Even as email, web, and social media have become standard business tools, our mobile and office phones are still as important as ever. Sure there are stories out there about landlines being a dying breed, but the onslaught of new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers would have you believe that office phones are here to stay. I tend to agree. Office desk phones will most likely exist in some form, even though over the past decade we have seen a huge decline in residential phone service.
For businesses, choosing how to keep those office phones in place in the most economical way can be very challenging and confusing. There are three primary ways to go about phone service in a business.
The first being on premise (on-prem): meaning all the necessary equipment to run your phone and voicemail system is located at your business or at least in a data center you maintain. The phone service or “dial tone” is handled by a third party carrier through the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The PSTN consists of operating companies like AT&T, Verizon, and as the past several years’ Time Warner and Comcast to name a few.
The on-prem solution tends have the most upfront cost associated with it. Large capital investments require a commitment to a certain brand or style of service. Most vendors offer ongoing warranty and maintenance to protect your initial investment. For some environments, having on-prem solutions means having someone or a team in-house to manage the phone system. While there can be significant cost, the on-prem model provides the customer with peace of mind, knowing the system will be up and functioning in the event of an Internet outage. Assuming of course your PSTN service is from a traditional provider and not an Internet based provider.
Perhaps one of the fastest growing choices around phone systems has been the adoption of hosted or cloud based phone systems. Terms like IP PBX (Private Branch Exchange) or VoIP and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) are tossed around quiet often. The hosted solution involves a provider to “host” a virtual phone system in the cloud (which is really another way of saying data center). The client is charged a monthly fee for the service usually on a per device basis. “Dial Tone” or access to the PSTN is generally supplied by the hosted provider.
The hosted model can be great for an office of 10-25 phones that does not have in-house IT resources. There is little to no capital investment, most solutions have a small setup or initiation fee. Cost saving is best found in committing to one to three year terms. Generally the longer the term you sign up for the cheaper per month the solution will be. The one drawback to hosted solution is its dependence on your current Internet Service Provider (ISP). Hosted solutions generally offer the ability to rent or lease the phones for small monthly fee. This fee usually includes the ability to replace the physical phone should ever have the need.
The third type involves a hybrid approach to both solutions, involving some services coming from local resources and equipment and others coming from cloud based solutions. The adoption of this approach is often ideal for those businesses with concerns about Internet outages affecting phone service but yet want the flexibility that a hosted solution provides. In a hybrid solution, “dial tone” is supplied in a mix from the hosted provider and also from third party carriers at the local level.
The hybrid approach can often be the most costly solution due to the capital investment and the ongoing hosted charges. That being said, the high-availability of the design gives the business a comfort level not reached by the two approaches separately.
Whichever solution you go with, be sure and always work with a competent IT professional that has experience in all models and understand the needs of your business. Having a defined plan upfront can save both the customer and installer time, money and headaches. As a customer, make sure you fully understand what is included and excluded from the project in terms of implementation and ongoing support and service.
Contact Sidebar Technology Solutions for all of your office telephony needs, as well as Managed IT Service, Hourly IT Support, IT Project Services and Infrastructure Services. We are an Austin-based, small business and understand small and midsize organizations and their desire to save every possible dollar when it comes to IT support costs. Sidebar Technology Solutions prides itself in its free consultations. We want to make sure we are a right fit for you as much as we want you as a customer. We offer two options in Technology Assessments. One option is a free one-hour assessment. In this free assessment, we will take a high-level overview of your environment and offer tips for improvement or let you know where things look good! Our paid assessment spans anywhere from one to two days and includes a fully detailed report containing information about your systems. You will have this report to use with whichever technology service company you choose to work with. We strive to be that company.
Contact Sidebar Technology Solutions today to find out how we are improving IT support for small and midsize companies across Austin and Central Texas.
Email: [email protected] | Call: 512-710-6998 | www.sidebartech.com