How to choose the best telecommunications service for your business.

Business phone systems have come a long way from the traditional on-premises PBX. Searching for the right solution online offers a bewildering array of options and providers that would be almost impossible for the average person to decipher.

Probably the best place to start is to equip yourself with a basic scope of what you will need from your business phone system:

  • How many users will be on the system?
  • Do you need desk phones or prefer to use a mobile app or headsets?
  • Do you have a central receptionist or do calls go to your teams directly?
  • Are the users distributed over multiple sites, in a single office or working from home?
  • Do you need portability? This is the ability to take the phone system and numbers from one site to another.
  • Are there any other features you need like call recording, call reporting or a contact centre?
  • Are you using Microsoft Office 365 in your business?

Nearly all voice traffic is now carried over some form of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and delivered in one of three ways.

traditional on-premises PBX phone

A traditional on-premises PBX phone system that has VoIP services connected. For some business due to the sunk cost on their phone system this is the most cost-effective option.

These platforms are being phased out, parts are often scarce, and any repairs typically requires on-site support by a technician which can be expensive. Another limitation of an on-site PBX is that it is difficult to connect remote staff to the phone system and relocation will typically require an onsite technician visit to remove, relocate and reinstall the PBX.

Additional licencing is available for call recording, call reporting and contact centre, though it tends to be expensive.

For disaster recovery the on-premises PBX is problematic. If the site has been affected by fire, flood or another unforeseen event, the PBX cannot be accessed until the danger has past, impacting communication and customer service.

hosted PBX cloud-based phone system

A hosted PBX cloud-based phone system is ideal for businesses that have lower staff numbers and are looking for the most cost-effective solution. It essentially has a similar set of features as an on-premises PBX, however, as the Hosted PBX is hosted in the cloud, the cost of the platform and can be shared over multiple users with a licencing model delivering lower operating costs.

One of the main advantages a Hosted PBX has over an on-premises PBX is that it is not anchored to any geographic location. As long as the handsets have suitable Internet connectivity, they will typically work regardless of their location. This makes them very suited for work from home or multi-site businesses. Mobile apps and softphones are available for Hosted PBX services.

Another significant advantage is that as the PBX is in the cloud, all support and configuration of the system can be managed remotely and almost immediately. This means if there is an issue, the supporting provider can manage the platform without delays in attending the site with an expensive technician visit.

Additional licencing and services are available, usually from a third party provider for call reporting, call recording and contact centre, but at times this requires significant technical support to integrate.

UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform

A UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform such as Microsoft Teams Calling is a relatively new technology businesses can take advantage of. This type of system is ideal for businesses that are already operating with Office 365 Platform as the Teams Phone System integrates natively into the Microsoft Teams Client.

A UcaaS service typically unifies a range of communications methods into the same platform such as calls, video meetings, email, and chat. With Microsoft Teams this takes the concept a step further by integrating the phone system into the Office 365 suite, giving the advantage of having a single business platform to support and pay for.

One of the main advantages of a Teams Calling phone system is that the platform allows voice and video calls, chat, video meetings and file sharing across up to five devices that are logged into O365 account for any user, regardless of their location. As long as the device is connected to the Internet all applications typically work and this make this platform the most highly rated for a distributed work force.

A further advantage, as a UCaaS platform works over an application that is typically on a laptop or desktop, tablet or mobile device, it means deployment costs are significantly reduced as no handsets are needed. As remote work gains traction and it becomes rare for all employees to be on site at the same time, businesses are realising they no longer need a desk for every employee and are starting to downsize office accommodation. Equally for disaster recovery, the users phone system stays with their devices rather than the office.

A UCaaS system is typically easier to manage and administer with basic administration and support costing nothing or self-managed. With very little training a user is able to manage basic moves, adds and changes on the Microsoft Teams calling phone system through the Office 365 suite.

Call reporting, call recording, contact centre and SMS applications are available natively on the Teams platform meaning there is no requirement to log into additional platforms for these features.

