Telephone systems are a critical resource for every business. If a Telephone System is not functioning correctly this can result in loss of service and will affect efficiency, productivity and operations of the company which ultimately leads to loss of business. In addition, the add-hoc call out charges and repair expenditure can be significant when you call in a third party company. As a typical business cannot maintain the system of its own, a telephone system maintenance agreement is an ideal solution and it will ensure that the business keeps on going in all situations. Besides the peace of mind, the maintenance contracts will save your business from all extra-unexpected costs and disruptions.
Recently, there has been a large increase in the number of companies that take the telephone system maintenance contracts and help safeguard their businesses. Telephone System Maintenance ensures that your business gets a response that is only one quick call away in case of any problem. You need to pay only a relatively small fee to set up a contract and there are generally multiple options available to you.
When you go for a contract with a Business Telephone Company you will get the option of 24×7 cover if your business works around the clock. You will also be allocated a dedicated account manager to assist you any time even for non-service related issues. These may involve moves, ad-ons, changes, etc. After you make a call with the service desk, the call will be allocated to their engineer who will log your fault and ensure a swift response which may involve an onsite visit should the need arise.
The telephone maintenance companies offer a wide range of telephone system maintenance contracts to meet the needs of clients. There are different types of the contracts that the customers go for. You make only a single annual payment for the contract that may cover all the risks of an unplanned labor and replacement parts cost for maintenance. Installing any new telephone system involves a significant investment. You can save yourself from any huge loss due to a serious fault by going for a telephone system maintenance contract.
Most telephone service-providers also offer their maintenance services with the equipment. Generally, it includes a risk free comprehensive manufacturer’s warranty and a comprehensive phone system maintenance packages. Free maintenance, support, and warranty is generally applicable for one year. The warranty will cover phone systems, defective parts, handsets and internal cards. The manufacturer’s warranties usually do not cover to repair or replace any part or equipment broken or damaged on site and the labor cost to inspect, repair or replace it. If you want to cover the labour, you will have to enter a telephone maintenance agreement.
Telephone Maintenance Companies have dedicated experts and certified maintenance engineers covering the majority of systems available from a whole list of manufacturers. These companies offer 24-7 premium maintenance coverage and also offer a wide range of accessories at discounted prices. They may also assist you with phone system upgrades, additional handsets, phone line installation, business mobiles, broadband services and more.
A Telephone Maintenance Contract is based on certain terms and conditions and certain things may be free or additional on chargeable basis based on the agreement. When you purchase your phone system from a Business Telephone Company, you should expect it to be completely covered against fault or breakdown. A typical premium protection plan for your Telephone System can ensure you immediate access for a quick and expert support 24×7 basis. It covers all parts, labour and technical support via email and phone. A good maintenance service provider will also provide you with the option of remote resolution for the majority of faults which will have you back up and running within no time at all. If a problem cannot be resolved remotely, you should expect an engineer to attend to the problem on site within the agreed time which is usually specified in your written agreement.
Today’s business world depends greatly on effective communication. The increasing demand for sophisticated business telephone systems has stimulated the development of new technologies, such as the PBX phone system, which ultimately leads to hosted IP telephony. When considering potential business phone systems, PBX and VoIP are the prime choices. Deciding between the two implies considering the essential dissimilarities between the two and the specific benefits each can bring to the business.
Whether the business is considering a hosted, virtual approach or an in-house telephone system, both the VoIP and the PBX brings substantial benefits to an organisation. However, choosing the best involves a thorough understanding of both systems.
The hosted VoIP is an Internet-based business phone system and it provides coverage over the business technological equipment, by managing all the activities the telephone system needs to operate. The system operates through the business network, by using a reduced amount of bandwidth to conduct all activities. In return, the company benefits from large financial practicalities as a result of expanding, along with reduced costs and business focus. The IP equipment consists of routers, MPLS switches and Ethernet switches; once the telephone is plugged in, all signalling, calls and services are managed by the IP server, which is located on the provider’s premises. Based on the use of the hosted voice telephony, there are monthly charges and bonus packages which save even more expenses.
The PBX business phone system is defined as a secure telephone network within an organisation and its main capacity is linking internal business telephones into one system, while also enabling the connection with Public Switched Telephone Network. The system involves a large number of outside lines which enable calls between different businesses. Some of the disadvantages of the PBX phone systems are the extra expenses involved and lack of advanced services such as call queuing, call recording and IVR Menu Systems. The PBX phone system is a very basic and high-priced business telephony service, which does not provide the sophisticated features of a hosted business VoIP. However, there have been improvements to the PBX technology, such as a hosted version which is an improved form of the office-based business telephone system.
