The two main phone system categories in 2018 are:
- Traditional: A phone system that physically hangs on your wall and routes calls to your desk (usually over traditional copper wires.)
- Hosted: A system hosted online that routes calls to your desk over your internet connection. (Also referred to as HPBX or VoIP.)
- Benefits: Owning the system means lower monthly cost, and many basic features perform with rock-solid simplicity.
- Challenges: Higher upfront cost and user count is limited by your hardware. Expertise is needed to manage moves, adds, changes, security and troubleshooting. Also, telephone lines add monthly expense (exception below.)
- Conclusion: Ideal for businesses that need a lot of handsets, but not a lot of concurrent phone calls.
- Benefits: Lower initial investment and user count can grow and shrink fluidly. Running over the Internet simplifies your office network and lets you travel with your phone. Also, central administration (password resets, call forwarding) is easier.
- Challenges: If you don’t segment your network, heavy Internet usage will impact call quality. Also, as your phone’s software evolves some features need to be re-learned.
- Conclusion: Ideal for businesses that want to avoid hardware obsolescence, need a low entry cost, and need to remain flexible in both headcount and user location.
Hybrid systems allow a combination of handsets (some compatible with traditional systems and some compatible with hosted systems), usually via a locally-mounted phone system with added modules to allow for VoIP functionality. This is ideal for businesses that already own traditional handsets and want to modernize their system at the lowest cost possible.
- Hosted systems offer monthly savings in that they can piggyback on the same Internet connection your computers use. (However now traditional systems with SIP trunking have this same capability.)
- While owning your system usually shows savings after five years, they also require active support contracts unless you have an in-house expert.
- Consumer: A homogenized, often drop-shipped solution that works adequately for certain small businesses. (think Vonage)
- Business: A combination of hardware and service designed to perform with your specific network, at the highest call quality available.
- Benefits: Lowest cost. Impressive control over system and user settings.
- Challenges: Lacks support when issues arise around customer’s unique circumstances.
- Conclusion: Great for small businesses with tolerance for call quality and system reliability issues.
- Benefits: Improved voice clarity via bandwidth customization, a backup plan in the event of an outage, and depending on the provider vastly improved tech support.
- Challenges: Providers need to be vetted as not all deliver more than DIY quality.
- Conclusion: Ideal for businesses that need reliable HD call quality without paying for superfluous bandwidth.
How to Choose
In 2018 most people are opting for hosted for its ease of management and future-proofed foundation. Unless complete ownership of your system is required we recommend hosted.
There are many players in the hosted field, and almost all offer the same array of features in both unlimited and limited calling tiers. When comparing providers:
- Make sure they are focused not just on your phone system, but on how it harmonizes with your specific network.
- Get client references both general performance and for emergency support.
- Ask about backup plans. If city construction knocks out your service, what will they put in place to keep you connected?
Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.