The important things to ensure when choosing a business phone system include:

  • Ensure that call costs are either included or at a low rate.
  • Ensure the number of user’s licences are what you need now and into the future.
  • Monitor the use of any add on features to ensure unused applications are discarded.
  • Select a phone system provider with a local presence who is able to provide support on site when needed
  • Manage the deployment costs by choosing the number of devices required.

If your business is spread across multiple countries, some providers do supply a global phone system and global Teams calling where the advantage is that multiple countries can be serviced by a single phone system platform from a single provider giving the business free on-net International calls.

How to choose the best Internet service for your business.

This is a question we get asked on a regular basis. Due to the increase in cloud applications and increased web security requirements, more and more businesses are seeking higher quality business broadband links and higher bandwidths.

Fibre broadband for business

There are many facets to take into account when recommending the most suitable business Internet service including:

  • Geography – what networks are available nearby
  • The IP Voice requirements – does the client need a higher quality low latency connection
  • The business applications in use – On premises or cloud? Requiring symmetrical bandwidths or not
  • The number of staff in the business – more staff requires greater bandwidth
  • Is the site mission critical and requires a second connection/back up for redundancy?
  • Is it a multi-site business – will it be a multi technology WAN?
  • Is web security required – how will the business protect itself from web intrusions?
  • Are any network management tools required – will the business need visibility of their sites?

So what is the answer?

In many cases due to geography, sometimes the answer is that there is only connectivity option available. This is not optimal if the company has business grade requirements and there is no fibre or high-speed network available without incurring significant costs.

But where multiple networks are available for a client, this opens several choices including increased bandwidths and technology types. Often availability is the single determining factor in the technology chosen or the price.

The range of fibre broadband services, including Layer 2 and carrier Layer 3 networks mean companies get to choose the most suitable option for their requirements.

We recommend that you look for a provider that seeks to understand your requirements, interrogate all the available networks, and provide you with the options available to them. This means customers are not stuck with a single carrier network and limited choice.

Fibre Internet for business options include:

Multi carrier dedicated Layer 2 services up to 2Gb (2000/2000Mbps)

These dedicated 1:1 fibre broadband services are widely available and offer a low cost means of deploying business-grade fibre broadband with the option of rapid 4G deployment up to 100, integrated 4G failover up to 40/40Mbps and other managed WAN services and support. These services all offer unlimited data and synchronous bandwidths.

Dedicated Layer 3 services up to 1000/1000Mbps

With bandwidths of 100/100Mbps, 250/250Mbps, 400/400Mbps, 500/500Mbps and gigabit fibre, these dedicated 1:1 business fibre Internet services are broadly available in metro areas and most regional townships and business centres. They offer a high quality, no frills dedicated 1:1 service with unlimited data usage and are typically the most cost-effective solutions for any nominated bandwidth.

Enterprise Ethernet up to 1000/1000Mbps

Enterprise Ethernet (EE) is business fibre technology. Enterprise Ethernet is available as a dedicated service (High CoS = dedicated 1:1) or as a shared service (Low CoS = contended) and is widely available. As a Low CoS service it is effective for basic requirements however Low CoS services can be contended meaning the service quality and bandwidth can degrade over time, as more users join the network. We don’t recommend a Low CoS Service but understand budget requirements often dictate the selection.

Contended Layer 3 services up to 1000/1000Mbps

Layer 3 fibre is available as a contended service. It’s not what we regularly recommend but we understand some clients are limited by budget and just need something better than a basic connection at the lowest possible cost.

Don’t forget the router!

One issue to be aware of when ordering a business-grade data service is your router. The quality and throughput of the router is paramount to the success of the service. Choosing a basic router for a business grade data service can have a detrimental effect on the performance of your service. We recommend high throughput devices from Ubiquiti, VMWare, Sonicwall and Meraki with remote access and analytics.

Should you get a fibre broadband service availability report?

In short, yes. A fibre broadband service availability report provides you with the information on the technology types and bandwidths available at your locations. You should be able to request a report from your Internet provider and they will provide you with a service summary for your sites.