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Cloud PBX

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Virtual Office by 8x8 logo
 
Virtual Office is a collection of comprehensive web-based business VoIP solutions from offered by 8x8. Enterprise grade phone service, virtual meetings, mobile applications, virtual contact centers and more are available to help companies... Read More
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Virtual Office is a collection of comprehensive web-based business VoIP solutions from offered by 8x8. Enterprise grade phone service, virtual meetings, mobile applications, virtual contact centers and more are available to help companies... Read More
 
Vonage Business Solutions logo
 
Vonage Business Solutions has an advanced set of features ideal for small to medium-sized companies looking to incorporate a PBX System. Vonage Business Solutions features automatic call distribution and conference calling.
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Vonage Business Solutions has an advanced set of features ideal for small to medium-sized companies looking to incorporate a PBX System. Vonage Business Solutions features automatic call distribution and conference calling.
 
FluentStream VoIP logo
 
FluentStream is a business phone solution designed for companies of all sizes. It offers call monitoring, telemarketing, IVR and reporting within a suite. The software is available both in cloud-based and on-premise deployment options. The... Read More
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FluentStream is a business phone solution designed for companies of all sizes. It offers call monitoring, telemarketing, IVR and reporting within a suite. The software is available both in cloud-based and on-premise deployment options. The... Read More
 
Nextiva Office logo
 
Nextiva’s cloud-based VoIP platform provides enterprise-level features and simple online management. It gives all of the control and functionality of an on-site PBX without the installation and maintenance challenges.
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Nextiva’s cloud-based VoIP platform provides enterprise-level features and simple online management. It gives all of the control and functionality of an on-site PBX without the installation and maintenance challenges.
 
Jive PBX logo
 
Jive is a great fit for businesses looking for the convenience, low-cost and flexibility of a full-featured PBX in a hosted (cloud) service. Their user-friendly interface and strong support network ensure hassle-free operation.
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Jive is a great fit for businesses looking for the convenience, low-cost and flexibility of a full-featured PBX in a hosted (cloud) service. Their user-friendly interface and strong support network ensure hassle-free operation.

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ShoreTel Sky logo
 
ShoreTel Sky is a cloud-based, scalable phone solution well-suited for businesses of any size and most industries - from finance to transportation. ShoreTel offers features such as a PBX system and computer telephony integration.
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ShoreTel Sky is a cloud-based, scalable phone solution well-suited for businesses of any size and most industries - from finance to transportation. ShoreTel offers features such as a PBX system and computer telephony integration.
 
MegaPath logo
 
MegaPath is Business Voip software that works with medium to large-size businesses in any industry. The system offers companies Internet connectivity, unified communications, security services, managed networking services, and more. With... Read More
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MegaPath is Business Voip software that works with medium to large-size businesses in any industry. The system offers companies Internet connectivity, unified communications, security services, managed networking services, and more. With... Read More
 
Business Voice logo
 
Business Voice is a cloud-based VoiP solution created by PanTerra, which allows users to take or make calls from their office phone number, communicate with their team, and have file access, all from any device with an internet connection,... Read More
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Business Voice is a cloud-based VoiP solution created by PanTerra, which allows users to take or make calls from their office phone number, communicate with their team, and have file access, all from any device with an internet connection,... Read More
 
RingCentral Office logo
 
RingCentral Office incorporates the power of an enterprise-class PBX phone system in a cloud-based telecommunications system. Low up-front expenditures make RingCentral a great choice for small, medium and growing businesses.
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RingCentral Office incorporates the power of an enterprise-class PBX phone system in a cloud-based telecommunications system. Low up-front expenditures make RingCentral a great choice for small, medium and growing businesses.
 
ContactWorld by NewVoiceMedia logo
 
ContactWorld, created by NewVoiceMedia, is a unified communication platform for any size corporation. It offers standalone call center functionality, including automatic call distribution, predictive dialer, call recording, auto attendant,... Read More
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ContactWorld, created by NewVoiceMedia, is a unified communication platform for any size corporation. It offers standalone call center functionality, including automatic call distribution, predictive dialer, call recording, auto attendant,... Read More

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Five9 Cloud Contact Center logo
 
Five9's Cloud Contact Center is a good fit for call centers wanting a flexible yet robust virtual (cloud) PBX. More than the basic call functions, Five9 has designed a host of features to streamline call center operations.
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Five9's Cloud Contact Center is a good fit for call centers wanting a flexible yet robust virtual (cloud) PBX. More than the basic call functions, Five9 has designed a host of features to streamline call center operations.
 
