By Tom Livingstone, SEO Consultant, Receptional

How do you know which telephone system is right for your business?

Like a lot of things on the internet, most of the information is outdated. There is no list of providers, people haven’t compared the options available, and there is an awful lot of jargon around. Understanding the basics will ensure you make an educated decision.

Traditionally telephone services are circuit-switched, delivering a high quality call which we are accustomed to. Internet based telephone services, or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol,) are packet-switched. These send packets of information through a broadband connection to be reassembled once received at the destination. Sometimes though these packets of information can get lost or delayed.

A circuit-switched business telephone system could be a simple key system including phones with buttons or keys to press to send transfers, a private business exchange (PBX), or Centrex (a service provided by the local telephone company to simulate a PBX.) Before VoIP was introduced, typically small businesses would have a key system, medium sized businesses would have Centrex, and a large business would have a private business exchange.

A PBX (Private Business Exchange) is a telephone exchange system that connects the internal telephones of a business together, and also connects it to the public domain via the PSTN, or public switched telephone network. Ever had to dial out from a business and press 9 first? This is the PSTN. With Centrex, all switching happens at the phone company's headquarters. Some PBX features are combined with a hybrid telephone system such as direct dialling an extension in the company without having to enter the public network.

Maintained on the businesses premises, there are many advanced features of a PBX. However hardware can be expensive, and requires fully qualified technicians for installation and maintenance. Internet PBX uses software instead of hardware, providing voice and video with VoIP. This is a self-hosted system located on the business premises.

The best choice for a small business would be a virtual PBX. This would provide the needs of a small business with the advanced features of a PBX without the expense. On the premises of another business that offers PBX services using VoIP, the system would be installed and maintained here. For small businesses a PBX is now an affordable solution with features that were once only available with an expensive PBX system. Voicemail, voicemail by email, extensions and conference calls are just some of the features readily available and affordable.

If you are interested in finding a solution that meets your small business telephone system requirements, a virtual PBX would be the recommended choice.