Is your phone system doing all it can for your small business?

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What do you really want in your small business phone system? Are you taking advantage of all the features available in today’s phone technology? These were questions posed to 427 capital equipment decision makers at small and medium-sized businesses across the United States in a recent survey commissioned by a maker of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication systems.

The survey identified a number of key insights regarding the usage and perception of business phone systems among small and medium-sized businesses. Most notably, the survey found that among respondents – 74% – voice communications remains extremely or very important to their business operations despite the pervasiveness of email, video and social media.

Regarding specific phone features:

  • The top five phone features used are: 3-way calling (60%), intercom (42%), conference call bridges (41%), music on hold (40%) and calling other locations using extensions (37%).
  • The top five most desired phone features are: voicemail as email attachments (38%), remote desk phones (25%), music on hold (25%), 3-way calling (24%), and mobile client for the desk phone (24%).

Telecom terminology can be confusing

For some small and medium-sized businesses, the alphabet soup of telecommunications technology can cause confusion. The survey found a vast majority of respondents were unfamiliar with terms such as IP telephony, hosted PBX, IP PBX, virtual PBX, SIP trunks or Unified Communications (UC).

Still nearly one in two respondents plan to evaluate a new business phone system in the near future – with 86% of them planning to do so within the next three years. Sixty-four percent of them cited old or outdated voice equipment as the primary reason.

What it all means

If you are among the companies planning to upgrade your phone systems in the not too distant future, here’s a brief definition of these key terms to help you as you weigh options and make a decision.

IP Telephony:  Internet Protocol telephony (IP telephony) is the term used to describe technologies that use the Internet Protocol’s packet-switched connections to exchange voice, fax, and other forms of information. Previously these types of information were carried over the dedicated circuit-switched connections of the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

Hosted PBX: A hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX ) system is operated and maintained by a service provider. You essentially rent it and access it through the cloud so there’s no cost for equipment and responsibility for upkeep.

IP PBX: IP PBX is an on premise software-based telephone switch that supports VoIP. IP PBXs connect company internal telephone extensions to the PSTN as well as to mobile networks.

Virtual PBX: A Virtual PBX is just one part of a Hosted PBX system. It provides an automated answering service with routing options to handle and transmit inbound calls.

SIP Trunks: Session Internet Protocol (SIP) uses VoIP to connect your PBX to the Internet. Connecting an SIP trunk to an internal traditional PSTN phone system, your company can communicate over IP to fixed and mobile phone subscribers across the globe.

Unified Communications:  Unified Communications (UC) consolidates all of your different types of communication devices – desk phones, PCs, smartphones and tablets – into one integrated data and voice network so they can talk to each other digitally. With UC, you can experience calls along other collaboration tools such as e-mail, instant messaging (IM), web and video conferencing and fax through the convenience of one interface.

Telecommunications technology has come a long way in recent years. Think about your current needs and plans for growth when implementing your new VoIP phone system.

About Judi Hembrough

Judi leads Americas Marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for the Small and Medium Business (SMB) customer segment at Plantronics. Judi has been a marketing director at Plantronics for 10 years in various roles focused on Strategic Alliances Marketing, SMB and Home & Home Office solutions. Prior to Plantronics, Judi was President of William-Christie Associates, Inc. -- a management consulting practice, for 10 years where she guided numerous companies such as Palm, Intuit, CBS MarketWatch and HID, in driving new initiatives.