Guide to Hosted Phone Systems
Hosted VoIP PBX phone system use is growing among small and medium businesses, but how do you know if these systems are the right option for your company? According to researchers at Access Market International small and medium sized businesses will spend $1.56 billion on hosting services for VoIP and PBX phone systems compared to $164.9 million in 2005. This kind of growth seems to indicate that hosted VoIP technology has come a long way from the technology that used to be represented by dropped calls, unreliable service, and static. So, where does hosted VoIP and PBX stand now, and is it a strong enough technology for you and your business to rely on.
Hosted vs. On-Premises Phone Systems?
A hosted VoIP system works by having a company host the equipment such as a phone cabinet and routing software at its own data center and connects calls to your office using a high speed internet connection. Some local providers use a combination approach; routing calls from the provider’s location over landlines as local calls. Doing this alls them to eliminate the need for on-site phone equipment and a high speed internet connection, and allows the business to use regular phones. This service isn’t available in all areas and can cost more than services that route calls using an internet connection.
Hosted PBX system software can be downloaded from a provider’s website by the business or user or configured by remote access by the provider. Users can then manage the system settings and walk through the tutorials on how to use the system most effectively. Most enterprise grade systems require the user to use VoIP phones, although some businesses route calls through their computers and an attached headset. As with typical on site PBX systems, businesses can designate a certain amount of bandwidth for phone calls and data transfers to ensure optimal call quality. One upside to using a hosted system is that the user management is simple, and can be done online in real time.
Routing calls: Open Internet Connection vs. T-1 Line
How calls are routed is a very important consideration for hosted VoIP PBX’s because businesses pay for the connection along with the phone service itself. Connecting over the internet can effect call quality and is not as secure as having a dedicated connection or line. Having a dedicated connection allows for better security, and increased quality.
Having a dedicated line can easily overcome the cost benefit of hosted VoIP and PBX systems. Before choosing to use an open internet connection addressing security issues is important. Setting up firewalls, and separating data and voice traffic over your network is advisable. Your provider will be able to help you with this and give you an idea of the call quality you can expect.
Hosted VoIP Telephone Equipment and Setup
Hosted PBX systems do not require a phone cabinet or routing software to be installed at your business but depending on the level of system you have chosen, you may need to get new phone. Hosted systems are broken down into two categories; Basic and Enterprise.
Basic systems resemble regular VoIP phones than true hosted PBX, though they are often referred to as hosted systems. These basic systems usually provide auto attendant and voicemail and fewer than ten extensions. If you select a basic system you will need an internet connection and working phones, but little or nothing else. Smaller businesses like these basic systems because they are easy, inexpensive, and do not require extensive equipment.
Enterprise systems are true hosted PBX systems and you are able to designate bandwidth and keep control of traffic on the system, along with adding or customizing features to best suit your businesses needs. Enterprise level PBX systems are installed similarly to the basic level, by downloading the software from your provider. Most providers can provide VoIP phones and walk you through the process and complete the install for you.
How Much Does It Cost?
Hosted PBX providers bill generally bill in two ways, month to month or on a contract. Contracts work like traditional phone system contracts. A contract will usually include features, maintenance, minute use, acceptable downtime, and other provisions in a Service Level Agreement. For the more VoIP-like systems, month-to-month offerings are common, and service costs are low.
Hosted VoIP and PBX
With a tough economy small and medium sized businesses are looking for ways to improve their customer service while lowering their costs. Improving your communication systems can accomplish both of these simultaneously. By purchasing a hosted VoIP or PBX system, you can pay one bill for internet and phone service, while improving your business image and communication abilities. Hosted VoIP and PBX systems can save you money, increase client relationships, and improve your businesses chance of success in a tough economy.