The rollout of the nbn™–and the switch to VoIP for making and receiving phone calls–has given small businesses access to more choice in the type of phone system their business uses. And while a PBX system was often unaffordable–or just too bulky–for smaller businesses to justify, a hosted PBX is a newer solution that is affordable and compact while still offering all the features of a regular PBX system.
Whether you are looking at your first VoIP compatible system or looking for a new system able to meet the needs of your business, you need to know there are three types of phone systems you should be looking at. They range from basic to feature rich and are meant to serve specific needs and accommodate businesses of all sizes.
What is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) isn’t a new technology, but–along with mobile–it is becoming the only way for Australians to make and receive phone calls. The old copper line network is–aside from for a few limited services–gradually being shut down as the nbn™ and other fibre networks cover more areas. Instead of having one connection for internet access and one for making and receiving phone calls, a single internet connection can accommodate both.
And that is what VoIP is. VoIP technology allows voice calls to be converted to data that is transmitted over a standard internet connection. And switching to VoIP doesn’t always require a brand new business phone system, though it does give you access to a bit more choice.
What Phone Systems Are Now Available for Businesses?
Most businesses were limited to either having basic phone lines or an on-premise PBX system. But the cost of installing and maintaining a PBX system meant that smaller businesses were often stuck with a basic phone system even when it was no longer adequate. But nbn™ access and VoIP have given businesses access to three possible phone systems.
Standard Voice System
This is your basic phone system, and it is still a viable option for very small businesses. You have one or more lines and numbers, each connected to a handset or device. If you have a basic line hunt set up, incoming calls either ring on all available handsets, or cycle through them until answered. It is also still needed for most businesses that use a standard fax machine, have EFTPOS devices, or monitored alarm systems, including lift alarms.
The biggest change when adapting this system for VoIP is that the phones are now connected to an active nbn™ connection. Existing analogue handsets and devices can still be used through the business modem or with the addition of an Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA). Depending on what your VoIP provider and your handsets support, features of this phone system may include:
- Caller ID
- Call Transfer
- Call Waiting
- Call Forwarding
- Basic Line Hunt
- 3-Way Conferencing
Instead of having one or more lines, you will now need one or more phone plans, with the number of phone plans you need determined by how many concurrent calls you need to support.
Cloud-based PBX System
A cloud-based–or hosted–PBX system is a system that wasn’t always accessible to smaller businesses. It offers features and benefits of a regular PBX system, but with significantly lower costs to install and manage. Aside from your handsets, there is no onsite equipment. The PBX server and software are hosted and managed by your VoIP provider, leaving you to only manage your calls. However, a key feature of a cloud-based or nbn™ capable PBX system is unified communications. This is the ability to make and receive voice calls on VoIP enabled handsets, desktop computers or laptops, and smartphone devices. And you are always in control of how or if this feature is set up.
While there is no server on site, a web portal allows you to enable and configure different features of the PBX system, from setting up an auto receptionist through to configuring line hunt groups. Other features can be configured directly on each handset. Features may include:
- Hunt Groups
- Sequential Ringing
- Simultaneous Ringing
- Call Transfer
- Call Hold
- Voicemail to Email
- Auto Receptionist
- Softphone Computer or Mobile App
- Smart Call Queueing
- Music on Hold
- Online Portal for system management and reports
and more, with some included with your plan and others available as optional add-ons. The number of concurrent calls the system is able to manage is determined by the speed of your nbn™ connection and the number of active voice plans you have.
A SIP system provides basic VoIP lines, or channels, for on-site IP-enabled PBX systems. This option is suitable for businesses that already have a suitable PBX system. Instead of replacing it, it is merely altered for nbn™ and VoIP. The features available to you are those already offered by your PBX. Lines are replaced by channels, and a minimum of two channels are needed. You don’t need a channel for each employee, but the number of channels you have enabled affects the number of concurrent calls you can manage. Number ranges for extensions are generally available in blocks of 10, 50, and 100.
Thanks to VoIP, it is now possible for small businesses to benefit from a more powerful and flexible phone system, instead of making do with basic voice lines. But even if all your business needs right now is a basic voice system, migrating to a cloud-based PBX later as your business grows is also easier and more affordable.
Commander offers all three of the phone systems discussed here, and you can read up more about what our NBN Business Line, Commander Phone, and Commander SIP systems offer and include. Or speak to our VoIP specialists to help work out which of the three is better for your current and future needs, and how you can go about switching to one of them and the great phone plans that go with them.