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Cloud Calling: How Does It Work?

This is the fifth post in a series on WebEx Calling.

Previous posts:
What is WebEx Calling?

Is a Cloud-Based Phone Solution Right for You?
How Much Does WebEx Calling Cost?
5 Benefits of Cloud Calling

Join Our Upcoming Webinar
Join us for a WebEx Calling webinar on Thursday, January 28th! We will be talking about the 5 ways WebEx Calling can make your workday more productive. Register here.

The beauty of cloud calling’s design is its simplicity.

No on-premise phone system equipment. No telephone company circuit or phone lines. Everything is in the cloud, and all you need is an internet-enabled device.

With cloud calling you have the option of using a desk phone, or opting to use your desktop, laptop, or mobile device as your phone. All the options work well—it’s purely a matter of what works best for you in your environment.  

If you’re using a desk phone, it’s essentially a computer that looks like a phone. It needs to be plugged into your computer network to draw power and get internet access.

When first powered on, it will reach out to the cloud calling site over the internet and configure itself. Upon final startup, it is ready to go just like any previous phone you’ve used.

If you choose the desktop or mobile device option, then you will need to install an app.  Once you log in, the app becomes your phone—allowing you to make and receive calls, check voicemail, or message other users.   

So how does the calling part actually work? 

First, the phone numbers that you have assigned to your business are moved to the cloud calling platform and that’s where they're terminated.  The key here is that the cloud is now your phone system, and your desk phone or app connects to the system over the internet. 

When you make a call, it’s sent over the internet to the cloud calling server and then to the final destination from there. Likewise, inbound calls come into the cloud calling server and are re-directed to the appropriate user, ringing their device. 

The only caveat is that cloud calling requires internet to work, but this system is very simple and robust.

Additional Reading:
7 Tips to Keep Your Cisco WebEx Meetings Secure
Cisco Headset Series 700 Review (Video)
Cisco Webex Teams or Microsoft Teams?

5 Benefits of Cloud Calling

Cloud calling was once a niche market, but nowadays is offered by just about every major voice vendor. Some have even staked everything they have on it and shifted their entire portfolio to a cloud offering. Others maintain solutions that are still on-premise, or in the cloud, or some kind of hybrid where they can work together. Cloud calling offers many benefits.

This is the fourth post in a series on WebEx Calling.

Previous posts:
What is WebEx Calling?

Is a Cloud-Based Phone Solution Right for You?
How Much Does WebEx Calling Cost?

Join Our Upcoming Webinar
Join us for a WebEx Calling webinar on Tuesday, January 28th! We will be talking about the 5 ways WebEx Calling can make your workday more productive. Register here.

Here are 5 major benefits of cloud calling:

No More Phone Equipment in Your Office

Remember the days when your phone system took up a bunch of space in your computer room or even a dedicated closet? With cloud calling, all that gear goes away. 

All you need is a phone that can talk over the internet—or an app on your computer or cell phone—and you are up and running. All your existing phone numbers get ported to the cloud. The only thing you’re reliant on is a good internet connection, and most of us have either a backup or can use our mobile phone in a pinch.  

Connect From Anywhere

The real beauty of cloud calling is that it’s every you want to be. 

Have internet? Cloud calling works. Choose your device, launch the app, and you’re good to go. 

You can work from the office without being in the office. It’s highly productive and very convenient.  

Web-Based Management Tools

Cloud calling is easy to manage. That’s really all you need to know. 

You don’t need to be an IT specialist to operate the phone system any more. Just log in to the portal to add and change users at your discretion, on the fly.

No Annual Maintenance Fees

If you have an on-premise phone system, you’re most likely paying for an annual support agreement. This is essentially an extended warranty that protects you in the event of an equipment failure. 

With cloud calling there is no equipment to fail, so you don’t need this. You’ll see some annual cost savings when you make the move.

Subscription Based

Cloud calling is always subscription based, making it easy to get into with low up front costs. Generally, you’ll pay a monthly fee for your number of users and specific feature sets. 

However, it’s not uncommon to buy new phones with the new service. Your old phones probably won’t work unless they are fairly new (about 1-2 years old). Even then, most cloud calling options will only work with certain models, which might be a limiting factor. 

