PBX Phone Systems

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RingCentral MVP

RingCentral MVP is a cloud-based business communications solution that offers tools for Messaging, Video and Phone. Core features of the solution include conferencing, auto-recording and unlimited long-distance and local calling. ...Read more about RingCentral MVP

4.22 (1021 reviews)

34 recommendations

GoTo Connect

GoToConnect (formerly Jive) delivers a cloud-based unified communication solution to organizations of all sizes across the U.S. GoToConnect includes integrated products for business VoIP, video conferencing and contact center whic...Read more about GoTo Connect

4.50 (629 reviews)

32 recommendations

Nextiva

Nextiva is a platform that brings communications together with business applications, intelligence, and automation. This helps businesses communicate and build deeper connections with their customers. The platform brings all ...Read more about Nextiva

4.10 (205 reviews)

26 recommendations

PanTerra Streams

Business Plus 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 con...Read more about PanTerra Streams

4.63 (20 reviews)

15 recommendations

Ooma Office

Ooma Office is a cloud-based voice + video solution suitable for businesses of all sizes. The platform includes a full suite of business phone features designed to deliver a flawless communications experience and advance team coll...Read more about Ooma Office

4.50 (160 reviews)

13 recommendations

Dialpad

For quickly growing businesses looking to efficiently scale their support teams, Dialpad provides a cloud-based call center with access to real-time customer insights. Dialpad allows users to onboard quickly and focus on deliverin...Read more about Dialpad

4.35 (475 reviews)

11 recommendations

8x8 X Series

8x8 X Series is a cloud-based solution that helps businesses of all sizes establish communication via text messaging, voice calls and video conferencing. The team messaging module lets employees create project-specific public and ...Read more about 8x8 X Series

3.96 (246 reviews)

6 recommendations

Convoso

Convoso’s all-in-one contact center platform generates and converts leads faster using multiple communication channels. The cloud-based solution offers multiple dialing modes (predictive/power/preview) along with two-way texting, ...Read more about Convoso

4.59 (58 reviews)

1 recommendations

net2phone Canada

net2phone Canada is a cloud-based business phone service provider, helping Canadian organizations drive business performance through powerful uCaaS tools. Trusted by clients and partners across the country, net2phone Canada has di...Read more about net2phone Canada

4.60 (10 reviews)

1 recommendations

Join.Me

Join.me is an online meeting platform that helps businesses manage meetings and team collaboration. Key features include real-time presentations, mobile whiteboards, scheduling, toll-free audio, chat and more. Designed f...Read more about Join.Me

Talkdesk

Talkdesk is a cloud-based call center solution that helps businesses improve customer satisfaction while simultaneously reducing customer support costs. It uses interactive voice response (IVR), automatic call distribution (ACD) a...Read more about Talkdesk

NICE CXone

NICE inContact is cloud-based call center software that helps businesses to maximize the quality of leads and minimize the cost of client interaction. The solution comprises many features required to process inbound support reques...Read more about NICE CXone

Five9

Five9 is an all-in-one cloud contact center solution for inbound, outbound, blended and omnichannel contact centers world-wide. Powered by Practical AI, Five9 enables agents to provide customer experiences across phone, emai...Read more about Five9

CallHippo

CallHippo is a cloud-based call center solution that helps mid to large size businesses with workflow automation and virtual telephony. The platform enables users to give detailed analysis to customers through call recordings. Cal...Read more about CallHippo

Weave

Weave is a comprehensive software solution that includes a web-based phone system, a two-way texting function, customer insights, payment processing, plus more. This solution was built to help businesses with customer communicatio...Read more about Weave

Google Voice

Google Voice is a cloud-based business phone system that provides users with a unique contact number to receive international calls, send text messages and transcribe voicemails, streamlining communications across the organization...Read more about Google Voice

Twilio

Twilio is the worlds leading cloud communication platform that enables you to engage customers across channels - SMS, voice, video, email, WhatsApp and more. Pay-as-you-go APIs allow businesses to scale communications reliably. ...Read more about Twilio

Grasshopper

Grasshopper is a cloud-based virtual phone service that helps small to midsize enterprises establish communication with customers through local and toll-free numbers. It provides several modules, including call forwarding, multipl...Read more about Grasshopper

Aircall

Aircall is a cloud-based business phone and call center system that helps manage and streamline customer support and sales engagement operations. Designed for offices and teams in remote areas, it enables users to integrate the so...Read more about Aircall

VoIP.ms

VoIP.ms is a cloud-based internet phone service solution designed to help businesses manage local, mobile and toll-free number portability across Canada and United States. Key features include voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, D...Read more about VoIP.ms

Buyers Guide

Last Updated: November 30, 2022

The term “PBX,” for private branch exchange, is in most cases simply a synonym for business phone system.

Internet Protocol PBXes, or IP PBXes, are phone systems that connect calls via the internet rather than the traditional phone network.

