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Why Non-PBX Telephone Systems Make Sense For Today's Business Needs
How to upgrade your phone system without a major investment in hardware.

By: John Shepler

We all know what business telephone systems look like. The very smallest consist of a single desk set or a cordless system with multiple handsets but still one line. Next up are key telephone systems where each phone has buttons to access 2 to 6 outside lines. Beyond that is the realm of the Private Branch Exchange or PBX. This is the standard for most business office applications… or at least it was.

Why PBX?
What made PBX systems popular was the opportunity to get away from having to pay the telephone company for internal calls and lines that mostly sat idle. Yes, there was a time when every phone had its own line to the telco and its own incoming phone number. If you wanted to call someone down the hall, you had to place a local phone call just like if you called someone across town. Each of those calls rang the register at the local phone company.

Direct Connections
It seems obvious today that calls from desk to desk inside your own building should be direct connections. There’s no need to use an outside line to go down to the telco switch and another line to come right back. A simple connection between the two local phones works just fine. What’s needed is a switch like the one at the telephone company office, but for inside the business only. That’s what a PBX is. It’s a miniature telephone exchange switch. That’s the “private” in Private Branch Exchange.

Why PBX Seemed Ideal
All internal calls are managed by the PBX on its own wiring. There are no per-call charges. The PBX also manages outside lines that are used for calls that come in to or leave the premises. There are almost always fewer outside lines than phones because many calls are internal and most phone sit idle while other work is being done. This optimizes the cost of telephone service for the business, right?

Escalating Costs
That was true when PBX was the only game in town. The one fly in the ointment is the cost of the PBX system including maintenance and repairs, and the everyday effort needed for moves, adds and changes. That PBX is just a machine. It doesn’t know that you moved your phone to another location until you tell it to use a different set of wires.

Flexibility Issues
PBX systems aren’t all that flexible, either. Each machine has a capacity. Sure, you can upgrade to add more phones… up to a point. Then you have to install a much larger system when your business grows beyond what your current equipment will support. That’s a major capital investment.

What’s a Better AlternativeToday?
Like many innovations in information technology, moving your phone system to the cloud offers a number of advantages. Yes, there is still something that provides the same function as your old PBX. But, it is a largely software driven system that is located remotely, has nearly unlimited expansion capacity and, best of all, you don’t have to pay for it. You only pay to use the system.. and that’s pay as you go.

How Cloud Communications Works
Cloud communications, also called Hosted PBX or Hosted VoIP, is a virtual PBX system offered as a service. What you have in-house are telephones that plug into your local area network instead of standard telephone jacks. The connection from the network to the service provider is called a SIP trunk. It serves the same function as the analog or digital lines to the phone company that you have now.

What You Gain With a Hosted Solution
|The beauty of a hosted PBX solution is that you can move phones around at will without any wiring changes. Just plug the phone into another network jack and the system will recognize it and know who it is assigned to. Adding or removing phones from the system is done through a simple browser interface. Some cloud suppliers will even provide you with business phone sets as you need them. It’s included in the “per seat” cost of your service.

Day to Day Operations
How does this work on a day to day basis? Your phones still act like normal telephones. You can make internal calls with no per-minute charges, often even if the other phone is at a branch office on the other side of the country. Only calls that have to go over the public telephone system will still have per-minute charges, like you pay today.

Advanced Calling Features
Hosted PBX systems are always up to date and have advanced calling features you may not enjoy today, such as the ability to include mobile phones within the system. They have a dedicated staff to keep the switching equipment working 24/7. In the rare event that tornado or flood destroys your office, your phone system will still work. You just need some working phones and a network connection to the cloud to be back in business.

Are you looking at a new business phone system or facing a costly upgrade cycle? Before you go the PBX route, take a look at what a hosted PBX solution offers in the way of performance and cost control for your organization.

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