Cloud-based phone systems

A cloud-based phone system works in the same way as any other cloud-based service.

Basically, instead of being hosted on a server on-premises, the whole solution is run over the Internet, from a server in a data centre. As a result, like any other cloud service, you can access it from anywhere you can get an Internet connection.

Now, you might be thinking that your old analogue systems were not ‘hosted’ on your business premises – and that’s quite right. They were not ‘hosted on anything because they were analogue, not digital. The original public switched telephone network (PSTN) was a set of physical connections, with different points on the network connected through a series for switching boxes that were housed within telephone exchanges.

The phone exchanges themselves were connected by inter-exchange trunk lines. When you dialled a number on old analogue phones, that was basically a signalling system that was a way of throwing switches in the PSTN that would ultimately connect you to a specific end point on that network, i.e., a specific telephone line.

From there, in many businesses, a PBX – private branch exchange – would take over. This again, was a physical switch that simply connected to a particular extension line.

In a cloud-based phone system all this happens inside the server, with the software connecting two points virtually, and the actual voice signal being converted into a digital form and then sent across the network to the target endpoint, where it is converted back from digital to an audio output that you can hear.

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What is a cloud phone system?

A cloud phone system is a digital solution for making and receiving voice calls that is hosted on a cloud service. The actual cloud service could be the service provider’s own data centre (which in reality is likely to be a shared space in a co-location data centre) or on the public cloud.

The terms cloud phone, hosted voice and hosted VoIP are really synonymous, so when you hear someone using any of these or similar terms, they are talking about a cloud voice service.

Of course, there are different types of cloud voice service. We have all used Skype, Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom – and these systems use a simple cloud-based voice service that the respective companies host within their own clouds. It’s not that difficult to do this and, unless you want to record them, voice calls have no storage overhead, so there is little to manage.

A cloud-based voice system for use in a business would tend to be a bit more complicated, as you’d need to have additional features and controls, but essentially, business VoIP services make use of the same core software technology to make connections, initiate, manage, and end calls.

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How does a cloud phone system work?

The Internet Protocol – or ‘IP’ as it is referred to – is the basic language that computers and devices that are connected to the Internet use to connect and communicate. A cloud-based voice system – or VoIP service – uses this to connect up two different points (or more if required) for a voice call. It’s just the same as it would be for a data connection and in fact, that’s more or less what is happening. The voice is converted into a digital system and send over the Internet and converted back into audio at the other end.

The voice or VoIP control software that sits in the cloud, manages all this virtually, sending the voice-laden packets of data across the network to the appropriate address. It sounds simple, but of course, there is a lot of complex technology that makes it all work. But you don’t need to worry about the finer details. Cloud-based voice systems are well-established, tried and tested.

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Why use a cloud-based phone system?

If you don’t use a cloud-based voice service today, let me assure you that one day, you will. The whole of the UK’s network is going digital and indeed, by 2025, the old analogue PSTN system will be switched off completely. That’s not too far away and in the meantime, everyone will be switching to VoIP services. Indeed, many businesses and homes have already made the move and are putting all their voice calls through the cloud.

Why is it a better option thought. There are several big reasons. It is more reliable as there are so many different routes you can take from one point to another – the whole Internet infrastructure in fact; you can have more features, as it is digital and easy to add new features; it’s entirely mobile – all you need is the ability to connect to the Internet and that’s possible just about everywhere; and it is easier and more cost-effective to maintain, as there is no additional or separate physical infrastructure.

Cloud-based or VoIP systems are the future of telephony and the sooner you embrace and make use of these services, the more you will get out of them.

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VoIP vs cloud phone system

You can’t really compare a cloud phone system to VoIP services as they are basically the same thing. It might be more useful to sit free services like Skype and Zoom alongside business VoIP services like those offered by specialist players like Gamma and Vonage.

The former may seem to do all you want them to on the face of it; be they are really designed to be point-to-point services that anyone can use in an ad-hoc manner. What they can’t really do – unless you integrate one of these collaboration systems with your cloud telephony (you can certainly do this with Microsoft Teams) – is provide you with the ability to make and take calls on a specific telephone number, transfer and divert calls, use hunt groups and voicemail, set up and manage auto attendants, and record, monitor, manage and report on calls and call patterns. This the kind of functionality that cloud-based voice services will provide.

The business-oriented services like those offers by Gamma, Vonage, and established telephony providers like BT, tend to be called VoIP services, while cloud-based phone systems can refer to just about any simple voice service that makes use of the Internet as its transport medium.

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