Can a business really get away with hosted PBX or VoIP?

Hosted PBX or VoIP? I get this question a lot, “Can VOIP, SIP Trunks and phones work for my office”? The answer is yes, but be careful. There are a few things you need to take into consideration. Be aware of the rumors going around about VOIP and PBX. One myth is that VOIP is free, but I can assure you it’s not. The other is, can you host a PBX versus buying one and what is the difference? With that said let me try to break it down like a fraction.

A PBX traditionally, more or less connects both your phones and phone lines to one centralized system that understands your “Dial Plans”. Now that sounds complicated but it really is not, let’s just look at it on a small scale. Imagine having two phone lines (pots lines) coming into your house and two different phone numbers plugged up to two different phones. Now, with that set up you can call phone 1 or you can call phone 2 but you can’t transfer a call dialed on phone 1 to phone 2.

When you introduce the PBX, the two phone lines connect to it, as well as the phones. Now you can call both numbers and transfer a call from phone 1 to phone 2 plus a whole host of other features. An on premise PBX in a business more or less does the same thing. Yet they typically scale much larger than two phone lines, and can handle higher end circuits like a T1 or PRI which would give you up to twenty-four phone lines.

Even better those twenty-four lines from the Telco plugged into your PBX can be over subscribed, meaning, you may not have twenty-four people on the phone at the same time. With PBX you are paying for twenty-four phone lines however, you have fifty phones and this is the magic of the PBX and its dial plans. Even better, the Telco will give you what is called DID numbers, which means you can have fifty different phone numbers that will directly dial fifty different phones, while only having twenty-four phone lines.

Now, that’s all fine and great but where does SIP and VOIP fit in? The short answer is in two places, a phone can connect to your onsite PBX using SIP, or it can connect to a hosted PBX. Also, your onsite PBX may be able to connect to a SIP Trunk, don’t let the term fool you, a SIP Trunk is more or less a phone line, yet it is connected through the Internet.

So when do you use a hosted PBX or VoIP? Bandwidth in some areas is amazing, allowing you to easily have twenty phones or more through your Internet connection. However, don’t forget you use Internet on your computer. When bandwidth goes down, or if the Internet is down, your phones will suffer. Think about how often the Internet in your house goes down because this will directly affect the phone lines.

That in a nutshell is how to make the decision between Hosted PBX or VoIP. Saving a couple thousand dollars for an onsite PBX mixed in with the cost savings of SIP Trunks (Internet phone lines) vs. traditional phone lines, may be worth it for your business.

Let’s say your business has 5users and the Internet bandwidth is used extensively for sending files, emails and hosted servers at that point you may want to consider a bit of a hybrid situation. Remember, phones are crucial to your business, if all your phone lines are SIP Trunks using the Internet, yes that is most likely saving you 30% or more off your phone bill however, if you get one crazy virus your phones are down. Secondly, at this point in time I think phone lines are more stable than Internet connections.

The happy medium for companies of this size, is what’s called a “Soft PBX” this allows you to connect traditional phone lines, and SIP Trunks all in one location. The glory to it is based on the idea that traditional phone lines are more stable than Internet connections, should the Internet go down, your phones still work.

In this scenario, the PBX will prefer to use a SIP Trunk, because it’s cheaper, yet it isn’t opposed to using a regular phone line, should it see trouble with the SIP line. This gets back to the “Dial Plan”. Again the Dial Plan is nothing more than the PBX’s logic for how to make calls.

At Nettology, we have some ten user accounts and some 1,000 user clients. Our opinions on which to have, onsite PBX or Hosted PBX can change based on your size, use of phones and bandwidth. Our rule of thumb is to be sure you’re working, at all times.

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