relies on internet connectivity, which can be problematic if the data network is unmanaged.
  • Limitations of features beyond voice.

Unified Communications (UC)

Unified Communications integrates business communication features such as voice calls, video, chat, SMS text messaging, and other collaboration tools into a single platform. UC seeks to bring more value to a business’s operations than just voice calling. By combining several features, companies can expect cost savings, a single user interface, and greater integration depth to other software such as CRMs, service hubs, and more.

UC Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Enhanced collaboration internally and with clients
  • Reduced overall software costs
  • SMS texting on business numbers
  • Greater mobility with mobile and tablet apps
  • Potential of reduced hardware cost if using softphones
  • Easy to implement remote work capabilities
Cons
  • Initial setup complexity
  • Potential for higher costs than voice-only solutions
  • Relies on internet connectivity, which can be problematic if the data network is unmanaged.

Considerations for Small Businesses

Budgetary Considerations

The below line chart roughly displays how the cumulative cost changes over time between traditional VoIP and Unified Communications systems. Typically, a UC system will overtake an on-premises VoIP system in cumulative cost in the third or fourth year. The timing varies by the system design, optional items, and other considerations. The y-axis is for reference only and may not be a typical price.

It will be easy to think “VoIP on-premises is cheaper”, but that is not necessarily true. Suppose a business can bundle multiple software and receive more benefits from a UC system in the long run. In that case, they will have saved more money in other areas than they have paid additionally for the UC system. As a company owner, you may find the extra features available on a cloud UC system to be more relevant to you, such as working from anywhere and taking business calls with you via your cell phone. All these pieces are critical to consider in realising which system will be more cost-effective for you in the long term.

Traditional vs VoIP vs UC

A cumulative cost comparison

Another key consideration with the above chart is the system setup and deployment. This is based on a single site, with multi-sites looking different. You may also value a cloud system for automatic backups sent into your company storage. Priorities here play a crucial role in identifying what is important to you for a phone system.

Other Costs to Be Aware Of

On-Premises Systems

An on-premises system works as a server kept within your office building. Our clients often call it the “phone box”. This server handles all the calls, and everything from software and voicemails to user information is stored here. Being similar to a typical business server, there are some potential costs:

  • Upgrading the system CPU – Your manufacturer may perform upgrades, and new features could reside with the CPU upgrade. NEC does this, and although it is an extra cost, it is significantly better than buying a whole new system. In some respects, this is a benefit of choosing specific brands.
  • Like any server, it requires maintenance. Software patches, parts being changed, and other changes are typically billable services. It is worth being on a service plan with your provider so you have standard maintenance covered.
  • Licensing – Some specific high-end programs, such as hotel software integration, may require additional licensing.
Unified Communications Systems

A UC system works similarly to an on-premises system; however, the server is no longer in your office building, only the end-user hardware, such as IP desk phones. What is nice about this is that the server is no longer your responsibility to maintain hardware changes, software updates, or network security vulnerabilities. With the system being hosted in the cloud, there may be different charges, such as:

  • Licensing – Most UC systems have tiered licensing to access specific features. Be sure to see the licensing breakdown to make sure you select and pay for what you need. Some businesses want something simple, and others need something more in-depth.
  • Third-party software may charge you for integrations. This point is not negative on the UC system but is worth mentioning. Your CRM, Medical Software, or Dispatch Software may charge a fee to integrate with the UC system. It’s essential to ask your vendors what they are capable of and whether it is included with your services.

Scalability

In any business, you are often changing sizes due to growth, refocusing service offerings, and the ebb and flow of sales. Choosing a system that scales with you for your communications can help keep expenses in line with your current operations and maintain a consistent approach as your business grows.

Traditional systems are notoriously difficult to scale as they require expensive hardware to install for more users or phone lines and cannot be reduced quickly. VoIP is well-known for the ease of adding/removing users and IP phone lines, or SIP trunks as we call them. Any VoIP solution usually takes just a few clicks to add, delete, or edit services, assuming you have no contractual obligations. UC systems allow for additional scalability over VoIP systems in the form of features released in new software updates. For example, you may have started adding business SMS texting, and now you have company group texting for your team to chat with clients. Additionally, now you use integrations to help link with your other systems. Specific pieces may be more critical to you, so if you need scalability but your team would not add value using the UC features, then a VoIP system would work great for you.

