If you’ve ever used Skype or Google Hangouts, you’ve probably never compared them to a desk phone.
But, believe it or not, they do have something in common. They’re all actually phone systems. They just operate via vastly different technologies.
Skype and Google Hangouts employ cloud-based technology (known as VoIP). A desk phone is hardwired into a traditional phone system. Both are used for business, but, when it comes to convenience and productivity, cloud-based phone systems are worlds ahead of traditional phones.
But how does VoIP technology work, what does it have to do with the cloud, and why is it so great, especially for small businesses?
First off, what is “the cloud”?
“The cloud” is one of those ubiquitous terms people throw around all the time these days without actually knowing what it means.
The cloud—and the term itself is a bit of a misnomer, as there’s no single “cloud”—simply refers to a network of servers that save and share data. And that data is accessible via the internet.
So that document in your Google Drive or, if you enable cloud-based services, the photos on your phone, they’re all stored in the cloud. Tools and services you use every day, at home and at work—things like Netflix and project management tools like Slack and Basecamp—are also cloud-based.
So how can a phone operate via the cloud?
That’s a great question. Many of us are accustomed to what’s referred to as POTS—“plain old telephone service.” (Yes, that’s a real acronym!) So, an analog phone that connects, over copper wires, to a traditional phone system.
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, allows people to communicate by voice and video through the internet via servers, i.e. “the cloud.” (If you’d like to geek out and learn more about how VoIP works, and how it’s different from POTS, here’s a great place to start.)
You can still use a regular desk phone (with an analog adaptor) to make and take calls over VoIP. But you can also use a cell phone or your computer. And you can do a whole lot more than just make phone calls. It’s a technology lover’s—and a small business owner’s—dream come true.
What are the advantages of VoIP versus traditional phone systems?
Since VoIP is an internet-based service, it offers an impressive array of features, from sending and receiving faxes from your phone to call forwarding, video conferencing, and voicemail to email, all of which can be managed from an app on your smartphone, which brings us to…
VoIP is a great option for small business phone systems.
Yes! VoIP offers small businesses, as well as entrepreneurs, the mobility and flexibility they need to grow and stay competitive. (And yes, you totally still need a business phone!)
It’s also much cheaper than POTS, saving small business owners and entrepreneurs an average of 40 to 90 percent over traditional business phone systems.
Even if you’re still just a one man/woman band, you can make customers—and potential customers—think you’re a lot whole lot bigger and more established than you are. And don’t we all want a little of that?