Do you remember a time when you had to send a letter to communicate with someone? Probably not. But before Alexander Graham Bell had the notion that we didn’t necessarily have to put pen to paper to get a point across the country, never mind the world, communication was a rather complex creature. Inefficient is a word that springs to mind… But if you’re reading this, it speaks volumes for your ability to move with the ever-increasing pace of technology. If you think that marathons were run out of necessity (the definition of speed mail so to speak), quick effective communication was reserved for those within a 50 mile radius. How times have changed! The telephone was a giant leap forward in streamlining business operations – communication really is as easy as 1, 2, 3 when you only have to push a few buttons to connect with someone. It’s incredible to think that we progressed from telephone exchanges manned by telephone operators, to manual service exchanges – better known as switchboards. And now today we have the private branch exchange, or PBX.
The private branch exchange phone system
Today most businesses plug multiple analogue Telkom lines into a PBX which hunts for an open line that then enables the receptionist to route incoming calls to the correct extension. Assuming that you don’t change offices, grow too big, or start having specific needs like call recording or conferencing, the PBX should be just fine. But times they are a changing … and business is becoming more versatile and more dynamic, meaning that PBX technology would have to follow suit. Then along comes the mobile phone. This starts a whole debate about the cost of making calls – something that no-one really worried about in the past. This created a brand new telecommunication acronym, namely LCR or ‘Least Cost Routing’ which saw thousands of SIM cards being bolted onto PBXs across South Africa because the costs of a ‘Vodacom to Vodacom’ call was cheaper than a ‘Telkom to Vodacom’ call. LCR kicked into high gear in the 90’s and early 2000’s but is slowly dying out after legislature change in 2006, allowing another shiny new acronym to enter the market place: VoIP.
Now we’re really talking
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) was a game changer – high speed connections allowing for numerous conversations over one line at reduced rates and billed per second – decreasing the cost of communication considerably. It took a while for VoIP to get up to the speed required to satisfy the quality expectations of blue chip companies, some of whom got their fingers burned in the early days, but most of whom have now moved onto a VoIP service or are seriously considering it post the 2010 IT infrastructure upgrades. But what about the PBX? VoIP solutions were being bolted onto traditional PBXs that still displayed the obvious limitations of an aging technology in a dynamic economy. Enter the Cloud PBX. The Cloud PBX is the next natural evolution in telecommunication technology for businesses, combining mobility, personal control, infinite and immediate scalability, ease of communication, and reduced cost. How did they do that? By removing the chunky dusty equipment from your server room and instead giving you access to a world-class hosted PBX in the cloud. All you need is a broadband connection, dedicated to voice, like an ADSL line, diginet line, or various wireless options that are now available. So for example, instead of eight analogue voice lines, you now have two ADSL lines connecting your voice to the world.
So what makes Cloud PBX so special?
The concept of cloud computing is that all the backend hardware stuff is hosted in a super-secure data centre. It sounds complicated and impossible, but in reality you’re looking at saving space, time, resources, insurance, and effort. Think about it like this: with your traditional business phone system, you’re held hostage by the threat of lightning strikes, hardware failure, power surges, software and hardware upgrades, technician call-out fees, and more. It’s a simple web interface – you log in to your extension and set whatever call forwarding, blocking, screening or voicemail functionality that you like. No more PBX hardware, no more financing, no more insurance, no more expensive call-outs when lightning strikes. A Cloud PBX system grows when your company grows – and you only pay per extension. Everything is delivered over broadband, (not over the internet – your ISP also delivers your internet over broadband while Fat Budgie delivers your voice over broadband). This gives you access to as many levels of back-up connectivity as you like. Meaning that if someone drives a truck though the Telkom exchange in your neighbourhood, your phone will still ring and business continues as usual. In a nutshell, the PBX world has changed, and it’s hard to think of a single reason why anyone would want to buy a lump of hardware any more… Can you?