1 Hosted IP Telephony An easy to understand guide A white paper from Mason Infotech September 2013
2 Contents Introduction What is hosted telephony? Who is hosted good for? Why consider hosted telephony? The financial benefits Technical considerations What facilities does hosted offer? How much will it cost? Questions to consider Summary About Mason Infotech page 3 page 4 page 5 page 6 page 7 page 8 page 9-10 page 11 page 12 page 13 page 14
3 Introduction Hosted telephony is changing the meaning of the phrase telephone call as well as the voice communications of many forward thinking businesses. It delivers a wide range of business, technical and financial benefits. This paper will help you better understand: What Hosted Telephony is and the benefits associated to it for your business. Hosted telephony communications systems can be more resilient than traditional systems, they are future proof and ultimately can save businesses money by allowing processes to be streamlined and staff to work more efficiently. What it s designed to do and the services it offers. How much it will cost you and the things to consider when implementing it.
4 What is Hosted Telephony? Phone systems are often referred to as PBXs (private branch exchanges) or PABXs (private automatic branch exchanges). In the simplest terms they connect phone users within the same organisation. As well as this, they offer a host of other features such as call forwarding, voice mail, conferencing and more. PBXs are located on site and connect to the outside world via digital and analogue access circuits, which in turn are connected via cabling to handsets. The brains that connect the circuits to the handsets are within the PABX. Hosted systems take most of the switching and brains of a conventional system and move it off site to a remote location (the cloud) where it is managed by a service provider. Equipment on site is limited to phones, a LAN switch and broadband routers. As a result, hosted systems are often cheaper, usually quicker and easier to install and set up than conventional phone systems. As they are hosted off-site there is less need for on-site expertise or maintenance. A typical hosted provider will have low setup costs and then a fixed monthly charge per user. This is quite simple and therefore makes it easy for businesses to predict the cost of growth. Hosted systems are often cheaper, quicker and easier to install, with less need for on-site expertise.
5 Who is hosted good for? New Set Ups Hosted is ideal for new businesses as it can be implemented quickly, without the capital expenditure usually attached to a telephone system. It offers the security that the system can be upgraded without fuss as the business grows. Changing Businesses Hosted is a good choice for businesses with changing head counts. The predictable costs offered by hosted services are extremely attractive. Businesses Working Across Multiple Locations For businesses with multiple locations hosted offers a simple to install and easily managed service. Mobile Staff & Home Workers Hosted services offer remote workers the same access to telephone services as their office based colleagues. Short Term or Temporary Requirements Hosted can offer a quick to install, cost effective temporary solution. Businesses with multiple offices, remote workers and anticipated rapid growth rate. Small and medium sized businesses. Businesses wanting to avoid the capital cost of an on-site system. Businesses with limited or no knowledge of managing a phone system On-site premise based systems are still the better option for large businesses with a more static number of users who need custom features, or to integrate their phone system with other business applications.
6 Why consider hosted and what are the benefits? Hosted is not just an alternative to a traditional system it can offer significant business and financial benefits. Disaster Recovery A hosted service is more resilient and in the event of failure will be backed up off-site. It offers a disaster recovery solution for businesses that may not have the resources to implement their own disaster recovery strategy. Calls can be easily routed to another office, mobile phone or staff s home land lines ensuring business continuity. Home/Mobile Workers Hosted services make it easy to extend the facilities that employees enjoy when they are sat at their desk in the office. By using either soft phones (a PC application that allows calls to be made from a PC with a headset) or a conventional handset, they can benefit from everything they would enjoy if they were operating from a normal extension back at base. Retain Your Numbers A great advantage with hosted is that all existing numbers can be ported over to the service. So there s no need to change Stationary etc., no need to inform clients of any number changes and more importantly if you move premises in the future you can take your number with you. You can utilise numbers from other geographical areas to create a presence or to offer a local number for people responding to advertising etc. Advanced Features Many features such as call recording and interactive voice response can be easily implemented with a hosted service. User Controlled Features Users can be given control of their own services and call handling features, with traditional star codes, without the need for an administrator or network provider to implement them. Multiple Locations Hosted works very well for businesses with multiple sites. It facilitates operating from multiple locations whilst acting like a single entity using the same dialling plan between offices and most services do not charge for site to site calls. For businesses with call centres, calls can be divided between different sites to balance out call volumes.
7 The financial benefits Cost is a big driving force for businesses who are considering implementing hosted telephony. Capital Investment Whilst some equipment is needed, the cost will normally be lower than that of a conventional on-site phone system. No Maintenance Costs Unlike a traditional system a hosted one will not require an annual maintenance contract. Predictable Costs With a hosted solution the ongoing costs, as a business grows, are far more straightforward and more easily predicted, normally based on a per user, per month fee. Tailor Made Hosted systems can be made to measure to a businesses particular needs thus avoiding the need to invest in an onsite system that is too big at but will fit in future. Hosted systems grow with a business. Cost Effective Advanced Features Hosted services offer features that are sometimes not available or can be cost prohibitive on traditional systems. Cut or Eliminate In-house Costs There s no need to deploy resources to manage a hosted system. Change of premise, upgrades and changes can be done quickly and easily. Lower Access Costs As hosted systems use broadband access to connect to site, access costs can be significantly lower than a conventional system requiring analogue or digital circuits.