The most used form of PBX business phone system is the IP-PBX. This equipment for this system is resided on the user’s premises, rather than at the provider’s location like the hosted VoIP. The functionality is based on the regular PBX phone system; the difference is that the IP-PBX is a software-based system and uses LAN to transmit the signal from the IP to the PBX server. PSTN systems and SIP Trunk enable the connection with exterior businesses. IP-PBX providers usually manage all calls and enable all a wide range of features, such as call switching, routing and queuing or unified communication at lower costs than the traditional PBX.
To help decide which business telephone system would best benefit the company, criterions such as long-term performance, costs and disadvantages need to be considered. An IP-PBX phone system requires hardware and a server housing the necessary elements which enable the connection to the providers and IP telephones. The hosted VoIP however requires only the telephone equipment, as the server is located on the supplier’s premises; this is why sometimes, a router is considered to maximise the practicality. As a result, the installation and maintenance costs for the hosted VoIP system are lower because of the lack of equipment. Also, low expenses are involved in monthly costs and facilities used, as new features and enhanced software versions are provided by the supplier. Another advantage is the possibility of adding further lines.
On the other hand, as the IP-PBX system requires a lot of hardware equipment, there are maintenance and installation costs involved. A main benefit is the low costs involved for using the services and there is also the possibility of applying SIP Trunking with the VoIP provider for lower calling costs. The costs involved for server and the software applications only can add up to £2-£3k, which means that as the IP-PBX is concerned, the hardware costs will be considerably over-priced. The price and long-term expenses should not outdo the essential features. The purpose of a business telephone system should concern the company requirements and improve its profitability. An important consideration is that the maintenance and servicing for the hosted VoIP will be ensured by the supplier, whereas the IP-PBX requires independent services and will add to extra expenses in the long-run.
The services a business telephone system provides need to be essential and tailored for each company. If the business cannot benefit or increase its productivity from the system, an alternative should be considered. The benefits of the hosted VoIP include a broad range of possibilities such as new and improved features which can be provided by the supplier, as well as the implementation; virtual numbers can be easily selected and revoked; the IP phone can be used from any place via an active broadband connection; remote users can benefit from best quality services, as providers use NAT software to enabled simple and safe feature implementation. The most important ability of the system is that in case on an Internet cut, all business operations will still be functional as all the incoming information is recorded, despite the system being network-based.
The disadvantages of the VoIP business telephone systems were considered more severe in the past, when the technology was not as explored as today. The clarity of the conversation depends on the Internet connectivity; however the Internet providers offer more and more performance enhancing packages. If the Internet is disconnected so will the phone services, but this is also one of the benefits of the VoIP system, as it redirects all incoming calls to voicemail. The customisation with various features may be slow or not possible with some providers. Although there are some business telephone systems suppliers who offer special packages to fit a company’s needs.
With regards to the IP-PBX telephone system, some of the advantages include overall flexibility, which allows the users to adjust the features to their preferences. Open source features are available for free, as they are developed by the open source community and reduced costs over a long period of time after the system has been purchased. The disadvantages of IP-PBX systems include the need for extra-management, as the system is more complex than VoIP which is managed by the supplier. Also expanding the system can increase density, extra maintenance and repair costs as the system requires hardware and software on the premise of the business and finally, if there is an overload of incoming calls, the PBX system can decline gradually.
The information required to assist the decision of moving to a new improved business technology cannot be fit into one article. The business telephone systems are highly complex and finding the service to perfectly suit the business is hard, especially because the most important element of a business is effective communication and the telephone systems enable it. If the services of hosted IP or IP-PBX are too much of a radical change for the business, a recommendatio
Choosing the right telephone system from start is always the best path, but not always the most economical. Before you head down to your local electronic store and pick up the cheapest multi-line business phone you can find, here are few pointers you should keep in mind.
Many multi-line business phones have a pretty decent feature set such as voicemail, caller ID, call waiting ID, 3 way calling and intercom (in multi phone setups). These phones integrate the Key System Unit (or KSU) into the phone itself, which means each individual telephone functions as its own “mini phone system.” The term KSU, (Key System Unit, Key Signaling Unit or Key Service Unit) dates back to the early day’s phone systems, it’s basically “the Brain” of the phone system. All call processing data and telephone line interfacing is carried out by the KSU. For many small offices with less than 4 phones (extensions) and 4 telephone lines, these multi-line phones are adequate and economical. However, as a business grows, the many disadvantages of these phones begin to show their merits.
By comparison, multi-line business phones are sold with the marketing term, “KSU-less design,” which translates (in buyers minds) to lower overall costs. Small telephone systems on the other hand include a separate KSU unit or “Brain” in addition to each telephone. A major disadvantage comes to play when you are interfacing your phones with the telephone company lines. The KSU acts as the “line interface,” for a phone system, all major system connections terminate at the KSU. Now with each multi-line phone acting as its own “mini phone system,” each phone now needs direct connections to each telephone line.
