While we all know numerous benefits to working from home, one major concern is communication with the outside world: You may need multiple external lines to handle a large volume of orders. Then a PBX System might be an option.
Or you may have expanded and have other employees who work from their homes.
Whatever your situation, it is essential to have a reliable phone system for a successful business.
The best answer may be to add a PBX system for your home office.
WHAT IS A PBX SYSTEM?
- 1 WHAT IS A PBX SYSTEM?
PBX stands for Private Bank Exchange and means a phone system network that is installed on-site.
For the home office, it is a means of connecting your customers or co-workers through a private network.
You can have multiple outside lines and direct extensions for easy connection to your co-workers.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SUCH AN OFFICE PHONE SYSTEM?
One of the clearest benefits is maintaining a competitive edge. While you maintain your professional manner while from working at home, many customers are more comfortable when their vendor has a formal structure.
With a PBX system, you can maintain the professional image your customer expects. While you can receive calls on multiple lines, your client only sees one central business number.
An auto-attendant is provided to catch calls when your call volume is exceptionally high.
PBX systems also strengthen your professional image by their design. Built-in menus allow customers to self-direct their calls. You can avoid a human switchboard operator without causing frustration to clients.
You will also minimize the amount of missed calls and lost business that the frequent busy signal resulting from one line can cause.
WHAT IS A VOIP PBX SYSTEM?
Advances in technology now allow you to install a virtual PBX system as well. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) systems provide many of the same benefits that a PBX system provides using a conventional phone line.
Instead of connecting through a landline, you connect your PBX to the internet. As a result, they require substantially less hardware and so have reduced installation, ongoing and maintenance fees. In addition, as your business grows, it is easier to make changes with a VOIP system.
The absence of physical hardware requirements means it is easy to add a few lines at a time as they become needed.
While you can still present a professional image with a central line and automation features with a VOIP system, you should also be aware of a few concerns.
Basing the phone structure on the internet means that your phone system only works when the internet is available. If your internet goes down for any reason, your business is on hold.
Any customers with immediate needs may turn elsewhere. And even when you are online, the clarity and consistency of your connections are subject to the bandwidth you choose as well as the overall volume your internet provider experiences.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF A PBX SYSTEM?
Traditional PBX Systems
Traditional managed systems that are hardwired have startup costs that include both hardware installation and setup of the system with your provider.
Home Advisor installation surveys found that the cost for a server and five lines can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand for that initial setup.
The monthly maintenance can then extend to $600.
VOIP PBX Systems
VOIP costs vary immensely. Initial startup and ongoing monthly costs may be reduced if you elect a VOIP system because you do not need to install the same hardware as conventional phone lines.
Similarly, VOIP setup costs may be lessened if you can use the internet you already have rather than changing providers or adding a new router or special cabling.
Your cost can also fluctuate based on which of the two primary kinds of systems you choose.
- Hosted / Virtual VOIP System – A hosted system provides all the essential tools including system backups, maintenance of hardware and remote resolution of problems. They provide easy updates and the day-to-day support you need.
- Managed VOIP System – A managed system provides all the benefits of the hosted system. In addition, they provide enhancements like statistical analysis and local technical support. Essentially, they strive to remove any stress involved in having a home PBX. However, you there are greater monthly fees for managed VOIP systems.
One of the easily overlooked costs is the cost of repair. Repair cost comparisons reflect the same low end costs between traditional PBX systems and VOIP systems.
However, Home Advisor surveys reflected that the high end is doubled. VOIP high costs were reported at $250 while traditional high costs were reported at $500.
One of the most common potential repairs to keep in mind is the loss of dial tone. This can result from something as simple as a faulty cord to a defective phone.
Repairs may also be needed if you experience echoes in your calls, static interference, choppy reception or dropped calls.
WIDE RANGE OF OPTIONS
16 Systems for 2016
Business News Daily reviewed the available phone systems in early 2016 and recommended 16 different systems.
Each system was reviewed based on multiple features. Operational matters like calling features, reliability and customer service were evaluated. Special options like computer integration and mobility were considered.
And of course, ease of use and cost were examined.
In addition to multiple brand names, systems offer different coverage and pricing. You can select the number of lines you want, and incorporate mobile phones.
Almost all provide an automated greeting and backup, and many are cloud-based which prevents loss of data if your local computer or server is damaged or hacked.
Options like personalized voicemail and a system that integrates with your current phone provider may be the criteria that you need to make your selection.
Your choice of system will also include an analysis of your business plan. Some are designed solely for small businesses for fewer than twenty connection.
If your anticipated growth will exceed that, you may want to choose one of the systems that will accommodate up to 100 connections.
Your decision may also depend primarily on the support you receive. In addition to considering hosted versus managed systems, you may want to consider the self-help features.
While remote and local support is valuable, it is also time-consuming and makes your business less efficient.
Consider whether the option you are considering provides tutorials, manuals or detailed help screens that will allow you to correct an issue yourself.
2017 VOIP Headlines
So many home offices and small businesses are electing the flexibility and cost-efficiency of VOIP systems that a website exists just to help you decide among them.
VOIP Review contrasts the systems across a number of elements so you can make a well-informed choice.
Their reviews highlight the usual quality, reliability, features and affordability concerns. However, you may particularly benefit from their more in-depth analysis incorporating factors like customer reviews.
In addition, they highlight the need to know your business and your current phone and internet parameters before selecting a system.
For example, one web page summarizes practical guidance on how to check your current internet and phone system to select the VOIP that will work with your existing setup.
Ultimately, if you have a home office with a high volume of business or even one other employee, you probably need to expand your phone connections.
If a clear constant connection is essential, you may want to consider a traditional PBX system using a conventional phone line.
If you think you will need to make changes in the near future or want to minimize your costs, a VOIP PBX system is probably the best choice for you.
Whatever your needs, with today's technology you can find a communication system that is tailored just right for you!
For my small home office with no employees, I favor a hosted VOIP PBX system for five or fewer lines for two primary reasons:
- Reduced Setup Concerns - My existing internet service provider is compatible and my broadband width is already sufficient.
As a result, the installation process will not create much lost time from with my business. I will also be free from the frustrations and annoyances of installing a lot of hardware in my home.
- Minimized Costs – Although my time and peace of mind are important, in many ways my budget is the final factor. With a hosted VOIP using my current internet, my setup costs are notably reduced and there are no fees canceling an existing service.
Similarly, the ongoing monthly costs and potential costs of repair are less than a traditional PBX or managed VOIP.
Of course, I also plan to expand my business soon. The hosted VOIP is easier and more cost-effective now. But it is also easier and less expensive to expand as I need to add lines and support.
Whatever your home-based office needs, you too can find a system that works for you. Check your current internet speed and bandwidth.
Review the VOIP systems and see if one is already compatible with your internet provider. Add in your planned rate of growth along with your budget, and you've found your match. Open up the lines and let your business come calling to you!
Images: pakowacz, studiostoks (bigstockimages.com)