Enterprise Phone Systems. The Complete Buyer s Guide

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1 Enterprise Phone Systems The Complete Buyer s Guide

2 SMB Technologies: Enterprise Phone Systems Executive Summary Even with the rise of new communication forms, telephony systems are still an essential part of business communication both internally and externally with potential clients and partners. Selecting the right phone system for your company s individual needs is a large investment, and cost, benefits, features, and long term value should all be taken into account. Whether you are considering implementing a new phone system or just upgrading, our Complete Buyer s Guide aims to help you simplify the process while finding the right product at the right price for your organization.

3 1 Evaluate Before beginning the buying process, you should fully evaluate the current telephony solution as well as your company s existing infrastructure. Some items that should be taken into account are: Number of Employees, including remote or mobile users Number of Offices Existing Phone System Information (manufacturer, existing lines, and connections) Existing Server: (name, model number, and OS) Existing Broadband Connection: (type, bandwidth, and lines) Usage Statistics (percentage of inbound and outbound calls, average amount of calls that are internal, local, long distance and international) Current problems with existing system 3

4 Determine Features Regardless of your organization s requirements, there are some basic features that every phone system should have. Phone system must-have features include: 1. Auto Attendant: a voice menu that transfers calls to extensions without a receptionist. Call Management Features: features that manage incoming and outgoing calls. Includes: forwarding, hold, speed dial, and transferring 3. Voice mail: centralized system to manage voice messages from remote locations 4. Intercom: internal office communication via telephone 5. Conference calls: allows multiple telephone users to be on a telephone call 6. Security Features: firewall or device authenticationthat prevents unauthorized access to the phone system 7. Cost Saving: these features can direct calls to the least expensive path in a network and allows users to have call statistics 8. Monitoring: allows users to monitor calls with Caller ID 9. Reporting: allows users to track phone usage with call accounting and call logs Depending on your budget, you may want to consider additional features and benefits. The following advanced features are the most popular: 1. Mobility Features: these features include remote extensions as well as find me options that can forward calls to multiple numbers in a predetermined sequence. Administration Features: these features allow operators to handle calls, as well as monitoring and security access 4

5 Determine Features 3. Call Screening Features: these features allow calls to be blocked or routed to voic s 4. Multisite Management: allows communication between users in various locations 5. Advanced Call Management Features: these features allow more options for managing inbound and outbound calls such as call hunt, flip, and night answers 6. Contact Center Features: these features allow queuing, call distribution, and phone support as well as a wide range of other options depending on an organization s needs. Lastly, one of the most important features is scalability. Business expansion has the greatest effect of all on phone systems, and the scalability of a new or upgraded phone system should be amendable to your organization s current and future expansion goals. Once you have determined your preferred features, you must decide on your implementation plan. Your individual company size, budget, and structure should help you determine if your organization would benefit more from an on-premise solution or a hosted or managed solution. On Premise: Buyer owns and manages the system including all software and hardware. Benefits: low maintenance, low operating cost, customizable features Drawbacks: up-front investments, long term contracts, on site expertise needed Hosted: Buyer owns the system while a service provider manages the system. Benefits: low management, easy to expand 5

6 Determine Features Drawbacks: not a cost efficient solution for larger companies Managed: The service provider owns and manages the system. Benefits: low start up cost, little internal support Drawbacks: higher monthly cost than a hosted solution Available Products: Along with the features, there are a variety of product considerations as well. TDM-based PBX: TDM based phone systems, or time-division multiplexing, are still the most commonly used phone system. While similar to traditional circuit based phone systems, they are now available with Unified Communications and are popular options for companies with warehouses and other similar facilities that do not want to run new cabling with IP capabilities. IP PBX: An IP PBX, or its most common subset VoIP, is slowly becoming a more popular choice. While the adjustment to a VoIP system can be initially slow, there are numerous benefits of an IP PBX. VoIP systems have reduced charges for maintenance and calling, increased mobility, more customization, and greater scalability than traditional TDM systems. While the initial switch may be costly, VoIP telephony systems are a good fit for large enterprises seeking more options and lower long term costs. There are also a vast majority of hybrid solutions that combine both TDM and IP technologies. Many vendors offer these hybrids to appeal to a larger audience, and depending on your needs these can be viable options as well. Open Source Software: With an open source software solution, a buyer only pays for the hardware and then 6

