PBX stands for “private branch exchange.” If you’re using a traditional landline phone service, you probably have physical hardware and software to route calls throughout your business. These systems have typically been expensive to maintain, but over time, technology advances have allowed these tools to go virtual. A virtual PBX system is less expensive than legacy on-premises tools and they have more features. This article will look at traditional PBX held against the benefits of a more modern virtual PBX. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Traditional PBX?
Traditional PBX is hardware in the form of telephony equipment that allows phone lines to come into a building and then be distributed to phone handsets throughout the business. Traditional PBX has traditionally been a key tool to route analog phone calls to employees within a building. These systems typically have features like call transfer, call recording, voicemail, interactive voice menus, and caller queues to handle calls.
Traditional PBX was really one of the first hardwired systems to improve the efficiency of traditional phone service within a business setting. But we have come a long way from traditional PBX; today, you can leverage these systems virtually with voice over internet protocol (VoIP) digital calling online.
What is a Virtual PBX System?
Traditional PBX is tied down to outside phone lines coming into the business (called trunks) and a capped number of internal extensions. The users of these extensions shared the trunks for outbound calling and made calls from a phone handset at their desks. However, the PBX hardware allowed people within the business to call each other without paying for additional lines from their phone service. So, the PBX as it was originally conceived, saved companies the costs associated with local phone service.
The next iteration of the PBX system is the virtual PBX. A virtual PBX system, also known as a cloud phone system, hosted PBX, or an IP PBX, uses the internet to provide hardware, software, and other PBX technology to businesses. These services are stored in a remote data center and the services are accessed through the cloud. As a result, companies don’t have the hardware overhead associated with traditional PBX.
To access these services, all you need is an internet connection. All of the equipment is stored in the cloud.
Traditional PBX vs. VoIP: Which is Better?
If you’re considering dumping your traditional PBX for virtual PBX service, you’re not alone; companies are increasingly turning to VoIP to cut business telecommunications costs. The VoIP market is expected to expand to $25 billion annually in the next three years, and even more growth is projected beyond that.
But is virtual PBX service really all it’s cracked up to be? Are there benefits to traditional PBX that businesses are missing in their rush to the cloud?
Traditional PBX allows you to own your equipment instead of relying on a remote vendor to provide it. If your business lacks a stable internet connection, traditional PBX may be an attractive option. Traditional PBX also has very reliable call quality. But unless your company is a mid to enterprise-level business, you may not be able to afford an onsite PBX. These platforms can cost thousands of dollars to purchase, install, and maintain. Adding or subtracting lines is difficult, and if you have more than one office, each location will need its own traditional PBX system.
There are also hefty costs associated with traditional phone service. A PBX handles calls once they enter your building. But you must also pay your local phone company and long-distance provider to route calls beyond the boundaries of your business. The public switched telephone network (PSTN) is an expensive service, with per-line fees, tariffs, labor, and per minute long-distance charges.
A virtual PBX system can cut these costs in half. There are few overhead costs associated with this service. You may choose to purchase IP phone handsets, but you don’t even have to do that; your employees can make calls over their computers or via their smartphones.
A virtual PBX is easy to operate; you won’t need a telephony team to work on your virtual PBX hardware because there is no hardware. You can activate or deactivate any virtual PBX service features through a smartphone app or an online portal. These systems are easy to use, efficient, and scalable. It’s simple to add or subtract lines as you need to. You won’t need to call your phone service to install more copper lines running into your business, either.
When compared to traditional PBX, a virtual PBX system is feature-rich. In the cloud, you can take advantage of virtual PBX features that traditional service doesn’t offer. This includes:
- Voicemail to email conversion features take a voicemail, convert it to an audio file, and email it to you so you
never miss a call.
- Phone menus and auto attendants take good care of your customers when you can’t. These tools can route calls in a
cascading effect; if one extension is busy, the call routes somewhere else so that your clients aren’t frustrated
by long wait times.
- Call forwarding sends calls to your cell or another device so that your customers can catch up to you.
- Call recording converts the conversation to a digital file. A virtual PBX can also integrate with your customer relationship management software, so you can store the recorded call directly in the customer file.
- Conference bridging is a feature that can bring together hundreds of people on a bridge line. A traditional PBX usually has limitations on the number of people they can bring together on one conference line.
When comparing a virtual PBX to traditional PBX, the lowered costs of the virtual platform are almost always the initial draw. But it’s also compelling that you can take a hands-off approach to manage your virtual PBX. You can let the VoIP company handle all of the equipment, the security, and all of the work associated with managing your business communications.
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