The phone call is still the first mode of contact between a business and a potential customer in many instances. This means that having a reliable, state of the art PBX system is a crucial and vital decision for any organisation. As technology has advanced we have gone from analogue exchanges to digital and IP systems, meaning that choosing your ideal phone system solution is becoming increasingly difficult.
There are 3 major types of PBX systems, and each has particular strengths and weaknesses.
Different types of businesses stand to benefit in different ways, and the choice on which route to follow may be determined by specific behaviours, company strategy, compliance, the total cost of ownership, amongst others.
Here are a few ways in which we can help along your journey:
A traditional PABX is best known as the box which hangs in the kitchen or against the wall in the Admin office. This box connects callers through phone lines you would get from the fixed-line providers to multiple extensions, usually allocated to each employee or user on the system.
These lines may be analogue copper lines, digital ISDN lines or even Internet lines, depending on what the PABX supports since it will need to interface with the network. Typically, traditional PABX’s have cards with dedicated ports to connect analogue and ISDN lines.
On the user side, Traditional PABX’s support analogue and digital extension phones which connect back to the PABX on dedicated cable infrastructure, and go on to provide basic calling functions, or advanced digital functions typically used in demanding environments. Read about the different types of extension instruments by clicking here.
Traditional PABX’s were built to last, however, as the industry has evolved it has become more and more difficult to support the hardware and components, and upgrading traditional PABX systems to deliver new functionality (like recording, mobility, call centre, etc) has become increasingly difficult and rather costly.
Many businesses still use traditional PABX’s and continue to invest in phone systems with limited functionality, but that is generally driven by the company’s requirements and expectations. We are however seeing a surge in IP PBX and Hosted PBX systems which we cover in the following points.
An IP PBX is certainly an upgrade to a traditional PABX. Investing in an IP PBX can be more expensive than a traditional PBX but the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is much lower. What’s more, the core systems do not have a life-span as these are typically software-based and can be upgraded to provide enhanced functionality and stability. IP PBXs, like 3CX, also provide advanced features and functionality which can increase productivity, mobility and customer satisfaction, and drive down call and support expenditure.
IP PBXs can still connect to traditional Telkom lines such as Analogue, ISDN BRI and PRI; however, to really get the most from your VoIP experience, these systems provide native integration to a VoIP provider by using SIP Trunks. This limits the number of physical wires required into a company as SIP Trunks can be delivered over most internet connections – even Wireless! A true IP PBX provides SIP trunking via activation or license, whilst some traditional PBXs have evolved to provide VoIP support on a card which plugs into the PABX and supports a certain amount of concurrent calls (usually in increments of 8 channels).
An IP PBX is also easier to maintain and things like managing moves happen seamlessly – it’s as easy as unplugging a phone, and plugging it back into a point anywhere on the network. As there are no cards which can limit the capacity and scalability, usually adding another line or user requires a license activation or configuration. Vendors like 3CX offer licensing based on the number of simultaneous calls rather than users. This makes it a much more scalable solution as there is no need to purchase or activate a license with every new user. It’s as simple as heading into the management interface and creating the new extension.
An IP PBX is good for companies that want direct control over exactly how their PBX is configured in-house, and don’t want to pay subscription fees associated with other PBX options. Buyers should, however, seek out a flexible solution that can be easily migrated to Cloud should the need arise.
A hosted VoIP PBX is a popular option for most businesses. A hosted PBX is operated off-site and maintained by a VoIP/Hosting/Solutions provider. Since it is at an offsite location, businesses simply pay a low monthly fee to have all of the advantages of an advanced PBX phone system with none of the headache and running costs associated with it.
One of the biggest benefits to a Hosted PBX solution is that there are no upgrade fees as can be the case with some IP PBX vendors. Some provider Hosted PBX packages may include the necessary hardware and connectivity which means that there may not even be an initial investment but just a monthly fee for an all-inclusive solution, and therefore a hosted PBX option can be a good choice for many businesses.
There are some considerations and additional requirements when implementing a Hosted PBX system such as the type of connectivity that will be used, the hardware required – telephone instruments, the Local Area Network (LAN) configuration, etc – you can read about these by clicking here for our Hosted PBX FAQ’s
Each business telephone system configuration has advantages and drawbacks. When choosing the configuration for a business, the easiest way to determine the right option is to examine two main variables: location and communication type.
Onsite systems (on-premise PBX) generally offer more direct control over the phone system’s operation. When a business needs to add, change, or delete a line from the system, it can be handled in-house. With more complicated, proprietary systems this may require a higher level of expertise from onsite IT professionals, however. Offsite, or Hosted, options may shift the responsibility for configuration and maintenance to a service provider. Direct control of the system may be limited, but a company’s IT staff may be allowed and trained to carry out basic adds, moves and changes.
3CX offers flexibility and control whether hosted or on-premise. Management and maintenance can be outsourced if the business wishes, but they can also install the IP PBX in their cloud account with their own choice of provider.
Analogue systems use traditional wiring and are generally distinct from a company’s computer networking hardware. IP-based systems are integrated into the same network used for sending and receiving e-mail, web browsing, and other online functions. Traditionally, wired systems had fewer call-quality concerns than early IP-based systems – though modern platforms on strong networks have greatly improved. Using IP-based systems often allows a company to have all its communication needs handled by one provider, simplifying billing and support concerns. What’s more, many countries and telco providers are phasing out traditional ISDN/PSTN telephony in favour of IP.
Switching to an IP PBX offers many benefits
With an IP phone system, all your internal telephony is routed through the LAN (local computer network). This way a separate network for telephony is not required.
Even though the internal telephony is routed through the LAN, it is also possible to connect your IP-PBX to the Fixed-line network (i.e. Telkom) via cards/gateways which to the Fixed-line network (PSTN). Of course, VoIP (Voice over IP, telephony via the internet) is also possible.
Since IP telephony mostly uses the open SIP standard, an IP phone system gives you a lot more freedom in your choice of phones. Proprietary systems require the use of their own IP phones which may be locked in, inflexible and expensive. An open-standards solution will work with any SIP compatible phone (VoIP phone). 3CX allows users to manually configure any type of IP phone to work with the PBX, and offers a vast array of supported devices which can be provisioned automatically, by simply plugging in the IP phone.
Furthermore, an IP PBX doesn’t limit the growth of a company. Since VoIP phones don’t have to be connected physically to the phone system, it doesn’t require a free port in the phone system like it used to be with traditional phone systems. IP phones can not only be connected via the LAN but also via the internet, using, for example, a VPN connection. Because of this, multiple locations and offices can easily be connected.
From an end-user perspective, one of the most important features of an IP PBX is the additional functionality that it provides in the form of unified communications. Solutions have evolved to include advanced call handling options, integrated web conferencing and collaboration tools, chat, status, website live chat and talk plugins, call center functionality and more. What’s more, the phone system is accessible on multiple devices; from the user’s office computer, personal laptop and smartphone, with the use of apps. This increases productivity, mobility and the potential for remote working, either on a daily basis or in times of crisis.
There is a huge variety of VoIP providers on the internet which provide SIP trunking (telephony services) for cheaper call rates than traditional telephony providers.