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01 Jun 11

Cloud based PBX solutions can provide an excellent, cost effective service when implemented correctly, but they do require different thinking from the traditional approach to phone systems.
In most successful implementations the IT vendor configures and manages the client system, providing front line support, consultancy and configuration while the VoIP service provider supplies the infrastructure and PBX functionality. Clients can save 30%-50% on phone bills when compared to traditional phone providers and there have been some instances where end users have saved up to 90% on their monthly bill. And it is now possible to install a phone system like this right down to new hardware phones on the desk with no capital outlay and no fixed term, just a pay by the month arrangement with no hidden clauses or lock-ins.
In addition to cost savings, one of the key benefits includes the ability to run a distributed phone system. Cloud based PBX is not restricted to a building or even a city as each individual phone extension connects directly to the cloud (internet) based service and not to a box in the corner of the office.
This is especially effective in a disaster or business outage when users can pick up their phones and take them home, allowing a remote office without the need for any special equipment or setup. This can also provide options to keep staff productive when travelling for work or having to work from home for extended timeframes. All the user needs is a broadband Internet connection anywhere in the world and they are available on their normal extension and able to make calls for the same price as if they were in the office.  We have clients who run offices in Auckland, Wellington, the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States and Australia with all their phone extensions on the same Cloud PBX system where they are managed as a single PBX. Another example is a company which runs its support desk over multiple sites in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton and Palmerston North, using a cloud PBX to bring all the sites together as one system.
Key Elements to consider
Customer premise equipment
With an ever increasing range of IP phone providers, pricing is not always the best selection factor. IT vendors should consider functionality, stability, ease of configuration and the support provided by the phone manufacturer or New Zealand distributor.  Poorly supported or unreliable devices simply cause service headaches.
Connectivity to the cloud
Excellent connectivity is critical to a successful VoIP implementation. While ADSL does work for most small offices, business grade connectivity such as HSNS (high speed network service) or fibre needs to be considered in bigger deployments.
Security
With all PBXs, cloud based or traditional security is important with many organisations recently having their PBXs hacked. With traditional phone providers you often aren’t aware of the intrusion until you receive the bill at the end of the month. While some telcos provide a warning system, it is the user’s responsibility to limit the liability and often the best the telco can offer is a toll bar which is not workable in most businesses. Cloud based solutions can add additional functionality in this space with prepay systems, PIN numbers for ‘expensive overseas destinations’ or ‘all overseas calls’ and use defined auto account top-up limitations ensuring the potential for fraudulent activity is greatly reduced. Recently, businesses have converted to a cloud PBX solution with this functionality after receiving bills from their existing telco in excess of $20,000 – often more than 40 times their normal bill.
In summary, a combination of services from a cloud PBX service provider and a reseller who specialises in VoIP and who has developed the systems to use the service effectively can save clients considerable money and enhance productivity.

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