Compare Hosted PBX Systems - BUYERS GUIDE 2017
A Guide to Buying Hosted PBX Solutions - What's The Cost?
When you purchase a hosted PBX system for your business, the costs will typically run between $25 and $50 per line for ongoing costs, while the initial costs of hardware can run from $1000 to well over $3000, depending on how many new phones or other pieces of equipment you need to purchase in order to get up and running. There are some incredibly low cost solutions out there that may get you in well under these benchmarks, such as virtual PBX services, but these types of services often fall short in the feature department compared to a traditional hosted system setup.
Buying Tips for a Hosted PBX System
A hosted PBX service removes a huge component of the initial hardware investment that was required for on-site PBX service. Instead, your service provider handles the majority of call routing and processing on their end, eventually forwarding the call to the correct extension at your business. Hardware investment by comparison is small, and mostly restricted to specialized phones and some internet hardware such as routers and switches to handle the demands on your company’s communications infrastructure.
The flexibility that a hosted PBX system gives you is incredible, and you will usually have endless options for customizing the call processing pathways that you want to establish for incoming calls to your business. This can include direct extensions to your various staff members, complex voicemail systems, or menus that callers can navigate in order to obtain pre-recorded information.
One question to consider when you start shopping for a hosted PBX system is whether or not you can use your existing phones or if you will need an upgrade. In many cases, if you have a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) enabled telephone, it will be compatible with your hosted PBX service. However, if you don’t have VoIP enabled phones, or if they are out of date or otherwise incompatible, you may need to look into a phone hardware upgrade before you are able to get up and running on a PBX system.
There are several things that you may want to look for when searching for a hosted PBX system, as when implemented, these features can greatly benefit the flexibility and utility of your system. Some things to look for include
- Cell phone support
- Satellite location support
- Web-based controls
Cell Phone Support: This is an option that is becoming more and more common in today’s environment, where many employees rely on their cell phones as much or more than their office lines. A PBX system with support for cellular phones can integrate your teams cell phones into the routing of the PBX system in the exact same way that you can do with your dedicated i-office lines. This lets mobile employees enjoy all the benefits of the PBX system without being tethered to a desk.
Satellite Location Support: This should be seen as one of the key benefits of a hosted PBX system where you don’t have to rely on in-house hardware to route and manage your calls. For systems that support this type of feature, you should be able to set up a satellite office, or to set up an employee who works from home part time to be completely integrated within your larger hosted PBX network, an important feature for keeping your teams connected.
Web Based Controls: In the days before hosted PBX became common, people with in-house systems would require a literal visit from a skilled worker in order to change many of the settings on the system. A modern system should have an easy to work with web interface where you can adjust settings, messages, routing, and more with just a few clicks of your mouse. This is a key element of remaining flexible with your PBX system so you can adjust it as your company grows or changes.
Hosted PBX Versus Other Solutions
There are some very compelling reasons why a hosted PBX service might be right for your organization.
Savings: Ultimately, cost factors in to almost every decision made at most companies, and in the majority of situations where you need to set up automated phone systems, a hosted PBX solution will be the most cost effective. The low cost of entry and manageable monthly costs make it a very affordable solution. One of the largest savings comes from the fact that the largest investment in infrastructure is passed along to the hosting company, and the onus to update the hardware to stay current with the industry is on them, not you.
Reliability: Moving this type of solution off-site also greatly improves uptime in almost all situations. The companies that provide hosted PBX systems are providing this service for many, many clients, not just for your organization. As a result, they have backups and failsafe systems in place in order to make sure that the system never becomes non-operational. Reaching this kind of reliability with an in-house solution would be cost-prohibitive in almost every instance.
Hosted PBX Considerations Before You Invest
One thing to consider is that because these systems operate on a VoIP basis, you need a very secure, high-bandwidth connection. If your connection to the Internet goes down for any reason, your company will lose the ability to receive incoming calls via the system. The upside to this is that the PBX system is not hosted on your servers, meaning that the automated messaging systems will continue to operate, you just won’t be able to receive calls directly while your connection is down. You should consult with your preferred hosted PBX provider before signing up for their service regarding your Internet connection. You may need to upgrade your service in order to be able to manage the type of bandwidth required for these systems.
Also, evaluate the customer service and support options offered by the hosted PBX provider. This is an essential component of the overall service, because excellent service and support will keep you up and running, with the features and services you want at all times. Ideally, the company should have several different means that you can use to reach out to them, including a phone number, email address, or online support interface of some kind.
A final consideration is also the size of your network of phones that you plan to manage with the hosted PBX solution. A hosted PBX system may become less practical in situations where you’re dealing with dozens and dozens of phone lines, such as in a fully featured call center, depending on the provider and the service options that they offer. In these scenarios, you may be better off considering alternative solutions, but the best way to find out is through a thorough consultation with a hosted PBX provider.
PBX System Demonstrations and Site Visits
This is a key part of the purchasing process, and should be offered by most reputable companies. Not all companies will do both, but most will offer either an in-depth demo system to show you how the product works, or do a site visit to demonstrate their products and evaluate your existing infrastructure. Remember that the providers that are worth doing business with will find some way for you to have a hands-on experience with their system before you move forward and sign any sort of a contract.
Popular Hosted PBX Sellers
RingCentral: RingCentral offers a one-month free trial so you can experiment with their service and see how it works in the context of your company. Line pricing drops from $35 to $25 immediately upon adding a second line, making it affordable for smaller businesses. They have a number of advanced features that other providers may not provide, but these are typically only available in their higher service tiers. Examples include their “call flip” feature where a call can be transferred from a landline to a mobile phone without ever putting the caller on hold. They also have very highly rated auto-attendant software.
Vonage: One of the most recognizable names in the VoIP industry, Vonage is known for having some great deals for new customers to get them introduced to their hosted PBX options. They have a flat rate option with no metered charges for toll-free numbers, a great option for those looking to reach out to a wide client base. One of their key features is the ability to make some extensions run on a meter, so you only pay for the time the line is used. This can be a very cost effective options if you have extensions that are only used rarely over the course of the month, and that aren’t worth the typical fee for an unlimited use line. They also offer a suite of integration services with leading CRM software such as SugarCRM and Salesforce.
Nextiva: Nextiva has tiered pricing that will make the cost of each line more affordable even after installing as few as 5 lines, although the basic pricing starts at $35 per month. They offer a free setup of their service, and are widely regarded as having some of the best customer service in the business. For people who are new to hosted PBX and similar technologies, Nextiva has a reputation for being excellent at introducing people to the technology and helping make the transition as smooth as possible.
A Hosted PBX (private exchange branch) is available to any businesses as hosted solutions via third parties. Hosted telephone systems are also known as virtual PBX. In many cases they will be hosted by a local telephone company. In addition, most businesses do not need to incur any maintenance and operation expenses if they elect to opt in for PBX hosted telephone systems, as their service provider will host the systems for them.
Additional fees may include $20 in regulatory and taxes.
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