Maybe you have made the plunge and started your own company or maybe you already run a successful company that is growing. Almost every business has a need for voice communications of some form and these can range from a single cordless phone to a fully unified call centre with integration to your line of business software
So then how do you know if you need a telephone system or simply just a telephone or telephones? Maybe we should start with a quick overview of just what is a telephone system. In the most basic form a telephone system is simply a way for multiple people (employees) to share incoming phone lines. This is done with a telephone system which can be called either a PBX (private branch exchange) or a KSU (key service unit). Essentially what the system does is share the incoming lines with a higher number of telephone handsets or extensions. Todays technology takes this a step further and adds things like voice mail, voice mail to email, cellular pairing, Hosted telephone systems and a multitude of other features however the ability to phone a common telephone number and route to various extensions is still a key component.
OK so we have a basic idea of what a phone system is how do you determine if you need one? In the 20 years I have been in the communications business I think I can break this down into one of three categories of need:
1. Intercom Ability
In a large building or facility there is often the requirement to communicate between offices. Examples of this would be manufacturing plants, Hotels, Hospitals. With the advent of VoIP technology this concept is often extended to geographically separate locations ie. branch offices.
2. Voice Mail
Ah yes we sometimes cannot seem to survive without voice mail! For all intents and purposes I consider the terms voice mail and automated attendant to be one and the same. An automated attendant is the main company greeting that typically greets your callers when they call your number. Voice mail is the individual greeting that would play if you tried to contact a particular employee or department in a company. Voice mail is often the primary reason a business decides to proceed with a telephone system.
3. Business Feature
There are times when a business just simply wants a feature that is only available with a phone system. For example something as simple as "music on hold" typically requires a system. Other feature examples are call transfer between extensions, call pickup, do not disturb, call privacy and many others. Another prime example would be the ability to initiate a multi-party conference call.
Deciding if your business requires a telephone system or can get by without is not always a simple decision. Money is a big factor as it WILL cost you significantly more that simply purchasing analog telephones. Best advice I can give is to talk to someone in the business about your business BEFORE you start buying phones. Often different brands/models of phones are NOT compatible and I often see a business spend $500 or more on basic phones and then decide they do need a phone system but of course the phones they purchased are not compatible.