Access4 | Feb 01, 2018

Background of the PBX

When you open the doors to your business, one of the first things you do is connect a telephone line (or many). Most companies then have all, or most of their calls carried over the proven, reliable public switched network often via an ISDN link to a PBX. This is especially true for SME businesses. In fact, the analyst firm, Telsyte, found that ISDN adoption was particularly high in the SMB and mid-market segments in Australia.

PBX telephone systems have been in use in business since the early 1960s, and have evolved to better provide for the needs of companies as they adapt and grow with new technologies and changing methods of business communication. These days, business telephone systems are almost entirely VoIP based, and modern VoIP solutions allow businesses to function more comprehensively and efficiently, and at a lower cost than any of the early inventors of traditional PBX, technologies would have imagined possible.

ISDN and its prevalence in SME

Even though SME’s – especially those at the lower end of the size range, might not have an IT department to manage and integrate Cloud services, recent surveys are showing Cloud UC adoption accelerates across all market segments. ’While early-stage cloud adoption is typically concentrated in the small business market, the survey finds medium and large enterprise segments rapidly catching up.

Survey respondents believe that by 2020 UxaaS/Hosted PBX share will increase to:

  • Small business segment up to 7%
  • Mid-market business segment up to 11%
  • Large enterprise segment up to 25%

How is that reflecting on the Australian market? Alignment of government focus on innovations and boosting of cloud systems in Australia, supported by the National Innovation and Science Agenda. However, even though they may understand benefits, most smaller organisations face several very relevant issues that make them cautious about moving their telephony services across to the Cloud at this time.

  • Imminent NBN availability
  • A recent PBX investment – or desire to better realise PBX investment to date
  • Questionable internet capacity for voice quality
  • A potential negative impact of ‘big bang’ transition to cloud on business
  • Loss of calls =  loss of business and reduction in productivity

For customers that are being told that NBN is coming and the copper will be removed a Cloud ISDN service means that they don’t need to upgrade their PBX in a hurry. Cloud ISDN will also suit customers that might have bought a new PBX recently and haven’t been able to realise the asset effectively. Internet capacity can be carefully monitored to ensure the Cloud link will deliver quality voice traffic, with an immediate failover to the existing service if there are any quality issues.

Cloud telephony – how does it work?

A service provider simply installs the Cloud ISDN service over your existing Internet connection and completes a series of tests to ensure that the network performance on the link is sufficient for quality voice phone calls. If the network cannot support Cloud ISDN, you can just cancel the service. Incoming calls will continue to come from your existing ISDN so that no diversions are required before porting. You can then choose to deploy Cloud PBX from one user to all users when it suits your business requirements. This means some users can be on Cloud PBX and some on your existing PBX. While in this hybrid state, everyone can still share the same number range and even have an internal calling by extension numbers. This allows you to test the waters with Hosted PBX in your environment, and when you are ready, you can migrate at your pace.

As your business requirements change, you can add UCaaS managed endpoints to the solution. You can migrate single users or groups at a time when you want additional features, such as mobile or collaboration features, or when a handset becomes inoperable and needs to be replaced by a SIP handset. When you are ready to decommission the PBX, you can migrate the existing users to Hosted PBX and UCaaS services. As the phone numbers are in the service provider network already, no porting or downtime is required. You can then disconnect the ISDN service and decommission your PBX.

Immediate benefits for your business

Hosted PBX or Cloud UC services are a classic example of the cloud’s transformational impact on the SME segment, allowing smaller businesses to have access to an enterprise-class communications experience without the overhead cost and maintenance of a traditional in-house PBX system. Cloud UC goes further than just a phone system and typically includes mobile integrations, messaging, presence, an automated attendant (IVR), and web conferencing – all packaged and priced for the SME market.

Cloud UC offers many benefits that meet the needs of most mid-sized enterprises including;

  • Project a professional, big business image by providing a single phone number for the company,
  • Extensions for employees,
  • Effective call routing,
  • Increase customer intimacy by quickly connecting customers to the right employee using an automated attendant (IVR),
  • Increase staff productivity by extending Cloud UC features to mobile devices,
  • Providing anytime, anywhere communications with customers, partners and employees,
  • Reduction of costs as a company no longer needs to invest capital into a phone system or buy one large enough to cater for growth
  • The flexibility of consumption-based services so as your business grows or contracts so does your phone system and your costs.

Immediate benefits for your employees and productivity(*)

The way people work in organisations is changing rapidly due to a number of factors. Changes in employee demographics and their work preferences, changes in people’s expectations as to their work-life balance preferences and the need for businesses to be more productive to remain competitive. Demographics – By 2020, 54% of the workplace will be made up of millennials. This generation has always had smartphones, Internet and is highly connected and collaborative. Their work preferences are different in that they can generally multi-task and choose messaging as a primary tool.

Work-life balance

The rising housing cost in Australia is seeing more and more people living further from their workplace and the travel time is starting to take its toll on perceptions of work-life balance. Ability to reduce this and spend more time with family are key drivers for people seeking to have the ability for flexible working. Businesses that are able to meet these challenges with the right technical solution and policies are able to nurture greater employee satisfaction and productivity.

*Some key statistics when workplace flexibility is implemented well are;

  • Productivity increase found between 12-16% (Stanford and Telsyte in Au),
  • Engagement increase of 20% found by Mirvac in AU,
  • For every 5% of increase in staff engagement, they have found a 2% increase in revenue (Harvard),
  • Cost reduction of about 20-30% (Real estate, IT infrastructure, Energy consumption) found by Micros and Cisco.

Reducing the number of times you invest capital into the phone systems

A Cloud ISDN solution can work well for customers that have a traditional ISDN service running into their PBX, whether they have an ISDN, 10, 20 or 30. Using a Cloud ISDN service, you can connect your existing PBX to the public switched telephone network via the Internet, so no need for expensive SIP line cards or a new PBX. For most businesses the move to Cloud UC will happen, why invest in a middle step by connecting SIP to your PBX? Cloud ISDN removes the need for a separate physical voice network, converging it with the data path onto a single network.

A Cloud ISDN service converts the traditional PRI interface to the PBX into a SIP signal that can run over the Internet. During the transition, Incoming calls are still routed through the ISDN link, and the converter can fall back to the existing service if there are quality issues. This device will manage the routing, so no changes are required to the PBX. Once the transition period is over; typically, 30 days, the traditional ISDN line is removed, and all calls in and outcome through the Cloud ISDN service. It means you can use the Internet-based ISDN and the existing ISDN simultaneously so that the organisation can migrate without risk or losing calls. Cloud ISDN connectivity gives you the ability to implement Cloud bit by bit; you have control over how you transition your phone system rather than replacing everything with one big bang.

So ‘yay or nay?’ (Yay!)

The first step is to move away from a legacy system such as ISDN, and many of the mid-sized organisations that have already moved to IP telephony are still in the process of evaluating their options. According to Telsyte, approximately eight per cent of businesses in the SMB and mid-market segments with IP telephony systems have implemented or are in the process of deploying SIP. A lack of knowledge about SIP by almost half of business decision makers (42 per cent), who are also unwilling to take on additional risk by being early adopters of an emerging product without understanding the potential drawbacks, tends to be a significant obstacle to uptake. Taking this approach means an organisation can transition services over time, reducing risk. Choose the right supplier and their network will enable you to travel a straightforward – services.

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