inContact Hosted Call Center logo
 
inContact is a SaaS-based call center software that helps businesses to maximizes the quality of leads and minimizes the cost of client interaction. The solution comprises of many features required to process inbound support requests... Read More
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inContact is a SaaS-based call center software that helps businesses to maximizes the quality of leads and minimizes the cost of client interaction. The solution comprises of many features required to process inbound support requests... Read More
 
Action Desk logo
 
Action Desk by OneReach is a web-based omnichannel system designed for all size companies and enterprises. The agent interface system allows users who are logged in to manage live inbound and outbound phone calls, text messages, and... Read More
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Action Desk by OneReach is a web-based omnichannel system designed for all size companies and enterprises. The agent interface system allows users who are logged in to manage live inbound and outbound phone calls, text messages, and... Read More
 
Cisco Unified Communications Manager logo
 
Cisco Unified Communications Manager is an advanced platform for integrating business communication technologies such as telephony, video conferencing, presence information, call recording, Web conferencing and messaging. It enables... Read More
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Cisco Unified Communications Manager is an advanced platform for integrating business communication technologies such as telephony, video conferencing, presence information, call recording, Web conferencing and messaging. It enables... Read More
 
UNIVERGE 3C logo
 
UNIVERGE 3C, NEC’s software-based IP-PBX, is a sophisticated platform for unified communications and collaboration. Its comprehensive functionality helped it earn the 2014 Internet Telephony Product of the Year award from technology... Read More
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UNIVERGE 3C, NEC’s software-based IP-PBX, is a sophisticated platform for unified communications and collaboration. Its comprehensive functionality helped it earn the 2014 Internet Telephony Product of the Year award from technology... Read More

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OmniPCX Office RCE logo
 
OmniPCX Office Rich Communication Edition (RCE) is the cornerstone of Alcatel-Lucent’s OpenTouch Suite. It's suited for small to midsize businesses with up to 200 employees. An all-in-one networking solution, OmniPCX Office RCE... Read More
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OmniPCX Office Rich Communication Edition (RCE) is the cornerstone of Alcatel-Lucent’s OpenTouch Suite. It's suited for small to midsize businesses with up to 200 employees. An all-in-one networking solution, OmniPCX Office RCE... Read More
 
Huawei eSpace logo
 
Huawei eSpace is a unified communications solution designed for enterprises. Some models of the hardware IP PBXs at the core of the Huawei system can support up to 10,000 users per unit. Huawei Integrated Access Devices (IADs) enable... Read More
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Huawei eSpace is a unified communications solution designed for enterprises. Some models of the hardware IP PBXs at the core of the Huawei system can support up to 10,000 users per unit. Huawei Integrated Access Devices (IADs) enable... Read More
 
XO Hosted PBX logo
 
XO Communications is a provider of network services that offers a cloud-based phone system, XO Hosted PBX, designed for businesses with 50 to 1,000 employees. In addition to hosting VoIP applications, XO also offers SIP trunking services... Read More
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XO Communications is a provider of network services that offers a cloud-based phone system, XO Hosted PBX, designed for businesses with 50 to 1,000 employees. In addition to hosting VoIP applications, XO also offers SIP trunking services... Read More
 
Voice Complete logo
 
Level 3 offers both SIP trunking and Integrated Services for Digital Network (ISDN) services in a package known as Voice Complete. Businesses can use Level 3 SIP trunking to connect calls between VoIP systems and the traditional phone... Read More
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Level 3 offers both SIP trunking and Integrated Services for Digital Network (ISDN) services in a package known as Voice Complete. Businesses can use Level 3 SIP trunking to connect calls between VoIP systems and the traditional phone... Read More
 
OBiPLUS logo
 
Obihai’s OBiPLUS is an on-premise IP telephony solution designed for very small businesses (i.e., those with 12 or fewer employees). Users can buy either a basic license, which supports up to four extensions, or a premium license,... Read More
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Obihai’s OBiPLUS is an on-premise IP telephony solution designed for very small businesses (i.e., those with 12 or fewer employees). Users can buy either a basic license, which supports up to four extensions, or a premium license,... Read More
 

Buyer's Guide

by Justin Guinn,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: August 16, 2017


Here's what we'll cover in this guide:

  • What are Virtual, Hosted and Cloud PBXs?
  • Choosing Between an On-Site or a Hosted (or Cloud, or Virtual) PBX
  • Final Consideration

What are Virtual, Hosted and Cloud PBXs?

A PBX, or Private Branch Exchange, is at the heart of every business phone system. It is the central component that integrates all internal phone extensions with all external phone lines, and allows calls to be set up and transferred between them. Originally, PBXs were big, physical machines. First, they were switchboards with human operators; later, the switchboards became automated. But since the late 1990s, they have been available in a new form: as virtual or hosted machines.

