There are several different options for business telephone service, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages. The four primary options of phone service for business are traditional Private Branch Exchange (PBX), mobile PBX, hosted Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and VoIP hardware. Companies should primarily look at the hardware requirements and expansion capabilities when choosing a business phone solution.
A traditional private branch exchange (PBX) uses physical connections to link many business phone lines. Using a PBX, business extensions can connect to one another, or to an outside caller. Traditional PBX systems often require a human operator, who directs calls and chooses the correct connections. Companies that already own PBX switchboards may not need to upgrade to newer systems. Rapidly expanding businesses, however, can often benefit from a solution that does not require installing physical hardware.
Mobile PBX is a business phone solution that functions similar to traditional PBX, but does not require hardware. Instead of relying on a physical switchboard and operator, mobile PBX systems use software that is hosted by a third-party provider. Virtual extensions can be added to the system and directed to the mobile cell phone numbers of employees. When a call is received, it is automatically directed to one of the available mobile phones. The main advantage of mobile PBX is the simplicity of adding new extensions.
Hosted Voice Over Internet protocol (VoIP) is a phone service for business that is very similar to mobile PBX. While calls going to a mobile PBX are directed to employee cell phones, calls through a hosted VoIP system are sent to virtual software. This software interface is often called a "softphone," and acts as a phone interface that is installed on a computer. Using microphones or headsets connected to the computer, employees can make and receive calls over the Internet. As with mobile PBX solutions, hosted VoIP phone service allows companies to expand quickly without buying expensive hardware.
VoIP hardware fills the gap between a traditional PBX and hosted VoIP systems. Like traditional PBX, VoIP hardware must be purchased and installed at a business location. Instead of using normal phone lines to direct calls, however, VoIP hardware uses an Internet connection. This allows new extensions to be added anywhere on the company computer network. VoIP hardware allows companies to own and control their own service, without relying on a third-party VoIP provider.