Now is a great time to be in the market for a new PBX, says Vox Orion MD Jacques du Toit. With the arrival of hosted IP PBXs alongside the older hardware-based devices, customers have more choice than ever before.
“Many of our clients are considering a move into IP as their existing PBX infrastructure reaches the end if its lifecycle,” says Du Toit. “Market deregulation, lower bandwidth costs and new technology have made IP telephony a very attractive proposition – but you need to do your homework.”
The very first move companies need to make is to ensure that their internal networks are voice-ready, says Du Toit. “Your LAN cabling needs to be CAT5E+, your network switches preferably need to support power over Ethernet, you need to be able to give voice calls priority over the network (QoS) and you need appropriate security in place.”
The other critical components are end user devices – handsets or soft phones – and the external network links. “You can’t compromise on quality in either case,” says Du Toit. “A cheap handset will lower call quality and lead to bad experiences. If a customer elects to go with soft phones they need to implement tight controls as to what gets changed or loaded on the device”
IP telephony comes in three flavours, each with its own particular costs and benefits: Proprietary, pure open source and commercial open source. “We believe the benefits of proprietary systems are outweighed by their high cost and the fact that they tend to offer very little customizability,” says Du Toit. “On the other hand, pure open source may be free, but there is very limited support. We believe commercial open source solutions combine the best of both worlds: excellent technology at low cost, with all the backup and support that you need for a system that is important for your business.”
Switching to IP telephony will save money in the long run, adds Du Toit, “but that shouldn’t be the primary motivation. Quality is key: If you go with a cheap or free option, you may find yourself making every call twice. That’s frustrating for staff and a very poor show for customers.”
Even more important than cost savings, he says, are the new services made possible by IP telephony. Some options include presence management, Fixed Mobile Convergence, conferencing solutions, access control etc “You may not need video today or next year, for example, but as the cost of broadband is reduced, the demand for video will increase. You need to choose a provider who can terminate voice calls on their own network, and who can continue to offer you new value added services as they become available. Otherwise you may be heading down a dead end.”
Prospective customers should also check that suppliers have redundancy in their platforms and interconnect points, in addition, national representation is critical to ensure calls are terminated in the most cost effective way.