A single telephone line consists of 1 pair of wires. Almost all multi-line phones support up to 4 lines, meaning each multi-line phone needs up to 4 pairs of wires or the equivalent of a standard Cat5e cable. As you begin to add more KSU-less phones to your office you must factor in the cost to install another drop of cat5e (or cat5) cable. You must also account for the additional termination blocks in your telephone closet where all these phones must be “Bridged” (or shared) to the 4 phone lines. As you can imagine, for installations with more than say 4 or 5 phones the wiring aspect can get pretty complex. Anything over 6 or 7 phones will be a wiring mess, if done unprofessionally, which adds to the cost of these low budget systems. However, this bridged connection is how multi-line phones “intercom” one another. By sending a signal over each bridged line, each extension can communicate without actually tying up any of the 4 phone lines. As long as every multi-line phone is connected to all 4 lines (or matching number of lines if less than 4), each phone can intercom each other internally while keeping the phone lines free for external calls.
Small Telephones Systems on the other hand, which come equipped with a separate, dedicated KSU unit, are at a distinct advantage in both areas. Having a single KSU unit means a single interface point for the telephone line connections. Many small telephone systems need only a single pair of wire to connect each extension telephone. What this means is if you are deploying a number of phones in one particular area, you can save dramatically on cabling costs by having your contractor “split” the single Cat5e cable into, at most, 4 single telephone jacks! – This becomes very cost effective as you deploy additional phones. (However, many pros will only split single Cat5 cable once for 2 telephone jacks leaving the remaining wires as spare pairs). Cable management becomes much easier (and neater) as you need not worry about bridging 10 phones to 4 telephone lines. One single pair of wires (to connect to a telephone) of the 3 or 4 pairs in a standard telephone cable is enough for as many lines as the small telephone system can handle since the actual line connections are at the dedicated KSU unit and not at the individual telephone.
Another plus for the small telephone system is the ease of transitioning to a larger phone system. The wiring scheme for the most part will remain the same albeit installing more cable drops to new areas. Not so much the same for the multi-line business phones. Depending on how each phone was “bridged” to interface to those 4 telephone lines, this entire wiring scheme may need to be undone as most small (and large) telephone systems require individual (not bridged or shared) connections to the KSU.
Programming wise there is one disadvantage when comparing small business telephone systems to multi-line business phones, which can be viewed as multiple disadvantages. Since each individual telephone functions as its own KSU it also functions as its own Voicemail unit (if equipped). Which means if you want to enable an Auto Attendant feature (where your callers are greeted by a company recording instructing them to press 1 for Joe Boss, 2 for Sales Manager etc…) you will have to record this greeting for as many times as you have voicemail enabled phones (up to 4). Here’s why, with most multi-line business phones, the voicemail feature includes a personal voicemail box for the extension and an optional auto attendant feature. The auto attendant feature can only handle one call at a time; ergo if you want the system to answer up to 4 incoming calls simultaneously you need at least 4 auto attendant enabled phones. So technically speaking you must record the same auto attendant greeting 4 times, 1 on each phone. You must also enable the system mailbox for each of the 4 phones to accept general messages. You now have 4 different phones/voicemail boxes in your office where you must check for general messages. This is known as a general mailbox, which is a default destination for callers who do not press a menu option or dial an extension. This scenario is not efficient for larger setups but may work for smaller ones.
With a small business telephone system, there is just one central voicemail unit which can handle multiple calls at once. Storage times are much greater and there is just one mailbox for general messages. You can also take advantage of advanced features (if equipped) such as voicemail to email (where the system sends the voicemail in a standard wav format to your email address), which in this fast paced world can be a BIG time saver and added convenience.
One last point on this topic to cover quickly; with the advent of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) continually proving its cost effective existence, many businesses find themselves wanting to take advantage of these savings. Many small business telephone systems on the market today are equipped to handle VoIP telephone lines through either a simple hardware or software upgrade. An upgrade may include adding an Ethernet (or media) port to the system or if already equipped, simply enabling this port through software activation. Simply plugging this unit into your company LAN and perhaps minor firewall configuration you can now start saving on land line costs by calling out over less expensive VoIP lines.
Multi-line business telephone can benefit as well but through a 3rd party VoIP gateway. This gateway converts a VoIP line (sometimes called a “Trunk”) to a standard telephone port. You will need as many gateways as you want lines, (or opt for a multi-port unit). However you may have to plan on spending some time configuring and adjusting the settings of the unit to obtain the proper volume levels while minimizing echo and other artifacts that may be induced when converting the signal from a standard Analog telephone line to SIP or other VoIP protocol. Many high end units come with built in (hardware or software) echo cancellers and noise suppressors which minimize these adjustments (and work very well) but increase the cost of the gateway dramatically.
