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Virtual switchboard? Here’s how to avoid disaster

Hosted PBX technology, a relatively new technology which is well known for costs savings could now be under threat. This is because endless suppliers who don’t properly understand the technology are flooding the South African market with cheap ‚virtual PBX’ systems.

Widespread adoption of hosted PBX technology, a relatively new technology which offers businesses incredible productivity and cost-savings benefits, is under threat.

So says Graeme Victor, CEO of telecommunications solutions company, Du Pont Telecom. The company recently launched one of the country’s first hosted PBX solutions based on carrier-strength TELES Class 5 technology.

According to Victor, suppliers with no real understanding of the technology or its place in the business environment are jumping on the bandwagon and flooding the market with cheap ‚virtual PBX‚ products without providing the support and back-up required for any hosted solution.

‚This could sour the reputation of this amazing advance in business telephony, which has the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in the way businesses communicate with their customers, suppliers and staff,‚ he says.

According to Victor, a hosted PBX solution generally offers a remarkably cost-effective way for an organisation to get high-end PBX features and all the business advantages of IP telephony affordably and without risk.

The PBX is located, owned and managed off-premises by the supplier, and leased to the business.

It’s ideal for businesses that can’t get reliable connectivity, as well as those with multiple branches and sites, as they need only one centralised attendant consol to fulfil the traditional ‚switchboard operator‚ role.

‚Because there is such a compelling business case for hosted PBX, ‚fly-by-night’ operators are starting to enter the market offering bargain basement systems. These systems are said to have many of the features of more expensive solutions. The problem lies in the support provided by the supplier ‚ it may be non-existent, or hugely expensive.

‚Because the hosted PBX concept effectively requires the business to hand over its crticial telephone system to a third-party supplier, support becomes crucial to the success of the system,‚ he explains.

In order to avoid what could be a potentially devastating mistake when considering going the hosted PBX route, Victor suggests businesses ask prospective suppliers the following questions:

1. What is their onsite service availability? Will they come to your premises?

2. What is the charge for onsite service?

3. Is the solution redundant ‚ if your IP network goes down, will your telephone system also go down?

4. Is a carrier grade solution being provided – or it is a ‚cheap and nasty‚ ?

5. What features are included in the price? How many ‚optional extras‚ will you require ‚ and at what additional cost?

6. Are customer references authentic? Check them out.

7. Can the system grow with you?

8. What are the fixed and what are the variable charges?

9. What is the installation charge?

10. Are there penalties for downsizing?

11. How good is the voice quality? Ask to test it.

12. Do they have sufficient faith in their system to use it in their own business?

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