Many vendors are willing to build the cost of new phones into the monthly subscription to lower the entry barrier. 

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us! We’re happy to help.

How to Choose a SIP Provider 

So many applications and services are moving to the cloud these days.  One that we are seeing frequently is with our clients’ chosen PSTN providers. 

SIP has been around for 20 years now, but has been really getting traction in the last 5 years. It started when incumbent carriers, such as AT&T, decided to stop selling PRI services and only deliver SIP.  They might still give you a PRI hand-off for your phone system, but it’s delivered over SIP and converted to a PRI circuit at your location.   

The majority of our clients have made the shift to SIP services for dial-tone in some form, but now more and more of them are moving to cloud based calling. This sometimes requires them to change their existing SIP service. 

Generally, the best time to switch is when the existing SIP contract is set to terminate. If you have a few months left, you’re in a good position to change. If you have a couple of years left, it’s likely that the contract will have major penalties for leaving early, which is enough to make you think about waiting.  

When the time comes, how do you choose a SIP provider? Here are some things to consider:

Is Your Phone System On-Premise or Cloud-Based?

If you intend to keep an on-premise phone system, we recommend sticking with a local provider that can provide you a fiber based internet and SIP over the top service. This means they're terminating a fiber grade circuit to your facility, providing you bundled Internet and SIP service on the same circuit (or at least on the same fiber—some break it out as two separate circuits).   

If you decide to move to the cloud, you can consider cloud-based SIP providers instead. There are many to choose from, with a variety of features available.

Make Sure Your SIP Provider is Supported By Your Phone System

To choose the right SIP provider, you have to know which cloud-based phone system you are going with.

For example, Cisco Webex Calling supports specific cloud PSTN providers, but not all of them. Others rely on their own service, so you don’t have a choice of provider for your dial-tone. 

There is a strong argument for owning and maintaining control of your phone numbers and through a separate SIP provider instead of handing them over to the same company providing your phone system services. The reason is that it gives you flexibility in changing phone systems, and gives you leverage if needed. Your phone numbers are how your clients know to reach you, and should be considered intellectual property that you maintain control over.   

WebEx Calling has a feature called “Bring Your Own SIP Provider” that lets you to keep your existing carrier on-premise at your location. It just requires a voice gateway to make the connection between your existing provider and the WebEx Calling cloud.

Can Your SIP Provider Terminate Directly To Your Cloud Calling Provider?

As much as possible, you do not want your phone calls hairpinning back through your on-premise facility.

Hairpinning is when a user makes a phone call that goes out to the cloud calling provider over your internet connection, then the call is routed back to your facility over your internet connection to hit your local voice gateway, then the voice gateway routes the call back out over the internet again to your SIP provider. This creates a 2-3 second delay that can be very frustrating.

By choosing a SIP provider that can terminate directly to your cloud calling provider, you eliminate this problem.

Features & Pricing

SIP provider pricing ranges from $3-8/user, depending on selected features and also the size of the provider. Small SIP providers offer low prices but don’t have a robust infrastructure. Large SIP providers offer stability, low latency, and lots of features but at a higher price. There are also low-cost carriers who specialize in basic dial-tone with no other features.

Most providers offer unlimited plans for domestic calls. Knowing your usage will help you determine the best package for your needs. Do all of your users need unlimited calling? Some carriers allow you to pool your minutes together as another option.

Additional features to consider are things like:

  • SMS (texting)
  • Inbound faxing (yes, people still use this, surprisingly)
  • Enhanced 911 capabilities
  • DID or public number requirements

Each of these add a little more to the total cost.

Another option to consider is a cloud SIP provider with an on-premise phone system. This requires an investment in a voice gateway that can make the connection, but the the main decision is choosing a stable provider with the features you need. On-premise systems that don’t have current software generally cannot take advantage of some of the newer features available (like SMS), but most of our clients who choose this option do so strictly to reduce dial-tone costs, not to get more features.

Explore Your Options

Changing SIP providers is a cumbersome process that can take months to complete, and choosing a good provider can be tricky. It’s important to do your research so you don’t end up with a provider that doesn’t offer good service or is incompatible with your phone system. Taking your time to explore all the options and assess your needs will give your choice a greater chance of success.

If we can help you in any way, please feel free to reach out!

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