PBX Systems

The term PBX system stands for private branch exchange. A PBX, also known as a phone switch or a phone switching device, connects office telephones in a business with the public telephone network. A PBX' strongest competitor would be a voice over Internet protocol. There are many interesting points regarding both, and ultimately you will have to decide what system would best fulfill your telephone system needs.

1. PBX System Features

Today, PBX systems are expected to handle an extremely wide variety of duties beyond just simple connection to the public phone system. The initial functions of a PBX were to route incoming calls to the appropriate extension in an office and to share phone lines between these extensions. Over time, many new functions have been added, such as automated greetings for callers using recorded messages, dialing menus, connections to voice mail, automated call distribution, teleconferencing, and more. The range of features offered by a PBX will vary, usually in proportion to the price of the system chosen. Some of the most popular functions can include answering calls with a custom business greeting, and providing a single business number that gives access to all company employees and departments. The system can offer a menu of options for directing a call, such as connecting to a specific department or extension and providing a directory of employee extensions that are accessible by inputting digits corresponding to the employee's name. A PBX system can also evenly distribute calls to a department among available employees at that time, allow transfers or calls between extensions, conference multiple incoming calls with employee extensions, provide detailed call records and real time system management, place callers on hold when they are waiting for an available department employee, and play music or custom messages whenever callers are waiting on hold. Though this is an impressive list of functions, remember not all are available on every PBX system. The most difficult feature to provide is the Automated Call Distribution (ACD), and usually, vendors will charge a premium for products that include this feature. If a feature is not included in the base PBX system, more than likely it can be purchased as an additional add on.

2. Strengths Of PBX

PBX hardware (PBX phones) is a mature technology that offers many benefits for the right type of application. As a minimum, multiple extensions in a single office can share the cost of incoming phone lines. It is not necessary to pay for a separate phone line for each extension. Capital costs for the equipment can be amortized and depreciated over time. Even though system management and maintenance continue to add cost after installation, today's systems are more robust and easier to manage than they have been in the past. Incoming calls are typically free or very low cost. In more expensive systems, some level of system expansion is allowed for scalability. Businesses that can reliably predict their needs can usually find a cost-effective system. As features and functionality continue to be added, a PBX device can add productivity to an office environment. Almost any feature that can be imagined for telecommunications can usually be found somewhere among the many vendors and offerings in this space - as long as customers are willing to pay the associated price.

3. Weaknesses Of PBX

The biggest problems with standard PBX systems revolve around the problems of flexibility, costs, and adaptability. Costs are a large problem in two separate areas. First, getting one of these PBX phone systems up and running can be extremely high. If you opt to purchase a system that is at the lower end of the price scale, the equipment will have fewer features, such as no extensive voice mail options or automatic call distribution features. Many of the smaller businesses find they cannot afford the cost of a PBX system, so they continue to take calls on individual lines, never developing a unique business identity. Another cost issue involving the PBX systems is maintenance and support of the system. As PBX equipment continues to add new functionality, there will be a need for highly trained support people to maintain hardware, software and roll out system upgrades, and system management. This will, in all likelihood, end up being quite costly. As with so many devices based on hardware and software infrastructure, the other problem with PBX telephone systems would be with flexibility. Most PBX hardware is limited in its flexibility to add more internal and external lines to support more users. Low end systems are extremely difficult in this regard. Small businesses may need to purchase a new PBX system every two years in order to accommodate their business growth. Flexibility will also end up being an issue when it comes to features. While almost any feature can ultimately be purchased, many times, important features cannot be added to an existing system, which would end up forcing businesses to purchase brand new systems to get the features they want or need.

4. PBX versus VoIP

Many businesses and individual business owners are considering PBX versus VoIP. There are some similarities between the two systems, but there are differences, as well. Your responsibility as a business owner is to weigh the pros and cons and ultimately decide what would be the best choice to suit your needs. Some things you will need to consider will include the ease of use of the system with your employees, the costs incurred with the new system compared to your current telephone system, the cost of installation, and lastly, the quality of the system and whether it will be reliable for your company's needs. If you understand the importance of these concerns, then you will see how important it is to do a PBX versus VoIP comparison. This, unfortunately, will not be an easy task, and hopefully, you have done some Internet research to get an idea of what the options may be. Bottom line, though, is that each company who is selling the service will advise you that their service is in fact the better one. This will make this task even more daunting. It will be in your best interest and your company's best interest that first you are clear on what a VoIP is.

5. Voice Over Internet Protocol

Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP, can turn a regular, standard Internet connection into a way to actually make free telephone calls. The positive aspect of this is that by using the voice over Internet protocol software that is available to make phone calls on the Internet, you are bypassing the phone company and its charges. VoIP has the revolutionary technology with the potential to reinvent the world's telephone systems. VoIP providers have been around now for a while, and they are growing steadily. Major telephone systems are already in the process of setting up voice over Internet protocol calling plans in several markets, and the FCC is researching the ramifications of VoIP services. Voice over Internet protocol has been a subject of interest almost since the first computer network. By the seventies, voice was being transmitted over the Internet. The technology for transmitting voice conversations over the Internet has been available to end users since at least the nineties. In 1996, the first VoIP came with caller id and voice mail as extra features, but it was only possible to speak to others who had the same software. It has been progressing steadily ever since. Something that is extremely interesting and different about voice over Internet protocol systems is that there is more than one way to make an actual phone call.

