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What Should I Consider When Buying A New Phone System?

Having been in business for over 40 years, we at Weidenhammer have seen plenty of evolutions over time. With all that has changed over the years, one thing that has remained constant is the importance of effective communication. This is true in our personal lives, and it is true in our business lives. Selecting a new phone system is a major choice for an organization, and voice is now only one part of the conversation. Video, instant messaging, presence (live availability information), team collaboration, meetings, file sharing, and more are all now key components of a true communications system, along with traditional dial tone. The emergence of so many options (be they point products or comprehensive packages) is empowering, but it can also be overwhelming. Here are a few things (out of many) to consider as you go through your own evaluation.

Separate Point Solutions or a Comprehensive Package?

With all of the different ways to collaborate these days, it’s easy to find an application that excels at one particular contact method. Using a collection of separate best-of-breed applications for voice, instant messaging, meetings, etc. is the way a lot of companies operate, sometimes by choice, sometimes because that’s just how things developed. That approach works well if there is a single, best way to communicate that stands out far above the others within an organization. If a group almost exclusively uses instant messaging, for example, it’s worth exploring the best instant messaging platform, even if the complementary tools are weaker.

If an organization has a mix of users, partners, and clients who like to communicate in different ways, or who prefer different tools for different purposes, we recommend looking for a solution that is comprehensive and integrates all of the communication technologies and applications together in a seamless way.

Should a Phone System be On-Premises, In The Cloud, or Hybrid?

Traditionally, phone systems (PBXs) have been physical boxes installed at each client location. While the hardware requirements are much different than they once were, on-premises deployments are still the most popular for phone systems. These systems allow for capital budgets to be used (although financing can allow for creativity here), for the fullest and most robust feature sets, and for the maximum level of control for the buyer.

Many organizations are moving some or all of their critical applications (of which voice is one) to the cloud. Cloud-based models allow clients to purchase capabilities as a service, just like a power or water utility. This approach affords flexibility, a low cost of entry, and easy scalability.

Some organizations find themselves caught in between on-premises and cloud needs. They may have regulations or policies that require certain components to be on site, they may have investments in existing hardware that has not yet depreciated, or they may want a disaster recovery option that isn’t limited by their own locations. There are options available that allow for hybrid on-premises/cloud deployments, which provide full feature sets combined with flexibility and the lack of required staffing that traditional environments demand.

Go Direct (DIY) or Use a Partner?

Many options allow for an organization to place an order for phones and service right from a website, with a phone number available to support the buyer through the setup and configuration process. This option is appropriate for organizations with experienced technical staffs, confirmation that their network and connectivity environment are capable and prepared for real-time communication, and basic telephony needs. When used by trained personnel, this approach can save on implementation and support costs. The downside is that it presents considerable risk, and it requires considerable time and resources from the organization.

Most voice and communications systems are deployed by a certified partner. That is because telephony and real-time communications require specialized skill sets, and small errors can have big impacts. Since most organizations only deploy a new phone system every several years, it typically doesn’t make sense to keep people on staff to architect and deploy those solutions. The tradeoff with the partner approach is that there is an upfront cost to it, but if an organization has moderate-to-advanced needs and does not have experience deploying critical communications systems, using a partner is likely the best bet.

What do you do next?

Given the the number of options and things to consider when choosing a phone system – and the criticality of communication to every organization – this is a decision that should be given ample weight and thought. Third-party analysts and trade publications can be helpful, and we at Weidenhammer are always happy to share our insight and experience to help you make the right choice for your organization.

With nearly 15 years of experience helping organizations communicate and collaborate effectively, Jody Pillard thrives on diving into these conversations and working with clients to architect the best solution for their unique needs.