Business basics: What’s cloud computing?

There was a time when all software programs were loaded onto everyone’s desktop computer with the files and databases residing on the hard drive. When the user left the computer the information stayed at their desk.

Today, computer applications and data can be stored on servers at a different location and accessed through the Internet. In a simple form, this is cloud computing.

While there are many flavors of cloud computing, Service as a Service (SaaS) is likely to have the greatest positive impact on small and medium sized businesses into the future. SaaS is where a third party provider offers their software programs for a fee with all the data stored in a secure location on their servers.

Some examples of this include Salesforce.com, Google Maps, Microsoft On-line, etc.

The benefits of cloud computing are many. The key ones impacting the SMB are as follows:

Rapid implementation.
Universal access to information and processes from any mobile device or remote location (with Internet access).
Smaller capital investment in IT infrastructure like servers, software, licenses fees, etc.
Lower operating expenses for IT staff and software upgrades
Fewer business interruptions from software glitches, especially during software upgrades.
Access to more sophisticated applications than a SMB might otherwise be able to afford as well as the latest software versions.
More flexibility to scale operations up or down.
Business continuity assurance from weather interruptions, power failure, or other disasters.

OK…Now, ‘What is Hosted PBX in the Cloud’?

Hosted PBX in the cloud is a business telephone system that runs on servers at a third party providers secure location. The telephone software provide all the features of the most sophisticated PBX systems, including automated attendant, call transfer, call park, transfer, voice mail, and unified communication.

The phone on your desk is connected, not to a ‘black box in the back closet’ someplace, but to the Internet. All your telephone calls come through the Internet to the device on your desk (or to an app on your smart phone–more on that later).

Because the hosted PBX service is accessed via the Internet, the phone on your desk could be your desk at your home office, or at a branch office. And, with the smart phone app, you can be sitting in a hotel room in Denver and still be answering your office extension with full capability to transfer the call to or conference in an associate in corporate headquarters.

The benefits are numerous, especially for a small or medium sized business:

Quick deployment—Service can be up and running in a matter of hours.
Staff, especially key employees, is available to colleagues and customers immediately, improving customer satisfaction, employee productivity and reducing costs.
Reduced investment in a full telephone system and lower ongoing operating costs from service charges and upgrades.
Outages are eliminated with service providers operating distributed network of servers nationwide.
Disaster recovery is easy and immediate.

Hosted PBX in the cloud solution may not be for every company or organization, but many can realize a greater competitive advantage against bigger companies with deeper pockets. We’ll discuss what types of companies can realize the greatest benefit in an upcoming article.