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Guide to Buying a Digital Phone System

Digital Phone Systems Buyers Guide

A digital phone system for business is a critical communication link that needs to stay on top of operations, sales, and service. The main difference between digital and old analogue phones is found in the transmission. With analogue, the human voice is broken down into electronic pulses while digital phones use the binary format. This means that that while inexpensive, the analogue phones are severely limited in function even though it can have fax and modem functions.

Some of the features of a digital phone system include distortion-free conversations and images, voice mail, call transfer, function keys and speed dial, call forwarding, Automatic Call Distribution, Computer Telephony, VoIP technology, automated attendant, video conferencing, and SIP trunking thus giving you the perfect Unified Communications system. A simple way to compare analogue with digital is to say that an analogue phone is like a cordless landline while a digital phone is like a cellular phone. You can do much more with a mobile phone.

Should You Buy A Digital Phone System?

The truth is digital phone systems are highly versatile because they can bypass the traditional circuits using the Internet. Aside from having fax, email and voice mail, you can also send out broadcast news and disseminate text messages, videos, and images using your computers and cloud technology. These are all under a single system.

Most growing businesses will find the digital phone system a necessary investment if the following are present:

  • Your business is growing fast and expanding nationally and internationally. Your work force is likewise growing
  • Your current phone system is bogging down and unable to handle the traffic causing you loss of sales and customer service issues. For example, customers complain of not being able to get through or calls that are not answered
  • You are seeing the need for special functions in your communication system like new software that would streamline operations and communications

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Key Terms That Will Help You Understand The Digital Phone System

As you study the possibility of investing in a digital phone system, you will come across certain confusing terms. Knowing the most common terms used will help you understand the system better and remove any confusion.

  • Key System Unit (KSU) – is the central phone system recommended for maximum of 50 users
  • KSU-Less – This is a more affordable KSU for smaller number of users (10 maximum) with similar features
  • Private Branch Exchange (PBX) – Phone system with broadband Internet that has evolved from being a system that carries data for a large conglomerate to a system that can be used for small and medium businesses alike
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – Also called IP, this technology is cost-effective and the choice of most businesses today
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) – It’s one way people can use their voice to manoeuvre through your digital phone system quickly and easily

>> Find out more: What Is A Hosted PBX And What Are The Benefits?

What Does It Require To Set Up A Digital Phone System?

You might be surprised to find out that setting up a digital phone system in your office is not as complicated or as costly as installing a traditional telephone system. Finding space will not be an issue at all. Also, your monthly charges are much lower with the cloud-based VoIP.

The basic equipment and service you will need are:

  • Choice of a software phone, a VoIP telephone which you will use to plug into your computer, or a VoIP adaptor if you have the traditional touch phone system
  • An Internet and VoIP provider which may or may not be one and the same company

As you can see, a cloud-based VoIP has no requirements for an on-site server and you have the option of expanding your user base as your business grows. Furthermore, providers for VoIP and Internet services offer a graduated plan scale wherein you can upgrade and add features to compliment your business needs.

Digital Phone Systems For Business Use

  • A call centre with multiple users and high Internet, call, and messaging traffic
  • An online business with customer service, Live Chat, auto dial, and screen pop caller sales history
  • Inventory intensive business

These are just 3 examples of businesses that need a digital telephone system where communications is interconnected, high traffic, and immediate. Other types of businesses that should have a digital phone system are those that need to send data, voice, and video to different parties in real time. Digital phone systems also allow the use of different kinds of phones like desk phones, mobile phones, headsets, and computer calls like Skype or other similar apps that can reach as many locations as necessary.

>> Find out more: Call Centre Phone Systems

How To Choose A Digital Phone System

There are multiple factors to consider when choosing and customizing your new communications system. However, you can bring it down to 2 factors: scalability and technology.

Consider The Scalability

Underestimating or overestimating your growth will cost you to spend more on a phone system. This will not allow you to get the “best price” from the supplier or provider of the system. For example, how many telephones should you get and what kinds of phones are needed? Based on a 12 or 24 month period, what would be your estimated additional units?

Aside from the number of units, you should also consider your projection for number of users and phone lines. For some businesses, dedicated lines are part of operations while others can afford to have employees share one line per department. However, again it must be emphasized that if a business starts to grow exponentially because it expands to e-commerce, one dedicated line per department may not be sufficient.

Obviously, one way to save on phone lines is to customize the system to have extensions to a line with proper channelling so that calls are received on a rolling basis but costs are kept low.

Right now, you may have just one office but if you are a growing enterprise, you may need to open a branch or even set up a satellite office or virtual office. This decision will impact your digital communication system because it will become a daily task to communicate between offices.

Consider Technology

Everyday new technology and apps are introduced. Of course, not all of them are related to a digital phone system but once in a while something is launched that directly affects the business world and communications. When choosing a digital telephone system, you plan for the long term to get your investment back but you should also prepare and have a system that is flexible. For example, a very useful technology for business is audio conferencing which allows different users to connect and converse through the digital phone systems. This requires a special instrument with microphones that can accommodate several people conversing in real time through the use of the communications server.

Much of the responsibility will lie with your choice of provider which adds greater weight on why you should be particular about who to pick for your VoIP and Internet services.

Aside from new communication apps for business, other technological advances would involve hardware or computer equipment. If you upgrade your hardware, you might be constrained to limit yourself to what would be compatible with your digital communication system. Also, telephone technology is one of the most active in today’s world because of mobile communications. You will have employees who work on- the-go and may have specific device requirements. This will impact your investment choice of phone types since you will probably need to get a different type for field personnel.

Other hardware technology that you may need are away-from-desk mobile headsets, multiple use gadgets on a single line, switchboard phones, programmable digital handsets, phones with recording function, or phones with LCD screens.

>> Find out more: Five Best Small Business Phone Systems

The Benefits Of Digital Phone Systems

  • You can integrate the digital phone system with a Customer Relationship Management system to monitor incoming calls and initiate outgoing calls
  • It does not require expensive wiring and cabling
  • Offers the option of video and voice conferencing, public broadcast system, and an all-in-one data, voice, and video system
  • Low cost service with no issues that can cause system failure unlike the IP and SIP technologies
  • Allows you to have multiple lines, multiple users, screen popping, remote access, and remote locations
  • Offers additional features as call blocking, a paging system, ID system, music while on hold, directory assistance, automated assistance, and call recording and logging
  • You can customize and get a system that will grow alongside your business

Tips And Questions To Ask Potential Service Providers And Hardware Suppliers

If this is your first time to hear about digital phone systems, ask as many questions as needed to be answered to help you understand the package being offered.

You can also touch on the following factors:

  • What are the available options/features/plans?
  • What is not included but needed for the system to work efficiently? You need to find out if there are hidden charges for installation, training, cables, and maintenance.
  • How long is the contract period (for service providers)?
  • Is there a sample system that can be tested or demonstrated?
  • What is your history as a service provider/supplier of digital phone systems?
  • Who are your clients?
  • What are the options when the system fails?
  • What kind of training will my employees need to work with the system?
  • What guarantees will you give my company for uninterrupted service or for service modifications?

Finally, it is also important to avoid getting lost in the details and forgetting the main reason you need the digital phone system: to help you manage your business more efficiently. Thus, aside from appreciating feature options, ask yourself if the add-on features being offered for an additional price is something your business needs. It also means to look beyond the marketing scheme. You must weigh the costs and benefits before arriving at the best plan for your business.

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