8 Technical considerations Phased Implementation When expanding or moving premises a Hosted services can be implemented in a controlled way thus avoiding the need to take a big risk. Service Management A big advantage with hosted telephony is that much of the support is shifted to the service provider. Management and monitoring of the service is the provider s responsibility and far less on-site technical support is required. Better still, the infrastructure is normally of a Standard that offers a level of resilience that would be cost prohibitive for most businesses to implement. Enhancements As hosted is a shared facility all users benefit from improved services and enhancements. Easy to Manage Changes Additional users are easily added by the Provider. No work is required on site other than a pre-configured telephone being plugged into the local area network. Moving a user to a new location is as simple as moving their telephone.
9 What facilities does hosted offer? Web based Management & Administration Makes it quick and easy to manage your system directly from a web browser. Voic & Voice Mail Boxes Most systems will offer this basic facility. Interrupt The ability to intervene on a call between two other people, usually related to call monitoring. Call Monitoring The capability to silent monitor calls for the purposes of staff training and customer service etc. Call Screening The ability to screen calls as they are received. Ring Back Features Return calls based on programmable criteria. Scheduled Call Routing Set up several different ways of managing incoming calls. Call Routing Set up rules to route calls based on flexible criteria such as caller ID, time or next available extension. Call Recording Most hosted services will allow for blanket recording as well as selective. Conferencing Set up conference calls between internal and external users. Hunt Will search for a free agent to answer incoming calls. Call Hold Place callers on hold. Call Parking Place a caller in park so that other users can pick the call up. Call Transfer Transfer calls between extensions without having to go through a switchboard. Call Forwarding Manual, programmed or automatic call forwarding to any number. Managing Extensions Allows administrators to add new extensions, remove no longer required extensions and change extension locations from a web based control panel. Automatic Attendant A system that answers phones with the added ability to add menus, transfer to voice mail and create rules to handle the features. Ideal for out of hours, holidays and busy periods.
10 What facilities does hosted offer? cont For Remote Users Unifying Systems Branch Support Manage and remotely administer extensions at locations away from the business as though they were local. Features for Remote Users Remote workers appear to external and internal callers as though they are at the main headquarters. Full Integration Incoming calls can be matched with management records and outgoing calls can be initiated from within Outlook. Voice Mail to Sends messages from voice mail to where they can be listened to, stored and managed on a PC. Data Network Integration Integration into your data network so that click to call functionality, integration with office document, or CRM systems can be added. Click to Dial Dial from a number on your computer screen rather than the telephone itself.
11 How much does it cost? Connectivity When working out the costs for a Hosted Telephony system there are both one off and recurring charges to consider. Different suppliers will package costs in various ways, for example it could be that costs are rolled into a single monthly payment. Our only advice would be to thoroughly check what you are signing for. If you are unsure about anything at all please ask the supplier for more details. A typical Hosted Telephony configuration will require the following: Internet Connectivity A LAN Switch (Local Area Network) Desk or Soft Phones Set Up Costs & Licences Some providers will levy activation or licence fees for the core service and charge for additional licences for features such as Call Recording and Conferencing. It is important that you decide exactly what you require and what is included in the monthly recurring cost. Ongoing Costs Ongoing charges will normally include line rental charges, equipment costs (if factored into the monthly payment), the monthly fee per user for the service and charges for outbound calls. It is important to also consider how much items such as training and support might cost. All of the above items can be bought outright, leased or may be factored into a monthly payment agreement.
12 Questions to consider How many people do you employ? How many locations do you service? How many remote/mobile workers do you have? Once you have this information you are ready to start negotiating with a Hosted Telephony provider. What are your current Broadband connection details? (supplier, level of service etc.) What is your current network load? What are your current telephone system details? Do you need to keep existing lines? What is your budget? What is your mix of calling? (Inbound v outbound) What features will you need? Do you have someone on-site to manage the system? What level of service do you need? Do you need to integrate with other systems such as Outlook or Salesforce?
13 Summary Before signing any agreement be clear about all costs, both the upfront and monthly ongoing charges that you may be committing to. Hosted Telephony systems provide small to medium sized businesses with a lot of the features only normally associated with large, sophisticated a and expensive telephone systems. Due to low set up costs and often reduced monthly running costs a hosted system can help to reduce long term operating costs. It is important that the hosted system you choose has what you require now and the capability to grow, should your business require it to do so in the future.
14 About Mason InfoTech Mason Infotech provide voice and data communication solutions to businesses. We are an accredited reseller for both Avaya and Cisco amongst others, and provide telephone systems, wired and wireless data networks, business phone lines, internet access, mobile voice and data, and secure networking and IT infrastructure solutions. We support this with unrivalled customer service and expert advice. Many of our new clients are referred to us from our existing clients. We re very proud to say that we still service the very first client we acquired more than ten years ago. Many of our implementations are for typical businesses requiring service and support for anything from 5 to 500 users. We would be delighted to help you whether you are looking at establishing a start up, moving premises or need help with an existing solution. We re in it for the long haul, and our approach in every instance will be similar. We ll get to know you and your business first, and then make our recommendations to you based on our dialogue. Our initial discussion is provided free. We can walk you through our diagnostic process and provide you with an indication as to where we may be able to help you, and ultimately save you time and money. Please call us today on or Mason Infotech 9 Churchill Park, Colwick, Nottingham NG4 2HF