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Demystifying office telephony

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In the spirit of educating the business community on acquiring and managing their office communication needs, Standard Global Communications (SGC) will be publishing articles to help demystify the whole process from defining what a Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) is, coming up with specifications unique to needs of a specific organisation, features that reduce costs by up to 50%, choosing a service provider and recommendations on after-sales support. The articles will be running from this week and initially up to May 1. We hope you will find the articles helpful!

A PABX is a privately-owned telephone switching system for handling multiple telephone lines, thus sharing of telephone line resources, internal office calls and transferring of calls.

Normally, a telephone line is connected to the phone company’s local central office through a trunk-like TelOne does with their landlines. The central office is responsible for routing incoming and outgoing calls. A PABX essentially takes the place of the phone company’s central office within the company by acting as the exchange point, routing calls.

With a PABX in place, each phone only needs an extension, not a phone number, and the PABX handles all calls made from desk-to-desk within the company.

When an outside call is required, an access number is dialled first, usually a “0”. The PABX then transfers the call to the phone company’s network which could be TelOne, Econet, Telecel, Telco, NetOne, Liquid, Africom, etc, from which point the call is routed to the intended destination as dialled.

A PABX reduces cost because the company only pays for the number of lines liable to be connected at any given time to the outside.

If a company has 100 telephones, it is unlikely everyone will be making an outside call at once. Perhaps only 10% will require an outside line at any given time. Therefore the company would lease 10 lines from the phone company rather than 100.

IP-PABX: Replacing your old legacy.

This has been made possible by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). This, in a nutshell, allows you to place calls using your currently existing data network without having to go via a telephone network. Yes, it’s legal. If say your company Global Brands, has a branch in Gweru, Bulawayo and Mutare, you can assign each branch office different extensions which are all hooked to the same IP-PABX over your IP network. So a worker in Bulawayo can call the accounts office in Harare as if he was calling an extension across his office. This is made possible by using your IP (internet protocol) data network to carry voice packets. Naturally, you need to have a reliable internet connection for the quality of the voice to be decent.

Some IP-PABX features.

In addition to these basic functions, PABXs offer many other calling features and capabilities, with different manufacturers providing different features in an effort to differentiate their products. Common capabilities include (manufacturers may have a different name for each capability): auto attendant, voice mail, music-on-hold, night service, automatic call distributor, automated directory services (where callers can be routed to a given employee by keying or speaking the letters of the employee’s name), automatic ring back, call accounting, call blocking, call forwarding on busy or absence, call park, call pick-up, call transfer, call waiting, conference call, custom greetings, do-not-disturb (DND) and find-me-follow-me, also known as find-me. The exchange is configured with a list of numbers for a person. When a call is received for that person, the exchange routes it to each number on the list in turn until either the call is answered or the list is exhausted (at which point the call may be routed to a voice mail system). Interactive voice response and shared message boxes (where a department can have a shared voicemail box).

This is the strength of the modern IP-PABX system because they have been built to be able to interoperate with different systems with no huge amounts being paid as most of these features are software-based and not hardware-based where you have to buy some component from your legacy PABX supplier and no one else.

How much will it cost me?

This depends on basically the size of your organisation determined by the number of extensions you will need, the number of concurrent calls you are budgeting for and the different technologies that you want your PABX to interface with (for example, with PSTN (landlines), GSM (mobile) networks and VoIP, etc).

Keys cost pointers include the PABX system itself and the inter-connection between your branches if you need any via IP, an installation cost and training costs which could be bundled together with the PABX package you are getting your old, rigid, vendor-tied, legacy PABX is to have a site survey. This entails contacting a reputable PABX company who will normally send a telecoms technician to do a site survey and establish what you have. A quotation can then be made based on your actual needs that meet your requirements, with room for future expansion and new feature addition. This article is published by Standard Global Communications (SGC), in the interest of demystifying unified communications and electronic security solutions. SGC has been deploying telecoms and electronic security solutions in Zimbabwe for over 20 years. backed by skilled local and international technical teams, SGC offers custom-made solutions to meet the unique needs of each organisation and we also consult for free. Our flexible and scalable solutions will help reduce costs, while increasing operational efficiency, at an affordable cost. For more information, questions and comments, regarding this article, please call/Whatsapp +263 772 875 577, e-mail: info@standardglobal.co.zw or go to our social media platforms Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or our website. This article can also be downloaded from our new-look website: www.standardglobal.co.zw

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