When you’re first starting your research into business PBX systems, it can seem daunting. There are thousands of acronyms, hundreds of providers, and dozens of blog posts that never seem to get to the point. But we’re here to change that. We’ve compiled a list of the most common questions we get asked about business PBX and provided some clear-cut answers. Hopefully, you’ll find this helpful on your research journey!
What does PBX stand for?
PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. But what is a Private Branch Exchange? Simply put, it’s a system that allows companies and businesses to create their own telephone network. This means employees can communicate with one another without having to connect to the Publicly Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and pay the requisite public call fees. The modern versions of PBX systems establish these connections via channels like ISDN or VoIP.
Fun Fact: In the beginning of PBX technology, it was done manually by people staffing a switchboard and physically switching cords between various jacks. As time went on, switching became much faster and simpler with the invention of automated systems.
How does a business PBX system work?
It depends entirely on what system you decide to implement, though they perform nearly the same function. Currently there are two options for business PBX systems: on-premises PBX and hosted PBX.
This traditional technology operates utilizing on-site hardware in a controlled environment – like a hardware rack or phone closet. It connects users within the organization using physical lines, allowing them to make calls to other phones connected to the environment. To enable external communication, the on-premises business PBX connects employees with a PSTN via traditional phone lines.
Hosted or Cloud-based PBX
Rather than having a PBX environment (or “box”) in a physical space maintained by a specific team of employees, a hosted business PBX solution is “hosted” in a data center and managed by the provider of that solution. A hosted PBX doesn’t route calls through on-premises hardware either, sending voice data via the internet to where it needs to go. Needless to say, these solutions require you to have a good internet connection. If your business is large enough, you could benefit from setting up MPLS as well, so voice calls over the internet are prioritized over other forms of internet usage.
What is the PSTN and why do we need to connect to it to make calls?
The Public Switched Telephony Network (PSTN) is the traditional phone system we all know. It is a combination of the traditional analog copper lines and switching centers, some of which have been in use since the 19th century, and new enhancements like fiber optic cables, satellites, and cellular networks. This web of technology powers and connects landline phones across America and throughout the world.
Most businesses need to connect to the PSTN because – simply put – their customers and contacts are on it. Even though fixed-line (i.e. landline) subscriptions are declining, PSTN phones are still seen as the standard in communication. Especially because areas of the world still struggle to access the internet consistently.
What are the main differences between a hosted PBX and a traditional one?
The two biggest differences between a traditional PBX and one that’s hosted in the cloud are hardware requirements and cost effectiveness.
A traditional business PBX, for example, is comprised of on-site hardware and physical switches that need to be stored in and maintained by the business. This initial installation, and subsequent maintenance, can be costly.
A hosted or cloud PBX is more cost effective because the business doesn’t need to maintain it. The provider does – hosting all hardware, software, and other technological necessities in their secure data centers. All the business needs to do is have VoIP-capable phones and they’re good to go – making cloud PBX a bit more cost-effective.
What about power outages? How can they effect a business PBX?
A power outage will knock out traditional PBXs for as long as it takes for the power to be restored. But a lack of power won’t have that effect on a cloud PBX system. If your device has an internet connection, you’ll be able to access your cloud PBX and make and receive business calls as normal! Especially if your cloud PBX system comes with a softphone or mobile application.
What are some pitfalls in choosing a hosted PBX solution?
While hosted PBX solutions are a great fit for many businesses, they do have their own unique challenges. The first and foremost of which is poor internet connection. Because hosted PBX solutions run on the internet, if your connection is frequently spotted or hampered by outages, your business communications will suffer.
If you make the switch from a traditional PBX to a hosted PBX, your employees will most likely need training on the new system. This could briefly hamper worker productivity as they get up to speed on all the latest features and functions of their phone systems.
Thankfully, all these pitfalls are easily overcome if you choose an excellent business PBX provider and ensure you have a powerful, reliable internet connection.
On average, how much does a hosted PBX cost?
While the average is somewhere between $15 and $30 a user/seat/line, the cost typically varies by provider. After all, some providers may charge additional fees for setup, support, or more advanced features. Be sure you look closely at what features and functions business PBX providers are offering per seat to ensure you get the best deal possible.
If I purchase a hosted PBX system, do I need to invest in new hardware?
Not always! Many providers have incorporated softphone applications that allow you to use your desktop, laptop, or cell phone as your office phone.
Get More Meaningful Answers with Unitel
We’ve answered a few of the basic questions in this post, but our team of experts can answer a whole lot more. All our Unitel technicians are CTP Certified (Converged Technologies Professional) as well as Network+ Certified, ensuring you’re in the best hands possible. If you’re in need of a business PBX solution but don’t know where to start, reach out to us online, in-person, or via email and we’d be happy to learn more about your needs and find the right solution to fit them.