What’s so different now? After all, a phone is a phone, right?
Ah, not so anymore. All phones used to be pretty much the same. That’s because they all came from the same supplier, the local telephone company. The phone was a big dumb peripheral to the large scale switching system at the central office. Most single line phones were built from passive components and got their power through the phone line. Multi line business phones were also built from passive components but supplied from a power supply and line card rack in the back room. That was necessary to create such features as flashing a line button when it was on hold.
Some of business phones you can buy today are not much more sophisticated that the one’s that Ma Bell supplied. One difference is that they may have a plug-in power supply or batteries to power the electronics inside. The one to four line key telephone systems that you can buy from office supply stores have replaced the old electromagnetic switching with smaller electronic boxes. Still, they all work on the same old telephone lines called POTS.
POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. It consists of independent analog business lines that run from your office to the phone company over twisted pairs of copper wires. Power and switching signals are provided by the telco switching system. The in-house key system lets you have more than one line on a phone with LEDs to show what’s in use or on hold.
Did you know that you can get POTS service from companies other than your local phone company? The telephone industry has been deregulated so that other providers can lease the bare copper wires that run to your office and supply you with local and long distance service. There can be a cost savings in doing nothing more than switching providers. Your phone system will work exactly the same as it does now only you’ll get a lower monthly phone bill.
If your system has grown to more than a half dozen lines, especially if you have upgraded to an in-house PBX switching system, you could benefit from bringing in a digital trunk line instead of all those separate analog lines. A digital trunk called T1 CAS or ISDN PRI bundles up to 23 or 24 separate lines into a single line that still keeps the phone conversations independent. Why do this? You could realize a big cost savings from consolidating your lines. Chances are that your PBX system already has a T1 or PRI connection or you can upgrade with a adaptor card.
You may be wondering if VoIP telephony is for you. The consumer grade services that run on the Internet may not give you the call quality consistency that you need for good customer support or other business communications. What can work very well and save you considerable money is something called a SIP Trunk. This is a digital line that transports both telephone calls and broadband Internet access but keeps them completely separate so they don’t interfere. It’s a way to take advantage of VoIP technology without losing call quality or reliability.
The latest innovation is cloud based communications, also called Hosted VoIP or Hosted PBX. This is sort of like going back to just having phones in-house connected to the phone company’s switching center. The difference is that you aren’t stuck with the local phone company as your only choice. Using SIP Trunks, you can connect to many different providers, all competing for your business. Not only can you save money on your monthly bill, but you’ll avoid investing in expensive PBX or Key telephone systems and get advanced features like being able to include your smartphones in the system.
Does this whet your appetite to investigate what is available for your business telephone needs? Get prices and features for a variety of business phone service options so you can be fully informed before making any new commitments.