Small Business and Phone Systems
For this post I want to really focus on few items, functionality and cost. These are the two biggest drivers that we run into with small businesses when deciding with what type of phone system to go with. Making sure the right questions are asked so that we can help properly evaluate the best way to build out a phone system. Whether that is a cloud-based solution, on onsite, or going with a vendor that can provide the clients criteria. Budgets, the whole goal that we abide by is to provide the cheapest solution with the most functionality possible.
As internet connections have become so stable over the past 5 years, it makes more and more since for small businesses to look at VOIP options as the internet never goes down. Thus, never loosing connectivity to the SIP trunk providers. Before, this did not make as much sense as an expensive PRI, or analog line was required to maintain constant connectivity.
Let’s look at cost first, as this is a bigger driver than functionality. Many situations we run into are small businesses being on older analog phone systems with very little functionality outside of the office, such as voicemail to email. Or we find that too many lines are not being utilized thus paying a higher monthly bill. In most situations moving to a newer PBX/VOIP system the monthly cost can be reduced drastically. We find generally an ROI of 18 months or less in these situations.
Other times we find that a small business has been oversold a solution that is very costly and is over engineered for the situation. For instance, most phone systems are all in one solution, the business must buy a certain brand of PBX that only works with that brands phones. This increases the cost drastically, and often a 200-300% markup and locks you into potentially a system that may not be supported at all in years to come. These systems are designed even at the base unit to handle well over 1000 phones. This really is unnecessary for a business with ten to twenty employees, even though it can scale to many phones, that business will never have that many employees, and if they do, they will more than likely need to purchase a new phone system anyway.
These are just some of the examples that we continually run into, and really where everything falls apart is the installer failing to ask the proper questions and finding the best solution. Instead a solution is chosen that only the installer knows and understands, thus leading to a product that does not fit the requirements that the small business needs and leads to an over priced, under utilized piece of equipment.
Let’s dig into functionality a little bit, there is too much to cover here so we will only look at the top level of PBX functionality. At a bare minimum the system needs to be stable, receive all calls, voicemail to email, ring groups, VOIP, auto attendant, schedules, and be able to route accordingly. Most systems have these features; however, we find that some of this functionality gets labeled as “add-on” and increases the cost. Many of these features’ sets are not necessary depending on the requirements of the business. Many of these features as “add-ons” are in the cloud, such as auto attendant which is a requirement for any small business, and by charging a monthly fee for this feature it drives the cost up very quickly year after year.
By looking at open source options that are software-based PBX systems and don’t require specialized hardware, functionality can be drastically increased, and cost reduced over time. Up front cost for the phones themselves will be very similar, it’s the cost of the lines where we see the biggest savings on these systems. And with software-based solutions, current hardware can be used, or as simple as an older PC that has been laying around.
In conclusion, what we see when it comes to phone systems and implementing them is failure to ask the questions that pertain to the business instead of just throwing a solution that generally is will more than likely be overpriced. We have put together an info graph of some of the cloud solutions out there and how one of the primary products that we like to use 3CX and be cost effective over a two-year span, vs the other cloud solutions that are out there. Take a look at the cost break down and you be the judge.