Well-known IT research firm, Gartner Inc., predicted last month that by 2011, mobile phones will completely replace desktop phones for the majority of businesses in North America (Gartner.com). This suggests that the days of traditional phone systems are numbered and that virtual PBX services will become the regular means of business telecommunications over the next couple of years. So I’ve decided to write a post detailing the why and how of mobile business functionality.
What is Hosted PBX and what does it have to do with mobile phones?
Virtual PBX (also known as a “virtual” phone system) is a “cloud technology” that allows you to manage your business phone system online through a web-based interface. Many businesses and small businesses already utilize virtual phone systems instead of costly traditional phone systems. If the majority of business phones will be mobile phones by 2011, as Gartner predicts, then we’d have to assume that the transition will be made possible by virtual PBX, which allows you to route calls, to let multiple people receive a call from one phone number, and to transfer calls between employees. A virtual PBX gives you all of the functionality of a traditional business phone system, but it also allows you to access and manage your phone system from any computer, or mobile device.
Is switching to mobile phones practical right now?
It depends. There are a few factors to consider when evaluating business PBX on mobile phones as a viable alternative to traditional PBX systems. Even though more and more people are purchasing Smartphones nowadays, utilizing virtual PBX on these phones takes a bit of work.
According to ChooseWhat.com’s own Nick Middleton, “Although incoming calls to office extensions could easily be forwarded mobile devices using basic plans from providers like Phone.com or RingCentral, outgoing calls require the mobile user to manually call into their system, log in, and then place the call. However, it is impractical for cell phone users to complete this process every time he or she wants to make a call.”
The solution? Recognizing the challenges facing pbx/cell phone users, RingCentral has released an iPhone application that automatically logs on to the RingCentral system and lets the user easily make outbound calls.
Other competitive virtual PBX providers are expected to follow suit in the near future. As new Smartphone PBX applications become more available, utilizing business PBX capabilities on a mobile device will become increasingly easier. If the majority of people in your office are already using Smartphones, then utilizing business PBX capabilities would be a matter of simply installing an inexpensive app on the phones. If your employees do not currently own internet-accessible phones, then you may need to evaluate the costs/benefits of replacing or supplementing their mobile devices.
How should I start going mobile?
Gartner outlines a four-step plan that companies ought to follow in order to transition from traditional hardware to mobile systems:
- Plan (how and when to make the switch)
- Procure (a reliable service plan)
- Manage(costs, standards and security)
- Remove (hardware)
A plan for switching to mobile pbx systems might be rather detailed and complex for large corporations, but for many small businesses, the process may be rather simple. While it may take a large corporation several months to internally implement the phone system change, a small business can do so in a matter of days.
Not ready to go mobile?
The report from Garter simply outlines a growing trend for business telecommunications. In no way should it dictate the choices you make about how to run your small business. So, you shouldn’t feel pressured into going mobile if you feel you or your company just isn’t ready. But, even if you don’t decide to take your business from traditional phone systems to mobile PBX overnight, there’s no need for you to wait until 2011 to start utilizing virtual PBX services, which can replace your current phone system with low-cost desktop phones with full business PBX functionality. In fact, since the economy is forcing many enterprises and small businesses to cut down operating costs, virtual PBX is quickly becoming the preferred alternative to traditional phone systems.