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Cloud-based phone systems, also known as VoIP, work over the Internet. They remove the need for expensive hardware or a technician to physically install service to a building. Many organizations have moved to cloud-based service for both ease of use and financial savings, as these systems typically cost about half that of a traditional phone network. Here we review the pros of VoIP, what to consider before signing with a vendor, and the costs.
Pros of Cloud-Based Phone Systems
Internet-based phone systems offer a variety of advantages. For example, VoIP provides all the usual telephony systems and applications, such as call recording, virtual voicemail, and call routing. However, because the system is cloud-based, employees who work remotely enjoy the same benefits as those who work in a central office.
In fact, with this system, you can save on a traditional office setup entirely, allowing all employees to work from home. That means that there's no need to pay for office space, equipment, or supplies. Or, you can arrange a combination of traditional, office-bound employees and remote, work-from-home employees.
Cloud-based telephony offers a great deal of flexibility in how you design and operate your business.
Points to Consider when Choosing a Cloud Based Phone System
- Reliability: First and foremost, you need a reliable provider, just as with traditional phone services. Frequent outages mean that your customers can't reach you, damaging your reputation. Look at online reviews and ask the vendor for referrals so you can speak to current and former customers to get an accurate picture of the provider's service.
- Scalability: One of the best parts of a cloud-based system is that it easily changes to fit your needs, whether it's bringing on new employees or a growing customer base with increased call volume. Make sure you speak to the vendor about the ability to increase the number of users and how well the system will handle increases in call volume.
- The online portal: Ask the provider about an online portal, as these allow you to easily access, manage, and configure the system anytime, from any location.
- Services: Providers offer different service packages. Compare these services to your business needs. For example, if video conferencing is something you never do, you don't really need to pay for this service. However, if it's a regular part of your business, you need a package that supports conferencing and preferably includes it in your standard monthly bill.
Sample Prices for a Cloud-Based Phone System
Estimating phone system prices without knowing your exact needs is impossible, since packages, features, and pricing vary considerably. How many calls you average in a month, the number of users you have, the provider itself, and even your location all affect pricing. However, the following general estimates give you an idea of what to expect and begin creating a budget.
- Basic service starts from as low as $10 per month, typically topping out at around $80 per month, depending on the number of users.
- Some providers offer an annual contract. These start at around $100 per year and go up to around $600 per year.
- Other providers charge by the minute, with average costs ranging between $0.05 and $0.10 per minute.
- A starter package that includes one toll-free number and unlimited extensions averages around $30 per month or $0.07 per minute.
- A medium volume package comes with 500 minutes per month, one toll-free number, and unlimited users for around $65 per month.
- A premium package comes with 10,000 minutes per month, three toll-free numbers, and unlimited users for around $300 per month.
- First-time activation charges range between $25 and $50.