For decades, the phone has been the primary tool businesses have used to stay connected with clients and employees. Today, the phone has evolved beyond its basic origins to encompass smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices. But even the most advanced and well-equipped device is nothing more than a paperweight if the network on which it runs goes down.
Technology buyers need to be as educated about their network choices as they are about their device choices. Following are factors to consider when choosing a network.
Traditional landline systems are still available and provide the same reliable service they have for decades. However, network options have evolved and now include wireless networks, Internet-based options, and virtual services.
Before choosing one of these options, consider what the communications network needs are currently and what they will be in the future. Factors that play into a network decision include:
- call volume expectations,
- whether adequate IP capability is available to support Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP),
- if new communications tools can interoperate with existing equipment, and
- which features are most important.
Another consideration is how mobile the company’s workforce is. While landline networks are stable and reliable, they may not be the best choice for companies with employees who frequently work remotely. IP networks that incorporate virtual private branch exchanges (PBXs) can provide the flexibility today’s businesses require.
Businesses are increasingly looking to virtual system architectures. This approach simplifies management and maintenance of the PBX and moves functionality beyond simple call answering to include video conferencing, call recording, and other advanced communications services. These capabilities can be added and scaled to meet the changing needs of growing operations.
Hosted services that run over the cloud are growing in popularity and allow companies to leverage unified communications (UC) tools. UC functionality allows for a high degree of interactivity within a company’s communications.
Advantages and Drawbacks
Like any business or technology tool, IP-based communications tools offer both advantages and drawbacks. Among the advantages are:
- cheap or even free calling,
- flexibility to communicate anywhere with any device, and
- advanced capabilities like conference calling.
Drawbacks of VoIP include:
- variances in transmission quality,
- potential for outages,
- vulnerability to cyber attacks, and
- a significant cost and training associated with initial deployment, especially for smaller operations.
Equipment manufacturers are now making end-user phones that can connect to either the traditional landline network or VoIP systems. Several newer desk phones incorporate advanced features such as app support, video, and audio capabilities. Companies also may elect to bypass desk phone options and deploy smartphones instead. Docking stations allow users to plug in their smartphones for use in a desk phone configuration.
The System Decision
Like most technology decisions on a company’s agenda, choosing the right phone system can have a significant impact on operations. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to making a phone system choice. Each company must examine its own existing assets, current needs, and future expectations to discover the right phone system choice for their operation.