Business telephone systems are an essential tool for any organisation that needs to arrange internal / external communications in an efficient & streamlined fashion. However cost is often the most off putting factor & can lead to significant errors in terms of choices made when purchasing a system.
There are many points to consider before you contact an installation company & plenty of online research that can be done to put you in a better position to actually make the right choices for your business, short and long term. You really need to look at the big picture of the past, present & emerging technologies in conjunction with the needs of your business. As a general start point why not take a glance at Ebay, where you will finds hundreds of business telephone systems for sale. This can be some what overwhelming, however there are a few simple questions you can ask yourself.
- Can you afford to take a chance on a second hand telephone system, will it actually be fully functional?
- Why are there so many systems of a certain type or manufacturer up for sale on Ebay?
- Do you want old or new technology, as in will your needs always be basic or will they evolve?
Burytec are confident that you will always be better off with a new telephone system that uses new technology. The costs are very comparable & competitive when viewed along side the alternatives, providing you opt for the right technology combinations.
Following a little basic research there are no two ways about it, you will directly or in directly stumble upon Asterisk the open source communications tool kit. Asterisk is quite a complex system, but this complexity offers a very comprehensive array of features at rock bottom prices. It is considered to be a hardware & vendor independent technology, thereby allowing you to mix & match things like handsets, software, as well as implement almost any business specific processes. Asterisk has been around for over ten years and has gone from strength to strength, it is widely supported and has a solid foundation of support & specialist feature add ons.
To make implementation, configuration & general day to day use of your telephone system Asterisk has a number of Graphical User Interface front ends. These GUI's are generally accessed via a web browser with a point and click interface that makes system administration a breeze. Asterisk the technology is based on Internet Protocol, however there is actually no reason why you cannot just connect a few standard (Public Switched Telephone Network) telephone lines to it on one end & telephone extensions on the other. The power of Asterisk in the middle will give your business access to a vast number of modern communication features including the ability to integrate newly emerging technology without necessarily having to make significant further hardware investments.
As part of your small business telephone system implementation process you will need a plan of action, for the best results this should be a collaborative process between you & your installer.
- Plan your proposed installation date, week commencing. Revise as necessary based on the below. (Client)
- Draw a plan layout of your space, identify the physical locations of your extension points. (Client)
- Mark the point where your main telephone lines come into your building. (Client / Installer)
- You should now be able to identify one or two locations for your telephone system. (Client / Installer)
- Estimate the total cable & routing required to complete your installation. (Installer)
- Decide on the type & number of external access lines / trunk routes that your system will have (PSTN or VOIP). This will be based on the simultaneous use of incoming & out going calls. Try to find the best deal you can, try to opt for an initial contract of 12 months followed by a 30 day rolling agreement that offers a 30 day notice period. (Client / Installer)
- Note that should you choose VOIP as your access method, you will need to have a very good broadband service connection, one that can support your required number of simultaneous calls. You will need to think about both upstream & downstream data throughput. Don't forget if you do use VOIP lines, when your broadband or VOIP host has a technical service problem you may suffer loss of phone services. Apply the same method to buying your broadband connection contract as it is used for your phone lines, 12 months is long enough in the rapidly changing world of communications. More to the point should your selected services prove unsatisfactory anything greater than 12 months could be disastrous for your business. (Client)
- Consider a structured cabling installation solution appropriate for your space, try to plan 30% - 50% future growth where possible. This may mean installing extra cables or just ensuring there is space in any trunking for extra cables. Consider a wiring system installation that will not negatively effect your computer network communications, there are a number ways to achieve this. Separate physical or virtual networks, alternatively you can ensure that all network traffic can be supported by your network infrastructure, by initial hardware selection & design. (Client / Installer)
- Structured data cabling for voice communications is an investment that can be made prior to your system installation, this allows you to break down the total cost into stages. (Client)
- Irrespective of whether you choose a hosted or on-site system you will still need cabling for you extension points. The only other option is to try going completely wireless & hope for the best, this type of solution can often come with connectivity issues that you will have limited control over. (Client)
- Consider your installation in terms of your business working hours or busy times, do you require out of hours installation. What arrangements can be made to give your installer site access. Will there be full access for cable runs & trunking installation, will equipment or products have to be moved? (Client / Installer)
Now would be a good point to research systems that may meet your desired connectivity & scalability. Think about the overall cost, how many lines will the system support out of the box? What are its abilities to support more? Are there any per extension licence fees? (budget for £550 - £1100 for a simple small office system, £1400 - £2600 for a modern state of the art scalable small business system including standard feature phones). Note that the cheapest solutions in year zero (generally some sort of leasing, rental or hosting agreement) will invariable become very expensive as time goes on, usually because of licensing or handset / per extension rental. Plan a system life of 5 – 10 years. Will it be easy to use, administer & maintain?
Which of the following features do you need?
- Soft phones, for using a computer as a phone
- Video conferencing
- Automated attendant
- intercom / door entry
- Presence technology, the ability to quickly identify who is available.
- Wireless phones, for roaming workers on a sales floor, warehouse, or other location
- Integration with a customer relationship management (CRM) system
- Voice-mail, with notifications by e-mail, text message, or phone
- Call recording
- Find me, follow me
- Off site extensions
- Music on hold
Some serious contenders worth adding to your telephone system short-list would be:-
- Elastix - hardware
- Digium Switchvox - hardware
- Xorcom - hardware
- Openvox - hardware
- Atcom - hardware
- Ombutel - software
- Wazo - software
- Issabel - software
Consider VOIP, as it is now classed a mature technology that can save you money at the same time as providing superior business use benefits.
Be practical & realistic, try to understand what you are signing up to. If it sounds to expensive or to good to be true then it probably is. Make sure you know the cost over the full term should you choose a lease or rental agreement for any part of your communications services. Think about what happens at the end of any lease or rental agreement, will you own the equipment, do you buy it or send it back?
Read the following articles to help you understand some of the things to look out for.
Please feel free to contact Burytec for further information. You may also find this article very useful:-Business Telephone System Advice