SMALL BUSINESS VOIP PHONE SYSTEMS: CHOOSING BETWEEN ON-PREMISE VS. HOSTED OR HYBRID
If you’re recently decided that you want to make the switch to a VoIP phone system, you’ll know the next critical step is deciding which solution is best for your business: but how do you decide between an on-premise or hosted system or a hybrid model which combines both systems?
Every small business is unique so whichever type of VoIP solution you select will depend on numerous factors like cost, the size and the type of business you do.
A premise-based solution is one where your hardware is located on-site, for example in a server closet. Ahosted or “cloud” phone system works by connecting your phone through the internet to a provider who keeps, manages. and maintains the equipment elsewhere. Then, there’s hybrid VoIP, which means that a hosted system is run on a premise-server and hardware.
On-premise gives you greater control over the equipment and hardware as it resides at a location in your company’s office, like a computer equipment room or phone closet. The IP signaling occurs on an IP phone to the IP-PBX server using a LAN (Local Area Network). This means calls can go through a traditional phone company as well as VoIP with SIP trunking (SIP trunking replaces the need for traditional analog, so it eliminates the need for a physical connection to a phone company). Cost-wise, there is a higher upfront fee for setup but that means no monthly fee. It’s the most cost-effective option for businesses with more than 25 users or for greater access to advanced features.
However, with this model, your business is responsible for sourcing, installing and maintaining the system. That means everything from cabling, to call management, to choosing the system features are all customizable and under your control, but also your responsibility should anything go wrong.
Hosted VoIP sees your business calls converted to data via Internet to offsite equipment that’s centrally housed. In your office, your phones will connect via a router and any features, calls, and signals are managed through an IP-PBX server with the provider. The upside to hosted is that there’s a lower upfront cost and minimal setup fee. Not to mention the ease of scalability; it’s easier to add extra lines for new employees and expand your features going forward. Also, if the system is compromised, there’s redundancy in an offsite facility. But in this scenario, you have a monthly payment, and far less custom features to choose from.
For businesses with highly fluctuating employee bases and dispersed workforce, hosted VoIP is a good option because new users can be added to the phone system quickly and according to need.
The health care industry is one where we’ve seen VoIP making inroads and gaining momentum to meet the escalating communication demands of this sector. Hosted VoIP systems are easy to add and can grow with health care facilities as they expand. A cloud-based VoIP phone also makes video-conferencing and collaborating more easy so doctors can consult with colleagues and specialists in other countries or provinces, and can even help with procedures in rural areas. Long-distance training becomes normal, and real-time communication can make a difference during medical emergencies.
The latest advances in IP communications also makes it possible to have both a functional phone system hosted by your service provider and a premise-based phone system. Hybrid VoIP is capable of supporting both TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) and IP communications. What this looks like is a hosted system run on a premise server. Companies that are keen to choose VoIP but don’t want the rewiring or recabling involved can benefit from this hybrid approach as the VoIP device is connected using your existing handsets and extensions through a gateway.
It’s more suitable for smaller businesses (less than 25 employees) which don’t want to directly purchase and manage an entire system. Think of it as an inexpensive way to get VoIP without the costs involved with a complete rewire.
There are both benefits and challenges with any of these options, but knowing which will best meet your business needs and give you the greatest value for your investment, and will help make this choice easier.