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Types of PBX's

The phone call is still the first mode of contact between a business and a potential customer in many instances. This means that having a reliable, state of the art PBX system is a crucial and vital decision for any organisation. As technology has advanced we have gone from analogue exchanges to digital and IP systems, it means that choosing your ideal phone system solution is becoming increasingly difficult.

There are 3 major types of PBX systems, and each has particular strengths and weaknesses. As a result, different types of businesses will get the most out of different PBX systems, depending on their size, average number of callers, and resources available for new equipment.

Traditional PABX

A traditional PABX connects callers through a few phone lines to multiple extensions. These lines were typically Analogue and/or Digital ISDN trunks from Telkom connecting to the same type of ports/interface card on the PABX. In some cases the vendor has evolved to support VoIP on a card which plugs into the PABX and VoIP-enables a legacy system so that customers can make use of VoIP calling for cheaper outbound calls. For the vendors who dont support VoIP cards, VoIP providers usually supply a Gateway which can connect to the PABX's using the same type of ports/interface card on your PABX, thereby replacing (or working on-top of) the lines which were connected to these ports.

These systems typically have basic Analogue or Digital extension phones which provide call functionality such as speakerphone and busy lamp field (BLF). You can read about the different types of extension instruments by clicking here. These systems run on their own cabled infrastructure and is completely separate to any Data network.

Traditional PABX's operate well but generally do have a lifespan before the hardware components such as line/trunk and extension cards become obsolete and the system is becomes increasingly difficult to support by the private PABX supplier.

Many businesses still have legacy systems in place and continue to invest in traditional PABX's however depending on the companies requirements and expectations the rise of VoIP and Hosted systems are becoming more popular choices for company communications.

IP PBX

An IP PBX is certainly an upgrade to a traditional PABX. Investing in an IP PBX is usually more expensive than a traditional PBX but the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is much lower and the core systems do not have a life-span as these are typically software based which can upgraded to provide enhanced functionality and stability. IP PBX's also provide advanced features and functionality which can increase productivity and contactability and drive down call and support expenditure.

IP PBX's can still connect to traditional Telkom lines such as Analogue, ISDN BRI and PRI however to really get the most from your VoIP experience, these systems provide a native integration to a VoIP provider by using SIP Trunks. This limits the amount of physical wires required into a company as SIP Trunks can be delivered over most internet connections - even Wireless! A true IP PBX provides SIP trunking via activation or license, whilst some traditional PBX's which have evolved to provide VoIP support on a card which plugs into the PABX and supports a certain amount of concurrent calls (usually in increments of 8 channels).

An IP PBX is also easier to maintain and things like managing moves happen seamlessly - it's as easy as unplugging a phone, and plugging it back into a point anywhere on the network. As there are no cards which can limit the capacity and scalability, usually adding another line or user requires a license activation or configuration. 

An IP PBX is good for companies that want direct control over exactly how their PBX is configured in-house, and don’t want to pay subscription fees associated with other PBX options.

Hosted PBX

A hosted VoIP PBX is a popular option for most businesses. A hosted PBX is operated off-site and maintained by a VoIP provider. Since it is at an offsite location, businesses simply pay a low monthly fee to have all of the advantages of an advanced PBX phone system with none of the headache and running costs associated with it. One of the biggest benefits to a Hosted PBX solution is that there are no upgrade fees as can be the case with some IP PBX vendors. Some provider Hosted PBX packages may include the necessary hardware and connectivity which means that there may not even be an initial investment but just a monthly fee for an all-inclusive solution, and therefore a hosted PBX option can be a good choice for many businesses.

There are some considerations and additional requirements when implementing a Hosted PBX system such as the type of connectivity that will be used, the hardware required - telephone instruments, the Local Area Network (LAN) configuraton, etc - you can read about these by clicking here for our Hosted PBX FAQ's

You can also Compare Hosted PBX provider packages by clicking here!

Why Choose One Type Over Another?

Each business telephone system configuration has advantages and drawbacks. When choosing the configuration for a business, the easiest way to determine the right option is to examine two main variables: location and communication type.

Onsite vs. Offsite

Onsite systems (on-premise PBX) offer more direct control over the phone system’s operation. When a business needs to add, change, or delete a line from the system, it can be handled in-house. This may require a higher level of expertise from onsite IT professionals, however. Offsite, or Hosted, options may shift the responsibility for configuration and maintenance to a service provider. Direct control of the system may be limited, but a company’s IT staff may be allowed and trained to carry our basic adds, moves and changes.

Analogue/Digital vs. IP (Internet Protocol)

Analogue systems use traditional wiring and are generally distinct from a company’s computer networking hardware. IP-based systems are integrated into the same network used for sending and receiving e-mail, web browsing, and other online functions. Traditionally, wired systems had fewer call-quality concerns than early IP-based systems – though modern platforms on strong networks has greatly improved. Using IP-based systems often allows a company to have all its communication needs handled by one provider, simplifying billing and support concerns.

Switching to an IP PBX offers many benefits

With an IP phone system all your internal telephony is routed through the LAN (local computer network). This way a separate network for telephony is not required.

Even though the internal telephony is routed through the LAN, it is also possible to connect your IP-PBX to the Fixed line network (i.e. Telkom) via cards/gateways which  to the Fixed line network (PSTN). Of course, VoIP (Voice over IP, telephony via the internet) is also possible.

Since IP telephony is mostly using the open SIP standard, an IP phone system gives you a lot more freedom in your choice of phones. In most cases, any SIP compatible phone (VoIP phone) will work with an IP PBX. Furthermore an IP PBX doesn’t limit the growth of a company. Since VoIP phones don’t have to be connected physically to the phone system, it doesn’t require a free port in the phone system like it used to be with traditional phone systems. IP phones can not only be connected via the LAN but also via the internet, using for example a VPN connection. Because of this, multiple locations and offices can easily be connected.

To compare top SIP phones click here

There is a huge variety of VoIP providers on the internet which provide SIP trunking (telephony services) for cheaper call rates than traditional telephony providers.

To compare top VoIP Providers click here

Practical advantages of IP telephony

Interconnecting teams and mobile working is one of the biggest advantages of IP phone systems. No matter if team members are on the road, located in a different country or work from home, they can connect via IP desk phone, smart phone or laptop to the IP PBX in the office. This way all calls within the company are free and clients will not realise if an employee is in the office or somewhere else around the world.

The same also applies for conferences, these can be hosted directly on the business IP PBX with as many participants as required. This saves traveling time and money.