Business telephone system buying can be a daunting task, especially since these days the task of researching, purchasing, installing, programming and maintaining the system frequently falls to the office IT person. While this person is probably great at solving your average printer problem (turn it off, turn it back on again), or figuring out why the internet connection died (turn it off, turn it back on again), even IT people sometimes need some resources to start with before they can make informed buying decisions.
Physical PBX telephone systems are no longer as popular as they once were with the advent of dozens or hundreds of hosted VoIP telephony service providers; however once you start looking carefully around many of your local grocery stores, restaurants or other businesses, you will often notice that they use "old-fashioned" phone systems in their buildings. There can be lots of reasons for this, but the most-cited reason is probably: it's too expensive and/or time consuming to replace a system that is serving dozens of employees, work stations and break rooms. Telephone systems are also still popular for very large residential uses - they offer features and flexibility that make room-to-room, wing-to-wing and incoming/outgoing communication much simpler.
When shopping for a telephone system to meet your application, here is a helpful list of things to consider along with some very basic definitions of what all this technical jargon means in the real world. We always recommend that buyers seek a local technician to install and program the system for you - these professionals can get you up and running much faster than your IT person can and under most circumstances will show you at least a little bit about how to run and maintain the system.
1: Incoming phone line(s)
The very first thing you will need to make sure you have before installing a phone system is a phone line. Historically this meant copper wire that connects your office, house or business to the telephone company's grid (called CO line, for Central Office), but today you will also encounter many instances where the phone line(s) are called PRI which are a hosted VoIP connection. Even if you use VoIP for phone lines, you can still connect those lines to an older phone system, provided you have the right line termination equipment. Each one of these lines will connect to your phone system and can be easily shared between everyone.
You should consider how many lines you will need to order from the phone company. For a small office with less than 10 employees and average call volume, 3 or 4 lines is a very typical starting point. When considering PRI, ask your phone company how many PRI channels you may need to get this amount of coverage - it can vary.
2- Number of extensions needed
You should take a head count of everyone in the office who will need a phone on their desk. Also consider what rooms might benefit from having a phone present - think common areas (break room or kitchen), warehouse locations, conference room, or even a courtesy phone for your reception area. If you're researching phone systems for a residential application, how many rooms will need a phone?
After determining this number, think about what types of phones you may want at each of these locations. You can opt for proprietary phones that will have full access to system features (conference calling, paging, voicemail, etc), or you could prefer analog telephones. Also think about how many analog / single line devices you may need - these could be fax machines or other equipment that needs single line / analog extensions to function.
3- Voicemail needs
Under most circumstances, you will probably want to make sure you have some type of voicemail service available for your users; voicemail also usually provides what is referred to as "Auto-Attendant" which allows you to record greetings to help route incoming calls to the right person/place ("Press 1 for John, Press 2 for Mary", etc). Many older systems did not include voicemail as a standard option, but most systems built after the late 1990's have some basic functionality built-in.
4- Music on Hold
Similar to voicemail, this was not a standard option included in most systems built prior to the late 1990s, or if it was present it was limited to low-quality built in MIDI music which did not give you the option to record custom greetings / messages nor use your own music source. There are many different types of Music on Hold (MOH) that easily interface with nearly any phone system. While no one likes to be kept on hold for any period of time, research has shown that if callers are placed on hold with no music or message playing they are exponentially more likely to hang up and seek services elsewhere.
At this point, you have identified all of the major considerations for your phone system needs. Please collect all of this info and hit the "Contact Us" page in the bar above and we will get right back to you with some options and/or other questions we may have.
We hope you have found this outline helpful - if you have any questions or concerns please send us a message or give us a call - we are standing by to help in whatever way we can!