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Switching from traditional phone systems to PBX

October 6th, 2014 by The Modulis Team

Switching from traditional phone systems to PBX

About switching from traditional phone systems to PBX

Modern PBX revolution started as a result of a rebellion against the huge prices of traditional phone systems. Traditional phone system was a complex combination of expensive hardware, analog telephone lines, with limited telephony features, with long term contracts and the list goes on! Usually a selected team of specialist to be called in case of any issue with a lot of support fees!

What to expect

Modern PBX systems broke all the conventional telephony shackles, hardware disappeared from the horizon, it was replaced by sophisticated software with many old and new telephony applications, available to use on a click of mouse! The independence from Hardware was a big step in telephony, in which a simple Linux machine could be used now as a full blown telephony application machine. Prices got cheaper; many new and innovative telephony ideas were implemented on top of these new PBX technologies. Cloud based PBXs are a big step in this evolution, now Presence, IM, Follow Me, Conferencing, FAX over IP, Voice Mails like services are a mouse click away from the general public!

Costs? – is it cheaper

Modern PBX systems are quite cheaper. With no setup fee, no lengthy contracts, and no hardware cost, the cost is very cheap. Further customization can be done with very low cost. Learning curve needed for these PBX systems is also not that complex as would have been for old telephony systems. Basic training is provided by the companies which offer these solutions, like how to use the GUI and how to perform the configurations – usually the interface is very user friendly eliminating the need for any special training.

Hardware

Analyzing the hardware requirements, there are two key areas to look into while deploying a modern PBX system. One is the Server and network design requirement, second is the phone set choice.

A PBX can be deployed on servers either inside an organization or in some data center. Server hardware should be selected according to the call load requirements. Proper tests should be run on the network to ensure latency and jitter free network.

With the arrival of modern PBXs the hardware requirements and cost has significantly reduced. Gone are the days when POTS (plain old telephone sets) were the king of every telephony installment. With modern PBXs we have the flexibility to go for the hardware based phones or softphones (software based phones). Most of the corporate environment are now shifting to IP enabled telephony handsets, some of the best brands in this domain are by Cisco, Snom, Yealink, Polycom,  Aastra, Siemens and Digium, to name a few.

Softphones on the other hand can be used on Desktop, Laptops or smart phones to connect to the organizational PBXs. Some of the softphones are freely available, while for other a license is required. Some of the good names in softphone market are Cisco, Bria Xlite, Eyebeam, 3CX, Zoiper and Jitsi. All of these softphones are available with many features, like codec control, voice messages; call conferencing, NAT tunneling and many more!

Things to be aware of

There are two possibilities for having a modern IP-PBX system. On-premises and off-premises. In an on-premises scenario PBX user has total control on all the PBX related hardware and network elements. In off-premises solution, user is dependent upon the PBX service provider. Most importantly, user should ensure proper security of the servers and network elements related to his PBX in order to avoid potential losses and frustrations.

Proper testing and fine tuning should be performed, before making the network live, like latency of softphones, servers, and sip trunks should be in normal range so voice communication is smooth and without any issues. Servers should always be selected via proper planning, as selecting servers with low specs can result in issues during peak time. For some modules a user is usually required to purchase licenses from different vendors, like using FAX and G729 codecs etc. Incoming voice numbers (DIDs) should be properly planned according to the region, so there is no latency on its way.

An important reminder, always secure your server as much as possible! As hackers and phone phreaks are always in search of exploiting PBXs on public IPs. Also make sure to ask your SIP trunk provider to put a usage restriction on your outbound trunks, in case your system is compromised or hacked, the trunk should get blocked after a certain threshold of usage!

What to look for in a PBX system

Some of the most common features, you should look for in a PBX system are:

  • Supported voice codecs (most commonly, G711, G729, G723.1)
  • Sip trunking, IAX trunking, DHADI trunking, Custom Trunking
  • Call waiting, forwarding, conferencing, blocking, recording
  • Voicemail, voicemail to email
  • FAX support, T.38 protocol supported, legacy FAX support, FAX to email
  • A comprehensive management web portal
  • Call logs, system logs in order to check potential issues on call and system
  • CRM features if needed
  • Call queuing, ring groups, ACD features ( for a call center solution)
  • Support external databases