Among the many types of phone systems available to small businesses, cloud-based systems are an increasingly popular option. They offer reliable service, low costs and plenty of business-friendly features. However, not all cloud-based phone systems are created equal, so how can you tell which one is right for your business? Read on to learn more about cloud-based systems, how to choose one for your business and our picks for the best providers.
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A cloud-based phone system is a phone service that allows you to make calls over the internet. It’s also called cloud calling or a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system. One of the ways a cloud-based phone system works differently than traditional analog phones, which use copper wires or optical fibers to make a connection between two callers, is that a cloud-based system can store data. That data is hosted in one or more off-site secure data centers.
Cloud-based phone systems can be implemented via many devices, such as traditional phones with adapters, smartphone apps (such as Google Voice), computer calling software or VoIP-enabled phones. One example of a cloud-based phone system is a hosted PBX, or private branch exchange. All data is stored and accessed via the cloud, which saves time and money by allowing you to easily update and protect your data.
Cloud-based phone systems break your calls into small digital audio packets that are sent as data via the internet to the recipient on the other end of the call. If you’re calling a regular phone number, the signal is converted to a regular telephone signal before it reaches the recipient. A cloud-based PBX system is used to route the call through session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking. [Read related article: What Is SIP Trunking?]
Cloud-based phone systems are available for anyone with an internet connection. You can make cloud-based calls via the following devices:
One of the main draws of cloud-based phone systems is the many features they offer. Analog phones can be somewhat limited in their features, while cloud phones are able to add and update features as they become available. These are some of the features.
If you have an existing landline PBX phone system that you want to keep, but also want some of the flexibility a cloud-hosted system provides, look for a provider that offers SIP trunking.
If you decide a cloud-based phone system is something you’d like to pursue, the next step is finding a provider. Each vendor will offer different features and packages at varying price points, so you must evaluate which one aligns best with your needs.
The foolproof way to find the right provider is through diligent research. Read reviews of different companies, see if any offer free trials, and speak to other small business owners in your industry to see if they have recommendations. See our full guide on choosing the right business phone system for more tips.
Ooma offers cloud-based phone services geared toward nontechnical users. Behind its simplicity – Ooma is one of our top recommendations for ease of use – are more than 35 user-friendly communication and calling features.
Ooma’s virtual receptionist (the “press 1 for option X” prompt your customers hear when they call) is especially easy to set up. The Caller Info Match tool can also quickly import data from other platforms, such as LinkedIn and CRM databases. Read our full Ooma review to learn why it’s our top pick for small businesses.
RingCentral offers MVP (messaging, video and phone) communications with 99.999% uptime. It’s our top choice for collaboration, since you can use it to host unlimited audio conferences with up to 1,000 people. Similarly, you can host up to 200 people for video conferences.
RingCentral includes a digital workspace for one-on-one messaging, data searching and note bookmarking. It also integrates with more platforms – such as CRM tools and analytics suites – than any other cloud-based phone system. Read our full RingCentral review to find out more.
Dialpad is our best pick among cloud-based phone systems that come with voice intelligence. This feature can transcribe and analyze all your conversations via detailed call notes and summaries. Dialpad also includes numerous graphical views of key metrics, such as call answer times, volume patterns and call origin.
As part of its voice intelligence suite, Dialpad can coach your team members who answer the phones on how to communicate more clearly. You can also set certain calls to ring across all your team’s devices so customers never go to voicemail during business hours. Read our full Dialpad review for more info.
A cloud-based phone system can empower you and your team to make and accept business calls more easily than ever before. If you’re confident that a cloud-based business phone system is right for your team, this guide should help you find a provider and get the ball rolling. Better customer relations – and, with the right provider, improved internal communications – are right around the corner.
Max Freedman contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.