Small and medium-sized business owners must be opportunistic and responsive in today’s business environment. Technology is increasingly providing SMBs the tools they need to be able to compete, not only against immediate competitors, but also much larger companies and over much larger territories than before. The most essential business function is to be able to communicate effectively, and at the heart of this is the business telephone system.

Choosing the right business telephone system is therefore crucial, not only from a cost perspective, but more importantly from a performance and value-added view too. It will help if you conduct a review of your business communication needs prior to selecting a system, including consideration of cost, ability to scale as you grow, enhancing collaboration and delivering true mobility.

As you conduct this review, you will come across three key business communication terms you must understand:

  • Hosted PBX
  • Virtual PBX
  • Unified Communications

Hosted PBX

A hosted PBX differs from a traditional PTSN telephone system in that you do not need hardware to be installed and maintained on your premises. This means businesses can benefit from lower costs, both maintenance and call charges. In addition, there is no need for internal support staff either, which has real value for a company with no IT staff in-house. Hosted PBX systems are easily scaled as you grow too, as all that is required is to add a phone and an extension each time you add an employee.

Virtual PBX

This is a similar to a hosted PBX, as it does not need any onsite maintenance of hardware because the telephone system is entirely software-based. This delivers great benefits for businesses which are mobile, and have staff moving around frequently, either sales people covering a territory, or start-ups actively on the move. With a virtual PBX, your communication toolset goes with you no matter where you or your staff are – they just need an Internet connection.

Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) refers to the suite of business communications tools, which when unified into a coherent strategy significantly enhance creativity, productivity and collaboration. UC implies more than just business telephony for communications, but an entire range of comms tools, such as instant messaging, physical presence and availability notifications, web conferencing, video conferencing, fax, email, screen sharing and more.

In addition, UC also implies freedom from the desk, where these types of communication tools are traditionally tied to – by freeing staff from their desks, true collaboration is fostered, as the communication tools go with the employee wherever they are. All they need is a suitable mobile device (laptop, tablet, Smartphone) and a connection to the Internet.

For your business to benefit from the modern business communication technology now available, you must consider your options carefully. You are looking for communication solutions which are cost-effective, deliver true ROI, enhanced collaboration and are mobile. Modern technology is a great tool for levelling the playing field, so take great care in how you assess and review your business communication needs and the business communication system you select for your company.

Jane Wrythe writes on business and technology issues and is currently VoIP specialist, Swift Systems.