Phones. Unified Communications. PBX. Voice Over IP. Hosted. Premise. Wireless. SIP. PRI. When did it all become so complicated?
There was a time when you just called up the phone company (there was only one), told them how many phones you needed, and paid your bill. Now we have choices, so many choices! The good news is that a modern phone system can greatly enhance the productivity of your staff, make it easier to communicate, and ultimately provide a better experience to your customers and potential clients. That’s what it all comes down to in the end, right?
So let’s see if we can make some sense of it all.
WHERE TO START
There are two main divisions of business phone systems: premise and hosted. A premise system is what is typically found today. It simply means that the ‘brains’ of the system is located on the business’s premises. There will be a connection to the public phone network (or PSTN) to let you place calls and receive calls from outside the company. That connection ties into one or more boxes sitting in a closet at the business somewhere. Those boxes will have fat wires that connect to wiring panels, and those wiring panels connect to all of the phones. In many cases, the phones themselves are proprietary, meaning they will not work with another vendor’s phone system. Often, such systems won’t even work with another phone model from the same vendor.
A more modern version of this kind of premise system has a similar box in the closet, but from there it connects to your data network. The phones are also network devices. This makes the wiring easier in many cases and can facilitate connecting multiple sites together.
The other main division of business phones is a hosted system. With a hosted system, that box in the closet at your business doesn’t exist. Instead, a vendor has the phone system in a data center somewhere. The data center usually hosts hundreds, or even thousands, of clients in the same place. All that sits in your office are the phones themselves, which connect back to the data center over the Internet.
WHICH SYSTEM TO CHOOSE
Older phone systems were really more hardware-based than software. Modern phone systems, whether premise or hosted, are the other way around – the system is really software running on a server somewhere. That’s how we get so many features on new phone systems, features like integration with other applications and the ability to make and take office calls on your mobile device, to name a couple.
However, because these modern systems are software-based, that means there are upgrades to both the phone system itself and the hardware it runs on. By choosing a hosted system, everything moves to the cloud (in the data center), which centralizes all the necessary upgrades, making them easier to manage and generally resulting in lower costs and less downtime.
Another huge advantage of a hosted system comes into play when there is a disaster or even a relatively minor outage that affects your location. Since the premise system is physically on premise, anything affecting that location such as a power loss, flood, fire, etc., has the potential to impact your ability to communicate. With your phone system hosted in the cloud, you can configure calls to be re-routed or go somewhere else if they can’t get through. This way your communications operate without interruption, even if the building burns down.
Hosted systems also make it much easier to manage multiple sites, remote workers, and vacationing employees who still need contact with clients while they are gone.
WHAT TO DO NOW
First, find out if your business still has a premise phone system. If so, you may be able to save enough money each month simply by switching to a hosted system that the new system pays for itself in no time! Then consider the features that will make your life and your employees’ jobs easier. You can also read Cut the Cord, Part II – 3 Key Benefits of Unified Communications.
This is a very brief overview of the numerous options available to you. There are a lot of variables and often several ways to accomplish the same thing. We can guide you through the decision-making process to find the best solution for your business.
Whether you have a hosted system you would like to get more out of or a premise system that needs to cut the cord, pick up that phone and give us a call: (912) 629-2426.
Clunky old handset too heavy to pick up? Email us. We’re happy to help.