cloud voice hosted voip

Cloud voice: a guide to VoIP phone systems and virtual landlines

Cloud voice (VoIP phone systems) offer a range of features which traditional phone lines can’t, and can be MUCH cheaper.

If your existing phone system is coming to the end of its working life, or if you are setting up new premises, then now is the time to consider a cloud voice system and the benefits of having a virtual landline brings. Traditional analogue phone lines haven’t really changed for decades, so commissioning a system based on old technology would be rather like equipping your sales team with a fleet of 1970s Ford Cortinas!

In any case, the planned switch-off date for ISDN is 2025, so many businesses need to start thinking now about how they will transition to VoIP.

What does ‘Cloud voice’ mean?

Cloud voice is another term for Hosted VoIP (which stands for Voice over Internet Protocol), where all your phone calls are made over the internet rather than a conventional phone line, and the entire control of the system is done via an online portal.

Hosted VoIP (cloud voice) vs On-premises VoIP

If you are considering VoIP, then you first need to understand the difference between the two alternatives:

On-premises VoIP

If you have an existing phone system in your organisation which you want to retain, then you may want to consider connecting this to the phone network using SIP trunking. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol, and in short connects your on-site exchange (PBX) to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) via the internet. Unfortunately in telecoms there are lots of acronyms! If you’d like a real person to explain things, please contact us now.

The disadvantage of this approach is that you still have to maintain that equipment on-site, and any problems you encounter with it could cause telephone outages which could damage your business and its reputation.

Hosted VoIP

This moves all of the infrastructure, except the handsets themselves, into the cloud, hence the term ‘cloud voice’. Control of the system configuration is all done via an online portal.

The principal benefits are:

  • Lower call costs – as well as free calls between different sites, you’ll also benefit from inclusive call packages to UK landlines and mobiles from many operators.
  • Features controlled at the touch of a button – from wherever you are, you can make changes, re-route calls, etc
  • Disaster recovery – with no on-site equipment except handsets, you can quickly be up and running elsewhere in the event of fire, flood, snow, etc.
  • Any numbers you want – because the system is no longer liked to a physical copper wire, you have cut the geographical link between phone system and telephone number. So you could be using an Edinburgh telephone number in an office based in Bristol.
  • Flexibility – staff working on the move or at home can use mobile apps, desktop apps or even take their handset with them, and still be part of the same phone system.
  • Great for multi-site businesses – calls can be routed seamlessly across sites, so that if somebody is on the line at one site a call could automatically divert to another user in a completely different part of the country (or the world!)
  • Minimal setup costs – with no on-site PBX then there is no investment required in equipment. In addition, many hosted voip phone system providers offer free or low-cost handsets when you sign up to a contract (eg 3 years).

Which cloud voice system?

There are a number of different systems out there, all of which it’s fair to say offer a similar range of features. Having researched BT Cloud Voice, Daisy HV.Select, 3CX, eve and a number of others, we decided to specialise in the cloud voice system offered by Gamma – Horizon.

We chose Gamma because of the reliability of their network and the quality of the product. In truth, with a bit of programming you can set up your own ‘do it yourself’ cloud voice system – and some systems out there can be little better than this. If it’s really cheap, then it’s cheap for a reason.

Gamma has multiple data centres across the UK, and supports millions of business users worldwide. Although it’s a name many businesses haven’t yet heard of, they have taken lots of business away from BT over the past few years on the basis of their world-leading call controller platform (using Broadsoft which is owned by Cisco). As well as offering cloud voice, Gamma also has a range of broadband products to ensure a stable internet connection and a support team 24/7.

cloud voice voip systems

What features should you expect in a cloud voice (hosted VoIP) system?

The following features are core to the Gamma Horizon system. We’re using these as examples as this is the system we know best, but most of the leading systems offer a similar list (which isn’t exhaustive, so ask us if there’s something specific you’re interested in). If you’d like us to go through these in more detail with you over the phone, or you’d like a demonstration at your company’s premises then please contact us.

Web interface

For individual users, it’s good to be able to easily view call history, voicemail, recorded calls or set diverts, out of office, etc. Whilst many of these features can be controlled via a handset, some users may prefer doing this via an online interface.

Administrator interface

Some of our clients like to have access to the admin interface so that they can quickly make changes to call groups, call routing, or view information on calls made and received. We find, however, that most clients like us to look after it for them!

Call statistics

With a cloud voice system you can quickly and easily see who called who, when, for how long, whether or not the call was answered, etc. You can filter by incoming and outgoing calls, by internal or external calls and by user.

Auto attendants

Where you are fielding a higher volume of calls or don’t have a dedicated receptionist, then auto attendants (eg ‘Press 1 for sales, 2 for Service…’) allow you to route calls to the right users quickly and efficiently. You can also use this functionality to tell callers your opening hours or direct them to information on your website.

