So you’ve decided on a PBX phone system for your small business. Now comes the hard part.

Which one?

As a small business owner you are inundated with offers, everyone wants to be your provider or sell you equipment. Suddenly you feel like the prettiest person at the dance. That first step in deciding to take on a PBX system has only led to what seems like innumerable options. You have a business to run, and this new endeavor can distract you from the ever growing number of tasks to complete.

Well hopefully this list can help you cut through the chaos and get back to running your business.

1. Purchasing a PBX Phone System

Some businesses will go ahead and purchase all the handsets and equipment up front and host their own PBX Phone System. And this does have some merit. However there are large upfront costs and a higher overall maintenance cost as well. Moreover, you will be responsible for servicing, updating, and upgrading this system. This cost will lessen over time as your business expands (sometimes even making up for the initial costs in the first year) but this may not be ideal depending on your operating costs and size. If you don’t have a dedicated IT department the very process of installation and upkeep could be a nightmare that you may never wake up from.

2. Leasing a PBX Phone System

If you like the control of owning the PBX System, but don’t have the capital to purchase the equipment you can always try leasing or renting the equipment. There are a multitude of companies that offer both the financing and the equipment. In the long term this gets increasingly more expensive as you continue to pay those financing fees and you still have the task of maintaining the equipment yourself. For a small business without a dedicated IT department this can turn into a burden faster than you would think.

3. Using a Hosted PBX Phone System

A hosted PBX system is becoming one of the more popular ways to utilize a PBX system. The system is owned, operated, and housed by a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) provider who then charges a low monthly fee. Using a hosted service is the best option when first approaching a PBX Phone System. It eases the overall burden of maintaining the system, and has a much easier learning curve. It provides the opportunity to learn what a PBX system is capable of without investing the time and money of purchasing a system outright and you do not need to have staff on hand to deal with any issues that might arise. Most hosted services allow for easy upgrading later on.

4. Using a Virtual PBX

Also known as a Cloud PBX, a virtual PBX runs exclusively through the internet and is very similar to a hosted service but offers fewer features. The biggest drawback to this is that cloud PBX systems are typically internal systems only. This service is the least expensive but is only ideal for a small business that makes relatively few outside calls. As technology advances the limitations of Cloud PBX can change so it doesn’t hurt to check this out.

5. Know what features you need.

This sounds straight forward, but it is something you need to really think about. PBX Phone Systems offer a wide variety of features and functionality. But do you need them all? Many features that we use at home are standard on most hosted PBX systems, Voicemail, and Caller ID for example. But then you have features like Extension Routing. This feature allows users to easily (and many times virtually) block extensions from using specific outbound routes. This feature is either a godsend or a waste depending on the size and needs of your business.

If you purchase or lease your PBX system the features and costs are different and will depend on the techs you hire to set up, and service the equipment as well as the equipment you lease.

6. Customization

Do you need customized features? This is different than just knowing which features you need. Customization is selecting certain features that may not apply to other businesses and may not be standard. A doctor’s office has very different needs than a CPA. Define those needs and determine which features meet those needs, and if there are an established features to meet them.

If you select a hosted service you may need to be able to pick certain features in a more a la carte manner as opposed to the bundles offered by most PBX hosting providers. If you purchase or lease the equipment you will need to make sure you have all the software and hardware that will allow you institute those features and adapt those features as needed.

7. Customer Experience

This is last, but is the most important overall. Not all PBX systems are created equal and call volume and size of your network can affect the quality of the customer experience. This quality will depend greatly on whether or not you use a hosted service, purchased the equipment yourself, and your call volume. Calls and data on hosted systems may end up fighting for preference thus decreasing call quality. To fix this, providers do offer a Session Border Controller, but this can add to the complexity of the system. You avoid this problem if lease/own the equipment but that invites a host of other problems.

In conclusion, as small business owners you don’t make decisions lightly, and hopefully this has added some clarity to the murky waters of PBX systems solutions.