I recently came across an blog post that I thought was timely. I asked Aundraya Ruse, Editorial Coordinator of Software Advice if I could include Kelly Lindner's article in my blog and she agreed. I addresses a question that I am frequently asked: Can't I just run my business on my Smartphone? I would argue that using Ring Central or Google Voice as a cloud based PBX is risky, but we have many customers using our phone systems to suppport "mobility clients" (Smart phones as extensions off the system).
What to Consider if You Want to Run Your Business on a Smartphone
If you’re among the 45 percent of Americans with a smartphone, chances are that you use it for everything from checking work emails to looking up movie times. And with smartphones adding functionality to them all the time, many are replacing other devices (e.g. iPods) with their smartphones. But could you run an entire company directly from your smartphone? The answer: It depends.
In any case, there’s a lot to consider before you consolidate your business phone systems into a smartphone. For instance, what if you want more than one employee to be responsible for responding to your company number? Or, how exactly do you handle call recording, phone routing and other services traditionally associated with a landline?
A recent article by Kelly Lindner, contributor to Software Advice -- a research firm that evaluates software systems -- breaks down a few of the key considerations for those contemplating using smartphones to run their company. Here are a few takeaways.
Decide if You Should Run on a PBX
If you’re a startup in the early stages (say, one to three employees) your smartphone network is likely sufficient to run operations. However, if you’re bigger than three employees, you can quickly max out the capacity of your network. In this case, it’s better to get a virtual private branch exchange (PBX)--a call routing and management service that can direct calls straight to employee smartphones. If you go with this approach, one employee’s number is would be the main line, and other employees would provide their numbers to customers as needed.
Or, companies can use a service like RingCentral or Google Voice to provide a main line, that routes callers to individual smartphones using employee extensions. As an added bonus, when an employee calls from their mobile phone, these PBX systems will show the main line on recipient's caller ID. Some Cloud-based services also offer call recording, voice transcription and other business-focused services.
The Benefits of Running on a Smartphone
One of the primary benefits of using your smartphone for business is customer access. If employees can respond to customers regardless of their location, customers are less likely to wait on hold or wait for a message to be returned.
“Having a landline tied us to a specific location and was presenting a barrier to connecting with clients. … Now we don't have to run back to the office to check messages,” said Stuart Randell, a virtual PBX user and head of business strategy at Code & Company Inc.
Of course, there are also benefits to employees. They get to use the they’re most familiar and comfortable with. Beyond that, there are often cost savings compared with traditional VoIP systems.
The Costs of Running on a Smartphone
But these benefits carry some costs as well. One of the biggest downsides of a mobile workforce that relies on smartphones is the limited battery life of they carry. We’ve all forgotten to charge our phones before a big trip and found ourselves out of the loop. Employees are no different and it’s possible that a simple slip of the mind could result in their phone being dead when an important call comes in.
Beyond that, cell networks are not always reliable and voice quality (in any condition) can be fickle. This connectivity issue can turn into an even bigger obstacle in the unlikely event of a natural disaster. While these issues are unlikely to surface, and difficult to plan for, they’re important to consider if you have a business that relies heavily on phone communications.
What advantages and disadvantages do you see with using PBX-enabled smartphones? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Granite Communications, Inc.
For someone in need of a new business telephone system, it would certainly seem logical that if there were more than one separate organization involved - if, for example, a landlord was providing communications for multiple tenants - an independent phone system solution would be required for each company.
That is not necessarily the case, though. I am currently working on a project for a multi-tenant medical facility in which all of the tenants are controlled by their affiliated hospital. As such, the hospital is responsible for accomodating each tenant's communications needs (telephone lines, business phone system, voicemail, etc.). Rather than forcing the hospital to acquire separate and disparate phone systems for each of their practices, I was able to easily design a solution which takes advantage of the capabilities of a single system to meet the needs of all tenants concurrently.
There is a great deal of flexibility in the way that telephone systems can be programmed. Because each individual telephone line coming into a system can be told to route its calls to a completely different location than those of another telephone line, this allows the freedom to create separate groups of extensions, with each group representing a completely different company. Just because there are 9 telephone lines (for example) feeding the phone system, that does not mean that they are all accesible by every extension on the system. Similarly, a centralized voicemail system can be accessible by any extension on the same system, so that any of the companies (or groups of extensions, from the phone system's perspective) can have access, and as long as there are enough mailboxes to cover all of the extensions, no additional voicemail is required.
Returning to my medical facility scenario, I was able to use the exact model that I just described. There are to be three separate medical practices all inhabiting the same geographical area of a building, each with three telephone lines of their own, and roughly 10 extensions...so I will provide them with a single, centrally located, PBX telephone system, with ONE internal voicemail card. So long as I equip the system with the capacity to accept 9 telephone lines, 30 telephones, and enough mailboxes in the voicemail for all users, the rest will be left up to our expert technicians! They just need to make sure that the telephone lines for each practice are separated from one another and that those lines will access ONLY those extensions corresponding to the same practice.
So, if you are a landlord, a property manager, or even just have a neighbor that you want to share a phone system with, it may be a lot easier than you thought.