Features and Functionality

As you will already know, making it this far in the article, features differ across traditional, VoIP, and UC systems. Different vendors also vary by feature set. One UC system could have completely different features from another. We have made a general table below of what you could typically expect.

 

Feature Traditional VoIP UC
Voice Calls & Voicemail
Custom Ring Patterns
Voicemail to Email
Conference Calling
Cell Phone Apps
Video Conferencing
Instant Messaging
Custom Integrations

User Friendliness and Training

Any new system implementation requires some training for administration and end users. For communications, the nature of training varies. Natural habits like picking up the phone and dialling come quickly. Aspects such as transferring and conferencing can be learned. More extensive training is required for some VoIP and almost all UC systems. This is because the phone system bridges into Windows and Mac operating systems, and the user needs to be semi-proficient in navigating system settings, especially with notification settings, sound, and microphones. A lot of support we provide to softphone users is related to their peripheral hardware or operating system navigation. Because of this, it’s important to consider service agreements to include this kind of support unrelated to the phone system to avoid being billed hourly for your vendor to train users on Windows. The levels of training required per system type are outlined below:

  • Traditional Systems: Light user training for transferring, accessing voicemail, and call forwarding.
  • VoIP Systems: Moderate level of user training with core functions the same as traditional systems but with some additional features for reprogramming the system and phones.
  • UC Systems: Depends significantly on user proficiency with their operating system. Proficient users require light to moderate training. Inexperienced users require extensive training and ongoing support.
It will be wise to consider your team’s willingness to learn new systems or whether they have a choice, depending on your company’s market and your reasons for change. Many users, once familiar with new systems, will never want to return to the previous phone system, but growing pains may appear. Bear in mind that if your team will need extra training and ongoing support to achieve the most out of the new system, you should plan accordingly.

Exciting Your Team with the New Phone System

Reasons for exploring a new communication system can vary. Reasons could be one or multiple of the following reasons:

  • The system is ageing and may fail or has failed.
  • Users complain about the current system.
  • The phone system is causing customer service issues due to call quality, dropping calls, or other issues.
  • The monthly pricing of your phone system is not competitive.
  • The features offered in a new system would bring competitive advantages, more reliability, or greater flexibility.
When discussing or informing your team of the need to change, it is essential to outline the reasons. You can keep your team positive for the new change with the following steps:
 
  1.  Be transparent with your team about why the change must happen. This could be anything from finance to function or reliability.
  2. Understand how each department currently uses their phones and speak to the features that would be most valuable for them. This could include texting on the business number, call queuing in busy periods, better call history and analytics, or any other feature.
  3. Host a demonstration with your selected vendor to allow the technician and sales team to field your team’s questions.
  4. Have a plan in place for the transition. Your chosen vendor should be able to help you with this.
  5. Allocate enough time for user training. Your team will be frustrated if they must juggle tasks and be shown how to use the new system simultaneously. If a staff member needs to catch up on their job due to training time, they typically rush the trainer and say it is all simple. After this, they will become frustrated with the system.
  6. Set up some practice calls, group chats, or test SMS texts to play with. Your team will benefit by using and playing with the features.
  7. Ensure enough support is available. Users should be allowed to call the vendor or another colleague for extra tips and support or to answer questions after the system is installed and live.
  8. Review the system setup regularly at the beginning to fine-tune the settings to your liking.

Case Study: A Doctor's Office Moving to Unified Communications

The Scenario

We serve clients all over western Canada, but one case is from a small doctor’s office in Prince George, BC. The doctor’s office manager called us one day asking about a new phone system. They were not currently a client of anyone’s for the phone system because they were using an old Norstar phone system. The system was older than several staff members, and the internal battery had died. The phone system would completely factory default every time the power was turned off. It was so old that the system default was a rotary dial imitation, and calls took forever to dial out. The office manager, through YouTube, had learned how to reprogram simple settings on the system to make it at least usable after a power outage. Their team needed a new system desperately.

