One of the more commonly encountered results of the digital convergence between voice and data is the IP PBX System. There are obviously costs and benefits to moving to IP telephony, and a business needs to consider if it should move to a IP PBX System and if it chooses to, when is the best time.
Typically, an IP telephony installation consists of a central PBX function and VoIP phones on user desks. Rather than dedicated cables needed for traditional non-IP systems, conversations are digitised and carried over the cabling that supports the office network. For the very small business there is the option of a Hosted PBX system, where the IP PBX is hosted at an external service provider.
Why and When would a business install an IP PBX?
The Why is generally a no-brainer, but a multitude of reasons support the decision. These will include:
- In todays “always-on” environment, it can be a cost-effective means of providing 24/7/365 access to the business, thereby improving the business image. No more unanswered calls.Most IP PBX implementations include automated call management systems ensuring that a caller is directed to the appropriate department or individual for attention. Out of hours they can play a recorded message, take a voice message or redirect the call to another number.Unanswered calls can be transferred to another number in a hunting group after a set time or number of rings.
- There are significant call cost savings, particularly for long-distance and international calls. Calls to an external number are routed over the internal business network and thereafter over the Internet. As a result they do not attract the toll charges levied by the traditional PTT suppliers. In essence, they are free.
- Easy integration with video calls and video-conferencing.Internet phone applications like Skype and WhatsApp operate over a VoIP network, and often integrate with corporate video-conferencing applications. Both can be used to improve internal and external communications and provide a very low-cost comprehensive communications platform.
- Reductions in maintenance costs because you now have only one cabling infrastructure to manage, the IP network infrastructure.The voice and data networks share the same cabling and equipment infrastructure.
- New features and functionality, many of which cannot be provided by a traditional PBX.Having your PBX based on a digital platform allows the easy implementation of digitally based applications. For example, in a WiFi-enabled environment a smartphone can be linked to the PBX, giving the user freedom of movement, but remaining in contact anywhere that is in range of the office WiFi network.
That should cover the Why and persuade those considering moving to an IP PBX platform that it will be a worthwhile investment.
As to when, do it now. The business benefits are clear. The exact timetable is defined by the business strategy and confirmation of a budget to support the installation work.
The first step in budget preparation is to have a service supplier provide a quotation for the supply, installation and configuration of the IP PBX.
You will also need a budget for the installation or upgrading of the network supporting the IP environment. Simply put, the business will need a digital network. If there isn’t one already, it will need to be installed. If there is, it will need to be looked at to make sure it can support a VoIP environment:
- The Physical Network. The cabling must be of a certain type and standard. Technically, it must be Ethernet RJ-45 cabling of at least Category 5e certification.
- Powering the VoIP Phones on the desktop. There are two ways to do this, power bricks and power via the network.In the first case, each phone is provided with a power brick, which implies that there is a power point close to the phone’s location. If this is a desktop, that should not be a problem, but that might need to be fixed if the phone is in a location at which there are no power points. The additional costs of the power brick will need to be included in the budget.In the second case, power is delivered using the network cabling, usually called Power over Ethernet (“PoE”). In an IP environment, PCs and IP Phones join the network by connecting to switches. The switches need to be capable of supporting PoE in order that the desktop IP Phones have power. If they don’t they will need to be replaced.
- IP Phone points.There needs to be a network point wherever a phone is needed. A power point might also be needed if you are using power bricks.
The why of installing an IP PBX is uncontested. Reductions in communications costs, improvements in services, and improvements in business profile should make your mind up for you.
The when is more debatable. The best answer is now.