1. Onsite phone system or cloud based

The terminology around phones systems is varied, there is basically two types of systems available. An on-site phone system can be known as a PBX or IP PBX and will have a physical box located within the office that will connect to your phone handsets and a connection to the local telephone exchange via phones lines ( known as PSTN or ISDN2) or via an internet connection (known as SIP tunk).

Cloud based phone system can also be known as a hosted phone system or Hosted PBX. These cloud based phone systems involve office phone handsets connected to the internet to operate. The cost model and support is different to an onsite PBX systems as it doesn’t require the purchase of PBX hardware within your office. Generally the costs work on a monthly license or access fee which can bundle calls costs and feature and functionality as required by the business.

2. Future proof

With the rollout of the NBN, connectivity to your phone system will need to become connected via the internet. For the selection of the onsite phone system, the important item to confirm is the system can interface to the interface via SIP trunks, meaning the requirement of a phone line is no longer required. You can use both technologies whilst phone lines are still available to your office. You may have a existing PBX system which can be updated to make the connection to the internet via a SIP trunk, before replacing an existing PBX phone system, it’s worth asking the questing if a small upgrade can be made without the costs of full system replacement.

3. Size and scalability

With cloud based phone systems, to determine the size or how many handsets are required, the question is “what’s the minimum you can get away with in your business?” This is because a cloud based system are extremely scalable to your requirements. The advantage of a cloud based phone system is your team can be located anywhere with a internet connection. For a business with flexible workforce arrangements, a Soft phone can also be used which reduces the requirement for a physical handset to be used to make and receive calls. Onsite phone systems also offer great scalability, as more phones can be added at a later stage. Also, remote connections of phones can be made if you have people working in multiple offices or at home

4. Features and functionality

At a minimum, voicemail to email is a very useful feature of a phone system. The most used features of a phone system is call hunt groups, auto attendant, time schedules (for call received afterhours) and call forwarding. Depending upon your business, call recording and call queues can be used with the associated reporting which is very useful for determining call volumes and the way calls are being managed within the business. The other feature worth mentioning is mobility which can creates a virtual connection with you mobile phone, for example a simultaneous call to the desk phone and your mobile giving you the option to reject the call sending the call to voicemail to email

5. Ongoing support

So with all the phone systems available, the important question to ask is who is going to look after it and how much will it cost?

There are good reasons why phone system providers stick to a limited number of brands, phone technology is complex and technicians are preferred to be accredited to support a system. There are levels of support available, maybe you have in house IT support which can take on some support roles of the phone system. If you were operating a business will a high volume of inbound calls, then ongoing support from a service provider with associated service levels would be more appropriate.