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Dear SMB – To take advantage of VoIP, buy a PBX. WHAT?!*#!?

Posted on: November 28, 2020

I just read an article in the NY Times that purports to advise SMBs on how to take advantage of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). While the story’s gist is true — that VoIP calling in and out of the PSTN may save the SMB money – it dismally fails to paint the full picture of business telephony options. Start with their first SMB recommendation: “First off, if you don’t already have a private telephone exchange (PBX), you’ll need to install one. A PBX is a piece of equipment that switches calls between enterprise users, allowing a group of people (at a company or campus, for example) to share a specific number of external phone lines, saving the added cost of having an external phone line for each user.” When was this written? These days, an SMB has no business buying, installing and managing PBX hardware. Today a huge number of SMB options include no hardware, eliminating the need for technical staff or consultants (aka ridiculously expensive support contracts) for ongoing PBX management. Here is the beauty of IP-based telephony: There are no differences between PBX applications that run in your office on purchased or leased PBX hardware and PBX applications that are hosted in a data center, accessed over the Internet. Oh wait — except for these: Hosted PBX services usually feature: 24×7 network operations management by specialized staff Power, network and IP redundancy for fault tolerance Disaster recovery options No capital cost Free upgrades No need for support contracts Scaling on demand as your business telecom needs grow or shrink. Hardware PBXs come with: Few or no redundancy safeguards High capital costs Ongoing maintenance requirements and costs Specialized technical staff for management Costly upgrades Hosted PBX services usually offer SMBs no-penalty, low or no-risk evaluation periods. Many, such as our onSIP hosted service, even offer free trials. When evaluating a hosted service, customers can simply plug free or inexpensive IP phones into the LAN. In minutes, they can configure the phones to take advantage of the full feature set of a PBX, without any PBX in sight. A far cry from the vendor selection process associated with a purchased, customer-premise PBX. There is little to no management of a hosted service on an ongoing basis. Moves, adds and changes can be handled in minutes by anyone who knows how to use a computer. Upgrades are free and happen without notice, so your service is never outdated and remains current with the latest IP telephony features and capabilities. While the PBX hardware resides safely off-premise, total management control remains in the hands of the hosted PBX service customer, if so desired. Powerful yet user-friendly, web-based administrative portals extend total control of the service as if it ran on an on-premise PBX. Services also can be configured to support road warriors who want calls forwarded to cell or home phones, to route calls based on time of day, to create groups, auto-attendants and more. The Times story takes pains to point out that the PSTN maintains “five 9s” of reliability, bettering a VoIP service. But does this consider real-world conditions? Does it take into account, for example, the excellent chances of someone tripping over wires coming out of PBX hardware sitting under someone’s desk? Today, hosted PBX services have more to do with rescuing SMBs from disaster than causing them. If a small business is struck by fire, flood, earthquake or just a crippling snowstorm, its hosted PBX platform can go on merrily receiving its business calls and forward them to employees sitting at any other spot on earth. The same circumstances will crush, melt, or fill up the voice mail boxes of the PBX sitting in the telecom closet, VoIP or otherwise. For all these and other reasons, SMBs these days should strongly consider the savings and benefits of hosted solutions before buying and installing their own PBX hardware.