How Does a PBX System Connect With The Outside World?

PBX systems are at the heart of any successful business. Communication is the most important aspect of building client relationships and conducting day-to-day business. Without an efficiently operating phone system, a business could lose revenue as well as client confidence.

Phone systems are designed to handle call volume that exceeds what one would normally see in a home. Since multiple calls are coming in at the same time, a phone system is essential to route these calls to the appropriate party where the customer doesn’t hear a busy signal. This is done through the use of circuits or multiple phone lines that are connected to the phone system. Based on call volume, these “phone lines” can either be an ISDN line, or could be a series of single lines. The choice of circuit is largely dependent on the expected call volume and budget of the business owner.

In cases of smaller businesses, using multiple single lines might make more sense. However, some may be surprised to find that the cost of one ISDN circuit might be less expensive than continually adding phone lines to keep up with demand. This is where projected growth should be considered when ordering circuits or phone lines. This is particularly true in cases where rapid growth is expected.

Referred to as a circuit, an ISDN is a type of “phone line” that has 24 channels with one channel being reserved for data such as caller ID. The remaining 23 channels can carry one call each simultaneously. This solution would work better than 23 individual phone lines to accommodate incoming and outgoing phone calls. These circuits can be set up in a PBX system to allow incoming or outgoing calls or a combination of both. Additionally, depending on the phone company used, they can be specified for either local or long distance. In most cases, they will be set up for least cost routing. You might be able to send both local and long distance calls over the same circuit, but it might not be cost-effective to do so.

ISDN T1’s, or circuits, are appropriate for larger businesses with a high expected call volume. These circuits are commonly seen in call center environments which have additional technology to route calls to agents. For companies having extremely high call volume, a DS3 is often used which is comprised of 28 T1’s or individual circuits. This allows for an even greater amount of call volume and might be a more cost-effective solution than ordering 28 individual T1’s. The cost of a DS3 will depend on the distance from the business location to the end of the carrier network. This is why it’s a good idea to shop around when considering purchasing a DS3 for communications. This way you can choose a carrier that has the shortest distance to minimize cost.

Another solution that is fast growing in popularity because of its versatility as well as cost savings is VoIP. Unlike the communications described above, VoIP technology transmits the conversation using IP technology in much the same way that a computer transmits data. Since both voice and data can reside on the same circuit, the need for the number of circuits can be minimized. Since VoIP converts the conversation to data packets, it’s important that the voice data not conflict with the normal transmission of data as seen when transferring files or sending email. This is because voice data must be received in the order in which it is sent. If the end of the conversation gets to the destination before the beginning, the conversation won’t be understandable. In the case of data transmission, if there’s a bottleneck, the network will simply begin sending the data again once the bottleneck clears.

Since conversations are real time, this won’t work for voice traffic. This is why it’s imperative to have the proper configuration in place to insure that the voice conversation always has priority. The number of calls that could run concurrently would largely depend on the size of the network, the data circuits and how much other data would be transmitted over the same circuit. Additionally, the network configuration plays a large role in the quality of the audio during a phone call. VoIP is appropriate for large and small businesses because of its scalability. Depending on the needs of the business, bandwidth can be moved up or down and allows the business to leverage the data network to route phone calls.

There are many solutions when it comes to connecting a PBX system to the outside world. Varying in cost and capacity, each solution has its benefits and drawbacks depending on customer need. Also a deciding factor is the PBX itself. Knowing what the PBX is compatible with as well as the expected call volume will go a long way in making the appropriate telecom choices to meet business needs.

5 Reasons To Use A Virtual Phone System With Your Small Business

So you have a small business or you’re in the process of creating one – which type of phone system do you want? The traditional landline or a virtual phone system, which is often referred to as a virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system. There are advantages and disadvantages to using each one, so here is a detailed look at your options.

First, perhaps an exact description of these relatively new virtual phones is needed in order to make a sound business decision, especially when it comes to your business office communications – the heart of any company. Virtual means everything is handled online or over the Internet. These are VOIP or voice over IP systems, such as the popular Skype program which now has roughly 300 million users according to Microsoft which acquired Skype for $8.5 billion in 2011.

Many skeptics still balk at using the web for phone communications but these technologies are becoming much improved and may be the norm in the not too distant future. In the same light, many households are now dishing the traditional phone landline and going with a completely mobile option. Increasingly, most of our daily communications are going wireless/mobile, and many are connected via the Internet. Like it or not, most of today’s business communications are done through computers, cell phones and the web.

It is in this current framework which any business owner has to at least consider the “virtual option” when it comes to setting up their communication system. So here are 5 reasons to use a virtual phone system, followed by some reasons why you shouldn’t use it.

1. Cost – It is definitely cheaper to run a virtual phone system not only because the operating costs will be lower, but the initial startup or setup expenses will be much less than going with a traditional system. Actually, if you’re using your current cell phones, the costs will be very minimal compared to installing and maintaining a landline system.

