Being accessible to customers, and being able to reach out to them in as efficient a manner as possible, are staples of good business practice. A small to medium enterprise with a single phone line or out of date business phone systems will simply not be able to compete in today’s marketplace. Getting the right corporate phone system installed – one that will boost your communicative abilities rather than hinder them – is an essential step for any business that wants to move forwards.
As with any major corporate purchasing decision, there a lot of factors to consider, and plenty of different options to choose from. With a view to clearing the fog, here’s an introduction to corporate phone systems, the different technologies and capabilities on offer, and the kinds of prices that are involved.
The single most important factor in deciding which type of business phone system to install is size: how many phone lines does your business need? While it is advisable to err on the side of optimism and anticipate your company having a larger workforce five years down the line, it is also important to be realistic. There’s no point paying for an enormous, and enormously expensive, phone system if your company’s telephony needs are minimal. The good news is that corporate telephone system suppliers offer a range of options, suitable for all sizes of businesses. These are a few of the most common types.
KSU-Less: the lowest cost to install, and the type of business phone system with the fewest extra features and capabilities. This type of system is ideal for any business that needs no more than 10 phone lines, and is based in a single location. Installation can be completed without an engineer, which brings the cost down to the purchase price of the hardware.
Key System: The next step up, Key systems are very popular with small to medium-sized businesses, and they come with a range of features, including conference calling, paging, call barring and others. You will need an engineer to install a Key System, which brings the initial price up into the range of a few hundred pounds plus.
PBX: Private Branch Exchange telephone systems have long been the standard model in corporate telephony. Coming with a wide range of additional features and extra functions, PBX will provide your workforce and customers with a variety of convenient ways of making contact and being contacted. Suitable for companies that need 40 or 50-plus phone lines, PBX systems come with an internal switching network for distributing calls within the company as well as trunk line access for making external calls. Other capabilities include conference calling, call waiting, on-hold music and call forwarding. PBX can be a significant expense, especially when all of the hardware needs to be bought as well, and depending on the size of the system, prices can start from the low thousands.
Hosted PBX: These days, more and more businesses are opting for a hosted-PBX solution. This involves outsourcing the management of the telephone system to an external company. This provider houses and manages the system, and delivers it to your company either over the telephone line or the internet (as with VoIP – see below). This cuts a lot of the expense when it comes to hardware, and minimises the hassle of dealing with any problems with the system that may arise.
VoIP: As the name suggest, Voice-over Internet Protocol telephone systems use the internet, rather than the traditional analogue phone lines, to connect calls. This means that the ongoing expenses of a VoIP system are low; with no call charges, the only expense is for the businesses broadband connection. However, there is still the initial expense for the hardware and installation. There are many advantages to using a VoIP system, including the possibility of UC (Unified Communications), see What is VoIP and How Does It Work? for more details.
Leading suppliers of business phone systems include Panasonic, Orchid Telecoms, Unify (formerly Siemens) and Samsung. The type of system that’s right for your business depends largely on the size and type of usage you require. By getting multiple quotes from leading suppliers, you can gauge the nature of what the market is offering and compare the various prices on offer. Always get more than quote before making a decision on corporate phone systems, as the choice you make is likely to have a significant effect on your business’ future success.
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