Thursday, April 16, 2009

What to Look for in a Windows-based IP PBX

There is quite a bit of interest in Windows based IP PBX systems lately. For a company that sells, implements and provides ongoing support for Windows based IP PBX's this is great! But are all windows pbx's created equal? What should I look for?

Rock Solid Operation
Businesses have come to expect a phonesystem to be up and troublefree nearly 100% of the time. If a software pbx needs reboots when relatively small changes are made or to correct day to day issues this will cause CEOs and users quite a bit of frustration. Does the pbx require manual watching to make sure it is still up? Or does it have a good system to proactively alert the admin to urgent issues? Can the system admin put new pbx features & components to use with confidence the will work solidly? Without spending a lot of time debugging and fiddling?

Features Comparable to Legacy System Being Replaced
If there are a lot of features that are missing when moving to a software IP PBX I goes without saying that the move will be painful. No one wants to move to a new system and loose features they had with their "20 year old" system! What are some commonly "missing" features when moving to a software IP PBX?

-Ability to see which phone lines are in use
-Ability to put a phone line on hold and tell a colleage to pick it up by pressing its button
-Ability for the PBX to integrate to standard call accounting software
-Ability for the system to go into night mode and have a light to indicate this
-A simple call parking system

Features That Let An Organization Go Beyond Legacy Features
Typically when a company moves to a new system they want to keep at least on par with what they had before. But a good Windows based IP PBX should also let them grow into the future in features, capabilities and integration. What are some of these items?

-Instant message server capabilities
-(or ability to integrate to a server like Microsoft's OCS or free open source options)
-Presence Indication (ability to see who all is on the phone or away)
-Ability to integrate to Exchange UM to integrate email and voice
(or at the least voicemail to email capabilities
-Some type of call control application for reception call control
-Ability to automatically make mobile phones a part of the phone system
(ring when deskphone called, easily forward someone to a deskphones corresponding mobile phone)

Low Ongoing Maintenance (from IT perspective)
Most people expect a phone system to keep on running with very little intervention. Does the software IP PBX just run? Or does it require a lot of service pack and fixes to keep it up and running? How often do new "fix" releases come out? While a lot of new fix releases shows the companies dedication to the product it can be time consuming for the IT person taking care of the system.

These are just some ideas and I'm sure there are more.
If you have more ideas I'd love to hear them. Please post below.


Anonymous said...

Good thoughts Matt. I can share a bit of insight into Windows-based IP PBX solutions as I work for Interactive Intelligence - a company who has been providing Windows-based PBX/IP PBX solutions for well over a decade now.

You are right that many of the features that traditional PBXs have provided for years are missing in the newer Windows-based IP PBX systems.

However, there are a ton of new features that the old switches just didn't have - like presence, built-in multi-party conferencing, call recording, ACD routing, instant messaging, etc. In addition, there are older features inherently found on the phone itself that have been replaced my features found on desktop applications that often come with Windows-based IP PBX systems.

For example, the "blinky" light that indicates a new voicemail message can easily be replaced by Unified Messaging.

Presence Management replaces the need for over-head paging when trying to locate someone when they have a call waiting because you can change your status to "Available-Forward" or "Available/Follow-Me" and have the system locate you.

In order to accurately assess Windows-Based IP PBXs, I think your posting makes a lot of sense and has some very valid points. However, I think it is crucial for end users to remember that just because a feature isn't there any more doesn't mean it's bad. It could be that there is a better way to do the function that the older feature provided or that you never really needed it in the first place.

Tim Passios
Interactive Intelligence, Inc.

Matt Landis said...

Excellent point...i posted this before i was done editing it!


rajivkumar thanraj said...

Can you please suggest whether the small PBX Business system suits for all kind of business irrespective of the size of the organization?