Hosted telephony: everything your business should know

As businesses equip remote and hybrid workers, and prepare for the PSTN switch-off, “hosted telephony” has become something of a buzzword.

It seems that, right now, everyone is at least thinking about moving their telephony to a hosted solution.

But what exactly is hosted telephony (also known as hosted voice) and what can it do for your business?

If you’re looking for answers, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our plain talking guide to hosted telephony and its benefits and challenges.

What is hosted telephony?

First things first, what is it?

Very simply, hosted voice is a system that puts telephony equipment in the cloud, and not in your office. Hosted services are available for small and large businesses and contact centres. It can be tailored to meet pretty much every business requirement.

With hosted telephony, you don’t need an on-site PBX. The necessary equipment is hosted in the cloud and managed by your service provider. You don’t need to worry about telephony infrastructure anymore, which means you don’t have to manage it, maintain it, or mend it if anything goes wrong.

Your business makes and takes calls via the internet (known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP), and you can pass video and data over the same link as part of a Unified Communication (UC) solution. UC combines voice and video with chat, messaging, email and more in one handy communications package. UC can also include collaboration features, like presence and screen sharing.

Why is everyone talking about hosted telephony?

We’ll come to the significant benefits of hosted telephony later, but first it’s worth acknowledging that the hype around the technology is happening for a number of reasons. Certain facts and trends are combining to push the case for hosted voice.

  • The Covid pandemic The pandemic changed everything, and telephony is no exception. When everyone was forced to switch to home working almost overnight in March last year, those that already had hosted telephony solutions in place found the transition considerably easier than those who didn’t. That agility has been widely noted. Many businesses are considering hosted telephony as part of their business continuity planning.
  • The switch to hybrid It’s not clear how the pandemic will pan out from here, but what does seem likely is that remote work – in some form – is here to stay. Employees like it, and in the main their employers didn’t notice a major drop in productivity as a result of home working. Quite the contrary, in fact, in some cases. But with remote or hybrid work becoming the norm, businesses have to equip their staff with relevant tools and services. Many decide that hosted telephony is the way to go, for reasons we’ll expand on later.
  • The PSTN switch off For companies that aren’t prepared, the PSTN switch off is an iceberg hoving into view on the horizon. It’s a way off yet – December 2025 is the current switch-off date – but it’s something businesses should start preparing for, because its impact is potentially huge. On that date, all businesses will have to switch to VoIP, as the traditional ‘landline’ network is finally ditched. Even now, many businesses are using the switch off as a good excuse to update their telephony to something more modern, efficient and cost-effective. They figure that the sooner they make the change, the sooner they’ll start seeing the benefits.
  • Digital transformation For companies undertaking digital transformation, telephony and communications tends to be one of the first things they think about. Hosted voice is often an early step on the path to a digital-first future, because it’s relatively easy to implement and the benefits are quickly obvious. More and more businesses will be undertaking digital transformation journeys over the next few years, and hosted voice will be fundamental to most of them.

The benefits of hosted telephony

Businesses that are transitioning to hosted telephony now aren’t doing so because they fancy a change, or because everyone’s talking about it, or because it feels a bit new and trendy. With finances tight after Covid, decisions on new technology are being made with the utmost care and attention to detail.

So they’re doing it because there are significant benefits to the technology that meet a wide range of business challenges. Here are the main ones.

  • Access anywhere One of the main benefits of cloud-based telephony is that it can be accessed wherever a user has an internet connection. That makes it an excellent solution for businesses wanting to equip a remote or hybrid workforce. The “work anywhere” functionality of hosted voice is also useful for mobile workers who spend a lot of time on the road.
  • Access on anything Users don’t even need a dedicated telephone handset. Hosted telephony comes with a softphone app that means users can make or take professional business calls on computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. All the advanced telephony features they need – and their business phone number – follow them wherever they go.
  • Full functionality Hosted voice is rarely just voice calling and nothing else. Even more basic solutions might come with call handling features like voicemail and call routing. More advanced solutions might include features like SMS, call recording, hunt groups and voicemail to email.
  • Unified Communications Hosted UC brings all your communications and collaboration needs together in one package. That can include voice, video, conferencing, chat, IM, presence and screen sharing. Integrating them in one solution saves you from having to manage, maintain and pay for several third-party services at once.
  • Cost-effectiveness By dispensing with on-premise equipment, hosted telephony saves you the time and expense associated with buying, housing and maintaining complex infrastructure. At the same time, calls over the internet tend to be cheaper than traditional ‘landline’ calls, and bringing voice, video, chat and more together in one package is more cost-effective and efficient than sourcing those services separately.
  • Agility Like many cloud services, hosted telephony is almost infinitely scalable and flexible. Because your telephony is now a software (rather than hardware) solution, users can be added – or removed – in just a couple of clicks. New features and functionality can be acquired in the same way. All in all, hosted voice is simply the most flexible and future-proof telephony service available.
  • Data and trends Many hosted telephony solutions give managers the data to track trends. For example, how quickly incoming calls are answered or when most calls are made, which can lead to service improvements.
  • Updated and secure With hosted voice, updating and securing the system becomes the responsibility of the supplier providing the service. They should make sure that the system is monitored, patched and updated, so you’re always using the latest and most secure version. It’s just one less thing to worry about.

Challenges with hosted telephony

There’s very little to stop most businesses adopting hosted telephony if they want to. Solutions are available to meet the needs of any organisation, from micro-businesses to large enterprises.

One potential barrier is internet bandwidth. If you’re switching from a PSTN-based system to hosted voice, you have to remember that all your communications traffic is now travelling over the same connection as your general internet data.

This is rarely an issue with voice alone, which takes up little bandwidth (though even that can add up if a lot of employees are using the service at the same time). But if you’re adding UC features like video, conferencing and more, it can stretch slower connections to the limit.

Don’t worry too much about this. It’s worth remembering that you’ll probably want to connect to more cloud services and more sophisticated digital solutions anyway over the next few years, so extra bandwidth will never be wasted. A good provider will analyse your capacity, match it to your preferred solution and advise you if any upgrade is required.

Hosted telephony from Cloud and More

At Cloud and More we’ve got years of collected experience of doing just that: advising businesses on the best telephony solutions and associated infrastructure for their needs.

We’re specialists at deploying and managing Microsoft Teams in particular. Microsoft Teams puts everything your people need to communicate effectively in one place, making great collaboration refreshingly easy.

Teams has multiple integrations, feature sets and price points, which is why we’ll get to know your business inside-out before designing the right solution for your needs.

For more information on hosted telephony from Cloud and More, please get in touch.