The Function

While reviewing the current setup and usage, we found the following:

  •  Most doctors like working from home and using their cell phones. This was an issue because they needed to block their caller ID and patients do not like answering unknown callers.
  • Office managers and receptionists also need the flexibility to work remotely.
  • The office was paying a high price for their analog lines with an old system.
  • Users needed to change their auto attendant regularly for new doctors, services, and hours.
The Solution

We recommended and installed one of our UC systems, Univerge Blue Connect. This system provided the following benefits:

  • Remote working capability. The desk phones worked over Wi-Fi; users could bring them home or install the mobile or desktop app.
  • Better system administration. We could serve the client remotely from anywhere, allowing for on-demand support. The client can also access the administration webpage to make changes as needed.
  • We could take over all phone services to provide a single monthly bill for services and remove the outdated landlines.

Conclusion

Throughout this article, you have learned the differences between various phone systems, from traditional to VoIP to Unified Communications and how they price and function. The most critical aspect for business owners to consider, which we have reiterated throughout writing this, is to base your decision on the company’s direction, your need for flexibility, and scalability. By using the guide for your business decision, you can ensure you have a system capable of growing with you and your team

The Next Steps: See Phone Systems in Action

DoTel has been helping businesses just like yours for nearly thirty years now. We help companies understand the best communication system for them and their team. Our services cover hybrid on-premise VoIP systems, maintenance of some traditional phone systems, and hosted-in-the-cloud Unified Communications systems. 

We offer full demos where your team can meet with us, see what system works for you, go through a live demonstration, and see how everything connects.

Book Your Demo Today

Wildix Communications

Our secure-by-design UC system has powerful softphones and manufacturer-built hardware for the ultimate flexibility and layered redundancies.

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NEC Univerge Blue Connect

Univerge Blue Connect is our UC system for small to medium offices. The Universe Blue Engage product line is for powerful call centre functionality.

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NEC On-Premises VoIP Hybrid

Our NEC on-premises systems work with analog and VoIP technology. The system can integrate with Univerge Blue Connect, providing businesses the flexibility of both on-premises and the cloud.

Wildix User Guides

Unify Your Team With

Cloud & Browser-Based Communications

Welcome to the Wildix User Guide! This guide is designed to help you get the most out of your Wildix communication system. Whether you’re new to Wildix or a seasoned user, this guide provides step-by-step instructions, tips, and tricks to help you navigate the system with ease.

Quick Actions, Tips and Tricks:

To get started, you’ll need to log in to your Wildix account. Once you’re logged in, you’ll be taken to the Wildix dashboard where you can access all of the system’s features. From the dashboard, you can make phone calls, send messages, set up audio and video conferences, and much more.

To make a phone call using Wildix, simply select the “Call” icon from the dashboard or from the Wildix app on your mobile device. You can then enter the phone number you want to call or select a contact from your address book. Once you’ve dialed the number, the call will be connected and you can start speaking. If you are wondering how to change your password click the video above and skip to 6:50.

Wildix allows you to send instant messages to your contacts. To send a message, select the “Messages” icon from the dashboard or from the Wildix app on your mobile device. You can then select the contact you want to message and type your message. The message will be sent instantly and you can continue the conversation in real-time.

Wildix makes it easy to set up audio and video conferences. To set up a conference call, select the “Conferences” icon from the dashboard or from the Wildix app on your mobile device. You can then invite your contacts to join the conference by sending them a link or by dialing their phone number. Once everyone has joined the conference, you can start the call and begin collaborating.

Robust password security is crucial for protecting cloud phone systems, preventing unauthorized access, complying with regulations, and safeguarding sensitive data. Strong passwords and regular updates act as a formidable defense against intruders and account takeover attempts. Prioritizing password security ensures reputation protection, uninterrupted business operations, and fosters a culture of cybersecurity accountability. We can not stress enough how important safeguarding your passwords is.

