Growing businesses have at least one thing in common. They all need the ability to “scale”, i.e., be able to grow without infrastructure and systems holding them back. Or as I often say, you have to be able to get out of your own way as you grow.

If you are held back from opportunities because your existing systems aren’t flexible enough or cost too much to expand, or you feel locked in to outdated technology that’s cumbersome to manage – then your business will suffer.

The good news in one area, telecommunications, is that there are many more choices for small businesses today than even 5 years ago.

One of those choices is a cloud phone system.

A cloud phone system is where you use the power and benefits of the cloud for telecommunications. Cloud phone systems offer a number of advantages:

Avoid costly equipment

With a cloud-based business phone system, there’s typically little hardware involved (other than the phones themselves). So you don’t need to worry about buying, maintaining and upgrading equipment or even the software, such as for a PBX switchboard. It saves on capital expenditures and also cuts down your internal maintenance costs.

Convenient management

A cloud phone system gives you a Web-based management console to configure features and users. Look for a system whose dashboard is easy to understand and use — by a non-telecommunications professional.

Fast to set up

Some phone systems require a lot of lead time to set up. For example, a dedicated VOIP system on your premises may require multiple visits by an installation crew, and training sessions to learn a complex system. A cloud system is much closer to “plug and play.”

Get more leverage with more features

For small and midsize businesses, you’re able to get the kind of features that large enterprise phone systems take for granted, but without the enterprise cost. You can easily get features such as call logs, conference calling, and auto attendants to direct incoming calls.

And while you could piece together such features from a variety of providers, there’s less complexity when you get them through a single provider, management them with a single interface, and get a single consolidated billing.

Easy to understand, predictable billing

Back in my corporate days I remember meetings where we talked about nothing but our high telephone costs. Those costs were mainly driven by expensive hardware we had on site, such a bulky PBX switchboard box, and complex added charges and complicated discount formulas. On more than one occasion we hired a consultant to come in and audit our phone bills, and help us to reduce them.

That’s when I learned the value of an easy to understand billing system. A system built on a flat monthly rate, with any add-on charges clearly identified, saves a lot of management time. It also helps control costs because it’s more predictable and you can budget more accurately.

911 emergency capabilities

One of the knocks against VOIP systems or a system like Skype, is that some don’t offer emergency calling. You need this. Better cloud systems today recognize that businesses need emergency (as well as 411 directory assistance) capabilities, and offer them as standard features.

Unified communications

Unified communications is often an extra feature, and for organizations that do heavy phone work, it can lend considerable efficiency. Unified communications means that you can seamlessly use other devices such as computers for placing and taking calls, getting voicemails sent to email, and other integrated features. It saves users time, and lets them be more productive. For instance, if you’re working on your computer and need to make a call, you can do so right then and there from your computer. If you need to check voicemails, you can go to your email inbox along with other messages.

Bottom line is this: consider these kinds of benefits when reviewing your phone system needs.  And if you haven’t reviewed your phone bills or business phone system in a while, do it soon.  A lot has changed in the last five years.  It pays to see what’s out there, and see how the right phone system can help your business scale, instead of getting in your way.

Cloud Systems Photo via Shutterstock

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