Phone Systems

New Systems, Servicing and Maintaining Current and Legacy Systems


Long Island Key and PBX Phone SystemsThere are three major types of commercial phone systems on the market today: key systems, Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems, and KSU-less phones. The type of system you choose will depend on how many stations (extensions) you need and what features you require.

A fourth type of phone system uses Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to route your internal calls over data networks, instead of traditional phone lines. For some businesses, VoIP systems can provide significant cost savings and other benefits.

Key and PBX systems

In the 5 to 40-employee range, key systems are most typical. This type of phone system uses a central control device called the key system unit (KSU) to provide features that are not available with ordinary phones. For example, a central unit typically allows users to make calls to another in-office extension, and prevents other users from accidentally picking up a line that is being used. Modern Key systems also come standard with most features a business would expect – but in some cases they are less customizable.

If your company has more than 40 employees, or if you need advanced functionality, PBX systems are the best solution. You may know PBX systems as the massive telecom cabinets used by huge companies. While that still can be the case for large installations, the technology has progressed to the point where a powerful PBX for a small company can sit unobtrusively on a desk.

Most PBX’s come standard with all the features you might want. In addition, they are totally programmable, so they can support the most complex implementations. You'll pay a premium for this flexibility, but in many cases the price difference between PBX systems and less adaptable solutions will be smaller than you might expect.

While there are technical differences between key and PBX systems, the distinctions to a user have become relatively blurred. Many key systems include features that were once available only on PBXs, and some systems operate internally as either a key or a PBX depending on the software that is installed. The term "hybrid" is often used to describe commercial phone systems that resemble both key and PBX systems.

Both key and PBX telephone systems require professional installation and maintenance. All outside telephone lines must connect to the KSU or PBX cabinet, as well as all inside extensions. Unfortunately, configuring and wiring these phone systems can be nearly as costly as the phones themselves. You will almost always be able to use existing phone wiring. Need new wiring run? Double D Services can provide this service.

Don’t expect to continue using existing phones, however. Unless the phones you have are relatively new or backward compatible, they probably won’t work with the new central unit and you'll need to purchase new handsets.

KSU-less systems

KSU-Less Phone SystemsIf your company has fewer than 10 employees, you may be able to meet your telephone needs with a KSU-less system. For a much lower initial investment, KSU-less phones are designed to provide many of the features of smaller commercial phone systems in a decentralized manner. The phones themselves contain the technology necessary to allow them to communicate with each other without requiring a central cabinet.

KSU-less systems are not permanently wired into your office. These phones can easily be unplugged and moved to a new location or sold. This allows you to treat a KSU-less system like any other business machine rather than as a permanent investment in your premises.

Make sure any KSU-less system you are considering is compatible with the type of telephone wiring used in your office, as well as accessories such as answering machines and modems. Because they are so inexpensive, KSU-less systems are not usually sold or supported by telecom vendors – you will need to do the shopping, installation, programming, and maintenance yourself. And they are also more susceptible to “crosstalk,” a problem in which separate conversations bleed into each other. With hybrid key systems dropping so far in price, KSU-less systems present more risk than they are worth for most businesses.

VoIP Systems

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) represents the latest in phone system technology. With it, regular voice calls are sent over a computer network instead of traditional phone lines.

VoIP has been touted as “coming soon” since the first PC-to-PC telephony applications were introduced in 1995 – and it looks like it may have finally arrived. In recent years the audio quality has improved drastically, the technology has gotten cheaper, and business adoption has started to spike.

According to industry analysts Frost & Sullivan, worldwide revenues for IP PBXs (the heart of a VoIP phone system) are expected to grow from $1.96 billion in 2003 to $11.4 billion in 2008. Other industry players predict that by then, more than half of all phone traffic worldwide will be IP-based.

There are two basic varieties of VoIP. In its most straightforward form, VoIP phone service requires a regular phone, an adapter, broadband Internet service, and a subscription to a VoIP service. When you place a call, it is sent over the Internet as data until it nears the recipient’s destination. Then the call is translated back into a more traditional format and completes the trip over standard phone lines. Also known as Internet Telephony, this allows for extremely cheap long-distance and international calls. This type of service can be used on ANY type of phone system including traditional residential phones.

