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Most businesses have a phone system these days and words like ‘PBX’ and ‘IP Telephony’ are often bandied around as an ingrained part of business conversation, yet what exactly is a phone system? How does an IP PBX differ from a PBX? And how can a phone system benefit your business in discernable ways? This article will answer all these questions and more and leave you with a workable knowledge of business phone systems.
To properly understand the differences between phone systems, a basic knowledge of what a telephone system is needs to be attained. A phone system acts as an exchange that allows people to communicate both internally and externally. Rather than each phone having a separate line to the Public Telephone Network (PTN), a phone system enables your business to connect all phones, using a limited number of lines.
As well as placing and receiving internal and external calls, phone systems also employ certain basic features designed for business – these will be discussed further on.
Let us first explain the acronym so as to avoid confusion – PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. A PBX phone system consists of internal and external phone lines, a console and a computer server. The PBX is a switching system used to manage internal calls and provide external lines to internal phones when needed. Distinguishing itself from the Public Telephone Network though, PBX phone systems can route incoming calls to extensions and connect calls to answering services as well as other more business-specific features that are the trademark of phone systems and which we shall come to later.
An IP (Internet Protocol) PBX does the same thing as an ordinary PBX except it is designed to deliver voice (VoIP) or video over a data network and interoperate with the normal Public Telephone Network. IP PBXs can be either hardware or software based and can provide more advanced functions than ordinary PBXs by integrating with computer systems.
PBX and IP PBX phone systems are not the only business phone systems available, however they act as a standard around which other phone systems are based and are the most widely used phone systems in the business arena.
Phone systems all share a common set of features that make businesses more efficient – after all, time is money. These features include:
Call Conferencing – the ability to share a phone call between more than two people which can save time and travel
Call Hold – an important feature for business phones – on-hold music or messaging can be added
Call Routing – saves time by routing calls to the right internal extension
Voicemail – one of the most important business telephone system functions. Voicemails can be accessed by individuals or departments and can be also be forwarded
Auto-Attendant – this feature is well used especially with small phone systems as it negates the need for a secretary
These features as stated before, are common to all phone systems. Different types of phone systems however can have different features and as IP phone systems are becoming ever more popular, it is worth noting a few of the extra features that they can provide for your business:
Click-to-Call – uses computer-telephony integration (CTI) so you can simply click on the screen to call
Call Logging and Tracking – this feature is useful to find out call history and other information
Call Screening – allows you to see who is calling before you answer
A common misconception is that you have to be a multi-national, filthy-rich corporation to have an advanced phone system but that is not the case. Many small and medium businesses have small phone systems that cost little and save them money. A VoIP phone system can seriously reduce costs for instance – calls can be routed over the internet rather than the Public Telephone Network, eradicating almost all call charges. Many businesses also bypass the cost of hiring a secretary by using an auto-attendant instead.
Certain features on a phone system can create the right impression with customers too. On hold messages and on hold music in particular can make a business seem more professional, as first impressions do go a long way.
Many businesses find that a phone system increases efficiency and functionality. For example, phone conferencing can reduce time spent in business travel, speed dial and click-to-call can also reduce time spent looking up phone numbers and voicemail is much more efficient than an answering machine. In the fast-paced world of business, the utilisation of time-saving and efficient tools can often be the difference between a good business and a mediocre business.
Business phone systems then are exchanges that allow people to communicate internally and externally via the Public Telephone Network. Phone systems can come in many different versions with the most popular being the standard PBX and IP PBX phone systems. Phone systems are characterised by bespoke business features common to all phone systems and they can save businesses money as well as making them run more efficiently. Phone systems are becoming one of the essential tools of business now – communication is the key no matter what business you are in and business phone systems undoubtedly broaden communication horizons.