Every day we get a question of whats the best to buy ?

Over the years i have learned and have installed so many new telephone systems as some were very simple to some being very complex and spending what should have been days turn into weeks ! In today's marketplace , there are numerous equipment manufacturers Resellers and VOIP Suppliers the list keeps growing every day as everyone is getting into the VOIP market ! So what about the business purchasing these products ? Cost of ownership ? Product Longevity? Warranties ? Mean time before failures ? How many buttons and what can I do with my phones ? This will not include any sort of add ons like Video , Video/Security Cameras or Extra servers for Voicemail Auto Attendant etc. as it is a small business only discussion . These types of equipment should be determined by your Vendor and made aware of during the RFP/RFI process .

1. Brands and Customer selection are interesting today

2. Cost is NOT the only factor but it is part of the decision making and it should be

3. What do I get in terms of features etc. if I buy this ?

4. Hidden costs like Yearly contracts , upgrades etc.

5. Expansion costs like adding new telephones and services

6. Telecom Provider charges on my bill

7. Monthly charges for usage

8. Save money by not paying monthly charges

9. Cable charges for new devices

10. Can I rent or lease or do I need to buy

11. What can hosted services do for me

12. Why should I buy a Non hosted PBX and maintain it myself ?

13. DO I need a call center or will a hunt group or will some small call log type of reporting will do

As we all know , the Telephony VOIP market has changed dramatically over the past 40 years . Today not only so many choices of SIP based equipment but also the prices have come WAY down also as in cost of ownership . A one time PBX and Telephone charge , maybe some cabling and an upgrade of my Data switches to handle VOIP and you are done ! Possibly Increase my data connection to my Cable provider for more bandwidth for SIP based calls . In reality , it is MUCH more simplified to purchase / Lease / Rent today than it ever was in terms of selection . A quick trip to Your office on a survey and a list comes together if a network upgrade is necessary , suggested or required , Power Over Ethernet ( POE ) switches , or Power Supplies for telephones . Then its a matter of selecting the type of equipment to run on the network . A low end small capable VOIP PBX works just as good as a high end but in reality it is partially true ! It all depends on how many Telephones and Conference and Presence traffic , Voicemail via Email and some other features like remote worker telephones thru the existing router and firewall require running over the network . So maybe you should upgrade the Network switches to handle both voice and data . Also allow SIP telephone traffic thru the router/firewall requires some changes as well ( Sip trunks , Hosted Services , Remote workers on a PBX Based system ) . So in a quick look this is about the most you will see to prepare and get ready for the installation !

Now the equipment brand is a choice some are afraid of due to so many brands . There are some very good systems out there working on what we call a 5 nine ( 5 9's ) scale of reliability ! How long before the equipment fails ? Most brands will give you this information right away as they are mostly in that 5 9's category which is where we want to be ! Nobody wants failures ! Audio quality due to many new codecs ( The dark ages years ago when we could only use G711 clogging up the network with a lot of extra load ! ) . These new codecs mean superb audio quality and no delays causing broken or as we used to say " Darth Vador " type of hearing distorted audio on the call . I have found almost all to have superb quality in these areas as conference calls or person to person calls are just outstanding ! A simple reminder is to review what you have today in terms of features and programmable options like Hunt Groups , After hours and night time calls to a night time voicemail box or a private mailbox or cell phone to dial , Service business may need to wake someone up by a cell phone call , Is there a need for a Call Center type of answering with full or partial reporting , will simple Calling Groups / Hunt Groups for inbound calls fit the bill . Also , Day time answering like a few people answer the telephone and someone goes to lunch or backs someone up if they are away from their desks ? Then on your new system try and replicate your features and see if the new system has more robust features so call flow ( Answering the calls ) can be changed instead of the same old to fit your future business needs ! Also I will quickly mention that coming soon to a theater near you will be Video telephones for integrating to your security system or a Plain Video call with another user . Make sure to discuss the costs of adding this function with your vendor for the IP PBX and Telephone brand/type / requirement choice !

Cost is another point that needs attention as between most vendors it is only a few dollars saved but a LOT of aggravation of trying to find out how to save 20 dollars ! Some Manufacturers make add ons like Cameras and now Video to work really well with their products and although it can be done , a tough integration for the installer to make other Vendors telephones work in some situations . So when purchasing make sure to review the wants and needs , the future equipment pricing and integration issues if any . Then you can review the financial cost of the whole project in a proper means . Don't forget the costs of upgrading your data network switches routers and bandwidth if necessary to add into this as well !

As for the overall purchase , Most systems are based upon the total number of telephones to suggest an IP PBX for your site . A small number of telephones require a smaller IP PBX unit , and most likely the same number of features but possibly less than a larger IP Phone System . So when attempting to get to a price point for an RFP or an RFI , it is recommended to consider how many telephones - Note : how many buttons and features are needed per person/ dept / group and the business need in re to what they may accomplish on their new telephones . Are you using video ? A small business with say 10 telephones and a small IP PBX unit could possibly come lower than $5000.00 where as a larger business with over 50 telephones would see a larger price point due to the larger number of telephones purchased . Also , most suppliers and Installers will offer a warranty but it only includes sending back the defective equipment and NOT a direct replacement ! Watch out for this and make sure to mention this in your conversations with your suppliers and installers ! If something goes wrong you do NOT want to be discussing payment or replacement options on a fairly new system while you have a defective telephone , no phones to use or your system could possibly be down and no calls at all !!!

So The next step , make a list out of the network upgrade needed ( or if a brand new installation ) the number of Employees times 2 - One data port for computer and one for telephone - Note some phones allow you to plug your data connection right into the telephone today so you may consider this option as well ) 1- 24 port switch could handle 48 connections ( One telephone and computer plugged into Telephone ) saving money on a switch upgrade for every device ! The cost of a router and firewall upgrade if utilizing remote workers , or SIP trunks from another source . Any associated wire and cabling needed for Employees Printers devices etc.

Cost of equipment

1. Network upgrade equipment

2. VOIP based PBX

3. VOIP based telephones

4. New cables for Employees or Printers or any new network devices

5. Telco services - Do you have enough phone lines or do you need more ?

6. Telco Services - Analog PRI or SIP based Telco services ?

Once you have all of this information and have made a decision to set a budget then the next step is the easiest ! Almost all of these systems can be installed rather quickly depending on the size , from a day to a few days ( Small Medium sized Business ) . Almost everything today is also remote workable ( Except plugging in the physical equipment like switches and routers , Computers , IP PBX , and Telephones etc. ) So after the install anything can most likely be resolved remotely ! We have come a long way in terms of installation !

I hope this article gives you a fair assumption of what it take for a successful Purchase , Deployment , and enjoyment ! Over the years , I have found that almost every site is unique in terms of what the needs are for the business goals and requirements in Businesses from a few employees to over 10000 Users to equipment choices to how to answer the telephones to what new equipment is required to how many new or existing cables are needed ,etc. . It is not intended to be an RFP or an RFI proposal but it can give you the necessary questions and some answers to help you determine your wants and needs effectively !!

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