Entrepreneur on a Phone in the Park

Remember running back into the office and checking messages on the old answering machine? Push the wrong button or grab a pen that's low on ink and -- whoops! -- the message was long gone. Phone systems have come a long way since then, and now virtual pbx and VoIP systems have led the way in changing everything about how both individuals and small businesses like yours manage their messages, track their phone data and even control costs.

It's all based on storing your valuable phone data digitally in the cloud, that is, a secure server you can access via the Internet, instead of a combination of your phone bill and a little answering machine tape that knows how to erase itself. This turns messages and call data into something you can store, access and monitor to improve the way your business operates.

What’s new in cloud-based phone systems?

One recent development in cloud-based phone systems management is Phonedeck, an online desktop for your mobile phone that helps individuals collect and monitor data from every phone call. As Mike Butcher writes for TechCrunch, 'The result [of tracking this data]? A sudden realization of who you call, how long for and a lot of other data that was previously invisible. I recall MG Seigler writing that the phone book remained the last mile into social networking. Well Phonedeck might be the bridge across that last mile and it launches into public beta today from Google Play for Android handsets.'

Keeping track of your personal phone data means you now have a new way of measuring time investments made in each client and each sale, as well as allowing you to track and access SMS content for future reference. Now that's a big leap from the old handwritten call log.

How are businesses using cloud-based phone systems to save money and time?

Message management is whole new world in the cloud as well, especially for businesses. Chris Steins explains on his own business' blog, Urban Insight, just how handy VoIP has been for him. 'For example,' he writes, 'you can have calls forwarded sequentially or concurrently to a computer, land line, or mobile device. We use this feature so that when a client calls into Urban Insight, the system finds an available support staff member to provide support.'

Steins also says that he appreciates the option of requiring callers to announce themselves so he can decide if he will take a call or let it go to voicemail. For small businesses that receive lots of calls -- important and otherwise -- message management can save a delightful amount of effort and staff time.

Phone systems in the cloud also help save small businesses money – something we can all appreciate. Paul Duvall shares how his business benefits from using a virtual phone system.

“The reality is that most of our staff at Stelligent use their cell phones to make and receive business calls on a typical day. However, they might be at our office, at a client or at home depending on the day or even the time of day.”

With a virtual phone system, Paul’s business gets the same fancy features he would if he had invested a couple grand for a high-tech, high-maintenance phone system but neither he nor his staff is tied to their desks.  Instead, they’re able to manage their extensions, call forwarding and voicemails from anywhere in the world, via a web-based dashboard and for a fraction of the cost those fortune 500 companies pay.

Everything you need in a phone system for less money? Yes, please.

The way things are headed, pretty soon everything will be in the cloud. But for a small business that's always looking to improve, there's no reason to wait until everybody's doing it. Between better data management, better message management and cost savings, moving your phone system to the cloud can make your small business operate more smoothly and for a lot less.

What's your biggest challenge with your current phone system? Could moving to the cloud help resolve it?