Wildix VoIP Phones Complete Guide

Please view our complete guide to Wildix VoIP phones to understand everything you need to know to master your VoIP phone. Included in the guide are the following:

  • Understanding your Wildix voicemail PIN
  • User status and notifications
  • Configuring your function keys
  • Transferring, call forwarding, conference calls, and much more

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Video Tutorials

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Setting Up BLF Keys

Starting a Web Conference

VoIP – Debunking False Information

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), has many misconceptions about call quality, security, and cost. Today, we will be sharing insight on these and other issues relating to VoIP and debunking false information and myths.

#1 VoIP is unreliable with poor call quality

Many people with this understanding remember VoIP when it was first being installed in the early to mid 2000s, when it seemed like a perfect solution but flopped as the network infrastructure, internet speeds, security, and routing was not designed for voice traffic in small to medium businesses. Even the phone systems then needed extra support to route calls to the correct destination. This is a common misconception today. In the same way computers have evolved since the 2000s, so has VoIP and telecommunications. 

Advances in VoIP have been dramatic over the years. With internet speeds increasing to even more than gigabit, VoIP calls are capable of transmitting data at a significantly faster rate, resulting is much better call quality. In addition to this, we have all seen the advancement in audio compression over the years with better algorithms and noise reduction technologies that have contributed to a superior voice quality over the often static-laced analog lines when making long distance calls.

#2 VoIP is less secure than traditional landlines

This is not particularly true. A good VoIP system and solutions integrator can make the system significantly more secure than a traditional system. For example, VoIP calls can be encrypted to stop hackers or eavesdroppers from listening to your conversations. VoIP systems can also be configured with two factor authentication, force unique user passwords, and more. Additionally, a reliable VoIP system will always have robust security measures to protect services from cyberattacks such as denial-of-service or distributed denial-of-service (DoS or DDoS).

#3 VoIP is expensive to switch to

The most surprising aspect about VoIP for businesses is actually the pricing. As VoIP, and especially Cloud Phone Systems, became more available, the pricing just kept getting better. Even in on-premises systems, the more expensive type of system, the pricing is reduced when you don’t need extra parts to suit landlines. Even voice services are cheaper and will usually always include all your long distance calling or even international calls. When it comes to Cloud Phone Systems, the upfront price can be as low as a fifth of the comparable price of an on-premises system. 

It’s particularly common that a business will save up to upgrade their phone system to a Cloud VoIP system and then be surprised at the pricing and decide to additionally buy wireless headsets, more advanced feature sets, and more functionality because it all fits within their initial budget ideas.

#4 You can't keep your business telephone number

Completely false. There would be an extremely specific circumstance if you were forever locked in with one carrier. For almost every telephone number including cellular, fixed landline, or VoIP, phone numbers can be ported (transferred) to your new carrier. In the same way you might switch your cell phone from one carrier to another because of a better deal but keep your telephone number, business telephone numbers work almost identically. The process may take slightly longer but the concept is exactly the same. Within 1-2 weeks all calls will be with your new carrier and the process to switch is very simple, with automatic cancelling of services taking place with the losing carrier. You do not need to call the old carrier or anything, it’s an efficient and streamlined system.

#5 VoIP does not store information in your country

This can be dependent on the provider you are using. It is particularly important to read the fine print and privacy policies of the company that hosts your voice services if based in the cloud. If you have an on-premises building, little to no data is ever stored outside of your company’s walls. For us on Cloud Phone services, we guarantee data residency in our North American market, ensuring Canadian data stays and is transported within Canada, likewise for the USA unless customers require remote workers across borders.

Why we don’t use RingCentral

RingCentral came under fire in 2022 for allowing remote access in Russia among other countries to personal data from their cloud servers in the USA and EU in order to “operate, maintain, and support our business”. Russia has since been removed from the list at the time of this article being written, but the list does include Georgia, Ukraine, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and China. Personal data access from other countries, without explicitly detailing the reasons for doing so, goes against our core beliefs as a company. Because of this, among other reasons, we do not sell RingCentral solutions. The important piece here is to be mindful of who you sign up with. A well-known name does not necessarily mean practices that align with your company beliefs. We do a lot of research and questioning about this specific topic before we bring a solution to a customer.