2. Setup Time – One of the best advantages of going with a virtual web-based system, setup is almost instant. If you’re ordering virtual phones, these will take a week or a few days to arrive, but for the most part your phone system can be up and running within minutes. You can even “port” your current business phone number over to this online service or provider.

3. Mobility – Using a virtual system can give your employees and your business complete mobility. They and your company can be reached 24/7 from anywhere on the planet. If your operation has an active traveling salesforce, having your data and communications in the “cloud” may prove very beneficial.

4. Efficiency – Having all your business communications readily accessible by all parties can make for a very efficient operation. All faxes, sales stats, memos… can be easily send/received by all your workers. The use of voice mail, message forwarding, Internet faxing… even a virtual 24/7 receptionist can make for a smoothly run business.

5. Interconnectability – Needless to say, computers run most modern day businesses and having all your company’s phone and office communications neatly connected with the web and your computers will synchronize /digitize your whole operation. Files, calls, sales orders… can all be in digital form where they can be easily accessed by all your workers. Having all your office communications directly plugged in to your email, fax and phone calls via a virtual PBX system does connect the whole show.

Now, these are all valid reasons to use a virtual phone system but there are a few drawbacks. Mainly, the issue of privacy and security has to be considered when it comes to the Internet. We have all heard horror stories of private data being stolen or hacked and any information stored on a computer connected to the web can be compromised. While we are slowly improving security and many in the general public now use the web for such things as banking, shopping, faxing and phone communications – the general overall distrust is still there and has to be considered.

While encryption and increased security measures do make most communications secure, small businesses should still make sure any sensitive data stored online is completely secure. The same goes for your business phone communications, check with the provider to see exactly what security measures are in place and how your private data is stored online. In a similar vein, you should thoroughly check out the “quality” of the provider and make sure they have a reliable service with good support.

Another issue simply has to do with your customer or client base, if you have a traditional client list who prefer using landlines (especially when it comes to sensitive data or information) you might want to stick with a traditional system. However, if your client base is completely comfortable with virtual phones and communicating via the web, then a virtual PBX system may be a more suitable option for your business. Even though most of your customers won’t notice the difference, the old adage, the customer is always right does come into play here and should be followed.

Lastly, maybe it’s a little redundant to say, but all your business communications are vital to the success of your company or operation. Just keep in mind, in this era of cell phones, VOIP services and cloud providers of all sorts – going with a cheaper and more efficient virtual phone system is a definite option, but like always it’s your call.

Why Interactive Voice Response System (IVR) Is Good for Business

Every business needs to be accessible and there are so many available means that companies can use to get them closer to their customers. That is why constant innovation is being done to make sure that more and more channels become available to improve business accessibility.

Before companies started putting up those more advanced and engaging websites, there was the telephone. And, even when all the world is moving towards online technology, these telephones will continue to be part of a company’s operation. However, it also went through some amazing evolution. The most amazing of which is the Interactive Voice Response System (IVR).

IVRs are systems integrated into the telephone systems that helps identify, sort, and route calls coming externally and internally. This system has been around for a number of years and has gone through a lot of innovations in order to improve efficiency when integrated in a company’s telephone systems.

Among the advantages of getting an IVR system are the following:

Offer automated off-site customers support. With a traditional telephone system, customers call a company and somebody needs to answer the phone in order to accommodate customers’ concerns or queries. With an IVR in place, the company can actually attend to these concerns and queries without having to delegate a staff to answer the phone call. In this system, a message can be pre-recorded and is used to instruct customers to press the right button for their concern or query to be attended to. This means that customers can call a company anytime of the day and be assured that they will be accommodated.

Appropriate support according to what the caller needs. The IVR can also be customized to screen calls and sort them according to what the customers need. Simple concerns such as billing, account information, payment details, simple troubleshooting, delivery details, among others can be accommodated by and attended to by pre-recorded messages. However, complex concerns that need the assistance of customer service attendant can be directed to the concerned department in the company.

Collect information about callers. The data collected from the calls received in the IVR is very useful to analyze the needs of customers. It could monitor what kind of concerns are often received. From this data, the company can create adjustments in its services in order to improve its relations with customers.

Improve total customer satisfaction. By having a system that allows off-site customer support, customers are given a convenient way to sort out their concerns about a company’s services or goods. Instead of having to go to the company’s office for their concerns, they can do so right at the comfort of their very homes through their telephones. And, since the company’s off-site customer support service through the telephone is available 24/7, customers can get service support anytime they need.

Reduce cost. The IVRs can be programmed to respond to simple customer concerns and queries and they can attend to more than one call at a time. This means that companies do not need to beef-up on personnel for off-site customer support.

Given these advantages, having an IVR system in place in a company’s communication system can really help improve its operational efficiency.