What is a PBX Phone System?
PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange, which is a private telephone network that's used within a company. Traditionally, companies utilizing a PBX system would have specific proprietary phones for the software. Nowadays, however, most companies use Open-Standards-based IP-PBX, which allows the companies to use the IP in VoIP as the transport technology. Besides saving your company money, a PBX phone system bypasses many of the traditional phone system delays, such as
- Ring groups
- Voicemail, and more
A Private Automatic Branch Exchange is slightly different than a traditional PBX system in that calls and exchanges are taken care of automatically, as opposed to via a live operator. Most systems nowadays are in fact PABX systems even if only referred to as PBX. It's important to understand all of the details associated with PABX systems in order to make the most of it in your company.
You want to learn more? Try our ultimate guide to a PBX phone system
Benefits of PBX for Business
As your company grows you’ll need to scale your VoIP system as well—and a PBX system is the best way to link all of the phones in your company together, even across multiple locations.
Here are some of the benefits to incorporating PBX in your business:
- Central control - The receptionist feature allows external callers to access your company through 1 phone number and PBX technology allows multiple callers at once.
- Simple internal communication - When you call another employee at the office through a PBX the call is rerouted internally and doesn’t go outside the building like traditional phone systems which incur a charge.
- Useful features - For example: Auto attendant, which replaces a traditional receptionist and cuts out wait time for callers, and call routing/follow-me, which enables you to forward calls from your office phone to any other phone in the exchange system.
- Maintenance-free system - Since a PBX uses the internet for calls, you save money on equipment—which means less maintenance than traditional phones and lines.
Hosted PBX Vs. On-Premise PBX
Hosted PBX is where the provider hosts the PBX and handles the technology that provides the service, while on-premises PBX is, as you’ve probably guessed, where the technology is stored on the premises of the company. The IP routing of on-premise PBX may use more current technology than hosted PBX.
Here are some of the main differences between hosted and on-premise PBX:
|Hosted PBX||On-Premise PBX|
- Cheaper to set-up
- Customer pays for upgrades
- Programming managed by customer
- Customer responsible for staff training
- Low monthly cost
- Easy to add lines
- Upgrades/new features included
- Higher setup cost
- Higher maintenance costs
- Lower monthly costs
- Provider qualifies network
- Provider installs and programs PBX
- Provider trains staff
How to Choose
When deciding between a hosted PBX and an on-premise PBX, the question basically comes down to your company’s size and IT capabilities and needs:
| ||Hosted PBX||On-Premise PBX|
|Recommended For |
- Small businesses that want to save money
- Businesses that don’t have in-house IT resources
- Medium- to large-sized companies with IT capabilities
- Companies that want control over their phone system
- Companies that need a customized solution
Here’s a breakdown of the choices. If your company is small and needs to stay conservative with money, and also doesn’t have the proper in-house IT capabilities, it’s probably better that you start out with a hosted PBX system. If, however, your company has in-house IT capabilities that can handle its own phone system’s needs, then the on-premise PBX is the way to go.
Take a Look at the Leading VoIP Systems for PBX:
- Multinational infrastructure
- Unified communications software
- Tons of third-party app integrations
RingCentral’s cloud-based VoIP is easily scalable, so if you grow to more than 10 users you can upgrade from the “Essentials” plan (up to 10 users) to the “Standard” plan for just $5 more per month. Also, if your business expands to where you need large-scale video conferencing; you can get up to 100 people per meeting on the Premium plan and 200 per meeting on the Ultimate plan.
You also have the flexibility of deciding whether or not you want to use your own equipment or get phones and headsets from RingCentral. Once you’re hooked up to the cloud you can manage your entire phone system from your desktop or your mobile devices no matter where you are. It’s a way for small businesses to efficiently handle their telecommunications despite not having an IT department.
For businesses of all sizes, RingCentral packs a huge punch in the features department, giving businesses of all sizes everything they need to create a strong presence and covers all of the bases in terms of phone systems requirements. You’ll get things like caller ID, call forwarding, and auto receptionist along with tens of useful features including:
- Directory listings
- Toll-free numbers
- Hosted BX service
- Call reports
- Call monitoring
- Call screening
- Shared lines
- Voicemail to email
- Internet fax capability
One of the best aspects of RingCentral is the fact that it works seamlessly with more than 100 apps that you can put to work for your business. These include Gmail, Dropbox, Salesforce, Oracle Sales Cloud, Skype, and Zendesk to name just a few. RingCentral is also useful for those companies with multiple branches that need to stay connected. In fact, the software can be used across Asia, Europe, and the United States, so whether you are trying to connect team members, multiple offices, or clients from around the globe, RingCentral has got your back.
