What Is a Cloud Communications Platform?
A cloud communications platform is a SaaS application that uses the internet rather than a PSTN. There’s still a PBX or VoIP server involved, but it’s maintained off-site by the cloud provider who also handles all the time and knowledge intensive system maintenance and software updates. Cloud communications provides you with real-time communications and collaboration tools like voice, video, instant messaging, presence, collaboration, conferencing, and more.
With a cloud communications platform, connecting with customers and fellow employees is effortless and easy — enabling any size of business to seamlessly integrate communication and collaboration functionality into their organization without needing to build their own telephony infrastructure.
With a traditional PSTN connection, many layers of technology and infrastructure are required to route an incoming call to the correct person. Once the technology and infrastructure are in place, significant logistics planning is still required to ensure the call gets to the right person — costing a lot of money, time, and effort to build and support complex IT systems. In comparison, with a cloud communications platform all the complexity of switching, storage, security, and routing, is handled by the cloud provider, removing the burden from the service provider and their small and medium business (SMBs) customers.
Businesses get more out of their IT investments and increase agility with a cloud communication platform. Rather than using valuable resources to build in-house expertise, a cloud communications platform allows a business to access the benefits of highly scalable and cost-effective solutions through the cloud.
Why Is Cloud Communications Important? (5 Vital Reasons)
Cloud communication and collaboration solutions offer a greater range of functionality, immediate gains, and long-term benefits that on-premises solutions can’t keep up with. The inherent flexibility future-proofs your business communications by integrating real-time communications (voice, video, instant messaging, presence, collaboration, and conferencing) with your non-real time applications (office landlines, PSTN, voicemail and more).
- Advanced Features. With cloud communications, new software updates are automatically distributed through multiple channels like desktop and mobile. This ensures end users always have the latest security updates, compliance measures, and next-gen technology — without the need for intervention and maintenance from their service provider.
- Remote Deployment and Provisioning. Best-in-class cloud solutions have a completely hands-off experience for IT, which means there’s no need to coordinate multi-location deployments, giving you back valuable time to focus on internal initiatives.
- Interoperability and Integration. Proven interoperability removes the need for providers to complete an in-depth analysis of their customers’ infrastructures to ensure compatibility. Easy integration also ensures that the cloud communications solution will integrate with mission critical applications as end users add additional business tools in future.
- Reduced Upfront and Ongoing Costs. Cloud communication solutions require little or no new hardware to get a customer up and running. The absence of extensive hardware demands makes it far easier to sell to your customers by removing any CAPEX barriers, lowering costs for you and your customers.
- Scalable. Cloud communications solutions are typically priced per seat or per license. By selecting a solution that lets providers scale seats as needed, they can easily adapt when customers’ needs change. This is particularly beneficial for providers whose end users have seasonal fluctuations, where the number of additional licenses needs to scale up or down at a moment’s notice.
2021 Cloud Communications Survey (4 SMB Insights & Trends)
To help you understand the cloud a little better, let’s take a look at the 2021 Independent Research Cloud Communications survey, which provides insights into SMB cloud communications trends and buying plans and is intended to help providers identify potential customer requirements and market opportunities.
1. COVID Accelerated Adoption of Cloud Communications
Businesses of all sizes and across all verticals were impacted by the early events of COVID-19 pandemic. In response, many organizations rapidly embraced a digital transformation and adopted cloud services. SMBs and enterprises leveraged the flexibility of cloud communications to accelerate the pace of business, improve productivity, and support the shift to work-from-home.
With the rise of mobile devices used for work, remote workforces, the demand for a more cost-effective communications infrastructure has accelerated the pace that SMBs and enterprises seeking accessible software solutions from their service provider. In fact, 70% of SMBs increased the use of existing collaboration solutions during the pandemic.*
Given employees have become more nomadic out of necessity to sustain working during a pandemic, they need access to consistent tools when they are away from their desks. However, fewer than half of respondents found their existing communications capabilities adequate for work from home (WFH) — creating substantial opportunities for enterprising ISPs, MSOs, and telcos to win back old customers and secure net-new business.
2. Voice Still Vital in Cloud Communications
The pandemic demonstrated how collaboration capabilities like video calling and screen sharing can help break down distance barriers, prevent employee isolation, and improve worker productivity. Let’s take a look at how a cloud communications platform can help overcome these issues:
• Preventing Isolation. The always-on, always-connected features of unified communications tools allow colleagues throughout the business to reach out to one another, no matter where each party works. For organizations that relied heavily on in-person communications, the abrupt shift to working from home left employees struggling to stay engaged, maintain (let alone exceed) in-person productivity, or hold ad-hoc conversations to address tasks, problems, and opportunities. This led to the sense of isolation and loss of comradery from the removal of in-person engagement, with 80% of US employees feel stressed due to ineffective company communication.
