Anyone who has spent more than few minutes in an office has noticed that telephones used for business are different from telephones used in the home. For starters, business telephones - as a standard - transfer calls among lines. In order to do this, the telephone service for the business is equipped with several lines and each line is connected to a specific phone inside that office.
There are different types of office phone systems on the market: Key systems (KSU), Private Branch Exchange (PBX), and KSU-less. The type of system you choose will depend primarily on how many stations (working phones) you require.
Key systems are typically used for offices of less than sixty (60) stations.
These types of phones use a central control unit, called the Key System Unit (KSU), to provide features that are not available with ordinary phones. For example, a central unit typically allows users to make calls to another in-office extension, and prevents other users from accidentally picking up a line that is being used.
Key systems require professional installation and maintenance. All outside telephone lines must connect to the KSU, as well as all inside extensions. Unfortunately, configuring and wiring these phone systems can be nearly as costly as the phones themselves.
For a company of more than sixty employees there are PBX systems. The configuration of a PBX system is totally programmable, so PBX systems can support the most complex features.
More recently, the distinctions between the key and PBX systems have become relatively blurred. Many key systems include features that were once available only on PBXs, and some systems operate internally as either a key or a PBX depending on the software that is installed. The term "hybrid" is often used to describe systems that resemble both key and PBX systems.
And for the smallest firms (ten or less employees) there's KSU-less. KSU-less phone systems are designed to provide the features of a small phone system in a decentralized manner. These phones contain proprietary circuitry that allows them to communicate without requiring a central cabinet.
KSU-less systems are not permanently wired into your office. These phones can easily be unplugged and moved to a new location, or sold. This flexibility allows you to treat a KSU-less system much like any other business machine, rather than as a permanent investment in your premises.
Make sure any KSU-less system you are considering is compatible with the type of telephone wiring used in your office. The system should also be able to work with telephone accessories such as answering machines and modems.
Sizing an Office Phone System
When buying a system, a primary concern is to make sure that the system is the right size for your office. This means understanding the size constraints of the system. In the case of key systems, system size is usually indicated as a combination of "lines" and "extensions." Lines indicate the total number of outside lines used by the company, while extensions refer to every phone within the company. For example, a system might accommodate up to 12 lines and 36 extensions.
In contrast, most PBXs define size in terms of "ports." Ports indicate the maximum number of connections that can be made to the system. This includes outside lines and inside extensions, as well as accessories such as voice mail or automated attendants.
Even if a system can handle your current phone traffic, you also need to check that it will be able to handle your future expansion needs. The ideal system should be able to handle such expansions in a very cost-effective manner.
Check which items will need to be purchased or replaced as your needs grow in order to get a good sense for your future costs.
Digital vs. Analog office phone systems
Most newer and more expensive phone systems communicate via digital technology. This means that sound is transmitted as bits of data rather than audio waves.
Theoretically, digital transmission has many advantages over analog transmission. Digital signals are less affected by interference and line degradation, meaning that digital lines have virtually no static or hiss.
However, most businesses make outgoing calls over regular analog lines. This means that even a digital phone system must convert signals back to analog waves whenever a call leaves the office. Because very little sound degradation occurs within the smaller confines of an office, analog systems actually sound about the same as their digital counterparts.
The main reason for buying a digital system is that these systems tend to be better equipped to connect with accessories such as voice mail or caller ID.
Office telephone Systems can be equipped with literally hundreds of features for switching calls and directing traffic. However, dealers estimate that 95% of system features are never used within a company.
Instead of comparing features on a one-to-one basis, you should examine how a phone system is used. Limit your feature search only to those features that will improve the work flow in the office. This will allow you to focus on the real differences between systems for your office environment.
Although having the right features is important, even more important is making sure the features are easy to access. Because most employees devote very little time to learning how to use a phone system, it is very important that the most common functions be extremely simple and intuitive to use.
Lavitech Professional Contractors is a professional supplier and installer of high quality office and business telephone systems and telephone equipment. Call us today for a free estimate