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Switching to VoIP A Hosted or On Premise Phone System?

Once you've made the decision to switch to VoIP, the next decision becomes whether you want to own your own phone system or opt for a hosted or virtual solution. There are pros and cons to each however, as a general rule an on premise phone system is a better solution for large companies with complex routing or call centers.

For businesses with a minimal number of users, a hosted solution can be the perfect way to take advantage of VoIP technology at a minimal cost. The premise of a hosted phone system is that of a third-party vendor maintaining all the hardware, communications and software. For smaller businesses without their own internal IT support, having the vendor maintain and troubleshoot the system present employees to focus on day-to-day business operations and growth. Hosted solutions have many of the basic features seen in large on premise systems. Things such as an auto attendant, voicemail, music on hold, call conferencing and call transferring are all usually included in most hosted systems.

With a virtual PBX, the business owner does not have to allocate space at his or her location to house the phone system. This can be particularly difficult in small storefront properties where space is at a premium. Business is changing to the point where physical location is no longer a limitation. With The use of a virtual PBX, the small business has the same competitive edge as its larger competitors. With VoIP technology the small business can now allow its Associates to work from a home-based office, a customer location, or even a hotel room. The versatility of VoIP technology allows the extension to go wherever the employee goes.

When purchasing a virtual phone system, the issue of support should be addressed during the purchasing process. A service level agreement is essential to ensure that the vendor providing support will do so in a timely fashion in the event of a system outage. For moves adds and changes, there is usually a web interface that allows the business owner to make these simple changes himself or herself. However, a support agreement could include these changes if desired.

An on premise PBX is generally much more costly however; they are usually a lot more robust. Because of the high number of users in multiple locations, a PBX that is housed and maintained by the business owner usually requires a complex configuration involving multiple circuits, a considerable amount of hardware, as well as the ability to interface with many external systems. Since this type of phone system is used to help customers self-serve as well as run a full-fledged call center, the need for additional features such as vectoring, Hunt groups, and ARS analysis, becomes clear. If there is already a PBX that can accommodate VoIP, then it can be converted to voice over IP technology in a phased approach. This allows the business owner to leverage the current hardware that he or she already owns that's still functioning properly. As new extensions are added onto the system or hardware replaced, IP phones can be purchased. Over time this slowly converts all handsets on the phone system to IP enabled phones. This allows the business owner to defer the cost of moving to voice over IP over several years. This is where having a phone system that will run old and new technology side-by-side can be beneficial.

Support for this type of system requires someone with both the knowledge and experience to maintain the system so that it continues to operate both smoothly and efficiently. If internal support is not

available or not desired, as with the virtual PBX, support can be provided by the phone system vendor. Here too, a service level agreement would be required to ensure timely response for system issues and outages. Maintenance should include replacement of hardware in the event of a failure. If this is not included in the maintenance agreement, the business owner would have to pay each time hardware needs to be replaced. With this sophisticated phone system, this can be quite costly over time. A well- planned maintenance agreement that includes both support and replacement of hardware is often the best solution. When hardware needs to be replaced, a technician from the vendor simply brings the new equipment at no additional cost.

When switching to a VoIP enabled phone system, there are many choices available. Any system chosen should offer reliability as well as scalability. Future business growth should also be considered before you purchase. For those companies with rapid growth, purchasing a system that can handle the anticipated future needs will be more cost-effective. Since it's likely that pricing will be at its most competitive during the initial purchase process, it's a good idea to take advantage of this pricing so that you have the capacity before you need it.

Switching to VoIP is a sound business decision that offers versatility, flexibility, and significant cost savings. With the ability to have extensions virtually anywhere, there are no limits to where your business can go.

 

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