This is part two of a three-part series highlighting the benefits of mixed voice solutions. Read part one.
Enterprises have a wide range of choices when it comes to advanced, IP-based phone service. So no matter what a business’s existing investment in phone hardware, or where it is on the technology roadmap, there is an option that fits. The array of options means that a larger, multi-site enterprise can opt for different pathways for different locations as it migrates to next-generation phone service – and all the benefits it brings.
Choosing the Right Phone Solution for Different Needs and Circumstances
Matching the right solution for each environment might seem a formidable task, but it is made easier by understanding where each option works best. In the following section, we look at the three main pathways to next-generation phone service, and for each, examine how it works, what benefits it can bring, and where it makes an optimal fit.
Hosted Cloud-Based Phone Service
What it is: Perhaps the best way to think of cloud- based phone service is as a ‘virtual PBX.’ All of the core hardware for placing and receiving calls is located off premises, and operated by the phone service provider, not the business. This means that it is the provider that makes the necessary capital expenditures and handles all of the maintenance and upgrades. Users, then, can focus more on their business – and devote fewer internal resources to monitoring and administering their phone system.
With cloud-based voice, customers generally pay a monthly fee for phone service, based on the number of users, so costs are somewhat predictable. And as the service lives in the cloud, accessible via any broadband connection, a user’s physical location becomes irrelevant. A full suite of phone features can be accessed no matter where the user happens to be.
Benefits: Cloud-based phone service brings businesses a long list of advantages. For starters, capital expenditures for telephony are no longer necessary. And since phone calls are carried over IP networks instead of dedicated telephone circuits, new users can be added easily, without requiring cumbersome on-site installations. That kind of easy scalability is particularly valuable for fast growing companies, or those subject to seasonal spikes in their business. There’s no need to worry since the provider typically keeps the cloud-based system up to date.
Perhaps even more compelling are the advanced features that are possible when phone calls exist as data on the network. These will vary from provider to provider (so businesses should be sure to evaluate offers carefully), but can include capabilities like voicemail delivered as email or incoming calls forwarded to secondary numbers and mobile devices. That last feature can be particularly handy – and even vital – when employees are on the road, or otherwise unable to get to the office (such as in severe weather or other emergencies).
Where it fits best: Cloud-based phone service is ideal for any business – or business location – that is ready to replace its existing PBX, or doesn’t have one to begin with. It is a fast and simple way to gain the full benefits of VoIP, without having to make costly up-front investments.
Trunking Solutions for a Premises-Based PBX
What it is: In a PBX environment, a trunk is a dedicated connection that links the PBX to a phone service provider, who in turn links to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Not too long ago, that provider was a traditional phone company offering traditional phone service. But now it can be an Internet phone company, offering VoIP service. Not all PBXs can connect to providers’ networks in the same way, however. For standard (non-IP) PBXs, PRI trunking is employed. For IP-PBXs, either PRI trunking or SIP trunking can be used.
While PRI can be a compelling proposition – bringing, for instance, additional features for disaster recovery – SIP (which stands for Session Initiation Protocol, the standard used for transmitting voice calls over data networks) can provide even greater flexibility and cost benefits, as outlined below. With either solution, the PBX is still owned and maintained by the enterprise – but now that business can place external calls over an IP network, and realize the significant advantages of digital telephony.
One important point to note is that PRI and SIP trunks each entail a different kind of technology to link the PBX to the network. PRI trunks are physical connections – typically sold in increments of 23 channels. SIP connections are virtual connections, a digital link between the IP-PBX running on your LAN and the Internet service provider out in the cloud.
Benefits: A PRI trunk allows a business to leverage its existing investment in a traditional PBX while benefiting from the managed costs, business continuity, and enhanced capabilities that IP-based telephone service can bring. In the event of an emergency – such as a power outage or natural disaster – calls can be re-routed to alternate networks and back-up numbers. And when service is carried over a private IP network – as opposed to the public Internet – phone calls can be prioritized over other types of network traffic, ensuring high- quality voice communications.
SIP trunking offers these same advantages – and more, triggering even greater potential savings and efficiencies for enterprises. Since there are no physical wires connecting the PBX to the phone provider’s network, businesses can dial the number of lines they have up or down in whatever increment they require. That can be far more cost effective than buying them in bundles, which can result in having more capacity than a customer needs, at more cost than they want. It also means that even large volumes of lines can be added quickly, instead of having to wait for a host of physical trunks to be connected. Finally, with SIP trunking, multiple locations can share a single pool of capacity. Since most users are not on the phone at any given time, this could enable a business to purchase less overall capacity than if they had to allocate different capacities for different locations for lowered costs.
According to a September 2014 report* by the market research firm Gartner, “a migration to SIP trunking will reduce telecom expenses by up to 50% in the U.S. for a typical enterprise.”
Where it fits best: SIP trunking is ideal for an enterprise that has an existing investment in an IP-PBX. PRI trunking is designed for companies that are still operating – with no plans to immediately replace – a traditional on–site PBX. The number of businesses falling into this second category is significant, for while the IP-PBX market is growing, some 85 percent of PBXs currently in place are not IP-enabled.
Full-Featured Business Voice
What it is: Many enterprises will a need a reliable phone solution for their smaller offices – as well as lines for fax machines, security systems, and point-of-sale terminals. In those cases, full-featured business voice can be the ideal approach. Think of it as IP telephony that comes on a smaller scale but still provides big benefits.
Benefits: With phone calls now traveling over IP networks, even the smallest business locations can leverage VoIP. Users can enjoy advanced features like voicemail delivered via email and the ability to easily reroute calls to phones outside the office – ensuring business continuity in the event of a power outage or emergency.
Where it fits best: Business locations or branches (including home offices) that need just 1 to 5 phone lines. Sites that need lines for fax, security, and point- of-sale systems.
*GARTNER, SIP TRUNKING SLASHES U.S. TELECOM EXPENSES BY UP TO 50%, SORELL SLAYMAKER, 12 SEPTEMBER 2014.Read Part 3
Enterprises have a wide range of choices when it comes to advanced, IP-based phone service.