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Phone system: Which business phone solution is right for me?
Setting up and installing a business phone system isn’t as complicated as it used to be. Competition and technology have made private branch exchange (PBX) systems fully automatic and relatively cheap to acquire.
However, depending on the scale of the phone network considered, companies have to decide between two major families of business phone solutions: on-site PBX systems and hosted PBX systems. IP-based telephony is available in both configurations, but hosted PBX systems also offer the possibility of installing mobile PBX features.
On-site PBX business phone solutions
PBX systems are now fully automated (which is why they are more accurately called PABX), and now support IP-based telephony. Though these systems are now much cheaper than they used to be, installing them still requires some expertise - they are therefore preferred by larger organisations.
• Basics of on-premise PBX systems
Private Branch Exchange phone systems serve a particular office or location, through an initial connection with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) via a PBX server.
Installing such a system requires investing in quite a bit of hardware:
- Cabinets, closets and various casings.
- A main switchboard to control incoming calls.
- Lots of switching and control cards
- A controlling computer,
- Uninterrupted power supply with matching batteries in case of power failure,
- An internal switching network,
- Lots and lots of cables, and of course the phones themselves.
Usually, a dedicated or semi-dedicated, well-ventilated room will be needed to install the system core.
• IP-PBX system
IP-PBX is the voice-over-IP (VOIP) version of analogue or POTS (serious acronym for... plain old telephone system) PBXs.
This business phone solution usually adds cheaper communication costs and more advanced features, as calls are routed on the internet rather than on dedicated phone lines.
There is also less equipment needed as specially configured SIP phones just need to be connected to an IP-PBX server, and they have now become quite affordable.
However, businesses should make sure they have a fast and stable internet connection to handle good quality calls and data traffic.
Hosted PBX business phone solutions
Hosted PBX systems are usually introduced as full-service plans, minimizing the initial investment; they therefore represent an interesting small business phone solution.
• Basics of hosted PBX
With a hosted PBX, phones just connect through the Internet connection to a provider that maintains all the necessary equipment at an off-site cloud data centre: functionality is delivered as a service and billed monthly, usually with all necessary and preconfigured hardware.
Advantages over hosted-PBXs include:
- New users can be added to the phone system as needed and basically everything,
- A single geographical number can be presented for the entire company, even when remote offices need to be connected.
- Any device - mobile, soft phone or legacy phone - can be included in the system: one extension may therefore ring in several locations
- Hardware maintenance and replacement is included in the plans.
• Hosted mobile-PBX
Mobile PBX is a hosted business phone solution where the network is connected to mobile device. Numbers, forwarding and dispatching are set up through dedicated software on a local computer or on smartphones connected to the internet.
Advanced software allow complete remote management of iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry or Android phones.