As a small business owner, you have many priorities. With so much on your mind, your business phone system might be something that you haven’t thought about in a while. Perhaps you have a few phone lines or a trunk that connect to a system like a private branch exchange (PBX). It does the job, but are there other alternatives out there that might help your business save money and be more productive?
In a word, yes. For many years, business phone systems with sophisticated features were limited to larger businesses with more capital to spend. With technologies like Voice over IP (VoIP) and “cloud”-based services, an impressive array of capabilities are available to small businesses. The best part is that technology has not only increased capabilities, but also dropped the price.
So how do you make the best choice for your business? We’ll help you understand the options available. When you break it down, there are three main types of products based on VoIP technology:
- IP Trunking –allow you to continue to use your existing phone system, but use Internet Protocol (IP) to drive cost savings.
- IP-PBX –modern, IP-based variant of a traditional phone system that you purchase, install at your business location, and manage.
- Hosted PBX –delivers phone system functionality from a cloud-based platform. You pay for the service monthly with little or no capital investment.
One of the simplest ways for a small business to switch to VoIP is IP-based Trunking. This solution allows you to take advantage of the benefits of VoIP without replacing your existing business phone system.
In an IP Trunking solution, voice and data are carried over a single circuit with part of the circuit used for voice, the other part for data. Because voice is very sensitive to delays phone calls always take priority over Internet traffic or email.
- Cost Savings – For many customers, the move from separate circuits for voice and data to a single, “integrated” circuit will deliver cost savings of 10+%.
- No Capital Costs – These solutions allow you to use your existing phones and business phone system so there are generally no upfront charges.
- Predictable Operating Expense – Monthly voice and data charges appear on one bill and in general have predictable monthly costs. A small business will typically pay a fee based on how many concurrent phone calls they might make at any time. Long distance usage is either unlimited or a large pool of minutes.
- No Maintenance Expenses – Because there is no new equipment, there are no new costs associated with maintenance.
The biggest negative – since your business is using existing equipment, there’s no new functionality to help your business run better. For aging phone systems, IP Trunking is a temporary solution – at some point you’ll need to replace it.
Purchasing a new phone system is a logical step in improving your communications infrastructure. IP-PBX is a newer generation phone system and can deliver an excellent experience for your employees and customers. However, you might be in for a little sticker shock. An IP-PBX is a capital purchase – it requires you to buy the phone system, new phones, and have it installed. These purchases can easily add up to thousands of dollars ($10,000+ is not uncommon). You can finance that cost, but you need to consider whether you want to buy and own a piece of depreciating equipment.
Some other considerations you might have when purchasing an IP-PBX are:
- Obsolescence – Like any other piece of equipment, an IP-PBX can become outdated. To update and upgrade an IP-PBX costs money. And, eventually, just like with an old PC, there comes a time when upgrading isn’t possible.
- Business Continuity – Since the IP-PBX will reside in your facility, anything that might happen in and around it – a power outage, a natural disaster, etc. – will affect your ability to send and receive calls.
Hosted PBX makes all of the features and capabilities of a best-in-class phone system available to you without the need for a big capital purchase. With Hosted PBX, the service provider hosts and manages the phone system in their network. You do not have to worry about the expense or maintenance of purchasing a physical phone system. Instead of that big up-front investment, you pay only for what you need.
- Low or No Capital Costs – Since there is no equipment to purchase, the up-front costs are limited and are often included as part of your monthly bill.
- Predictable Operating Expense – Monthly voice and data charges are usually calculated on a per telephone basis. If you have 10 employees each with a telephone on their desk, your monthly operating cost will be 10 times a set fee. If you add people, you’ll know exactly how your costs will increase.
- No Maintenance Expenses – Because the service provider owns the equipment, they are responsible of all the costs associated with maintenance.
- Business Continuity – Since the phone system resides in a secure facility with safeguards like back-up power and equipment, events at your location (such as a power outage) would not affect your business. You can simply and quickly configure the service to have the calls routed to an alternate number.
- No Obsolescence – The service provider hosting the system will routinely upgrade the service and deliver enhancements on an ongoing basis.
There are a lot of options out there when looking at a phone system. It may seem like the status quo – no change – is the safest bet. However, an impressive array of capabilities are now available to small business that was previously only available to larger ones.
Ready to evaluate your business needs and see if new capabilities might improve productivity? enTouch Business can help! Call 281-225-5502 now for a custom quote!