Phone systems - options

General question.

Deploying a phone system for a small firm (8-10 users).  What are they options should I present to the client?  What questions should I ask to narrow down to the right solution?

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I've been working a little with PBX systems. It seems to me that 3rd party intergrations are the main sales arguments. Especially intergration towards GSM/Cell phones, softphones and Outlook/groupware.
Courtesy and digital answearing machines/voice mail are also things that makes the customers interested.

Intergration to home office / roaming users is also very interesting options.
There are a number of options for a workgroup of that size -

- Hosted virtual pbx (voip) ( I can recommend vendors if you need them)

Advantages - quick setup, no physical line costs, good call rates, functions such as voicemail and control panel.

Disadvantages - reliant on a high speed stable internet connection, no redundancy. if the internet goes down then all the lines go down, other than the phone line for adsl.

- Small phone system (check out the ipcortex product line)

Advantages - utilise both sip and isdn30 call routing. very flexible configuration, lots of functionality. scaleable to grow with company.

Disadvantages - more up front costs (£2k ish system plus phones), on site hardware, so requirement for setup and install.

I would ask the client the following questions -

- Location of staff? (all on one site, off site remote workers etc)
- Call activity? (mostly inbound/outbound? call destinations uk, europe, us, etc?)
- Any existing infrastructure? active lines, internet connectivity. phone handsets etc
- number of concurrent calls anticipated (call centre or light call users)?
- most important features? (voicemail, call transfer internally, control panel etc)


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It sounds like this is your first phone system install. I recommend getting expert help up front. I have been working with phone systems for 25 years and I've been called in to fix more poorly designed installations than I care to remember. While computers and telephones are converging, there are too many variables that need to be addressed up front to mention them all here. Pixate's comments only gloss over the high level questions. The questionnaire we use is 18 pages long and has been developed with years of experience. That experience enables us to talk with the customer about how they use their system and gauge their level of experience, their resistance to change and what hardware, software and interfaces will work best for them. Spending the money for a couple of hours of consulting time before buying any equipment will save you more than you can imagine.
Tiras25Author Commented:
Thank you for all recommendations.  I will review every solution with a client and get back to you.

Thanks again!
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