In comparison, organizations with modern collaboration tools such as team messaging and video conferencing enabled virtual workers to communicate, engage, connect more effectively than those using only traditional collaboration staples like phone systems, audio conference bridges, and email.
- Improve Productivity. While it’s obvious that collaboration and communication tools have always been important, the shift to work-from-home caught many organizations by surprise and demonstrated that we took in-person communication for granted. IT leaders participating in Nemertes research studies say that their biggest challenge in supporting work-from-home has been in managing remote workers, with almost 48% of companies indicating a substantial reduction in productivity. Without the advantage of in-person communication, organizations that hadn’t previously optimized their internal and external communication solutions struggled. Cloud communications enables workers to be more responsive and connected “anytime, anywhere” employees. Employee productivity increases 20–25% in organizations where employees are connected. Meaning SMBs will be seeking out communication and collaboration solutions to take advantage of the significant benefits.
- Breaking Down Communication Barriers. Communication barriers widen in distributed environments where geographical distance can insulate departments and individuals who need to work in lockstep. Businesses are reducing their need to hold in-person meetings by an average of 30% by communicating using collaboration tools. SMBs and enterprises are opting to host less hardware on-premises, increasingly diverting more budget dollars to cloud apps and platforms — and phone and communication systems are no exception.
What Is Cloud Voice?
Cloud voice is a virtualized phone system that is hosted through the internet. Rather than needing to have a large computer (server) in the office to store and share files, all the computing, storage networking, and application resources are enabled through the internet. A cloud voice system enables businesses to leverage all the functionality of an office-based system, but with the addition of flexibility, advanced technology, and frequency cost savings.
3. Proven Market Need for Business Text Messaging
Business Text Messaging enables your SMB customers to reach their end-users where they spend the most time — on their smartphones.
Most SMBs surveyed view business text messaging as a valuable customer communications channel: 82% of respondents said they use or are interested in using business text messaging.*
As a SaaS application, it allows SMBs to use their local, toll-free, or VoIP phone numbers to send and receive SMS and MMS messages. SMBs can easily resolve customer inquiries, send reminders, promote events, automate common responses, and more — all from the business phone number their customers already know and trust.
Business text messaging is the ideal solution for any business that seeks to streamline inbound and outbound communications. Service providers can target a wide range of industry verticals to meet SMB needs with ease, including retail, education, professional services, manufacturing, hospitality and more.
Many consumers not only prefer text messages to phone calls for short exchanges but also prefer companies that offer text messaging as a communication channel. In fact, almost 63% of consumers would switch to a company that offers it,* which means SMBs and enterprises are seeking out text message solutions to meet their customers’ expectations — creating a substantial market opportunity for providers.
4. SMBs Prefer a Single Cloud Communications Provider
In the 2021 Independence Research, SMB Cloud Communications survey, the vast majority of respondents (83%) said they prefer to obtain voice services and collaboration services from a single provider.* More SMBs prefer to add collaboration services to their existing voice services rather than the other way around. This provides a sizeable opportunity for CSPs and voice providers by adding UC&C offerings to their portfolios. Adding collaboration services with an existing service provider has substantial benefits for both parties:
Service Provider Benefits
- Increase Stickiness. The preference for SMBs to purchase their services from a singular provider creates customer stickiness and improves customer long-term value. All-inclusive communication solutions have predictable monthly costs and are easily bundled with existing solutions suite.
- Easy to Launch. Mature cloud-based voice solutions don’t require a white glove approach from a provider to create an exceptional customer experience. Remote deployment means less IT support and less effort to launch SMB customers.
- Expanded Footprint. Reach new customers by offering voice solutions outside your broadband or voice footprint.
- Decrease Downtime. For businesses in which voice quality is critical, cloud communications provide redundancy. Call routing is in the cloud, so whether there’s a network failure or a natural disaster, calls can be forwarded instantly so you don’t miss anything.
- Reduced Costs. The setup costs for on-premises phone systems can start at $20,000. On the other hand, cloud phone systems can be as low as $0. Eliminating most of the traditional phone system hardware requirements is enticing for SMB customers.
- Enhanced Functionality. Cloud phone solutions hold a natural advantage in the business communications ecosystem. Because a cloud system is delivered through an internet connection instead of a copper wire phone line, the voice features aren’t limited to the type of server and number of ports available through an in-office system.
Many of the changes brought on by the pandemic are here to stay and will have long-lasting impacts on SMB needs and market opportunities for service providers. CSPs and voice providers looking to future-proof their product offerings and retain end users should seek out a mature, full-stack cloud communications partner.
To learn more about how a cloud communications platform can increase revenue, automate end customer onboarding and management, talk to an Alianza representative today.