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January 10, 2013

The Future of Cloud Business Communications

By Erin Harrison, Executive Editor, Cloud Computing

With the consumerization of IT, proliferation of smartphones and the increased number of mobile and remote employees, more technology-based businesses in 2013 will be looking to move their phone systems to the cloud.

This is because the typical hardware-based phone systems that many businesses still use are difficult to install, maintain and scale, cost tens of thousands of dollars of investment, and do not integrate with the mobile devices that their employees use every day to communicate, according to Naveen Gupta, chief product officer at RingCentral (News - Alert), a cloud business phone system provider.

Given the need to increase employee productivity, provide better customer service and reduce IT costs, Gupta said that businesses of all sizes across industries are looking to move their phone systems to the cloud.

“It’s not just technology-based businesses, its businesses in all industries and of all sizes that will be looking for the competitive edge that moving to a cloud-based phone system gives them,” Gupta told TMCnet in a recent interview. “Over the past couple of decades there have been revolutionary changes in the way we conduct business and communicate at a personal level. These include the proliferation of smartphones and social media, the consumerization of IT and the increased number of mobile and dispersed workforces.”

However, the way we communicate at work has not kept pace with these changes. This is because the hardware-based PBX (News - Alert) phone systems that many businesses still use are inflexible, costly and do not integrate with mobile devices, Gupta explained.

“For example, most office phones do not integrate with the smartphones, tablets and laptops that employees carry in their pockets and handbags and use every day. If employees are working remotely, they must call into their desk phone to forward calls or give customers and vendors their personal cell phone number,” he said. “They cannot simply give out one business number for voice, fax and text messages and have it seamlessly connect to whatever device they are using, wherever they are.”

Gupta also discussed some of the primary benefits of moving your phone system to the cloud.

“Compared to a hardware-based PBX phone system, a cloud-based phone system is easier to install, manage and scale. It’s also significantly more cost-effective and ideal for businesses with mobile and dispersed employees,” Gupta said.

For example, with a cloud phone system you can get it up and running in minutes, not weeks or months, as with an on-premise PBX. It’s also a huge cost saver, he pointed out.

“Our customers tell us that they generally save 50 to 60 percent in the first year of using our service compared to an on-premise PBX. For many, this equates to thousands of dollars of savings every month,” Gupta added. “And most importantly, businesses with a cloud phone system, businesses can seamlessly connect both their in-office and remote employees within one business phone system so that they are reachable by customers no matter where they choose to work.”

For example, with RingCentral, employees can give one business number to customers, colleagues and vendors. This single business number enables them to communicate via voice, fax and text on whatever device they want – smartphone, tablet, computer, desk phone – wherever they are – on the road or in their home office. And they can do all of this while maintaining their professional identity and not revealing their personal mobile number. Employees can also set up their phone system without IT help using a simple-to-use app on their smartphone or interface on their computer.

Despite the increased uptake of cloud communications in the past couple of years, obstacles remain, however, vendors can help overcome these challenges, perceived or otherwise.

“I think that that the two main obstacles are lack of awareness and inertia. This is because cloud business communications is still a relatively new category that a lot of businesses don’t yet know about. At the same time, even if businesses do know about it, their IT department may have already spent a lot of money and time learning how to operate their existing on-premise PBX system,” Gupta said.  “As vendors, we need to spend time educating businesses about the actual benefits of moving their system to the cloud and give them a risk-free way of experiencing the benefits so that it’s a no-brainer for them to make the move.”

In 2013, Gupta said we will also see more businesses incorporate text messaging into their business communications so that employees can efficiently text with customers, colleagues and departments using their business number from their personal mobile device without revealing their personal identity.

“For example, why shouldn’t you be able to text a bank’s 1-800 number to get its latest mortgage rates and expect a service rep to text you back? With the significant number of consumers who prefer text messaging to sending an e-mail or making a phone call, this should be possible. And it is – with a cloud phone system,” he said. “I therefore expect that as more businesses move their phone systems to the cloud, text messaging will become another official form of business communication along with voice and fax.”

Gupta also believes that social media will become more integrated with all forms of cloud business communications and we will see the common desk phone transformed into a dynamic, touchscreen tablet that integrates voice, text, fax, video, social media and the other top cloud services.

“And this touch-screen desk phone will be one of many connected mobile devices that employees use to seamlessly communicate with customers and colleagues,” he said.

To find out more about RingCentral visit the company at ITEXPO Miami 2013, taking place Jan. 29- Feb 1, in Miami, Florida. Visit RingCentral in booth # 716. For more information on ITEXPO Miami 2013 click here.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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