It’s important to point out that the terms "virtual," "hosted" and "cloud" have all been used very loosely over the years. In the late 1990s, a company by the name of "Virtual PBX" was the first to offer a service similar to what most now call a hosted PBX. Theirs was a much more limited service: it could only forward incoming calls. (Businesses would pay for a single business number, and when their customers called it, Virtual PBX would route those incoming calls to their employees’ on-site or off-site phones.)

In the early 2000s, as VoIP networks expanded and their connectivity to landlines improved, most of the virtual PBX call-forwarding companies added outbound calling to their plans. These new plans took on a new description: hosted PBX services. Then, when cloud became the buzzword for describing hosted services, this term, too, joined the mix.

Today, we see the three terms "virtual," "hosted" and "cloud" used interchangeably. Buyers should not assume that the terms imply any specific set of features. All services need to be compared in detail to understand what they offer.

Choosing Between an On-Site or a Hosted (or Cloud, or Virtual) PBX

Choosing a new phone system is one of the most daunting tasks a business can face. There are many technologies on the market that are competing with, overlapping and blurring the distinctions between one another. As we just explained, cloud, virtual and hosted are all used to describe a PBX that’s hosted off-site by a third party. So how do on-site PBXs compare to those hosted in the cloud?

  Off-site PBX On-site PBX
Cost A hosted PBX will almost always have a lower initial cost. But since it is billed as a service, it will have a recurring monthly charge. Businesses on the fence should calculate the total cost of ownership, and consider that hosting prices could go up over time. There is a wide range of options for on-site PBXs. Some cost thousands of dollars; some are free. Included features and its form of network integration are the main cost factors. Companies that are already hosting their own computer servers might find this choice more feasible.
Maintenance Hosted PBX software is kept up to date by the hosting company. Configuration changes can often be made remotely, though some leave this responsibility to the company subscriber. This works well for small companies without dedicated IT staff. An on-site PBX could require a knowledgeable engineer or IT manager to add, remove and change phone extensions and perform periodic maintenance and other updates.
Flexibility It’s difficult to generalize about the flexibility of hosted PBXs because of the wide range of companies and offerings. The important thing here is that buyers ensure their hosted PBX comes with all of the features they expect to need. Though hosted PBX service providers do generally stay current as new technology becomes available, there is no guarantee that providers will add new features that subscribers may want in the future. There are few limitations with on-site PBXs. They can be programmed and reconfigured at will, as long as there’s an employee available who understands the system. On-site PBXs are more flexible with regards to WANs (Wide Area Networks), so integrating a newly opened branch office into the same phone network might be easier than with a hosted system.
Security With a hosted PBX, the hosting company is responsible for keeping the system secure. This takes some—but not all—of the security burden off subscribers. Businesses still need to have their data connections secured. Hosting providers can usually make suggestions about how to do that and how to best configure firewalls so as not to interfere with voice traffic. Modern PBXs are almost always connected to the Internet, and they face some of the same threats as computers. An unsecured PBX can become victim to denial of service and theft of services attacks. A properly configured firewall can prevent these attacks, though configuring firewalls so as not to interfere with voice calls can be challenging.
Analog or VoIP Though hosted PBXs can connect to traditional analog office phones, they are far more at home interfacing with VoIP phones. In most cases, businesses using a hosted PBX system are already using, or are in the process of switching to, an entirely VoIP system. If a company has a large investment in a traditional PBX system and uses many traditional (analog) phones, then the argument to go with an on-site virtual PBX becomes stronger. It’s easier to integrate analog phones with a PBX if it’s local instead of hosted remotely.

Final Consideration

Apart from the specific factors mentioned above, there is one other consideration that can help companies decide between a hosted and an on-site phone system. While difficult to quantify, this concept is one of the most influential in modern business strategy. It is known as the strategy of “core competencies,” and it all boils down to focus.

The strategy of core competencies states that businesses should focus on what they do well and what they do better than their competitors—and keep their focus there. If some element of their operations that is not directly related to these core competencies can be outsourced, it often makes more sense commercially to do so.

Many businesses switch to hosted phone systems for the simple reason that phone systems are not one of their core competencies. Placing management of the phone system in the hands of companies who do specialize in it shifts that burden there—and frees the other companies to focus on what they do best.

If telephone communication is central to what a business does (for example, a call center), it may be preferable to keep the phone system as close to the office as possible. But for the majority of companies—those that consider phone service important, but perhaps not central to their business model—hosting the system off-site is more often preferable.

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