Source: RingCentral Personal Data Transfer Impact Assessment: https://assets.ringcentral.com/us/terms-and-conditions/personal-data-transfer-impact-assessment-faq.pdf

Need help to decide on a system? We provide free presentations for that

We offer full presentations to explain the different types of communication systems from on-premise (on-site) to cloud, to a hybrid where it’s a bit of both. All attendees are welcome. There’s no catch and it is completely free. If you like us as a company, you have the opportunity to then ask us for a quote during or after the presentation. Regardless of what system you choose though, you will leave with valuable information on what to look for in your hunt for better communications.

Where to Buy UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT 2023

Where to Buy UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT for 2023

NEC released their UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT product line in mid 2020 and it has taken the cloud telephony industry by storm, especially the core on-premise PBX users that were more skeptical of “the cloud”.

Reasons for this growth focus around the rapid development of the features traditional PBX users have grown to love such as:

  • The ‘night mode’ button to override the calling any time of day
  • Advanced hunt groups for more control when routing calls
  • Full call reporting for user analytics and better troubleshooting capabilities

To navigate the concern regarding the cloud for some users, NEC has ensured that the backbone of their services alongside Intermedia are as reliable as possible, with a 99.999% certified uptime, which translates to roughly 8 hours and 45 minutes a year at most regarding downtime.

You can’t purchase UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT direct from NEC

NEC don’t sell directly to end users. Navigating to the NEC America or UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT websites will only yield demonstrations or connections to dealers. You can only buy UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT from an NEC dealer.

For a company to sell CONNECT products and services, they have to qualify as a partner, go through training, and pass certification tests. NEC prefer to use local dealerships to sell and service their product lines, which provides a wide network of labour resources, marketing, and a local touch to service and troubleshooting.

How to Find a Local Dealer

If you have come this far, you have done a great job, as you have already found one – us! Based in Prince George, we serve all of western Canada for UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT and have a network of technicians throughout the region. 

Learn more about our story here:

If you would like to find NECs network of approved dealers, you can get in touch with them directly and NEC will connect you with your nearest geographical dealer.

Things to Consider

Be sure to do your homework before signing up to cloud-based phone services. Things you should know and check includes:

  • Not all NEC dealers are certified on all products such as the SV series, the SL series, and UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT phone systems.
  • Your internet connection plays a huge role in determining the quality of calls. Good internet will boast better quality and functionality over a regular plain old telephone line but bad internet will be worse. It’s not always speed we’re looking for (although it helps), it’s stability. Any NEC dealer should be capable of running a VoIP scout test to check your connection prior to setting up the cloud phone system.
  • Stay compliant: If you are in healthcare, legal, or other field, make sure when browsing cloud services that your information stays in your own county and is secure when using that service.

Getting Support

Support across dealerships will vary. Some companies provide on-site support and setup, others will ship you desk phones and send links with setup instructions for both the phones and apps. It’s important to see what the dealer you are talking to provides as part of the service.

For ourselves, as an example, we typically recommend on-site support and we find a Do Tel approved telecom technician in your area if in a different part of the country. We also offer remote support too for a lower setup fee. Other dealerships may only do one or the other, so be sure to note that prior to accepting a quote.

What to Expect

As we mentioned, the UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT lineup offers cloud but with the functionality of an on-premise system. So what will the experience be like for users, and what should you expect the installation to be like?

Here’s a video demonstrating the functionality of the system:

Installation Timeline

As for installation, this is a typical chart displaying what the process looks like for setup and installation from ordering:

Week
12345
Acquiring Hardware
Setup Consult
Programming
Number Porting
Installation
Training
Review

Schedule a Demo

We offer free demonstrations of Univerge Blue Connect for anyone interested in seeing what the system is fully capable of. Schedule yours below.


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Why companies are selling VoIP – Telecom experts explain

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The word VoIP is becoming much more common. Now don’t worry if the details are a little foggy for what it is and how it works, that’s what we’re here for.

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, so quite literally just sharing voice online. Think of Zoom, Messenger audio/video, WhatsApp, FaceTime, and other similar services.

