Basic Types Of Small Business PBX Phone Systems
After reading this small business PBX phone systems article you may conclude that it makes the most sense to go with hosted PBX, and you might be right in many instances.
Many times the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return On Investment (ROI) are much better in both the short and long-run when using hosted small business PBX phone systems. Read on for the pros and cons of both types of the small office phone system.
What About Specific Small Business PBX Phone Systems Equipment?
If you’re looking for me to specifically recommend a brand of a PBX system, all I can say is there are more of them than grains of sands in the sea, and most of them are made overseas… Since I’ve got some Cisco certifications, I know Cisco is probably one of the best and the most expensive to buy and service. Avaya (now also Nortel), and Mitel are a good middle of the road systems and seem to have many good features and support around the USA.
IP “server-based” small business PBX phone systems like Asterix use open source software, so it can be somewhat less expensive, and also use generic IP handsets that can be somewhat less expensive as well.
Regarding hosted or virtual small business PBX phone systems options, read on оур investigation and recommendations. A hosted business phone system PBX can be a great way to go if you understand all the issues and its right for you.
We Have Four Basic Types of Business IP Phone Systems.
1. SOHO – 1 to 4 lines – Keeps existing analog handsets by using an ATA, or you can go with IP handsets too. Take a look at my SOHO page for specific recommendations.
2. Premise based IP PBX – Equipment at your site, uses SIP trunks which are basically internet phone lines to provide dial tone. It also requires good dedicated Internet access. Try to buy the SIP from the same provider that sells you the Internet access (generally a T1) – the “one throat to choke” business model is my favorite. Take a look at my SIP trunk article for specific recommendations.
3. Integrated Access T1 – You get to keep your old phone system. The VoIP is done by the service provider and you get the dial tone and internet over a single T1 connection. Very reliable and easy to deploy. Many of the benefits of VoIP and a few of the hassles. See my business phone packages article for more on this one. FYI – option #2 above is similar, except SIP is handed off to your PBX, instead of analog or digital phone service.
4. Hosted or Virtual PBX – You have only IP handsets at your site, the rest of the PBX is “in the cloud” on the Internet. Full features and very redundant, best for business continuity and recovery.
On-Premise Based IP PBX Pro’s and Con’s…
Pro – you get a local “phone guy” that takes care of all this. He comes, has some coffee and sets up or fixes any issues. Assuming he’s available when you need him, knows what he’s doing and doesn’t charge too much, this is what most businesses have been doing all along.
Pro – you can touch and feel the small business PBX phone systems equipment. It’s right there in your Telco room. Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the alternative, which is Hosted PBX, i.e.: no phone system, only IP handsets.
Con – You have to pay a local phone guy to take care of all this, the equipment has to be insured, can get hit by lightning, a power surge, stolen and eventually becomes obsolete if it survives all the foregoing.
Con – Even with an IP PBX, you may not be able to re-direct inbound calls on the fly in a disaster or during a business interruption. Nor will employees be able to make calls from home, unless they take their IP handsets home with them and the small business PBX phone systems set up to allow for this type of calling feature.
Hosted Phone System Pros and Cons
Pro – generally all support is included, many times the Internet access required is also included and can be used for regular internet access for the company. The only required hardware on-site is generally IP handsets, and perhaps some traffic shaping router stuff (a Magic Box) that is provided.
Pro – Complete disaster recovery and business continuity capabilities are inherent in most offerings since the equipment is “in the cloud”. Many options exist for ring back services, softphone calling from a PC and web-based management of call flow (re-directing to other extensions/phone numbers) after a disaster or location closure due to weather and so forth.
For instance, if the office has to close, employees can generally still keep working from home, as long as they have a PC with broadband internet access and at least a working cellular or landline telephone. Even if they don’t have a telephone, they might be able to use a “softphone” if one has been configured on their PC, they then make calls over their internet connection.
Pro – Voice mail can be received as E-mail, and then e-mailed to one or more people, being forwarded to the correct party for action if required, even outside the organization.
Features like ring groups (where all phones in a department or location ring), 3 or 4 digit extension dialing with no long-distance charges between branches are simply included with most hosted small business PBX phone systems, whereas making on-premises systems do some of this stuff can get expensive.
Pro – Hosted PBX service (from a quality provider) never breaks; it never goes down, unless your internet is down (for this reason we always recommend you to have a backup internet line.
Pro – Hosted PBX never needs to be replaced, it never needs to be patched, upgraded, nor does it become obsolete. This is due to the fact the service provider is fully managing the small business PBX phone systems equipment “in the cloud” sort of cloud computing for phone service if you will.
Other advantages of hosted VoIP are being able to get faxes as e-mail and also sometimes set the stage for Unified Communications (UC) within the organization, see the page on this for more.
Cons – Hard to think of many, other than it can be somewhat pricy if you are not considering that you don’t have a phone guy and a service contract anymore.
Con – The monthly price should include internet access if it doesn’t then you may have finger-pointing going on if and when you have a problem. So stick with bundled services if possible.
Con – When it goes down, it goes down hard. If your Internet goes down, you have no phone service, a big deal if you’re a business, so make sure you “leave a line” behind with the local phone company when you make your move to VoIP small business PBX phone systems
Con – Lots of providers are start-ups. Try to stick with hosted providers that have been around a while, and maybe even the publicly traded providers. These guys should be pretty stable financially.
Virtual Office Phone System
Last but not least is Virtual PBX, not technically a hosted PBX, but similar.
Virtual PBX allows you to keep your existing phone lines and can even integrate cell numbers and other numbers like residential and so forth. Generally doesn’t use VoIP, although some lines might be if so provisioned.
No need to switch phone providers, you program the whole thing from a web portal, essentially a big auto-attendant in cyberspace to allow you to point incoming calls at “extensions” that are then mapped to individual phone numbers that can be anyone, anywhere.
Generally only used for basic small office environments, especially if you have road warriors or virtual workers, but would also be OK if you have a few people in an office with individual telephones and don’t want to buy a PBX to knit them all together.
All OUTBOUND calling is done on the individual phones that you already have, so may not have a consolidated bill, read the Virtual PBX article for more info.
Premised Based Exchange or PBX Technology Can Be Confusing
Our reviews on the best business phones article go into what features should be included on a phone. I’ll be honest, as long as you stick with reputable, well-known brands like Avaya, Toshiba, Cisco, Polycom and Linksys, phones are phones. But stray and go with the el’ Cheapo ones and they will drive you mad with their poor quality and sound.
At the end of the day, what you want to do here is to leverage the power of VoIP, which is basically using your Internet pipe to carry your phone calls so you can unhook (all but one!) those expensive phone lines. It doesn’t hurt to also try to get unlimited long distance calling and a bunch of great features you didn’t have before to help your employees be more efficient while you’re at it.