Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  10 May 2012

COMMUNICATIONS: Thinking About Virtualising Your PBX


Recent Gauteng Business News

Are there any reasons why not to virtualise the PBX‘ Actually there are, but they may not be what you think.

Riaan Pietersen, head of enterprise division at telecommunications specialist TeleMasters says the bulk of the PBX market is still made up of legacy TDM (time-division multiplexing)-based systems; what’s the problem with them‘ “These systems are typically inflexible, feature-poor and very expensive to maintain. With the advances made in telephony, and in particular in terms of computer-telephony integration, that means users of these systems are in a weak position.”

Weak because they are spending too much and also not gaining the advantages of more advanced systems which support professionalism and improved business processes. But what these old systems do deliver is great reliability (when properly maintained) and the comfort which especially the older generation associates with a physical box.

The Advantages of the Virtualised PBX

By contrast, what does the virtualised PBX offer‘ Pietersen says the list of features is long; they include familiar terms such as operational versus capital expenditure. The virtual PBX can grow (or shrink) depending on how many employees you have. Maintenance is the responsibility of the host, not the company using it (and is included in the monthly fee). The PBX is hosted ‘offsite’, so it’s no problem to provide extensions to anywhere there is an internet connection. There are many applications and features (literally hundreds, if listed); and, the virtual PBX is future-proof.

It seems clear then: throw out the old and usher in the new. “Not so fast,” says Pietersen.

He argues that an immediate switch may not be appropriate for a great many organisations which have invested in legacy equipment; instead, he says a transitory approach is typically better. “By deploying specific customer premise equipment, legacy equipment is transitioned to the IP world. This enables the customer to terminate traffic onto an IP network in order to get a good idea of exactly how the hosted PBX and the advantages of the internet can deliver efficiencies and reduce telephony costs.”

What Happens if Something Goes Wrong With Your PBX

Outside of this approach which provides some comfort while demonstrating benefits, Pietersen says the other major consideration comes down to the critical question of reliability. “There remains some lingering doubt about the cloud; ‘what happens if something goes wrong’. Since the PBX is now hosted in a data centre, rather than being a physical on-site device, that is a valid question.”

He says the answer comes down in part to the choice of service provider and the configuration of the system. “While saving money is among the benefits of the virtual PBX, it should not be the sole motivator. Buying cheap remains buying cheap; a properly configured system has to have redundant connectivity and therefore will not be the least costly option available,” he explains.

While these may seem like ‘minor’ rebuttals to the case for a virtual PBX, Pietersen says they should not be underestimated as reasonable concerns for those using legacy equipment. “There is an element of ‘fear, uncertainty and doubt’ propagated by the makers of this equipment which does feed on these concerns, too. However, the proof is in the pudding; the claims for virtual PBX are not simply easily made. Good service providers should be able to demonstrate them at work in reference sites, too.”

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