What are the Main Types of Business Phone Systems?
Every business needs a way to communicate with its clients, partners, and anyone else who would like to get in touch with the business. Although email is often seen as the best way to do so, many businesses still use a phone and retain various business phone numbers for this purpose. A business phone system helps businesses manage their outbound and inbound phone calls. The features of these systems differ significantly from those you have on your personal phone due to the unique needs of businesses, such as having multiple people on a single call. Choosing the right business phone system can be complicated, but we are going to look at the main types to help you see which one could be best for your business.
Private Branch Exchange (PBX) System
A PBX system is a centralized system that allows people within an organization to call each other and for the organization to call outside. The system uses programmable switches that make it easy for businesses to route all their phone calls to the right numbers.
Because PBX systems are usually automated, they are great for medium-sized businesses that have more than 40 employees. These systems are also suited for these use cases because they do not have the same limits other traditional systems have. All calls are connected to a central hub and then redirected to the right phone using the automatic switching devices inside the system.
In the past, the PBX was connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) by a business phone provider. It was the PSTN that allowed outgoing and incoming calls. Businesses can still opt for a hosted PBX system where the switching devices are hosted by a business phone provider. By doing this, businesses avoid the cost of installation that comes with these systems.
Modern PBX systems are so complicated that they come with many of the features that come with complex modern systems like VoIP.
Key System Units
Phone systems that use a key system unit are the most basic phone systems you can get for your business. These phones have a limitation on the number of people who can make calls at a time (phone operators). They are therefore suited best for businesses that have less than 40 employees.
This system is comparable to the home phone systems of the past, making them very easy to use. The key system unity (KSU) is the main switching device in this system, allowing phones to be routed as needed. These systems are less portable and flexible than their other counterparts, and this explains why they have largely disappeared from the office.
There is a variation of this system known as a KSU-less system. It gives businesses the same capabilities as its KSU counterpart while being more flexible and portable. It does not have a switching unity and is wireless. The KSU-less system allows for about 10 operators at the same time and because of its low demand, you can only get it through select phone companies.
Businesses that need a basic phone system and are not looking to grow may find this system useful. However, it remains severely limited as a business phone system.
Cloud Phone Systems
A cloud phone system is a system that enables making phone calls and sending messages over the internet. Instead of expensive servers and other systems, a cloud phone system uses an app or piece of software installed on your phone or computer. The system provider takes care of the rest of the infrastructure on your end.
Because it uses the internet, you will see the internet and cloud services, it is also known as a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) system or a virtual phone system. A cloud phone system makes phones in real-time and, depending on network quality and internet speed, it is more reliable and clearer than a traditional phone.
There are a lot of technical details to know if you would like to understand how these systems work, but we will simplify them here. When you make a call through VoIP, the app or software you are using first translates it into a digital signal and turns it into little data packets. It then compresses these packets so they are sent efficiently over your internet connection. The speed of these packets can vary depending on the audio codec used, as well as your internet connection.
Once sent over the internet, they are received on the other end and decompressed, and then turned into a digital or analog signal. This signal is then turned into the voice or sounds you hear on the other end. The systems that turn these packets into analog systems are older and are being phased out for modern software and apps.
A cloud phone system comes with a lot of upsides and downsides. The upsides include allowing numerous devices to connect to the network, using the reliability and capabilities of the internet to make calls, and being able to scale the system to include many people on the call.
The downsides include requiring a stable internet connection that has low latency and lots of bandwidth, devices at risk of being targeted in cyberattacks, and the equipment required (computers and phones) being an initial investment that businesses need to think about.
If you already use computers and smartphones at work, which almost all businesses do, it is easy to get started with a cloud phone system. You only need to talk to a provider like OpenPhone to make that possible for you. OpenPhone’s blog on a cloud phone system explains how it all works. They can help you add work numbers to all your existing devices using an app or software, enabling calls, messages, and call transfers between devices. A cloud phone system lets you call any number around the world, enables call recording, and mutes calls during non-business hours. You can also port your existing business number(s) to get started right away.
Multi-line Phone Systems
If you are getting a phone system installed in your office, you might hear the technician use this term from time to time. A multi-line phone system is simply a phone system that accepts more than one phone call at a time. It is a generic term that encompasses other types of phone systems, including PBX and cloud phone systems because they can accept more than one call at a time.
This means you can set up a multi-line phone system using either the traditional phone systems used in the past like PBX or newer technologies such as VoIP.
Multi-line systems will show when multiple people are calling, but they have a massive disadvantage; you cannot receive or make more than one phone call at a time. Multiple calls are held as incoming calls, although the operator can see when there are other people on the line.
This is especially concerning for growing businesses that need to call a lot of partners and which have more than a few people making and receiving calls all the time.
The rise of cloud multi-line phone systems has removed many of these limitations, but this system is losing popularity due to the growth of VoIP, which offers a superior service.
The four phone systems discussed above have been used in offices at one time or another. They offer different features, and it is these features that determine whether they are still in use today. PBX, cloud, and multi-line phone systems using the cloud remain the best option. However, VoIP remains superior due to its reliability and call quality.