Access4 | Nov 30, 2016


With premise-based Business Phone Systems (PBX) you are typically buying a fixed asset. This is either constrained by the appliance hardware, the servers you need to buy to run it on or the licensing model from the vendor. This means that you need to estimate your peak demand 5 years in advance to buy for what you might need. The risks here are that you buy a business phone system for what you need today. This decision can also be influenced by getting the best commercial outcome for today’s needs and not paying for future needs that don’t eventuate. You could end up with a PBX that won’t meet the demand of your future business. Questions to ask are:

  • Can your premise based PBX scale to meet the needs of peak demands?
  • What are the physical limits of the system?
  • How do you scale rapidly if needed?
  • Redundancy

Adding redundancy to on-premise business phone systems generally means duplicating it to another site. This is an expensive form of insurance in the event something happens. Have you factored in this cost of building redundancy?

Capacity Planning

On-premise PBXs often rely on servers for functions like call recording. These servers will have a fixed storage capability and when full, no more calls can be recorded without purging old files. Questions to answer are:

  • What is the total capacity?
  • What is my capacity planning threshold (IE when do I need to buy more)?
  • Who is going to manage these servers and at what cost?
  • How is my data backed up?

The Cost of Obsolescence

The average lifespan of an on-premise phone system is 7 years and longer if companies are looking to maximise the return on big investments that they haven’t fully used.

Industries, companies, and the way people work change much quicker than this. You may find yourself without features that your competitors have, costing your business revenue. Alternatively, you may find your business cobbling together other technologies that don’t integrate well into your business phone system or even having to give your employees multiple applications for communication. Questions to answer are:

  • How old is the product [not the one you are buying but the platform/technology]?
  • When is the next big release and do I get the new features automatically?
  • What is the cost to upgrade?


Businesses are more mobile than ever, and employees are starting to use their mobiles more than their desk phone. Integrating mobility into on premise-based PBXs can be difficult and expensive with calls having to be delivered to your site before being sent out to the mobile. This incurs additional costs and with employees manually forwarding phones the potential for toll fraud is heightened. Questions to answer:

  • How many more voice lines do I need to cater for mobility?
  • What are the call costs?
  • Can my mobile users call from the office line while on the road?

Maintaining the Hardware

With on-premise PBX you need to factor in additional costs to maintain the hardware. If the PBX is an application you may also need to factor in licensing costs for the servers. You need to house the equipment in a suitable environment which means a computer room with appropriate cooling, or you need to buy colocation services from a data centre provider. Questions to answer:

  • Who is maintaining the PBX and at what cost?
  • What additional licensing costs do I need to factor in?
  • What is the cost to house the equipment in my office and what is the opportunity cost if I was to use that space for staff, not computers?

Ability to Integrate

Most businesses these days are looking to integrate their business phone system into their CRM. With an on-premise system, this normally is left to the business to manage which means additional costs for someone to integrate the two systems. Questions to answer:

  • Which third party systems does the system integrate out of the box?
  • What is the cost to install 3rd party integration, and to maintain it?


Due to most of the premise-based systems being confined to physical equipment on site the more features you turn on the more resources that equipment needs. Often features needed now are unknown when you buy the on-premise PBX. Businesses can find that the new features use up too much capacity of the system creating performance issues. Questions to answer:

  • What resource does this new feature need?
  • Who is running my configuration successfully and are they willing to help?


For most businesses the business phone system provides a means to contact customers. Managing complex IT and telephony environments is not a core capability and therefore either needs to be managed internally at considerable cost or outsourced on a one to one basis. This can add additional costs. Questions to answer:

  • If you need to make a change, what is the cost of this and who does the work?
  • How do you prevent errors?

Whilst on occasion it can seem commercially attractive to simply own the PBX, the costs to do this don’t show the full picture. Using a cloud business phone system removes ancillary costs and simplifies management allowing you to focus on your core business, not the management of a phone system.

Aside from PBX phone system cost, there are some other questions you should ask when considering various PBX phone system products and providers

How secure is the system, and what measures are in place to protect my business communication?

Security should be a key concern for any business. Enquire about the security measures in place to protect against data breaches and unauthorised access – this could include firewalls, encryption, user authentication, and regular security audits. Also, ask about the provider’s disaster recovery plan in case of a major incident.

Is the system easy to use, and what training is available?

The ease of use of a PBX system can greatly impact user adoption and efficiency. Ask to see a demonstration of the system and consider whether it is user-friendly. Also, understand what training resources are available – on-site training, online tutorials, user manuals – and whether there are additional costs for these services.

How customisable is the PBX system?

Every business has unique communication needs. Determine whether the provider allows for system customisations, such as personalised on-hold messages, call routing rules, or individual user settings.

What is the installation process, and how disruptive will it be to my business operations?

Installing a new PBX system can potentially disrupt your business operations. Understand what the installation process entails, how long it will take, and what you can expect in terms of disruption to your services. A good provider should be able to offer a clear installation plan, including any necessary on-site work, and measures to minimise disruption.

How does the provider handle system maintenance and upgrades?

Regular maintenance and upgrades are crucial to ensure your PBX system continues to operate optimally. Enquire about the frequency and process of these services, and whether they are included in your service contract. Determine if these tasks can be done with minimal disruption to your business.

How does the provider handle service outages?

Enquire about the provider’s procedures during service outages. Do they offer immediate support? What is their average resolution time? This will provide an understanding of the level of support you can expect during these critical moments.

Access4 is the partner of choice for communication and collaboration products all in a single platform

As industry leaders in Unified Comms, Hosted Voice, Webex, UJET and similar solutions, we can help you navigate the process of determining the true cost of a PBX system for your organisation. Get in touch today.

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