Today’s businesses have a wide array of phone systems to choose from—especially compared to the much slimmer days of landlines and little else. While breakthroughs in technology are paving the way for better products and more comprehensive service, they’re also making it more difficult for business operators to determine which product is best for them.
Naturally, this is an area in which we believe that we could shed a little light. Some of those same innovations that are driving new technologies in telecommunications have also made it possible for Message Direct to deliver the products that it does today. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at a few of the main types of business phone systems that are currently available.
Traditional Phone System
Ah, the old landline. These formed the backbone of telecommunications for decades, but they’re slowly being phased out by an increasingly diverse set of 21st-century offerings.
Enterprise-level phone services come with plenty of bells and whistles, so long as you have the PBX hardware needed to set up individual extensions for each employee or department. Calls can be transferred, directed to voicemail, etc.
The problem with landlines is that they often end up costing more than their next-gen competitors. To begin with, PBX infrastructure is expensive, and maintaining it can be a nightmare. These days, the only companies that can honestly justify using a landline-based phone system are extremely large ones that have the budget for it.
Virtual Phone System
This is the type of phone network that powers virtual receptionist and message-taking services like those offered by Message Direct. Essentially, systems like this connect a single business line to an off-site office or centre where the call is answered and appropriate action is taken.
Once the receptionist answers the call, they can take a variety of actions:
- Screen calls to determine if further action is needed
- Attempt to address the enquiry or concern raised by the caller directly
- Forward the call to the appropriate person within the company
- Take a message and relay it to the appropriate person
From the caller’s perspective, it appears as if they called into the central office, were greeted by a receptionist and then, in some cases, patched through to the person they needed to talk to. They have no reason to suspect that their call has jumped across significant geographical distance.
The benefit of a system like this is the affordable monthly price tag—especially for very small offices or for companies with many remote employees. If employees are working from home, calls can still be patched through to them on their mobile phone. In this sense, virtual phone systems provide enterprise-level telecommunications service (or something close to it) without the need to invest in equipment.
VOIP Phone System
Whether you’re familiar with the term or not, VOIP (which stands for ‘voice over Internet protocol’) is something you’ve undoubtedly used many times before. It’s the type of telecommunications technology that enables video conferencing on Skype and other online apps. In fact, whenever you use your data connection to call a landline, you’re harnessing the power of VOIP.
Full-fledged VOIP systems provide a lot more than the services offered by Skype. Not only can employees’ laptops be turned into ‘virtual telephones’, other functionality such as call queues and automated attendants are also possible. Furthermore, full integration with the office computer system is possible, such that voice mails for particular personnel can be forwarded directly to their inbox.
It’s worth noting that the performance of a VOIP system depends entirely upon the office’s Internet connection. If a sufficiently high-bandwidth connection cannot be established, then this is probably not an avenue to pursue.
There are also two subsets to the VOIP phone system – self-hosted and cloud hosted. We’ll look at both in greater detail below:
- Self-Hosted VOIP System: Hosting a VOIP system requires purchasing all of the equipment and hardware needed to keep the phone system up and running. Small to mid-sized companies are much more likely to go with a service rather than trying to host this infrastructure themselves. However, self-hosting does allow you to exercise greater control over your settings as well as to establish primary security protocol that your organisation can monitor itself. Also, self-hosting can save the business money over the long run, so long as it can afford to purchase all of that expensive equipment up front.
- Cloud-hosted VOIP System: A much simpler way to deal with the hosting is to relegate it to the Cloud. In this case, the service provider deals with the hardware and technical infrastructure. All the business has to do is choose the level of service they require and a payment scheme (often pay by user). Packages like this are scalable, so they make a lot of sense for companies that are experiencing growth and are not equipped (or inclined) to look into their own hosting. The trade-off of outsourcing the technical aspect of your phone system is that you can’t actively fix problems when they occur. You have to wait for your service provider to take care of it.
Why Do I Need a Phone System at All?
On a closing note, it’s worth taking a moment to consider why your business even needs a phone system at all—especially this day and age. Odds are that everyone in your office has a mobile phone, and ubiquitous high-speed Internet means that you could theoretically fill in the gaps with private VOIP services such as Skype.
One of the fundamental problems with this approach is simply an image issue. Forwarding calls to another department or setting up quick and easy transfers isn’t really possible on mobile phones. Furthermore, without a centralised phone system, it becomes more difficult to present a consistent image.
It’s preferable to have a single, unified front that you can present to the world. This enhances the company’s image and also promotes more efficient operations.