Call groups

There are lots of ways you can use call groups to route calls. You can distribute and allocate calls to different people, in different orders, and via the portal rapidly change this routing to suit current staff availability.

Call recording

The ability to record calls is vital for some businesses, whilst for others it can ensure higher levels of customer service. Being able to easily search for and find a call recording is vital.

Voicemail & email notification

With voicemail messages stored in the cloud, there are no limitations to the number of voicemail boxes you can have – so you could have voicemails for individual users, but also for departments or other groups. As well as being accessible from phones (either within the system or remotely via a voice portal), it’s also useful to have these automatically emailed with a sound file attached to the email. Great for employees on the move.

Number choice

Any direct dial numbers can be allocated to individual users, groups or sites, regardless of where they are in the country. So Manchester callers can call their local number but in fact the call is being handled in another office. Via the online portal this can quickly be changed and-reallocated at the click of a mouse.

Music on hold

It’s good to be able to easily change music on hold to suit the site or time of year.

Call barring

Nuisance or unwanted calls can be barred via the portal so that the call never reaches a user’s phone.

Authorisation codes

You may wish to control access to phone using authorisation codes, or assign call costs to specific cost centres by using account codes.

Soft clients/apps

A cloud voice user account is no longer linked to a physical copper phone line, so it can be accessed via an app on a mobile phone or on a desktop computer. So users can call from their mobile but present their office number, ideal if you don’t to show that you are calling from a mobile or don’t wish clients to have access to the number.

Integration with desktop software

Linking Microsoft Outlook© or a web browser to the phone system allows users to see a caller’s contact details on their screen before they answer the call, and to use click to dial functionality so that one click on a number in a web browser automatically dials that number on the phone.

Receptionist console

For receptionists handling a higher volume of incoming calls, a desktop console can make their lives much easier. They can control incoming calls to multiple sites (even though they are not physically there), drag and drop call transfers and quickly access directory contracts to transfer inside and outside the organisation.

Range of handset options

Different cloud voice systems generally use specific handset manufacturers. We chose Gamma Horizon because it’s compatible with Polycom, Cisco and Yealink handsets, as well as the fact that we can fund these new handsets so that upfront costs can be kept to an absolute minimum.

Management reporting

As well as basic call statistics, you may require additional reporting in real time so to ensure that calls are being handled correctly. Horizon works with Akixi, which allows you to track critical call statistics like waiting time, percentage of lost and abandoned calls, whether or not a call was returned, etc.

VoIP Phone Systems – the benefits of Business Continuity

Many businesses have a range of insurance policies to cover them for different risk to their business, such as key person insurance, cybercrime insurance or fire and flood cover, but don’t think about how a voip phone system could also provide insurance. How soon could you be up and running if your on-site PBX breaks down, your site is damaged by fire and flood, or a nearby contractor working on the road cuts your phone or electricity lines?

The benefit of cloud voice solutions is that you can be up and running almost immediately. Because the system itself is hosted in the cloud, any outage in a network or data centre will transfer over automatically to another server. But what if this happens locally in your business?

  • One option is to pre-programme numbers to divert to when a handset ceases to register on the network. So if a person unplugs their phone, calls can be instantly rerouted to a specified number (eg another number within the system, a landline or even a mobile). This can work at a site level as well, so a complete system failure locally (eg due to a power cut) can lead to the automatic re-routing of calls to mobiles which don’t require power (unless their batteries are low!)
  • In other instances, employees could relocate off-site or work from home and calls taken in a variety of ways (all of these are available with Horizon):
    • Have all calls to the user’s extension ‘twinned’ to another phone (their home phone, or a mobile), so that the twinned phone rings simultaneously;
    • Use an android or iOS app to make and receive calls on a mobile;
    • Use a desktop app to make and receive calls via a computer;

In this way, you have an ‘insurance policy’ which ensure that calls can be made and received as soon as possible after you’ve experienced a catastrophic event. Reconnecting downed phone lines in a storm or reconnecting electricity can take days or even weeks; using cloud voice solutions you could literally be up and running in minutes.

Call savings with Cloud Voice

If you receive a lot of calls but make very few than cost savings will not be as great as for companies who make lots of calls. This is because the cost of renting analogue lines isn’t significantly different per line than the per user cost of a VoIP user licence. The difference is that, if outgoing calls are included in that licence, somebody who makes a lots of calls has a fixed cost. If they call mobiles a lot then the savings can be even greater.


If you are considering a cloud voice / hosted voip phone system, then you’ll need to do lots of research. It’s good to have an understanding of how the technology works but it isn’t essential. What is required is a good understanding of how your employees, customers and suppliers communicate with each other and how your voip phone system can make that process as simple as possible.

If anything in this guide has been helpful or if you’ve got further questions, then we’d be happy to have a chat with you. Just give us a call if you’d like to know more.