7 Determine Features downloads a required code online. An open source software solution has no major investment and more flexibility than other solutions. Unified Communications (UC): Unified communications, or more commonly called UC, is the integration of voice, video, , and other communication systems into one platform. Unified Communications systems unify communication while cutting costs and increasing efficiency. The greatest benefit of a UC implementation is the increase in employee productivity. It is easier and most cost effective to upgrade a VoIP system to UC because it already has many of the UC functions. However, a TDM-based phone system can be upgraded to a UC as well. 3 Total Costs There are many variables that affect the total cost of ownership for an enterprise phone system. The solution model (on premise or hosted/managed), number of employees, and technology of the solution all influence the total cost. Costs vary greatly by the type of implementation system chosen: On Premise IP-PBX Solution: 7 Startup Cost: The initial cost of setting up the system. This includes the hardware cost (server hardware, phones, voic hardware, media gateway, and networking equipment) as well as the software license and services cost. Service/Maintenance Cost: Depending on the contract time frame, these costs include the annual maintence and

8 3 Total Costs license fees along with the T1 service charges. Staffing Costs: This cost includes the required staff needed internally to manage the phone system. Open Source IP-PBX Solutions: An open source IP-PBX solution has the same costs as an open premise solution except for the excluded software license. Internal IT expertise is required to make an open source solution both functional and cost effective. Hosted IP-PBX Solution: One-time only cost: This cost includes the required hardware (phones, network switch and router) as well as the system installation cost and listing changes. Monthly costs: This includes the monthly Internet connection cost, the monthly phone number charge, and the standard cost of calling. Hidden Costs: While implementing or upgrading a phone system, there can be an array of hidden costs that could affect your budget. Services Costs: these costs could include unanticipated labor costs as well as other components of a consultant s salary and overhead Software Costs: these costs include unanticipated license costs for additional software Hardware Costs: these costs include equipment replacement 8

9 3 Pricing Models: Total Costs Most pricing models are either pay-as-you-use where monthly charges are determined by monthly phone usage, or licensebased in which an annual fee is paid for both service and maintenance on all software and hardware. 4 Research Vendors 9 1. Vendor s Support: A vendor s support and maintenance are key to a successful system. Configuration of the system, upgrades, and user implementation can all quickly cause issues within the system. Make sure your support requirements are clear to the vendor from the beginning and you have a single point of contact. When examining the support a vendor provides, response time, loss insurance, and local support at all remote locations are significant factors.. Vendor s Technology and Expertise: It is also important to select an innovative vendor who adapts with evolving technology. In addition, selecting a vendor with expertise and understanding of the user s business market can guarantee the right product and features are matched with the right users. 3. Vendor s Customization Options: Depending on your company s needs, more or less custom features will be required in a new system. It is important to choose a vendor who provides the necessary customization your organization requires. 4. Other Issues: Throughout your vendor research, other topics will arise that may affect your decision making. The reputation and reviews of a vendor can have a significant effect on the decision making process. A vendor s price adjustability and product offerings should also be taken into consideration when comparing vendors.

10 5 Implementation Once you have selected a vendor, put a Service Level Agreement or other contract into effect as soon as possible. You should compile a list of requirements for the implementation as you roll out the new solution in phases. Involve the selected vendor s input on all steps of implementation. Then a test should be done of the existing system and networking infrastructure. The infrastructure should be capable of supporting the new telephony system. The vendor or a hired consultant can administer the test to make sure the system meets requirements such as latency and packetloss. Following the assessment, a list of upgrades or new equipment purchases should be developed. To help the network get accustomed to the changes, the purchased or upgraded equipment should then be deployed on a test network. Once all assessments have been completed, the new telephony system should be rolled out in phases by location. The most important part of the implementation process is continued communication between the vendor and the buyer. 10

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