This article explains how previous hardware based business communications solutions such as PBX, and Faxing have become more and more Cloud software based over the last number of years, reducing the costs and increasing the features available to small businesses and allowing them to operate more like larger corporations.
You may be aware of other Cloud based solutions out there today such has the ever popular Cloud file storage, or Email hosting, but did you also know that your business’ phone systems can also exist in the Cloud? Companies have been providing these services for years now and they are evolving to improve these solutions for business, and even more importantly for Canadian Businesses.
Historically, the majority of these services were primarily developed by and provided to U.S based customers, but the increasing demand for Canadian business solutions has forced these providers to adapt these solutions for Canadian customers in a more Canadian-friendly way.
Get your own Canadian Local Area Code
In the early years of these solutions, there was a problem for Canadians. The only Local Area codes available were in the United States. The only option Canadians had was to purchase the Toll Free 1-8XX number option. This was ok, but presented other issues. 1) Canadian businesses had to deal with the cross border long-distance related issues. 2) Local Canadian customers were reluctant to call a 1-8XX number for a local business out of concern that they were not dealing with a Canadian based business or even a business in their local area that was nearby.
Vendors now provide pools of Canadian Area code numbers to help solve these concerns.
Affordable Monthly Subscriptions for Budget Minded Businesses
Business Plans generally start at around $30 per month, and prices vary depending on the packages/upgrades required, and the number of users. There are normally no additional setup fees and activation costs and payments are recurring through the use of a credit card.
Full Service Features
Solutions normally provided are based on a Virtual Phone System, and Online Faxing.
Here are just some of the features available…
- Toll Free 1-800 numbers
- International Numbers
- Local numbers
- One Number for all services
- Auto Attendant / Receptionist
- Hosted PBX
- Directory listings
- Multiple mailboxes
- Call Forwarding
- Group Distribution
- Call Collaboration / Conferencing
- Call Queuing (ACD)
- Role-based Access Control
- Call Reports
- Music on Hold
- Phone Extensions
- Call Monitoring
- Voicemail to Email
- Voicemail to File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
- Voicemail over phone
- Call-in Dictation
- Fax to Email
- Fax to FTP
- Email to Fax
- Fax to Broadcast
- Online Fax
- Secure fax
- Fax API
- OCR Fax Cover Sheet
The list of features can be very extensive and is only limited to those you are willing to explore.
How it Works
When you sign up for these Cloud communication solutions you are given an account to log on to the Web Portal with and administer your Communications system. The Web Portal gives the administrator access to setting up all the features listed above.
Additional users can be given extensions and access to setup their own greetings, and access their voicemail. Voicemail and faxes can be forwarded as attachments in emails to the users.
Incoming calls can be re-directed to a user’s mobile phone if landlines are not available.
In addition to using a Web Portal, and dial-up features, some providers also have software available that can be downloaded and installed on the user’s local computer to be used as a Softphone (software program for making telephone calls over the Internet), or actual Phone hardware that can be purchased for use with their Cloud Communications.
The depth of configuration can become fairly advanced the bigger the operation needs to grow, and these solutions are ready to grow with your business. For example, if you need complex call routing for a call center type of environment, or department level routing, it’s all ready to be configured. Even scheduling of greetings, or service messages, or providing the company address and hours of operation, can all be done without the need for additional personnel to answer the phone, the auto-attendant can be setup to take care of everything for you.
So whether your business is a sole-proprietor operation or a growing corporation, Cloud Communications may be in your business’ future, and something you may want to be considering today.
Paul Comtois is a Client Support Specialist at Triella, a technology consulting company specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Paul can be reached at 647.426.1004. For additional articles, go to www.triella.com/publications. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.
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