What we have

Before looking at phone systems you need to know what you already have. To  put my comments in perspective I am listing what we have.

85 staff and 1 location with no remote workers. That is the most important information in choosing a phone system. If we had 85 staff distributed among 10 different locations our needs would be very different.

Why is this important? Costs and features. If you are considering a hosted pbx, also known as phones as a service, or pbx in the cloud, you are trading lower capital costs against higher operating costs. When I drew 5 and 10 year cost projections of hosted systems they proved to be much more expensive than having a pbx in our office. If we were much smaller then a hosted system might be less expensive. If we had multiple locations, hosted might have made financial sense.

Our staff size has been stable over the years. With most pbx systems in addition to a phone you buy a license per user. If your company shrinks you could end up with many licenses that you can't use. A hosted solution might allow you to add and remove licenses as you need them, allowing operating costs to grow and shrink with your staff size.

There are non financial criteria in considering hosted systems and I will cover those in another blog post.

Avaya Definity System 75 r3 pbx. Our old system is intended for much larger offices. Feature filled but not user friendly. It had its last software upgrade in 1993 or 1994, so we were stuck with various software bugs a no support for newer features, such as call ID. It was also End of Lifed (EOL) by Avaya a few years ago.

Why is this important? If you system is old enough you don't have to worry about carrying over how things worked. Almost anything will be better provided it is properly installed. I joke that tin cans and string being an improvement if only it could include Caller ID. If you were migrating from MS-DOS to Windows 8 or Mac OS X would you care about remembering those DOS commands?

Hunt Groups but no call centers. A hunt group is when someone calls in a line and it can be answered by multiple people. Pretty simple. Call center software is more sophisticated. It allows supervisors to listen in on calls and handle incoming calls in a more sophisticated manner.

Why is this important? Call center software or modules can increase the cost of a phone system. Not just software but installation and maintenance costs. Get it only if you need it.

3 public area phones. These phones are not assigned to staff. They may there for guests, or in conference rooms, or in a server room. 

Why is this important? Licensing is usually less expensive for public area phones since they lack voice mail or advanced features.

2 analog T1s. One T1 provides 24 simultaneous calls. The other one provides 8 DID lines to our PBX and 3 lines for our fax machines and fax modems. Twice a year we peak at 23 simultaneous calls. Some offices might need lines dedicated to alarm systems.

Why is this important? You need to know how your phone traffic volume. You need to decide if fax machines will get their own POTS lines or if they will be connected to the PBX. Some features that allow you to use a cell phone with your system might use additional lines.

1 100mbps and 1 6mbps Internet Connections. We have a very fast Internet connection and a fast backup Internet connection.

Why is this important? Consider combining voice and data lines? In our case it was less expensive to keep our data and voice lines separate.

Your computer infrastructure. We use Mac desktops and laptops, a Kerio Connect Mail Server, 1GB switches that do not support Power Over Ethernet (PoE), use Apple's Open Directory.

Why is this important? Phones and computers may share resources and interact. Some phone systems require a MS Exchange Server or for computers to run Windows to provide some features. You may need to upgrade infrastructure to properly support the phone system. Some systems do a poor job of supporting Macs. Some systems might require replacing data switch and/or firewalls.

We aren't moving. We will use our existing Cat 5, Cat 5e and Cat 6 wiring.

Why is this important? If your office is moving you probably want to avoid paying for both voice and data wiring. If you have Cat 3 wiring throughout your office then you can consider buying digital or analog phones that would not be part of your data network. The advantage would be having a simpler network and cutting costs.

Summary. My office is rather boring when it comes to our phone needs. No one is asking for an office phone at home and we have a single location. Our server room and network is ready for a migration to a VoIP system. And most staff say nyet to fancy features so we focus on the basics.