If you have made it here then something has sparked your interest in replacing your office phone system. It is important to educate yourself on what your needs are, what is available and how your business will be affected by migrating to a new telecommunications solution. In order to keep things straight let’s first talk about a couple different types of technology, then compare the positives and negatives of each, and thirdly, give you some things to consider when choosing the right solution for your business.
Not quite sure if you need a new phone system? Learn about 4 signs that might mean you need a new phone system.
Analog phone systems
Analog phone systems were introduced as a result of the divestiture of AT&T in the early 80’s. It was a office phone system built for multiple users and multiple phone lines specifically with businesses in mind. Analog phone systems use POTS lines to deliver voice conversations. POTS stands for, “Plain Old Telephone Service.” Since analog phone systems use copper lines the connection between phone and phone system as well as phone system and phone provider/carrier are extremely reliable and voice quality is impeccable.
The trade off to this is analog phone systems have limited features and expandability. They will have basic features such as hold, redial, mute, transfer, speed dial, and speaker phone. Without going into too much detail, their usability from introduction until their end of life time substantially improved. Their expandability is typically limited, but in some cases an expansion card can be added to grow the phone system on the line side, station side or both.
Analog phone systems did make advancements in the features they offered over the years. Today no telecommunications manufacturer is putting any money toward developing analog technology.
Learn more about analog vs. digital technology
Digital phone system
A digital phone system is often referred to as a PBX, which stands for, “Private Branch Exchange.” A PBX manages the phone calls between a company’s employees while also allowing them to share a group of external phone lines. They have an expanded feature set and could be expanded for very large applications. Check out our Buyers Guide to PBX Phone Systems.
The phone system could be set up and customized to suit your company’s needs with certain features being standard and others offered as add-ons or upgrades. Expandability with a digital system is extremely easy in the fact that it will accept expansion modules, cards, or licenses to achieve this. Some of the most common add on features for a digital phone system would be voicemail, find me follow me, ACD, SMDR, and music on hold.
Digital phone systems gained their popularity because of their ability to be customized to fit your business and their abundance of features and capabilities. Analog phone lines and Digital PRI circuits are what is primarily used for dial tone service with digital phone systems.
We recently were able to help a large retirement community in Indianapolis save thousands of dollars switching to a digital phone system
Hybrid Phone System
A hybrid phone system is a digital phone system that offers both digital and IP capability. Hybrid systems are great because of how versatile they are. Hybrid phone systems gained their popularity in the fact that most offer the ability to accept SIP trunks, PRI circuit, or Analog trunks on the line side and also accept IP phones or digital phones on the station side. A business may have analog trunks being delivered for dial tone with all digital phones throughout the office and one IP phone at a remote location. There is also the example of choosing to use SIP trunks for dial tone as a cost saving measure but still using all digital phones for your office phone system.
If purchasing a digital phone system today, it only makes sense to make sure it is hybrid to assure it can support all of your company’s future needs and potential expansion. Features for hybrid systems would include anything that a digital system is capable of but also include features like email integration. This feature allows the voicemail to send its messages to your company’s email server and listened to as a wav file.
There are also fax/email integration and desktop clients, and remote programming via the network connection. Call quality on a digital phone system is only as good as the type of phone service you are having delivered into it. Analog phone lines and Digital PRI circuits will offer a seamlessly perfect phone conversation whereas SIP Trunks will require additional set up, a robust internet connection, and monitoring software to insure consistent quality.
VoIP phone system
The next type of office phone system is a server based IP phone system. It is similar to a hybrid system in features and capabilities but it resides on a server on premise and is 100% IP. The server resides on your company’s premise and you typically own it. It is completely customizable in the fact that you pay for licenses for the number of users you have and advanced features. It makes moves, adds, and changes are a breeze since it is all done via a computer either managed internally or offsite. Rerouting calls, virtual auto attendants, call forwarding are a few of the advantages of a server based phone system. This solution is purchased outright by the consumer and you have ultimate control over it. Your phones are also purchased outright. Here are some more benefits to a VoIP system. The downside to this solution would be the responsibility for equipment failures and maintenance. Check out our Buyers Guide to a VoIP Phone Systems.
Hosted technology or cloud based phone systems
Finally, there is hosted technology or cloud based phone systems. There usually is no onsite hardware except your data switches and routers. This office phone system resides on someone else’s data center and the conversations and information are delivered to you through a high speed internet connection.
This system can be easily managed by someone on your staff or by the company you purchased it from. Management of the phone system is done through what we call a GUI interface (pronounced gooey) meaning graphical user interface. Also referred to as a web interface or web based management. With Hosted service you pay a monthly fee for the use of the phone system. You never own this system and the monthly fees don’t stop until you end your contract with the provider. The hosted provider is responsible for all maintenance of the system, upgrades, and equipment failures. You have the option of purchasing your phones outright or leasing them on a monthly basis.
Learn more about hosted phone systems
Learn about our newest hybrid phone system- Star2Star.
Which business telephone solution is right for your company?
Research is an important factor in purchasing a new business telephone system. First weigh out the cost both upfront and long term. Next not only look at how advanced features can benefit your business but also look at their cost. Does your company have a need for the latest features being offered? Who will be responsible for administrating the phone system? Will someone from your office manage it or will it happen off site, or will your telecommunication’s company need to come onsite every time you need to make a change? Look at the integration capabilities the system has with 3rd party software or devices your company uses. Does it communicate with your CRM software (customer relationship management), your security system, and your current computer network? Is this a long term solution or will your company outgrow the product within a few years? Lastly, consider the call quality of the solution and determine how important reliability is to your company.
Here are some more factors to consider when choosing a telecommunications vendor.