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Things to know before buying a phone system - Vadacom

15 Aug 2013

PABX lease expired? Moving premises? Need to upgrade your phone system?

Vadacom’s CEO outlines the Top 5 features to look for in a modern phone solution.

1. Support for SIP trunks

SIP trunk support is what enables your phone system to use voice-over-IP (VOIP) to make voice calls over the internet rather than across traditional land-lines (known as POTS – for Plain Old Telephone Service).

This saves on line rentals (all your calls are carried over your internet connection). It also allows you to shop around for the best deals on call-rates – which are usually significantly lower from VOIP companies than from the big telcos.

Using SIP trunks for you voice calls could save you as much as 50% on your landline communication costs.

Many PABX systems allow you to use more than one SIP trunk provider and configure your system to use “least-cost-routing” to determine which provider to use based on the cost of where you’re calling.

You can also setup overseas numbers and free-call numbers through SIP trunk providers – a great way to service overseas customers inexpensively and make it easier for them to communicate with you.

For more information on SIP lines, VOIP technology and its benefits, see here

2. User friendliness

The explosion of communications channels – landline, mobile, chat, email and video-conferencing for example – has made keeping on top communications challenging for users.

A modern, VOIP-enabled communications platform provides the ability to unify these different modes of communications and puts the user in control over how they interact with them – making them more productive and efficient.

A well setup system allows users to define their availability (“Presence”), and determine how incoming communications – voice calls (landline and mobile) chat and email – are handled so as to provide a seamless communication experience both for them and for their customers.

If they’re in a meeting, the system can automatically route incoming calls to voicemail or to an associate based on the rules defined by the user.

A user-friendly way of configuring these options is the key to putting control back in the hands of workers. Look for systems that provide web or desktop clients and mobile clients that enable users to manage their options easily and simply from wherever they are – in the office, at home, or out on the road.

3. Support for Open Standards & Open Source based systems

Open standards – such as SIP trunks and messaging protocols – and open-source software has had a huge impact on telecommunications. The rapid adoption of Android-based mobile devices is testament to the success of an “open” approach.

Adopting open standards and open-source software gives the flexibility to choose the right hardware (mobile devices, VOIP phones and accessories) to suit your needs and the ability to customise and configure your software to work with your choice of hardware (so you’re not locked into a specific vendor).

Open-source software-based PBX solutions can run on commodity hardware, and because they are software-based, can be customised to provide advanced telephony features such as call-centre management, advanced call reporting and other useful features.

This flexibility, combined with the sheer number of “open-source” developers around the world who are able to take the core functionality of an open-source platform and extend it has resulted in rapid growth in the adoption of open-source solutions in the communications market.

A study of 7000 US-based enterprises by research group Eastern Management Group determined open-source PBX software such as Asterisk (which is what we based our VadaXchange software on) collectively accounts for 18% of the US market –a greater market-share than any other single proprietary solution from traditional PBX vendors. And this growth is accelerating.

4. Mobility and ability to work from home

With the growing trend towards mobility and enabling workers to work from home, a communications system that supports this is becoming increasingly critical for business agility and flexibility.

Most experts agree the best system to support a remote worker environment is a VOIP PBX. VOIP allows organisations to extend their corporate communications infrastructure seamlessly to remote or home-based workers across the internet, using home broadband, mobile and wireless communications to deliver a complete enterprise communications capability to wherever their workers happen to be situated.

The simple cost savings from implementing mobile extension functionality (making your mobile phones an extension of your PBX) can add up to 80% reduction in mobile costs.

The economic benefits of enabling the shift to home-based work are also compelling. A study conducted by the International Telework Association and Council found companies could save approximately $10,000 per year for each remote worker through savings on office space and other office-related expenses.

Studies also show significant benefits in productivity and employee satisfaction from enabling workers to work from home.

But it’s critical to ensure that they have the right tools to do this and still be able to collaborate as part of a team and not be isolated.

A capable, modern communications platform can provide this capability. Look for systems that allow you to connect seamlessly on internet connected phones, and mobiles and provide the tools necessary for users to configure the services themselves.

5. Ability to integrate into your business environment

A modern business communication system is no longer just about having a phone on the desk that rings. A properly implemented communication system will also integrate multiple methods of communication – voice calls, chat, email, video conferencing.

Communication is a critical business function and a core “enabler” of other technologies such as email, calendaring and scheduling systems and enterprise functions such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

In order to improve productivity, these core business systems need to be able to integrate together - for instance tying information from your CRM system into your communications processes – for outbound calling, customer support functions and more.

A modern, “open” system provides the ability to integrate these critical systems together to increase productivity, improve customer service, and provide the tracking and reporting necessary to measure efficiency.

Final word

Adopting a modern, integrated, VOIP-enabled communications platform can deliver much more than simple costs-savings.

If you choose wisely, it can deliver improved worker productivity, efficiency, and job satisfaction as well as increased business agility and flexibility.

Look for a communications platform that can integrate with your critical business systems – and a supplier with a track-record of being able to deliver this integration.

Igor Portugal is the CEO of Vadacom