All businesses share in common the need to direct incoming and outgoing telephone calls efficiently. The way that they do this is by using a PABX (Private Branch Exchange) system—a type of hardware and/or software that connects calls to and from phone extensions within the business.
When it comes to choosing the right PABX system to use for your organization, there are a number of factors involved that will sway your decision toward using a particular system. The best way to get a handle of these factors is to examine the benefits and drawbacks of the different types of PABX systems that are available.
What PABX telephony options are available?
- Traditional PABX
- IP PABX
- Hosted PABX
The first two PABX telephony systems must be installed and maintained on the premises of your organization. These are on-site PABX systems.
The Hosted PABX system, as the name suggests, is off-site or “in the cloud”. It is maintained and operated by an external company that you pay for services. Hosted PABX systems utilize Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
1. Traditional PABX
A traditional PABX system gains its name from its use of “traditional” landlines. This means the PABX system is actually hard-wired to analog or PRI copper circuits. Popular vendors for traditional PABXs are Nortel, Panasonic and Vodavi.
Out of all the options available for PABX systems, a traditional PABX can be the most reliable. These traditional PABX systems allow communication to take place on dedicated lines that also provide excellent voice quality.
But as you might expect it is difficult to add additional lines to traditional PABX systems because of the physical wiring that is involved. For this reason a traditional PABX is suitable for organizations with office space that already has this wiring in place. As long as all the equipment is present, a traditional PABX can be less expensive than other PABX systems.
However, having the right equipment present comes with its own costs, since all necessary maintenance must be provided on-site. If your organization lacks somebody with the knowledge and ability to troubleshoot a traditional PABX system, this will incur additional costs as you hire an independent contractor to do the troubleshooting for you.
2. IP PABX
An IP PABX system allows calls to function using VoIP. This means that all of the information that is passed through phone communication is converged with your data communications and relayed using Internet Protocol (IP). Amongst the industry leaders for IP PABX systems are Avaya, Cisco, Mitel and Shoretel.
The convergence of data over the communication network means each call is less expensive than it would have been if it had been routed through a traditional PABX. If many calls are placed, especially if they each have a long duration, then an IP PABX is more cost-effective per call.
Since this is an on-site PABX, all hardware and software that is required for the IP PABX must be purchased and installed at the expense of your business. This results in an up-front cost though leasing arrangements can be negotiated, as well.
Also, as with all VoIP PABX systems, if the Internet connection is lost, then the ability to make calls is also lost. If a reliable Internet connection cannot be maintained at your organization, the ability to make calls will not be reliable either. So, it is important to consider having some analog line circuits in place for backup in case of a WAN outage.
3. Hosted PABX
A hosted PABX is an IP PABX that is provided by an off-site VoIP company. Since the company is hosting your PABX system, monthly fees are required. In two ways these monthly fees are usually reasonable for organizations.
In the first place, a hosted PABX often comes with features that allow unlimited free calls to be placed to certain locations around the globe. Also, unlike an on-site IP PABX, there are no initial investment costs for equipment and software installation, though you may need to purchase your handsets. Polycom is the leader for handsets that are used in Hosted PABX deployments.
It is also important to consider the number of lines you wish to access from the hosted PABX. Over time, the cost per line may actually be higher than if you would have simply used an on-site IP PABX for that same time period.
Additionally, the use of VoIP can affect the quality of the calls that are routed through the hosted PABX. Since VoIP uses data compression that is then sent through the internet, a number of factors can make voice and visual communication that is sent through the hosted PABX less than ideal. The recommended way to optimize your phone service quality is to choose a provider that is offering the data connection, too. This enables your PABX system to reside on your data network, creating a walled garden that mitigates jitter and latency that may occur when calls go over the public Internet.
Choosing the Best PABX Phone System
With all of the options that are available, choosing the right PABX system for your organization takes considerable time and effort. Not only that, but you also have to consider who your phone service provider will be, what kind of customer service they provide, and what kind of pricing you will pay for the service you need.
Moving to Cloud-Based PABX
Moving to the cloud improves every aspect of communications for both organization and enterprise, making it easy for customers, partners, and staff to connect via telephone and conference in others, regardless of their physical location.
Picking through the various options for IP PABX to find the right fit for your business can be challenging. To make a wise decision, you’ll want to ask the following questions.
- Will your business be able to add lines and functionality on an as-needed basis to support growth?
- Is it easy to change your plan if need be?
- Does your potential provider have an option for a direct connection or is phone service over the public Internet?
- What are the fee and billing structures?
- How long is the contract?
- Do you need to buy telephones?
- Are there any additional fees for support?
- How long has each vendor been in business?
- What is their reputation for customer service?
Features and Usability
- Does this phone system offer the features you require?
- Are they easy to implement and use?
Ease of Customization
- What kind of options are for customization are available to you?
- Do they meet your company’s needs?
Finding the Right Balance
A competitive market is always good for the buyer. And there are plenty of choices out there. A low-cost option may initially catch your eye, but downtime, jitter and latency problems, and poor customer service are not worth the risk to your business. A single vendor ISP phone system can better fit your needs and help you scale as necessary.
Are you looking for a cost-effective PABX telephony solution in Kenya for your organization? Get in touch with us. Our experts will do an audit of your needs and make a recommendation that fits your needs and budgets.