Business Phone Systems PBX today are increasingly more sophisticated. Searching for business phone system PBX solutions is often confusing for first time buyers. With all the acronyms, technical jargon, and academic debates, it’s hard to get a clear answer to the question that’s inevitably on your mind.
Which business phone system PBX solution is right for my business?
That’s a good question, and really the only one that matters. That’s why we decided to write this post. We want you, the reader, to have all the information you need, with as little technical language as possible.
On-Premise Business PBX Phone Systems
When the hardware used to power your phone system is stored in your office building, the phone system is said to be “on-premise.” The entire phone system is on the premises of your business, hence the name.
There are a few distinct advantages to using an on-premise phone system. Ultimately, an on-premise phone system can cost less over time. The cost to entry for on-premise phone systems is higher than other services, because you have to actually buy the servers that power the phones. However, the monthly phone bill for an on-premise system can cost less than other options on the market. Over time, you’ll probably end up saving money, as the cheaper monthly costs will ultimately underwrite the initial expenditure on the hardware.
Another key advantage of on-premise phone systems is the ability to customize the service. Your IT staff can tweak the security and internal workings of an on-premise system to optimize it for your business. If you work at a business with highly sensitive information, such as a bank or a security firm, the ability to secure data coming in and out of the phone system could be critical. Talk to your IT staff about what their requirements are when it comes to phone systems.
However, the flip side of a fully customizable phone system is that you are essentially on your own when it comes to maintenance and repair. If something causes an outage on your end, you’ll need your IT staff to quickly fix what’s wrong. Keep in mind that the servers themselves will need maintenance and repair work, which drains money and manpower.
Hosted Business PBX Phone Systems
Hosted business PBX phone systems do not require storing hardware on your property. Instead, the servers that power your phone system are “hosted” by the service provider at off site locations. The only hardware you have on site are the phones themselves. The service provider has control over the hardware, security, and other issues that on-premise phone systems normally cede to the user.
For the average small to medium sized business, this inability to tinker with the advanced components of the phone system is actually a good thing. If something goes wrong with a hosted phone system, it’s up to the professionals at the phone company to fix the issue, not the employees at your business. A hosted phone system is the answer for those who lack the technical know-how or resources to run advanced phone servers. Customer support is built into the service itself.
Hosted phone systems require less money to get started. You don’t have to purchase any expensive hardware upfront. The phone company already has the hardware built for commercial use. All you need is a business grade broadband connection to use the service. Some companies in very rural areas may have trouble getting an acceptable Internet connection. But for the most part, your standard office connection should work.
This lack of upfront expenditure saves small businesses thousands of dollars in startup fees. Yes, it’s true that an on-premise solution can cost less over several years. But hosted phone systems allow businesses of all sizes to get off the ground. Many hosted phone systems come with no contract or clauses binding you to the service. The phone service you receive is likely billed on a month-to-month basis, and you can walk away whenever you desire.
Hosted phone services tend to offer a diversity of pricing packages. Some plans charge users for each device they register, or ‘per seat.’ These plans typically include a set of standard features tailored for an individual user. Per seat plans either charge per minute or offer unlimited minutes, depending on the pricing package. Then there are the pay-as-you-go style plans, where you are charged only for the features and minutes you use.
Hosted phone systems are typically flexible when it comes to remote working. Employees can generally access their office phone system from anywhere, and most phone providers offer software phones (softphones) or mobile apps to make remote working easier. Many providers offer their customers the flexibility to make changes quickly, such as adding a new extension or voicemail box.
Hosted phone systems generally come with basic features such as: ACD queues, auto attendants, HD voice, ring groups, dial by name directories, extension dialing, and increasingly, video calling. Hosted options generally outclass the on-premise phone systems when it comes to features.
Of course, if you work at a business that requires full control over the phone system for security or other reasons, a hosted phone system might not be your best option. A hosted phone system has broad appeal, but it remains the most appealing to small to mid-sized businesses with no dedicated IT department.
Copper Wire – Traditional (Old) Phone Systems
Copper wire phone systems, or “landline” business phone systems, are still existent at many many business locations. They are a time tested option. Copper wire systems offer features that they originally popularized, such as caller ID, call forwarding, call blocking, call hold, conferencing, voicemail, and international calling.
Copper wire phone systems do not suffer from a lack of basic features, but they are limited in terms of advanced abilities. While many hosted phone systems offer integrations with some of the leading third party platforms, copper wire phone systems might not even allow you to send your voicemail to your email. Of course, if you’re fine with basic functionality, this might not be a problem.
Copper wire phone systems are more reliable than hosted and on-premise solutions. Phone lines stay up longer and fail less than Internet connections. During power outages, Internet is automatically severed, but phone lines largely remain up. Many hosted phone services advertise their uptimes in excess of 99.9%, but this does not calculate the downtimes the users experiences from Internet failure and equipment malfunction.
The costs of copper wire phone systems are generally (1) more expensive than hosted in upfront expenditure and (2) more costly on a monthly basis than on-premise options. Landline phone systems require you to purchase hardware, lines, and other infrastructure upfront. Like on-premise solutions, a copper wire phone system will require maintenance and upkeep by either IT employees or phone company staff.
The hosted and on-premise phone systems we discussed in this post all run on VoIP, a protocol used to transmit voice data over the Internet. The sound quality of VoIP is about two times greater than that of copper wire phone systems. Copper wire phone systems also struggle with remote working and scalability. Employees have to be physically present in the office to use the phone system, and new employees can only be added by routing a physical line with the help of the phone company.
What Phone System Is Right for Me?
You don’t need to know the technical details of phone systems to choose the right one for your organization. We wrote this post to give you a simple, jargon-free intro to the most popular business phone systems on the market today. You’ll ultimately have to decided if on-premise, hosted, or a copper wire phone system is right for you. In the meantime, here are some more helpful blogs to steer you in the right direction: