By: Paul Emond, CEO, Versature
I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the Cloud. Google’s recently announced program for Canadian Nonprofits and Charities, which TechSoup Canada is supporting, is an excellent and valuable resource for prudent organizations looking to stretch their IT budget as far as possible. Salesforce is another cloud-based organization that provides special pricing for nonprofits. With world-class tools like this at your disposal, there’s never been a better time for forward-thinking organizations to push the envelope and benefit from these easy-to-use technologies.
While most nonprofits know that they can get their email and CRM from the cloud, it’s not as well known that there are cloud-based options for your telephone service as well. These cloud-based phone options are called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). It’s essentially a telephone service delivered through your Internet connection, instead of a phone line.
Versature is one of a number of Canadian suppliers that provides cloud-based VoIP services. As a provider and user of this type of phone service, we truly believe that cloud-based VoIP offers nonprofits a number of benefits over other phone systems on the market. Here are our top 10 reasons to consider VoIP!
1 - Cost Efficiency
One of the biggest draws towards cloud-based VoIP is the cost savings these phone systems afford many of their users. Due to the Internet-based nature of the phone system, charges on long distance calls across Canada and even North America are reduced or eliminated. Costs associated with maintenance and software upgrades are also minimal as updates are automatically pushed to phones from the service provider via the Internet and support is managed remotely. Web-based updates coupled with a specialized support team managed by your service provider reduces the amount of resources that need to be invested with an in-house or outsourced IT team.
Potential phone service switchers should be aware of contracts their nonprofit may hold with its current telco provider. Depending on your current contract situation, it may prove to be too expensive to switch, and you’ll have to wait for the existing contract to expire. As well, Internet upgrades may be required to provide for additional bandwidth for your new VoIP system. Check with your VoIP provider to see if that is required.
In response to a number of questions we have received over the years about the costs of VoIP, we have created a detailed cost analysis based on a 20 seat organization. This hypothetical organization is able to save upwards of $77k over 5 years through use of a cloud-based PBX system over a premise-based system!
2 - Little to No Capital Expenditure
Cloud-based VoIP requires little to no capital expenditure. There is no premise-based PBX equipment to buy and house within your office. In the event that you need to purchase VoIP phones, network equipment, or pay for activation fees, these costs are minimal compared to traditional phone systems.
3 - No Technological Obsolescence
Many VoIP system and feature upgrades come standard and are automatically added to your phone system without IT staff involvement. For example, Versature recently rolled out Salesforce Integration and Versature Scribe (Voicemail Transcription) for all of our customers at no additional charge. These updates are automatically applied to your phone system without any user involvement, meaning you can always be equipped with state-of-the-art technology without the need to upgrade hardware or infrastructure.
4 - Staff Empowerment
A cloud-based VoIP system puts a lot of power into the hands of the end user. VoIP is managed through an easy-to-use web interface that end-users can use to configure their phone options. By using a web interface, you can customize phone settings without having to involve administrators, such as:
- Move your phone to a new location
- Re-route your extension to a cell phone or even your cottage
- Control the number of rings before a caller goes to voicemail
The flexibility options for this type of service are virtually unlimited and are usually completely configurable by the end user without the assistance of an IT department or the service provider support team.
On the downside, it can be more difficult than ever these days to maintain work/life/family balance, especially with tools like this which can track you down ;-)
5 - Branch Office / Road Warriors / Home Office
You easily and inexpensively connect employees in other cities or provinces on the same phone system allowing for quick extension-to-extension dialing from a single phone number. For example, Andrew Fleck Child Care Services uses cloud-based VoIP to unify its multiple locations. Employees at one office are quickly and easily able to reach those in one of 6 other locations by simply dialing their 3 digit extension. Even though they are physically separated, staff feel connected and everyone is accessible through one centralized phone system.
With VoIP, you can also install a phone in your home office which mirrors your office extension or work from the road as effectively as you would in your office using your smartphone. The beauty of cloud-based telephony is that your phone system is accessible anywhere your users have an Internet connection. Through the use of downloadable apps for smartphones, such as the Bria software Versature clients use, office extensions are never limited by office walls.
These smartphone apps may come at some additional cost to the user. Check with your service provider what these costs will be prior to jumping on board. Also, when connecting over your carrier’s mobile cellular network, service/quality can be spotty as you move in and out of coverage areas. It’s best to use your VoIP app over LTE or Wifi when possible.
