For over 10-years, hosted VoIP providers (initially Vonage & 8x8) have been telling small businesses that "the cloud" (their broadband DSL or cable Internet connection) can host their phone service so they can abandon their expensive local phone company lines and save money.
The idea was fine when it was first proclaimed, but the actual phone equipment that small offices needed to work "with the cloud" did not have all the features required like intercom, music on hold, cordless handsets, etc.
Panasonic's "Office Cloud Phones" to the Rescue?
For years Panasonic has been a phone equipment champion for small businesses. The phones are pretty inexpensive, fairly easy to install and easy to
Now Panasonic is rolling out a "Cloud Business Phone System" (the KX-TGP line) that is specifically designed to appeal to small retail shops and small professional businesses that can get by with a maximum of three phone lines and eight handsets.
If your big business is made up of a lot of small office locations that need more extensions than phone lines then you certainly will want to take a look at this solution.
Will they Work Separate From Panasonic's Phone Cloud?
That's really the $99 question (the base equipment price for each Panasonic KX-TGP phone station). Panasonic has plenty of similar phone equipment solutions that work with analogue phone company lines but the trick is to make these phones work over the business customer's existing Internet connection.
Actually, one more service must be purchased, the "phone service" itself, for this solution to work -- and of course Panasonic wants you to buy that $39 per month per line service from them - duh. But do you have to?
When the iPhone first came out you "had to" buy AT&T's wireless service for the iPhone to work (unless you could figure out how to doctor the iPhone up to work on non-AT&T wireless networks). The situation is the same with Panasonic's "cloud phones".
Panasonic certainly should be the first choice for the SIP phone service you need to make the service work but if you already can get SIP phone service from your existing provider then you'll want to see if you can get these cool phones to work with your current SIP phone service.
When you review the Panasonic "Cloud Phone' web page, it becomes immediately clear that that Panasonic's out of the box vision for this service is for it to work on a "BYOB" (bring your own broadband connection) basis without any QoS (quality of service).
This is probably fine for a florist office or restaurant with a strong Verizon FiOS fiber Internet connection but it will certainly not do for a small law firm operating on a DSL connection that they use all the time to send and receive large case files.
Large multi-location businesses that have small locations to serve will no doubt already have a hosted VoIP/SIP trunk business phone system solution in place on a private MPLS network that has QoS optimized for voice phone calls which will allow Panasonic's cloud phones to work without a hitch.
But will the phones work if you don not already have a MPLS network with QoS?
What Should You Do?
Call your local telecom agent or channel sales partner. If you don't already have one click here to find one. Hosted VoIP and SIP trunk business office phone systems working off of an existing broadband Internet connection DO WORK but they don't automatically work.
If clear and static free voice phone calls are a must for your business profitability, then you'll want a business phone service expert helping you implement a Panasonic "cloud phone system" or any cloud phone system.
Your local telecom agent will let you know which cloud phone systems are working well for his or her other customers and on which Internet connections -- and what to do to get it to work the way you need it to work.
The "If You Worked on it First" Caveat
Have you ever seen the sign posted in some repair shops that suggest the hourly repair rate is higher if "you worked on it first" -- meaning you made the repair even more expensive by trying to save money and not letting an "expert" solve your initial problem? That caveat certainly applies to cloud-based telephony.
The Panasonic phone line is especially appealing to "do-it-yourself" business owners. But buying a doi-it-yourself business cloud phone solution comes with inherent risks that "we do this for a living" phone guys are not going to want to fix for free.
Need an example of where you might end up? Click here to review an Amazon Panasonic review comment thread on these phones.
If you're comfortable with concepts like IP addessing, DHCP, VLANs and the like then charge ahead. If you're not, be advised that trouble shooting your self-inflicted problems out of your new "I installed it myself" cloud phone system might cost you about $125 dollars an hour -- with no guarantees!