You knew you would regret it if you tried to fix your business phone system without help from Fred, the guy who usually comes, but you were feeling good this morning and decided to try it anyway. Of course, you ended up exactly where you thought you might: at your conference table, surrounded by a forest of useless instructions and facing a phone that won’t stop beeping at you no matter how much you hammer at the keypad.
Defeated, you call Fred for backup. You use your cell phone.
It might be stating the obvious to say that most phone systems are difficult to work with. They are often antiquated; purchased a decade ago by people who hadn’t realized that the system would be outmoded in five years with no hope for an update down the line. That old axiom, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might work in discussions about whether to buy a fancy new toaster or high-tech showerhead, but it certainly doesn’t apply to outdated and frustrating phone systems, many of which are in dire need of an update.
Moreover, when a phone does break, the process of fixing it can be just as onerous as installing a new unit. More often than not, a specially-trained technician will need to be paid to come and repair the tech. Phones are some of the most-abused technology in an office, and I’ve learned from uncomfortable experience that those technician fees stack up quickly.
But setting up or fixing a phone system doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, all I needed to do to set up my last phone was plug the new unit into a power jack and connect to the office’s Internet.
I use Meraki phones.
Meraki phones operate on a secure cloud-based system and prioritize the consumer’s peace of mind. In part, their ease of use is due to their SIP (Session-Initiated Protocol) architecture. When setting up traditional systems, technicians like Fred have to build connective circuits in order to link the phones in one location to those in another.
Imagine it this way: a company’s differing locations are like upright columns scattered throughout an otherwise empty room. In order to connect them, Fred has to run a length of red yarn from each column to every other column. Once he finishes, each column has a connective line to all of the others – but the room is now covered in a confusing web of red yarn, and Fred is sitting on the floor, exhausted. You can imagine how confusing and labor-intensive it would be to add even one more column, let alone several!
SIP architecture is refreshingly simple in contrast. Think of a SIP-based system as a wide-branching tree, with each of its branches representing a business location. Neither Fred nor his red yarn is required to link the branches, because every offshoot shares a connection with the trunk. In this metaphor, the Internet serves as a centralized connective “trunk” that enables easy communication without the confusion and labor required by a traditional system.
Moreover, because the system is based in the cloud, the geographical and logistical complications that plague on-site systems are nearly moot. Meraki is constantly updating, giving out new features, and providing monthly security patches – so your system stays brand new and up-to-date the whole time you own it, without any pricy visits from a service technician.
Plus, all of the system’s information can be accessed through the Meraki Dashboard, which acts as a user portal to preferences and data. With Dashboard, clients can log in to change extensions, voicemail, and easily add in extra features such as overhead paging – all without help! These changes can be made at any time, regardless of when the system was installed.
If your businesses has multiple office locations, you can even use Dashboard’s controls to choose where you want your phone to be listed as calling from. For example, sometimes I need to represent my North-Carolina-based company, HitsTech when I’m away on a business trip. Rather than dial from a personal or hotel phone and confuse my clients with an unfamiliar number, I can pack up my business phone unit and set my offsite location and extension to match my usual onsite information. All it takes is a power outlet, an Internet connection, and a few quick keystrokes.
This is all well and good, you may say, but if this Internet-phone-system-thing is so great, why haven’t I heard of it before?
Let me preface this by noting that given a little time, Internet-based phones will revolutionize the way business communication is conducted. Meraki isn’t the first company to offer this type of system, but it is the first to offer such a well-tailored product.
In the spirit of full disclosure: The first iteration of the Meraki system flopped. However, the slow start was not caused by any concerns over quality; instead, consumers were put off because its initial system was too basic. They wanted easy access to sophisticated features such as overhead paging, call waiting, and conference bridging – and Meraki listened. Using the foundation of a basic phone system, the company designed a new iteration of their product that was tailored to the needs of its consumers. Even today, Meraki continues to explore updates to improve their technology into exactly what its consumers in business want.
We use a Meraki phone system in our offices at HitsTech, and have been in support of the system since it began. It just hit me one day: When pitched against the costs and drawbacks of traditional systems, Meraki wins every time for those in small business.
Putting the competent nature of the product itself aside, installing Meraki phones makes financial sense. While the initial overhead cost is a bit more than a traditional system, I’ve crunched the long-term numbers and found that the Meraki license and included continuous updates makes the system much cheaper than its conventional competitors when viewed on a five- or even ten-year timeline. Plus, if you have a Meraki license and your phone dies or breaks, the company will replace it for free!
Of course, the system has its downfalls. As of now, the company has only rolled out one type of phone – and while I find that it ably meets all of HitsTech’s needs, it may not be suitable for all business ventures. For instance, I could see those in local government or public works struggling to adapt Meraki’s more corporate-oriented features to their needs. However, I fully expect that more versatile systems will enter the market after a few years of research and development.
Quirks and temporary limitations aside, Meraki has the best system on the market, and will likely hold that honor for the next ten years. Once the technology catches on, it has the potential to fully revolutionize the methodology of business communication. After all, would you rather spend your time glaring at your beeping, broken, frustrating phone and wait for Fred to save your sanity – or never have the problem in the first place?
Phone systems don’t have to be stressful. For ease of access and a client-friendly design, invest in a Meraki phone for your small business.