6 - Agility / Scalability
Hosted services such as Hosted VoIP allow you to grow or contract your communications needs as necessary. Pay only for what you need and easily right-size your investment on a month-to-month basis. No need to worry that your current solution will only scale to a certain size before having to be replaced. Hosted web-based services can scale infinitely so long as your organization has enough bandwidth.
In terms of scaling down, or worst case scenario - ending a subscription completely, be sure to check what the VoIP providers’ terms are on cancellations.
7 - Cost Predictability
VoIP’s straightforward per user pricing can help make budget planning simple and accurate. Even advanced features such as Auto Attendants, Ring Groups, Call Queues, and Call Recording are often available a-la-carte, allowing nonprofits to pay only for what they need.
8 - Reliability / Failover / Disaster Recovery
Hosted VoIP solutions are engineered to be fault tolerant and resilient. Georedundent data facilities and cloud-based storage leave you feeling confident in the reliability of your nonprofit phone system. Add to this the fact that VoIP phones will work wherever there is an Internet connection, and you have pretty amazing business continuity and disaster recovery options built right in.
The downside of this is that your phone system is completely Internet dependent, meaning that should your connection go down for whatever reason, you will temporarily lose access to your business lines. Outages due to storms, accidents, or issues with your ISP are able impact the connection to your phone system. Some nonprofits invest in 2 separate Internet connections to guard against this possibility.
Again though, with end-user configurability and advanced mobility options users are able to bring their extension with them virtually anywhere an Internet or mobile connection is available as a temporary work-around for Internet issues being experienced at a specific location.
9 - Security and Risk Management
Hosted VoIP vendors are specialists in their industry. They understand and mitigate the risks involved with telephony through the use of automated tools, checks, and balances, the likes of which a company operating their own PBX would never have the resources to implement. Fraud management (i.e. someone gaining access and making toll calls on your account) is taken very seriously and cloud-based vendors usually have multiple safeguards in place to protect against activity such as this.
Be sure to do your homework and align your nonprofit with a trusted and reliable Hosted PBX provider.
10 - Easy Moves, Adds, and Changes (MACs)
Easily add new staff extensions and voicemail boxes without costly service calls. No need for a truck roll in the age of the Internet. Phones come pre-configured and additional features and functionality are easily enabled after the fact with a simple phone call to your service provider.
In Depth : Office Unification
Geographic disbursement of regional offices or remote workers can pose a challenge to nonprofits, which often service wide-spanning areas. Cloud-based phone systems can help unify entire organizations from coast-to-coast. All that is required to connect to the system at any location is high-speed Internet. Additional features such as Auto-Attendants and Call Queues allow callers to quickly and easily reach their desired party, even after operating hours, and regardless of their physical location.
This is especially relevant for the Directors and Executives of nonprofits, as cloud-based VoIP solutions provide the freedom to work and be connected to the organization from any location, whether it be from home or on the road. All that you need is high-speed Internet access to take your extension with you wherever you go. This allows you to be connected to the office, not tied to it.
The same logic applies to conference or event managers who can also take their phone and extension with them while organizing events on the road. Simply plug your VoIP phone in and be connected as if you were at the office, maintaining your extension dialing and all of the call features you have come to depend on. Establish a centralized base of operations on-site using technology you know and trust by bringing your hardware with you on the road if you so choose.
In a Nutshell
Cloud-based VoIP provides feature-rich telephony at some of the most affordable prices on the market. Centralized phone systems are user-friendly and help unite employees from any location, also allowing them to take their phone and extension with them wherever their job might take them. The abundance of unique and ever-changing features that come standard with many of these systems allows nonprofits to operate at maximum efficiency when it comes to their communications infrastructure and best use of staff resources.
Versature is an Canadian cloud-based VoIP service provider. Founded in 2003, the company has grown exponentially and is the trusted VoIP provider of over 5,000 subscribers across the country. Versature was the winner of the Ottawa Business Achievement Awards for “Small Business of the Year” in 2012, and was named a “Top 10 Fastest Growing Company in Ottawa” in 2013 by the Ottawa Business Journal.
Please contact us if you have more questions about Cloud-based VoIP technology, system requirements, or to receive a quote to outfit your nonprofit today.
Paul Emond, CEO