What is a PBX phone system?
Is your current phone system not meeting your needs? If your company has more than 40 employees, or if you demand advanced functionality from your phones, you should consider purchasing a PBX system.
Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems are the most powerful type of business telephone systems available today. They provide a wide range of features and are easy to expand as your company grows, yet they are manageable for most small businesses. Most come standard with all the features you might want. In addition, they are totally programmable, so they can support the most complex implementations. You will likely pay a premium for this flexibility, but in many cases the price difference between PBX systems and less adaptable solutions will be smaller than you might expect.
You may be familiar with PBX systems as the massive telecom cabinet used by the largest companies. While that can be the case for very large installations, the technology has progressed to the point where a powerful PBX small business phone system can sit unobtrusively on a desk.
How big do you need it?
Getting enough capacity without overpaying is a primary concern when buying a PBX system. Knowing your requirements in advance will help you negotiate with vendors. There are two main factors that will determine the size of the system you need:
- Lines. Also called trunks, lines are the total number of outside phone lines used by the company.
- Extensions. Extensions refer to every device in your office that needs to connect to the phone system. Most will be telephones; however, fax machines, credit card terminals, modems, and any other equipment that requires a phone connection must also be counted.
Most PBXs define size in terms of "ports," which indicate the maximum number of connections that can be made to the system. This includes outside lines and inside extensions, as well as phone system accessories such as voicemail or automated attendants.
Even if a PBX can handle your current phone traffic, you should be sure that it can also handle your future needs. The ideal system should be able to handle expansion in a very cost-effective manner. PBX systems allow you to increase capacity by adding new cards that increase the total number of ports available. Bcomparing service offerings from multiple dealers, you'll get a clearer idea of which size PBX system best fits your business.
What features do you need?
Some popular features that PBX systems usually provide include an auto-attendant, conferencing, music on hold, dial by name or extension, and voicemail. More advanced features such as computer-telephony integration (CTI) can be purchased for an additional cost.
Although having the right features is important, even more critical is making sure they are easy to access. Because most employees devote very little time to learning how to use a phone system, you should make sure that using the most common functions is extremely simple and intuitive.
The watchword when buying phone systems for your small business is total cost of ownership (TCO). Buying purely on price can easily get you into trouble: more reliable, expandable systems do tend to cost more per user up front - but the savings you will see in the long run make it worthwhile. In addition to being able to add more users as your company grows, you should find out how easily your phone system can be upgraded as new features and technologies are released.
PBX telephone systems require professional installation and maintenance. Unfortunately, configuring and wiring your office can be nearly as costly as the phones themselves.
For larger PBX systems, total prices start at around $800 per user, but usually wind up more in the $1000 per user range. There are significant economies of scale: very small offices will find it hard to stay under $1000 per user for any system, and companies with 100 or more employees save considerably.