A lot of service providers offer cloud-based solutions, and many buzzwords and concepts are being bandied around. It can be a bit difficult for the layman to fully understand how it works and where the benefits are. As with anything, there are pros and cons involved and it is important to understand how it affects you.
So what exactly is the ‘cloud’? It’s a type of data storage service model in which data is maintained, managed, backed up remotely and made available to users over a network.
Cloud storage holds some great advantages for companies. It removes physical equipment out of your data storage equation, and puts your data in a place where you don’t have that direct responsibility for it. From an outlay point of view, then, it’s a money saver.
Should your premises be damaged by fire or flood, your data and precious copies of documents will be safe. Natural disasters can’t affect you because your vital information is hosted offsite.
The same trend is being adopted in telephony. In the past, you needed to acquire a physical piece of equipment – the PABX system – and have it installed at your office. Now, you have the option of hosting your entire ‘switchboard’ virtually. It gets taken into the cloud, so you as the business owner no longer have to deal with time-consuming administrative issues like having faults fixed … or replacing your system if it’s been struck by lightning.
The telephony cloud can be as big as you want it to be. You are no longer limited to 20 or 50 extensions. You can have millions of extensions if you wish. All your voice mail recordings and data are safe. If someone breaks in, there is no PABX system to steal.
Having a cloud-based telephony system makes so much sense, especially if you have multiple branches on the same network. You never have to phone ‘out’ to speak to someone at your Durban branch if you’re in Johannesburg, for instance.
If your business experiences peak seasons you can add extensions and manpower during that time, and then remove those additional extensions when things quieten down again. The telephony cloud model is very flexible. There’s no physical equipment that you have to buy; you only pay for what you use, and this type of deal is generally offered on a rental basis.
Various cloud service providers offer lengthy storage solutions: Microsoft 365 stores information for up to 10 years; Google Plus has a 100 year service offering. Data is protected by failsafe firewalls and other security measures.
The main negative is that cloud storage and cloud telephony results in less manpower being required, so job losses could be on the cards when you switch to this type of system. But the savings realised could well create new opportunities for all involved.