Choose from 4 pricing plans that graduate in number of users and features available. Plans range from $39 for one user up to $69.99 depending on the plan. You can also get specialized pricing plans for more than 10,000 users.
With this wealth of features and ease of use, RingCentral is a great option for businesses of all sizes.
Read the full RingCentral review
- Top notch voice quality
- Seamless desktop-to-mobile cross over
- Professional admin features
Vonage is a pioneer in the VoIP industry, and now it’s making waves with its business products as well. In addition to the standard Voice over IP, Vonage Business also supports newer protocols like Multiprotocol label switching and software-defined wide area networks for the most advanced and extensive business telephony services available today.
For small and medium-sized businesses, Vonage has developed Vonage Business Cloud, in addition to its larger enterprise options.
The platform is easy to set up and fully scalable so it can work for small businesses that are on their way up and medium-sized businesses who already have more extensive VoIP needs.
With every Vonage Business Cloud plan you get 99.999% uptime, additional bandwidth, mobile and desktop apps and unlimited calling and text messages.
Business Cloud plans range from the entry-level Mobile plan at $19.99/month and up, through the Premium and Advanced plans ($29.99 and $39.99 per month, respectively).
Going to premium is a good decision if you need video conferencing, chat and file sharing as well as more extensive integrations and customer relations management tools, such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and G Suite. If you continue on to the Advanced plan, you can also enjoy additional features like visual voicemail, call recording, and call group to name a few.
This VoIP giant offers more than 40 features for professional calling convenience and ease, yet Vonage caters its plans to suit your business size. So, you can opt for the more basic Essentials plan that offers Amazon Chime Pro, month-to-month contracts, and dedicated mobile and desktop apps, or go for the gold with enterprise level plans that up the game with things like hunt group, auto attendant, and visual voicemail.
The cloud interface syncs the information in your business software with detailed inbound and outbound data. So, teams working with the cloud platform can enjoy screen pops for incoming and outgoing calls, click-to-dial service, call history and logging, note taking, integrated reporting, and continuity across cell phones (Apple and Android). With the state-of-the-art Chime feature, you can host online meetings and enjoy quality VoIP calling and even video conferencing for up-to-the-minute team collaboration.
Depending on your preference, Vonage Business can connect directly with your desktop, or you can choose the softphone option that connects your phone line to your computer. Use your pre-existing phones or purchase any of the most popular VoIP phones like Cisco, Polycom, and Panasonic. The choice is yours. Users can also sign up for the Enterprise SMS solution, VideoConnect and CRMConnect, which seamlessly connects with your existing CRM software.
To top it all off, there are 44 standard, non-chargeable extras in all packages, ranging from call blocking and call recording, to virtual receptionists, mobile apps and the Vonage service portal.
Read the full Vonage review
- Easy-to-customize platform
- Great call quality
- Competitive pricing plans
8x8 Global Cloud Communications is a relatively smaller VoIP provider for businesses, but it is one of the top picks by industry experts, and it has enterprise-level services. It's got a great features suite, reliable connections, and a whole slew of third-party integrations, so you are getting a ton from the already attractive 8x8 pricing plans.
To start with, 8x8 can be used with a standard Polycom handset or through your PC (Mac or Windows) or mobile phone (iOS or Android). Once signed up, 8x8 will schedule a meeting to walk you through all of the various features and show you some of what you can do with your new 8x8 service. That is super helpful.
Setup is fast and easy. Plus, 8x8 integrates with the usual software like Sugar CRM and Salesforce. The amount of features available for both mobile and desktop systems is impressive. Some of the features we were happy to see for mobile included:
- Receiving calls and making them
- Receiving faxes
- 3-way calling
- Call recording
- Define presence
And, a lot more. And that’s just what you get for mobile. The desktop functionality is even more robust with things like conference calling bridge, video calling, and team collaboration features, to name a few.
Read the full 8x8 review
Whichever type of system you choose, get informed before jumping in. Take a look at the best PBX systems mentioned above and be sure to read the details about each company in order to find the one that fits every major need of your company.