6. Three Different Systems Of VoIP Services

There are three different systems of VoIP services in use at the present time. The first is the simplest and most common. It is through a device called an ATA (analog telephone adapter), which allows you to connect a standard telephone line into your computer or Internet connection for use with a VoIP. The ATA is an analog to digital converter. It takes the analog signal from your traditional phone and converts it into digital data passed through the Internet. You would just remove the ATA from the box it came in, plug the cable from your phone that would normally go into the wall outlet into the ATA, and you are ready to make calls. The next way to make a VoIP call is through an Internet protocol (IP) phone; these phones look just like regular phones with a handset, cradle, and buttons. Instead of having standard phone connectors, IP phones use an Ethernet connection. IP phones connect directly into a router and have all the hardware and software necessary right onboard to handle the IP call.
Last, and probably the easiest way to use a VoIP phone, is computer to computer. You don't even have to pay for long distance calls. There are actually several companies out there right now who are offering free or extremely low cost software that can be used with this kind of VoIP. All you need is the software, a microphone, speakers, a sound card, and an Internet connection. Preferably, the Internet connection should be a fast one like a DSL modem or through cable. Other than your normal monthly ISP fee, there is usually no charge for computer to computer calls, no matter what the distance may be.

7. Voice Over Internet protocol (VoIP) Pros And Cons Of Home Service

Okay, so what about service for the home? Though the best choice for home service would be VoIP, there are both pros and cons regarding taking this step in your home. Home VoIP services have several advantages over traditional telephone services. One of the major advantages of using VoIP in the home would be the low cost of operation. For the same services that the VoIP provides, such as long distance calls or teleconferencing at home, VoIP phone providers usually charge a lower rate than normal telephone charges. Another popular advantage of home VoIP service would be its flexibility. While normal phones are permanently linked to their telephone lines, an ATA can be taken anywhere in the world with you. One can attach it to a normal telephone and an Internet connection and make VoIP calls to any other ATA in the same network and not incur any additional costs. Honestly, there are not many disadvantages of home VoIP. The biggest disadvantage of home VoIP service is that it is dependent on a direct power source, like a cordless phone. If the power is lost, the current VoIP is also lost. Another con of the home VoIP connection is inconsistent sound quality. The sound quality can be fickle, and some calls can have delays and even echoes, as well. This will ultimately result in calls that will not be as clear or as smooth as telephone line calls.

8. Understanding Your Options

As you continue shopping for what would be best for your business, a PBX telephone system or a VoIP, you will want to consider both options before coming to a final decision. The largest benefit of a VoIP or voice over Internet protocol system is the way that you will be ultimately charged for calling out of the state or country. Because the rates are so much lower with a VoIP, many businesses see extreme value when deciding to take this route instead of the PBX telephone system. When it comes down to the cost factor, VoIP will win hands down. Bottom line, the more that you end up saving on phone calls, the more business you can get and the more profit can be made. Another positive point for VoIP is that it allows for a less expensive installation process. VoIP services usually just connect through an Ethernet, simply and easily. Most computers, phone systems, and fax machines already have this feature built in. Realistically, all you would need to do is plug everything in and you're ready to go. But, in the ongoing battle between PBX and VoIP telephone systems, when it comes to wanting to be able to have extensions and the latest in telephone system features and PBX applications, you may not be able to get this through the VoIP service providers. Instead, you would have to stick with PBX or look at other possible telephone systems.

9. Understanding The Services

Something that is also extremely important to understand is the service that each of these has to offer. While the PBX is a system that lets you have several connected lines into one public line, you must also understand that a VoIP is strictly through the Internet. Because of the vast difference between the systems, it allows for a completely different product and outcome. You will also want to remember and note the importance that services tend to change all the time, as well. One example of those changes would be that through the ongoing development of new services and products, it is now becoming much less expensive to install PBX systems. In the past, the cost of installation of a PBX telephone system was so high that it forced many small businesses and even most of the larger ones to look elsewhere for their needs. Now, because of the new developments, they are able to fill those needs with more choices than ever before. PBX is becoming much more affordable for these companies, thanks to the new, improved technologies. One can expect the battle between PBX phone systems and voice over Internet technology (VoIP) to go on for quite a long time. You will be sure to have different reasons for wanting to choose one product over another, spanning the gamut of reasons from cost to voice mail. The best suggestion is the simplest one. Do the research for each company, and do your research on the web to see just how well your decision will fit your needs. The answer to the question on which to choose, PBX or VoIP, can only be ultimately decided by the business and individual.

When trying to decide between PBX telephone systems and VoIP systems, there are many factors that have to be taken into careful consideration. It is something that cannot be rushed or done in haste. Time must be taken, research must be done, and cost and flexibility must be taken into consideration. Then, and only then, will you be prepared to make the right decision for your employees and your business.
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