If you own or work in an office, you have likely had your telecom provider mention VoIP to you and suggest that it should be your next step in communications. So why are companies now seemingly jumping ship from plain old telephone services (POTS) such as copper landlines that have been used since the 1880s for VoIP?

Background on POTS

The wider telephone landline network implemented over the last hundred years was revolutionary and paved the way for internet services and communication as we know it today.

With all the various connections, the telephone network resembles that of a giant spiders web with connections to pretty much every corner of the globe, much like the internet. This network of infrastructure, although effective, is expensive to upkeep.

If you think of a growing office space, the more computers and users you add, the more it costs to upkeep the various systems. This works more or less the same across telephone and internet infrastructure.

Upside for VoIP is the Internet

Now that the internet is using more advanced cabling and connections throughout cities and rural areas, it doesn’t make sense to upkeep two sets of infrastructure when voice can be used over a stable internet connection.

Due to high costs of landlines, say $30-$40 per month per line, swooping in back in the day was VoIP in the early to mid 2000s, and for most people’s memories, it was a disaster. The internet infrastructure used within businesses was not really ready. Voice is not like YouTube, where the video can load ahead of time, you need a live connection in real-time that is constant to ensure a good quality and this was an oversight. 

Many people resist VoIP today because of those past issues. With that being said, VoIP today has much more stable connections and significantly better reliability. In fact, VoIP calls hold quality far better than landlines over long distances and made away with paying for long distance altogether across North America. 

So why really is almost every company selling VoIP?

Now that there is a general swing to cost-savings on infrastructure, the internet is more stable, and business voice is more affordable, most manufacturers and dealerships are finding better feature-sets and choice from going to VoIP. There’s another big reason too…

Like Amazon, but the other way around...

Remember when book stores were all struggling due to the new online store that is now the behemoth that is Amazon? Well, communications has swung the other way. Previously, only a handful of companies had the capabilities to design, build, and support phone systems and even less had the capability to maintain and add to telephone infrastructure such as bringing landlines into your building.

With the creation of cloud services, many companies were able to bring their own product to market and take away market share from the big guys. Of course, this leads to some aggressive marketing from large companies, but in reality, local telecommunications providers have better pricing and service than most large multinational companies today – which in some respects is odd to think about, but really it all makes sense.

Manufacturers are desperate for local dealerships

Global companies that manufacture VoIP systems are now selling only to dealerships with no direct sales to end users. There is a general understanding amongst manufacturers that using a well-networked company in a region is more reliable and cost-effective than going at it all alone in such a saturated market.

We alone have been contacted by several large manufacturers from different parts of the globe to sign up and sell their systems. For the end users, this is a huge bonus because you get to choose across brands to best suit your budget and feature requirements.

What this means for customers

With all the industry change, people are likely feeling a little overwhelmed. A quick Google search of ‘voip systems’ brings an aurora of ads and websites. In reality, it’s all quite simple. It is your choice in the end. With the addition of mobile applications to use your business number, a multitude of desk phones and headsets, the world of telephony is your oyster.

Reach out to your trusted provider and take into account how timely their response is, how fair their pricing is, and how good the features are – chances are, they’ll beat the big once-monopolistic company almost every time for features and price.

When it comes to telecom, you can typically drop the saying “support local” because “support who’s best” means the same thing.

Reach out to your trusted provider today!

What is a cloud phone system? How does it work?

What is a cloud phone system? Is it something new or old? How does it work?

As Canadians everywhere are getting faster internet speeds through fiber, satellite, and cellular networks, the terms ‘VoIP’ (voice over internet protocol) and ‘cloud phone systems’ are becoming much more common. This is the fastest selling system for business phone systems and communication frameworks. We work with and provide multiple types of systems, and even for ourselves, cloud is the most popular in 2022.

So what are cloud phone systems in a basic sense?

Cloud phone systems are a way of delivering voice services over the Internet instead of using local phone systems stored in each building or office. Normally, when using a landline, dialing a number from a business phone would lead to the phone box (what we call a PBX or Private Branch Exchange) somewhere in your communications room. From the phone box, your call navigates to the central office where your call is routed through various carriers and then reaches the person or company you are calling. This is considered a traditional, on-premises, phone system.

