Why web-based VoIP is much more than telephony – VoIP News – The Session

My recent focus has been on the virtues of Web-based VoIP, and by now I hope you’re seeing that SMBs can get more than cheaper telephony when going down this path. At first glance, this may be all that comes to mind, and for that reason, I’ve chosen to feature Phone.com as an example of what’s possible. To this point, I have set the stage by showing the momentum that cloud-based providers have now, with Phone.com leading the pack in terms of growth. I’m going to continue by providing examples of what makes their offering much more than telephony for SMBs.

Before doing that, we should look more closely at the core service. VoIP is certainly the primary need when choosing a Web-based provider, but you should know that not all services are created equal. Some offerings are just phone numbers, usually routed to desk phones, and a no frills service would simply be PC-based. If you have a handful of employees or more, this won’t do, and ideally you’d love to have a switched phone system where all the lines are connected. This allows you to do things like have extensions, use four digit dialing for internal calls, transfer calls internally, add callers on the fly, etc.

These are examples of features you would find on a PBX – or an IP PBX – but these systems are neither practical nor affordable for many SMBs, and certainly any SOHO. Being focused on this market, Phone.com’s core offering is Virtual Office, where the capabilities of a premise-based PBX are hosted in the cloud and accessed by the customer over the Internet. While Phone.com offers much more than this, nothing else will get much traction without a solid VoIP solution.

Virtual Office delivers this, and I’m highlighting it to show how feature-rich Web-based VoIP services can be. Cloud communications has evolved to this point now where businesses require minimal physical infrastructure – especially the market Phone.com serves – and that opens up a new world of possibilities. Having a full featured phone system used to be the domain of enterprises, as they had the scale to justify a costly PBX-based environment. Today, most PBX features have become software applications which can be offered virtually, and at a much lower cost to businesses.

Web-based telephony is a very different business model from PBX in that you’re buying a monthly service, charged on a per subscriber basis. Providers like Phone.com host the infrastructure on their servers, which centralizes all of the software that drives the service and associated features. This is very economical for them, and businesses benefit by getting a feature-rich solution at an affordable price. To illustrate, just consider the basic package for Virtual Office:

  • Choice of number – can keep your number or choose a new one
  • Unlimited extensions
  • Free voicemail
  • Free conference calling
  • Custom greeting – you have control over the welcome message your customers hear
  • Call forwarding – internally or to mobile phones
  • Toll free number
  • Fax – both inbound and outbound

These features just apply to the basic service, but many more add-ons are possible. Even from this list, I hope you can see there’s a strong value proposition here. Many other providers have comparable offerings, and the main takeaway is that Web-based telephony can be a great solution for businesses with a tight budget but who need more than a patchwork setup of standalone desk phones and mobile devices.

If that’s all you’re thinking about, then my work is done and we can move on. However, you should be thinking beyond this, as telephony is really just the starting point. Offerings like Virtual Office are just table stakes, as they basically replicate what any premise-based phone system can do, but at a much lower cost. The cloud communications story goes much further, however, and that’s why you need to keep reading these posts. Going beyond the phone system is where Phone.com really stands out, and that will be my focus next week – see you then.

 

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