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Choosing a Phone System

The 3 Components of a Business Phone System

Phone Stations
These are the telephones that sit on desks. These can also be softphones (a computer application that acts as a phone), overhead paging systems, or other connected devices. Generally, each station has its own extension number.
The PBX (or private branch exchange) is the brains of the system. The PBX routes calls, handles auto-attendant features, and maintains voicemail boxes.
This is how your PBX connects to the rest of the world to place and receive calls.
The 4 Types of Business Phone Systems
1: POTS, or Centrex
POTS (which stands for plain old telephone service) refers to one or more standard copper phone lines, obtained from the phone or cable company and hooked directly to standard household telephones or slightly more sophisticated 2- 3- or 4-line phones. These lines often come with basic features like voicemail and call waiting. Centrex is a phone company term for POTS lines that have more advanced features, such as the ability to put calls on hold and transfer calls to other phone numbers. Using POTS or Centrex service, features are accessed by dialing specific key codes during a call. This can be a very inexpensive way for a small business to get phone service, but it is not flexible, and requires learning cryptic codes for anything other than basic fuctions.
2: Traditional On-premise
With this type of system, the phone lines are all delivered to an on-site PBX. Each station connects to the PBX via dedicated cabling. The stations are designed to work with the PBX, so most features are accessible using dedicated buttons.
3: On-Premise VoIP
Similar to a traditional system, but the stations are connected to the PBX via the data network. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which is a fancy way of saying that the communication is carried over the network. It does not necessarily mean that the Internet is being used to carry phone calls.
4: Hosted VoIP
With Hosted VoIP, the PBX resides at one or more datacenters owned and maintained by the service provider. The phone stations connect to the data network and communicate with the PBX over the Internet. All of the call processing and routing goes on outside your building. This makes hosted VoIP service extremely portable and resiliant.
Decision Matrix
Type of System
Best In This Situation
CapEx vs. OpEx
Very small business with less than five people in one location.
Not a good fit if business has more than a handful of employees, or needs auto-attendant features.
CapEx: Phones are low cost.
OpEx: Phone lines are low cost and support is minimal. (Can be supported by anyone.)
Traditional On-Premise
Phone cabling already in place.
All phone stations in one building.
Cost can increase dramatically if offices are distributed between different sites.
Not a good fit for mobile workers.
Cannot easily transfer calls to mobile phones or other numbers.
Not survivable: service outage brings down all communication.
CapEx: PBX and Stations are purchased up-front or leased.
OpEx: Phone lines are low cost; support is moderate. (Often can only be supported by the original vendor.)
On-premise VoIP
All stations in one building.
Network infrastructure already in place.
Can be more cost-effective than traditional if office is segmented with long distances in between.
Same limitations as Traditional On-Premise, plus, not good if
data network is unreliable or already overtaxed.
CapEx: PBX and Stations are purchased up-front or leased.
OpEx: Phone lines are low cost; support is moderate, but may require additional, coordinated data network support. (Often can only be supported by the original vendor.)
Hosted VoIP
Business has offices in multiple locations.
Many mobile users.
Business requires fail-safe communication.
May not be cost effective when business has many idle phones (such as a school or hotel).
Not good if data network is unreliable or already overtaxed.
CapEx: Stations may be purchased, leased, or rented.
OpEx: Each extension incurs a fixed monthly cost. (PBX features are part of this cost.) Support may be included, but additional, coordinated data network support may be necessary.


To learn more about Clocktower’s phone system offerings, give us a call at 508-541-6143 today.
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