In a cloud phone system, the phone box is no longer located in your office or building. With cloud voice services, your call is routed from your desk phone, mobile app, or desktop app, through the internet to a data center that centrally manages your phone system. From the data center, your call is routed to the receiving party via the internet, the telephone network, or both. All of this happens in a fraction of a second, so you will barely notice any delay or lag whatsoever if your internet supports voice over the internet. As internet has improved over time in Canada, cloud phone systems have become available to many more businesses and individuals, leading to greater consumer choice. 

Simple On-Premises PBX Illustration

Premise Phone PBX Illustration

Simple Cloud PBX Illustration

Cloud Phone System Illustration

Why are cloud phone systems so popular?

When thinking about the basic functionality of an on-premises phone system, remember that these systems have a phone box in the communications room. The phone box, or PBX, is a type of complicated computer and it can be expensive to replace. With cloud, you do not need to purchase the PBX, which brings your upfront costs down significantly. Aside from costs, having a centrally managed phone system in the cloud means the only hardware you need on-premises are the phones if you choose to use them, making this a software-based system. New updates, features, bug fixes, and more are much easier to deliver to end users when using a data center rather than individually updating each business’s phone system within their office. Not only does this bring new features to users regularly, it makes maintenance and improvements much easier to stay on top of.

Other reasons cloud phone systems are popular

There is no need for a VPN

A great aspect of cloud phone systems is that because the system is in the cloud, you can make and receive phone calls from anywhere without any special settings or configurations to your router, saving you on IT labour. Without a VPN, you can take your desk phone home or use your apps and call from anywhere, anytime seamlessly.

Ongoing cost savings

With cloud phone systems, you no longer have the need to pay for individual land lines at $30 – $40 each per month. The user account and the desk phone alone will cost less than $30 per month with unlimited phone lines and long-distance calling. Even if you did not use the apps, the savings are significant.

Better features built-in

A reputable cloud phone system comes with desktop apps, cell phone apps, and an office phone for every user straight out of the box at no extra cost. With a on-premises system, these features are often more difficult and time consuming to set up and come at an extra cost for the license.

Things to look out for with cloud phone systems

There are many phone system providers for cloud-based phone systems. A good VoIP provider will showcase the advanced features available to you for a great price rather than focus on how low their price is compared to their competition. Remember, a genuinely great phone system leads to even better customer experiences.

Questions you should always ask your VoIP provider

Will my internet support cloud phones?

A good unified communications provider will always test your network connection with a VoIP scout tool either through software or a physical device. For reliable phone calls, the phone system provider will look to see if you have a consistent latency, otherwise known as delay or ping. Internet speed is not the main focus here because a fast speed with a delay that jumps from 40ms to 400ms all the time will be nauseating for voice communications.

What industries do you serve?

This might seem like a strange question, but many VoIP platforms are geared towards medical, contact centers, remote teams, or other industry. A good phone service provider will be capable of serving any industry because they have a lot of flexibility built into the system for various configurations. As an example, some businesses for their after hours will use a manual night mode button, others have an automatic schedule that switches at 5pm, some send calls to voicemail, others have an emergency contact process, and so on. There are tens if not hundreds of solutions to the same problem, which in this example is someone calling after regular working hours. A great cloud business phone system needs to accommodate for every scenario.

How much do cloud office phones cost and can I bring my own device?

No two cloud-based phone service providers are the same, especially for pricing IP phones. For example, we provide some premium phones for free with every user license, or a discount if you replace a legacy phone system. Other providers will rent the desk phones for $6 – $20 monthly. So be very careful if a company’s licensing looks very affordable, as they may have charges hidden elsewhere that you do not see until reading their formal quote to you.

You may also be interested in buying your cordless IP phones or bringing your phones from a previous system over to the new system. It’s important to find out if your devices are compatible with the new system and if there is a charge for adding them. Some cloud phone providers may not allow you to bring your own device and you should check this before ordering their system.