To conclude, although it may seem like great savings early in your start up phase, for needs of 4 or less external lines and extension phones, the multi-line business phone can actually prove to be a cost effective solution. In my humble opinion these multi-line phones are better suited for a home office (or SOHO) situation. If you have big plans to expand exponentially (and don’t we all!) I recommend you at least consider a small business telephone system. Although a bit more initial investment is required, the benefits far out way the cost disadvantage if not cancel it out completely.
If you’re looking for a great small telephone system to start out with that’s not too advanced and bloated with “bells and whistles,” I recommend the XBlue Networks X16 small office telephone system. This system is priced right smack in the middle of a decent multi-line business phone setup and an advanced small business telephone system. XBlue Networks hit the nail on the head with this model by stripping off only the advanced telephone features most small business may not have a need for, or are rarely used; allowing the X16 small office phone system to fill a niche in the market left primarily untouched. This compact, stylish phone system offers some nice designer phones to choose from (for those wishing to be unique) and a great feature set.
A telephone system is a major expense for any business but it is necessary for handling incoming and outgoing calls efficiently. There are a large number of telephone systems to choose from. They all have a set of features that are very similar. These features are upgraded and improved over time but the original features usually remain. I am referring to things like WATS lines or least cost routing. These features were required when telephone service was based on distance and time on a call. Features such as hold, Park, conference, transfer, intercom, and messaging are essential to any phone system. Most of us are familiar with these features and are used to using them on any system.
One holdover, of old phone systems, that I have found in my travels, are the large number of copper lines coming into the systems that have never been reviewed. Many times there are lines and numbers that nobody knew existed, but still appeared on the telephone bill. Usually these bills are so complex that it is difficult to find these extra lines. This brings me to a major difference in the new telephone systems. Most of the new systems are IP-based with the ability to plug copper lines into them. What this means is that the majority of the phone lines that come into the system are Internet-based and don’t require a pair of copper wires. It is possible to increase or decrease the number of line appearances that are available simply by logging into a website. It is only necessary to have one phone number for customers to call into. The only reason for additional numbers is to direct calls to a particular individual. This is accomplished with direct inward dial or DID numbers, which are simply program numbers and are not associated with any particular pair of wires.
When we evaluate the viability of the company replacing the telephone system, one major consideration is what they’re currently paying on the telephone bill. Many times the savings can more than pay for the new system. I usually recommend that they keep one or two copper lines and supply the rest of their phone service via the Internet. This makes it much easier for them to control their costs and adjust their lines depending on the business. Even though today’s business Internet service is almost as reliable as copper telephone lines, this will guarantee that they still have telephone service in the event that their Internet service is down. Adding VoIP telephone service simply involves going to a website, signing up, and entering a username and password into the phone system programming. It is possible to increase incoming capacity temporarily to handle an advertising campaign.
Some of these VoIP providers have a per line monthly charge of $8-$25. With this you get a certain number of minutes of call from 500 to unlimited. Other providers have no monthly charge and simply bill by the minute. Which service you use depends on the types of calls you make. One of the big advantages is that we are no longer tied to two or three providers. There are literally hundreds of telephone VoIP providers on the Internet. Considering that you can port any telephone number to any provider, it makes it very easy to switch providers when your needs change. If you are running a special or an advertising campaign, it is easy to add additional channels for incoming calls. It is just as easy to eliminate those channels once the campaign is over.
Another major advantage of the IP telephone systems over the traditional telephone systems is the way they are set up and connected. The traditional systems have a wire running from each telephone back to the central unit and closet. There are a number of punch down blocks and many wires in a rats nest. Moving an extension usually involves either reprogramming the telephone system or swapping the wires. Adding additional telephones usually involves adding new cards to the system and additional wires, as does any new incoming lines. An IP telephone system simply plugs into the router and the two backup copper lines. All of the telephones can plug in anywhere there is a network jack. If you move to another office, simply take your phone with you and plug it into the network jack in that office. In fact, if you take the telephone home, you can plug it into the network jack at home and it appears as if you are still in your office. This is a tremendous advantage in the event of a snowstorm or if you are not feeling well.
To carry this concept one step further, if you are a small business and you would like to have people in different locations working for you, it is possible to place telephones in each of these locations and have it appear, to customers, that everyone is in the same office. If you have more than one office with multiple people in each office is also very easy to put a system in each office location and simply program them to talk to each other. Unlike in the past, requiring you to have a pair of wires that you paid by the mile, you can be in any part of the world with an Internet connection and have the same access to all employees as if there were in one location, with no additional monthly charges. You can call an employee in another part of the world by dialing their extension as if they were in the next cubicle. I have even seen companies with important customers in another country simply ship them a telephone and tell them they can talk to their sales representative for free anytime they like.
I think it would be advantageous for anyone who has had their telephone system for more than a few years to take the time to investigate the cost of replacement and the many advantages of the new systems. Not only will the savings in telephone service end up paying for the telephone system, but the many additional advantages will make your business more