1. Why should I buy a telephone system rather than multi line telephones?
It’s very important to note that the very essence of the purpose a telephone system is to provide its owner with a tool to boost efficiency in the office and drive business forward. Multi line telephones have very little sophistication, very few add on features and as a result have been overtaken by the rapidly progressing system.
One of the key issues with multi line telephones is that of expansion. Multi line telephones can only accommodate as many lines as they are initially designed for – and this usually maxes out at only 4 lines. Business telephone systems are able to handle 100 ??s of lines and if chosen correctly can accommodate a large amount of growth and expansion.
However, while it may seem that business phone systems are designed only for larger business, even if your office is only set up to utilise a few telephone lines, there are still a number reasons to choose a business system over multi line phones, and this is due to an abundance of available features to suit any office. Such features include:
- Inner office intercom – this can provide instant communications between desks within the office.
- In-house voice mail – providing individual mail boxes for all the phone users in your office.
- Customizable programming for your business needs.
- Full Time Auto Attendant – combining an in house voice mail system and after hours attendant, callers can be directed to person they need without the need for a receptionist or anyone else dedicated to answering the telephones, thus alleviating the need to constantly sort through messages and distribute them in the morning.
2. What types of phone systems are there?
A business telephone system can be found under many names or types. The 3 main types are:
- PABX or PBX system
- Commander or key system
- VoIP or converged system
Although all of systems are designed to offer your business with the infrastructure top provide 3 basic services being the ability to make calls to customers, direct and manage calls into your organisation as efficiently as possible and optimise internal communication, there are some differences between the types.
PABX (or PBX) Systems
PABX tend to cater for companies with a larger number of employees and provided more advanced functionality than Commander or key systems, making it the choice for business that require telephone system to integrate with specific and complicated applications such large call centres or hospitality front office applications. Having once required entire dedicated equipment rooms to house the central switching equipment, the functionality of PABX’s has increased dramatically whilst the size of main equipment has gradually declined and can now be rack mounted with a company’s IT servers and associated equipment.
Key Systems were originally designed for companies with up to 50 employees. While key systems do have all of the core business telephony functions and use handsets that are easier to use with dedicated keys for common functions like hold and transfer and LED’s to indicate incoming lines and if other users on the system were on the phone, it does not have some of the more sophisticated applications and features such as ACD or hospitality.
Today, the difference between key systems and PABX’s is quite blurred following the introduction by major manufacturers of digital “hybrid” systems which can actually be customized to provide either PABX or key system functionality as required. These new hybrid systems have the capability meet the specific requirements of 99% of businesses.
Voice over the Internet commonly known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) represents the latest in phone system technology by which regular voice calls are sent over a computer network as opposed to the previous use of traditional phone lines. When you place a call, it is sent over the Internet as data until it nears the recipient’s destination. Then the call is translated back into a more traditional format and completes the trip over standard phone lines. Also known as Internet telephony, this allows for extremely cheap long-distance and international calls.
3. What size requirements should I consider when selecting a phone system?
Knowing your business’ size requirements for a system in advance will best prepare you to make the right decisions in purchasing a system, and help you negotiate with vendors and dealers. The two main factors that will determine the size of the office phone system you need are lines (total number of outside or external phone lines to be used) and extensions (any devices within the business that need to connect with the phone system, usually for telephones but may also include fax machines, credit card terminals, modems etc).
As well as recognising that a telephone system can handle your current business internal and external phone traffic, it is crucial to be sure that it can also handle your future needs and growth. An ideal system should be able to handle expansion in the most cost-effective manner possible. For planning purposes, you should allow 5 to 10% for organic growth, so when purchasing a system, inquire about how much it will cost to add at least 10% more capacity. You can and should also look at capacity increases of 20% and 30% to get an indication of the incremental costs involved as they will vary with different systems.
4. What requirements of my business should I identify before choosing a phone system?
There are a number of key requirements of your business that you will need to identify before commencing research and choosing a phone system. These will assist you in knowing exactly what your business needs and which system is best for you:
- Number of employees that will use the system
- Number external lines that are needed for phones (usual ratio: one external to five internal lines) and any other ports that need lines, such as Internet/external e-mail usage, fax machines, eftpos machines etc.
- How many locations that will use the service
- How many remote or mobile employees that will use the service
- Your existing phone system details
- Whether you will have a central receptionist who will receive all incoming calls. Alternatively, if you would like DDI, will you need ISDN lines?
- The size of growth you expect to occur in staff numbers and telecoms usage over, for example, the next three years
- The level of staff training that will be necessary so that routine changes to telecoms equipment can be done quickly in-house.
- If routine changes to telecoms equipment can not be done in-house, how quickly will you need your maintenance contractor to react?
- What is your budget, your total project cost limits and a target cost per month per user
- What is your percentage of inbound calls vs outbound calls?
- What sorts of calls do you usually make and how often? This includes internal, local, long-distance, and international calls (per month if possible). If you aren’t completely sure, just have a copy of your recent bills handy.
5. What are the more advanced requirements of my business should I identify before choosing a phone system?
- Do you have a main receptionist or phone operator, or do you need an auto-attendant?
- Does your business need to be able to make conference calls? How large would the conference calls need to be and across how many locations?
- Do you require a call center?
- Do you need ‘Integrated Voice Response’ or those voice menus that you often come across with larger businesses that direct traffic and deal with any calls that don’t necessarily need a live phone operator.
- How fast are you going to need to grow the system and how frequently will this occur?
- What level of service or SLA (service level agreements) will you require?