What features are included in the cloud phones, and which cost extra?

Be sure to always obtain the full data sheet of features. Some providers charge one-time or recurring fees for business texting among other features. For example, we have business SMS texting included with multiple licenses, but not all. We also have a multi-channel contact center as part of a different licensing setup. Be sure to outline the features that are important to you as an organization and find out if they are included or come at an additional cost.

What are the cost differences between cloud phone systems and on-premises phones?

Let’s talk dollars. In our case, Canadian. Pricing up a new phone system can seem a little daunting at first. An important aspect to understand is that cloud systems work on a license subscription system, like your email, website hosting, and other services. An on-premises system may still have licenses, but they are typically one-time purchases, and the system has a higher upfront cost.

With an on-premises system, you are buying the PBX, the ‘brains’ or phone box, which is a type of server and can often be more expensive. In a cloud environment, your upfront cost is usually just a one-time setup fee, shipping if utilizing IP phones, and that’s normally about it – this makes the upfront setup very affordable. Some cloud phone providers will charge you monthly for the initial setup, but this almost always is more expensive. If you have 1 to 8 users, cloud is almost always the best option when it comes to price because, even if your monthly price increases, it will take years of accumulated costs to overtake the upfront cost of the phone system plus the phone lines. If you have 20 or more users, you may need to do some cost analysis if price is your main focus point. The pricing below may be able to help you, however.

How much do on-premises and cloud phone systems actually cost?

Cloud phone system cost:

$300+ for initial setup
$20.00+ per user license monthly 
+ $ for shipping of IP phones if required

On-premises phone system cost:

$2,000 – $3,000 upfront for the PBX
+ $ for each phone
+ $ monthly for phone lines
+ $ for licenses
+ $ for labour

Aside from price, what are advantages of on-premises and cloud phone solutions?

Both systems are similar in basic functionality, boasting advanced calling features and high-quality call routing and business calls. So, what are the pros to both systems for features?

Benefits of on-premises phone systems

  1. The systems are usually hybrid, allowing them to use internet, PRI, and copper phone lines. The advantage to this is that if your internet fails, you can have a backup analog phone line that allows you to contact 911 despite the outage.
  2. Telecom technicians usually have more control to change any setting you want. With specialized, expensive, and highly complicated software, technicians have access to everything in the phone system. For example, completely cutting off voicemail access, configuring layers of call flows for complex customer service environments, and more.
  3. It is considered an asset. That’s right, you own the on-premises phone system completely. This is great for businesses that maintain their system very well for 10+ years. For businesses that want to keep technology up to date and want newer systems, this would be a more expensive avenue.

Benefits of cloud phone systems

  1. Collaboration tools are usually included. Features such as team chat, file sharing, video conferencing, and more are normally included with a cloud-based PBX. Many powerful features are immediately available to users at no additional cost.
  2. Unlimited phone lines and unlimited calling. It may seem confusing to some but with call queues and routing included with our cloud phone system, you can have multiple people in-line through the main number after being greeted by the automated attendant. You can also not use the queue system if you would like everyone greeted by a person instead. With 6,000 minutes for every user across North America and Puerto Rico, there is also little risk of facing a per minute phone bill, which is great for audio conferencing.
  3. It is an ongoing subscription. This is a major benefit because subscription services allow for better ongoing research and development than one-time purchases. This means new features regularly make their way to our cloud phone solution. Just recently, we added our Bridge platform that links cloud features with on-premises phone systems to allow businesses to have users on both cloud and on-premises, extending their original investment and lowering their subscriptions costs for cloud.

How we can help you with your next business phone system

Do Tel Inc serves all of Western Canada and beyond for phone systems. We pride ourselves on helping others achieve a reliable business phone service. Whether you need a traditional phone system, cloud solutions, or something in between, you can rely on us to provide you with something that works for you and your team both in price and feature-set. If you are looking for additional features not mentioned in this article, please let us know as we have much more up our sleeves.

To contact, please call us on +1 (844) 962-8484

Or email us at info@staging.dotel.ca

Thank you, and happy communicating!

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