We’ll explain the core features and benefits of IP PBX systems. We’ll also take a look at some of the key factors that businesses need to consider when investing in a new phone system.

Here's what we'll cover:

  • What Is a PBX and an IP PBX?
  • IP PBX
  • Which Businesses Need Them?
  • Key Considerations

What Is a PBX and an IP PBX?

The term PBX itself is a relic from the early-20th Century, as we explain in our extended definition.

 

Switchboard Operators, public domain image

Broadly speaking, a PBX’s function is to unite all the separate phone extensions that a business uses so they can function together as one system. Specifically, PBXs:

  1. Route incoming calls to whichever extension a caller chooses.
  2. Distribute calls automatically to internal extensions based on pre-set rules.
  3. Connect internal extensions to outside lines when employees place a call.
  4. Connect calls internally between the business’s extensions.

PBXs have been performing these same tasks for decades. As the internet increasingly takes over the function of the traditional phone network, however, the capabilities and features of PBXs have also evolved.

IP PBX

VoIP, or the Voice over Internet Protocol, has brought many changes to all aspects of business telephony—PBXs included. With VoIP, it’s now possible to send calls over an internet connection, as opposed to paying for traditional business phone service.

In order to reap the benefits of VoIP, you need an IP PBX rather than a traditional PBX, as an IP PBX system can connect directly to the internet. Older PBX systems, on the other hand, connect to analog or digital phone lines.

There are devices known as gateways that allow you to use VoIP service with an older PBX system. If you’re replacing your system, however, it makes much more sense to simply invest in an IP PBX.

IP PBXs exist in several very different forms. Although they all perform similar functions, there is no strict definition of the term. An IP PBX can refer to:

Hardware-based on-premise systems Specific on-site hardware devices that look much like typical rack-mounted servers.
Software-based on-premise systems PBX software running on a computer outfitted with phone connections.
Virtualized on-premise systems “Virtual machines” installed on commodity hardware running a virtualization platform such as VMware.
Cloud-based systems Systems hosted by a VoIP provider in the provider’s data center rather than a server on your business’s premises, delivered as a service over your Internet connection.

Which Businesses Need Them?

Traditionally, PBXs were very expensive to purchase and maintain, and they were only used by relatively large businesses. Smaller businesses had alternatives such as Key Systems, which are scaled-down and less automated, but perform similar functions. (With Key Systems, users manually select lines: for example, by pressing "9" for an outside line.)

Now it’s common for businesses with even a few employees to use some sort of IP PBX for their office phone system.

IP PBXs allow incoming calls to be routed and automatically distributed, and allow internal extensions to dial each other and share external lines. They provide the same basic functions as traditional PBXs, and can be useful to businesses of almost any size.

Further, as more businesses seek out the conveniences and cost-savings of VoIP telephony, IP PBXs in one of the forms mentioned above have become an increasingly common choice. Rather than trying to modernize an older PBX so it can work with VoIP calls, it often makes more sense to upgrade the whole system. Upgrading also gives buyers a chance to bring in new features which may have previously been unavailable.

Key Considerations

Hosted or on-premise. This is probably the most critical decision to make. Companies should look at both options. On-premise systems will typically have higher initial costs, and may also require periodic system maintenance. Hosted PBXs will cost less up front, and will be managed by the provider, but have higher recurring costs. The total cost of ownership for all potential systems should be compared.

Call capacity. PBXs can only handle a limited number of concurrent calls and a limited number of total extensions or “registrations.” (Each VoIP phone connected to the IP PBX requires a single registration.) Assess how many total connections you’ll need, count one for each hardphone and softphone you plan to connect, as well as any devices such as FAX machines that may also be connected via your existing phone service provider, and estimate how many calls your employees will be making and receiving simultaneously when you’re at peak call volume.

Unified communications. This term refers to a range of features that involve communicating across platforms and between different mediums. A common example of this is visual voicemail: a feature that automatically transcribes voicemail messages and emails the transcript to the recipient. Many IP PBXs have UC functions included.

Security. VoIP calls have special network requirements and they often don’t work with well with standard office firewalls. To avoid problems, ensure that your existing firewall is compatible with SIP and VoIP traffic. An alternative is to get an IP PBX that includes a built-in firewall, as many do. Many also include VPN gateways to connect with a corporate Virtual Private Network.

Finally, you can use a device known as a Session Border Controller (SBC), which provides additional security specifically for VoIP systems by policing the “pinholes” that you need to open in your firewall for your VoIP calls.

Auto attendant. This is the automated answering system that greets inbound calls, presents pre-recorded information and gives callers a list of extension options from which to choose. Most IP PBXs include auto attendants, but the level of functionality supported by different systems differs. Advanced IVR systems, the voice menus that allow callers to complete actions such as checking account balances over the phone, are generally only found in call center suites.