One challenge that every business faces once they start to experience growth is maintaining a solid and efficient internal communication infrastructure. This is especially challenging because businesses come in all shapes and sizes, and they each have their own unique needs. What works for one company may not be the best option for another company because they could have more remote locations or a different structure. Before you select a phone system for your business, you need to understand the following types of phone technology.
PBX Phone Technology Systems
PBX is one of the oldest phone technologies and has existed well before VoIP was introduced. Businesses use private branch exchange (PBX) phone technology to connect phones on their internal network with phones external to their network. In addition to connecting a private infrastructure with phones around the world, PBX also offers basic features such as call forwarding and the ability to place a call on hold.
Though there are many other voice technologies with advanced features that PBX technologies lack, PBX is still an attractive and proven phone technology. It may not be the latest and greatest voice technology, but we know that it works and that it is dependable. Even if you lose power, you will still be able to make calls with a PBX system because traditional phone systems draw power through the telephone cabling. In mission-critical, time-sensitive, and emergency situations having a PBX system on hand is absolutely essential. In fact, many corporations that utilize other voice technologies such as VoIP still keep a PBX system in place to cover their bases should they experience an Internet or power failure.
However, you can only experience cost savings when compared to a VoIP solution if you already have an existing analog infrastructure. One reason some companies haven’t upgraded to VoIP is that they can’t justify purchasing new VoIP phone equipment when they have an older system that is currently working fine. Unfortunately, these same companies don’t understand that they could lower their annual phone system costs by transitioning to VoIP.
Hosted PBX Solutions
Hosted PBX systems are very similar to traditional PBX systems with one exception: the management and hosting overhead is delegated to an external company. Instead of needing to train or hire personnel to oversee your voice infrastructure, you pay someone else to do the work for you. This is extremely advantageous for businesses because it helps them focus on their core service offerings. For example, it doesn’t always make sense for growing businesses to spend profits on maintaining their own infrastructure because that capital needs to be reserved for growing the business.
Information technology is largely a support discipline for businesses that are not in the phone technology industry and hosted PBX systems help provide companies with a voice infrastructure without the hassles of hardware administration.
Because hosted PBX solutions are still PBX technologies at their core, they provide affordable up-front costs. Depending on whether or not your company already hires technical staff, hosted PBX solutions can be a little more expensive than traditional PBX solutions. In addition, they still provide valuable tools such as voicemail to email integration, call management, directories, auto attendants, faxing, and music on hold. Lastly, hosted PBX solutions are scalable and will allow you to connect multiple remote locations together.
IP Phone Systems
IP phones systems offer a wealth of benefits, and they are going to cost you less than PBX based solutions in the long run. However, one of their greatest benefits is the diversity of applications that they are suited for. IP phones come in many shapes and sizes, and some of them are even virtual. A virtual IP phone solution is essentially a software program that runs on your computer and leverages the Internet to facilitate end-to-end connectivity with another audio device. There is even voice over Wi-Fi solutions that allow you to use your local wireless infrastructure for voice purposes. Traditional analog phones, on the other hand, aren’t as flexible.
In addition, IP phone solutions that take advantage of Power over Ethernet (PoE) only need one network cable. One disadvantage to phones with both analog and digital capabilities is that they require multiple cables. That may not sound like a big deal, but in large environments managing your cable infrastructure can be a real pain for your network personnel. Having only one cable is an advantage that helps IP phones scale to larger applications. Although, consider that not all IP phones operate in a PoE environment. In turn, lacking PoE capabilities would increase equipment expenditures if you did decide to purchase PoE hardware such as a PoE switch or even PoE injectors.
Yet another benefit of IP phone solutions is the fact that you can save money on long-distance calls. Simply put, you won’t be charged extra for geographic restrictions like traditional voice systems. However, one of the largest disadvantages is the dependence on LANs and WANs. Because voice calls share the local network bandwidth, you will likely want to implement some type of QoS (Quality of Service) near your WAN connection at a bare minimum to prioritize your voice traffic. Voice traffic is very sensitive to latency, and a failure to adequately prioritize and buffer certain types of data could mean that your voice call gets ‘crowded out.’
Although, if you experience an Internet outage, you won’t be able to make a call. For example, if you have a purely IP voice system without a connection to a traditional voice network and your connection to your ISP goes down, you will only be able to make internal calls on your internal network. In most environments, businesses work with multiple carriers to mitigate this risk, but it may not be a feasible solution for some small and medium-sized businesses to implement WAN redundancy.
Remote Location Considerations
Multiple-location businesses all suffer from the same problem: finding a voice solution that fits their unique company profile. The problem derives from the fact that multiple locations can be of varying sizes and have varying needs. For example, a remote branch or satellite location may not be anywhere near the size of a headquarters location. Because the needs vary based on location, there are no one-size-fits-all voice solutions.
As such, companies with multiple locations may want to consider adopting a hybrid approach to phone solutions. Though both PBX and IP-based voice solutions will be able to connect calls to remote locations, your biggest concern would be the cost. If a large company with locations in multiple countries already has an existing telecom infrastructure and leases lines from multiple ISPs, then it may make sense to use a VoIP solution at those locations to cut costs on long distance charges. This is heavily dependent on how often the large remote locations need to call each other. On the other hand, a small satellite office that doesn’t need intensive voice services may be much better off with a traditional or hosted PBX solution. They’re affordable, effective, and reliable. One thing you will want to do is to work with a phone systems provider to identify savings opportunities for your remote locations.
Finding a Reliable Quote
Though the best option for most businesses today is to transition to digital phone systems, we realize that there is still some value in older PBX or hosted PBX solutions. As such, we can help you find the right solution for your business. Contact us today for a free quote for a voice solution that will help your business for years to come.
WheelHouse Solutions can work with your company to determine which telecommunications products and services can best meet your needs. Our goal, with every client, is to improve the value of services provided while reducing costs. During our proprietary audit process, we pay close attention to your bottom line. We also save our customers time and money by implementing all changes and dealing with the vendors, on their behalf. We’ll analyze contracts, as well as industry trends, to ensure that our clients are receiving best-in-class service, at the lowest possible price.
Call us today at 314-492-2506 to speak with one of our knowledgeable staff to develop a solution that will meet your needs now, as well as provide for future growth and flexibility.