What do I need to do before I get a vendor bid for my IP PBX?

Deploying an IP PBX system in your office is often an excellent decision, but before taking bids, there are several things to consider. Not all vendors offer the same type of equipment and services, so it is important to get a handle on precisely what it is you will need.

What features do you need?

Assuming that you do decide that an actual IP PBX system on your site is appropriate, then you need to consider the features that you will need. Your IP PBX will offer many features that might not have been available on your old PBX system, and in many cases, these features are available at very little extra cost—coming standard with most IP PBX systems. For example, an IP PBX may offer you things like easy integration with cell phones and pagers, and the ability to incorporate phones in remote locations (such as branch offices, or employees’ homes) into the PBX system. Compile a list of the features that you need, as well as the “nice to have” features, before getting your bids.

What services do you need?

Before getting bids, you must get a good idea of what services you will need. If you have skilled staff in-house, value-added services may not be necessary, and you can purchase equipment direct from the manufacturer. But if you’re like most small businesses, you will need the help of a skilled technician, and ordering through a value-added reseller or integrator will be the most appropriate path. Determine ahead of time what level of installation assistance you will require, whether it will be necessary to integrate the VoIP system with other applications, and whether you will need training on your new system.

What bandwidth do you need?

Depending on your current Internet situation, it may be necessary to tie your IP PBX deployment to a bandwidth upgrade at the same time. If you have an office with ten people and you’ve been getting by with a DSL line, you’re not going to do very well with VoIP—and a fractional T1 may be more appropriate. The bandwidth upgrade must be done before the IP PBX deployment.

Do I need IP phones?

The IP PBX is just the back office part of the equation, you will need phones on every desk as well. Your old phones won’t work with your VoIP system, so you have a choice to make. You can get adapters to attach to your old phones, or purchase all new IP phones. The adapter option is less expensive, but getting new IP phones will allow you to support more features. Fortunately, IP phones cost only about the same as standard office phones.

Why are you considering IP PBX?

It may seem obvious, but it often is not. What is your motivation for considering an IP PBX system? This will determine what you purchase, and whether or not it is even a good idea to begin with. For many, the most immediate motivation is cost savings, but in reality, there are many other more valid reasons for moving to a VoIP environment. Consider carefully what is most important to you. It is true that you will save money long-term, but an even more important consideration is that you will have access to more call features with your IP PBX, and the ability to more easily integrate branch offices.