There are also VoIP phone systems – equipment installed at your business that routes internal calls over your computer network. With a VoIP phone system, you can unite multiple offices on a single phone system. No matter how remote the locations, a VoIP phone system can completely eliminate long-distance calling charges between them. However, it does not replace your existing phone service to the outside world.

Long Island VoIP - Voice Over IP Phone SystemsVoIP phone systems can work for the smallest offices and the largest enterprises. In fact, IP PBXs will likely replace traditional PBX phone systems as prices fall and reliability improves, which helps explain why so many IP PBX manufacturers are familiar telecom heavyweights.

The buzz around office VoIP phone systems has been constant enough that many businesses think about diving into one without really understanding their benefits. Contrary to the assumption many potential buyers start with, a VoIP installation is not a guaranteed way to save money. Additionally, features alone are NOT reason enough to upgrade right now.

However, there are some specific situations where VoIP can make an immediate positive or negative impact on your business.

Pros

Multiple locations
If your company has multiple locations – branches, telecommuters, remote sales offices – that are already connected to a company Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN), you are a prime candidate for a VoIP system. You can share the full features of a VoIP phone system across all your locations.

Even if you have one office in Connecticut and one in California, VoIP allows calls between them via extension dialing, making it a zero cost call. For businesses with hefty monthly long distance charges due to calls between locations, that can be a very attractive reason to upgrade.

Infrastructure savings
An office VoIP phone system can also save money as you are setting up a new office – you will not have to run separate cabling for your phone system. However, if you are setting up a new data network anyway, adding a parallel voice network at the same time is relatively cheap so the cost savings here might not be as large as you expect.

The best solution for you might be a system that uses existing phone wires within the main office and VoIP for calls between locations. This combination works well if you have relatively new telecom equipment – many PBXs can be IP-enabled with software upgrades and minor hardware additions. Or, if you are ready to replace an aging PBX, it may be a great time to move to IP PBX.
Sticking with traditional phones internally will save you money, as well as increasing the overall reliability of your phone system.

Double D Services can also set up systems that use only traditional lines and extensions at first, but support later expansion to VoIP.

Cons

Network Demands
One challenge to maintaining IP call quality is bandwidth: high quality sound requires quite a bit of it. Add to that the fact that once you move to a VoIP system, you’re now running all your business communications over one network. This means that the bandwidth used to access databases, work files, e-mail and the Internet is now sharing the same space as your voice communications.

The technology to compress audio and to reconstruct it improved to the point where VoIP sound quality over a high-bandwidth connection is as good as or better than that of regular phones. But some networks that are fine for data are not up to the demands of VoIP.

Computer networks are designed to handle messy data: packets arrive out of order and some are even lost, but in most cases the data being sent can easily be reconstructed before it is needed. Voice conversations, though, are not as tolerant of these kinds of disturbances.

Networking Service Long Island NYIf your company will be routing calls over private data networks, much of this potential problem is avoided. Companies shopping for VoIP generally have networks suitable for high-quality voice conversation – frame relay networks are ideal, but standard Ethernet networks are fine. However, they may need to be boosted with a Quality of Service (QoS) application.

QoS maintains a dedicated amount of bandwidth for voice calls by giving voice data a higher priority as it is trafficked through the network. If there is network congestion, VoIP data is routed through first so call quality does not suffer. QoS applications are built in to some VoIP systems, as well as some routers. They can also be purchased separately as upgrades.

From every indication, running VoIP on a company network without QoS is a risk no business should take. If you have a WAN that routes data over the Internet, you can still run QoS, but there can be no guarantee of quality. Internet call quality can reportedly be improved if the various offices use the same Internet service provider.

Outages
Unlike regular phone systems that get set up and basically forgotten, VoIP systems require more attention. Like any software application, your VoIP server will require occasional upgrades and maintenance.

By definition, VoIP phones are also network-dependent. To businesses where phone service is absolutely critical, this can be a concern since computer networks can occasionally be brought down by a server crash or other problem. However a good IT staff can prevent most outages and react quickly when one occurs.

Potential outages are another reason why having a mix of digital and VoIP can be advantageous: it creates a more comfortable level of redundancy. Companies that have backup power systems in place can keep their PBX running, and the digital phone system within the main office will continue to operate even if the data network is unavailable

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