PBX stands for private branch exchange. The very first PBX system involved a single human operator who received and directed calls for a business. Phone traffic was handled by a common carrier until it reached the operator, who then routed phone traffic to individual phone extensions. Modernly, this is done electronically—and extensions can include fax machines, modems and cell phones, as well as individual lines. Businesses prefer PBX systems because they are far less expensive and more efficient than having multiple lines from ATT or another public provider. Most PBX systems provide for VoIP (voice over internet protocol), which in this context is referred to as IP PBX (internet protocol private branch exchange).
The best PBX systems are the ones that meet your needs. Ideally, it should bring your voice, videoconferencing, cellular, data, instant messaging and other business communications within a single network that employees can easily access remotely. When considering what PX systems best meet you needs, it helps to think of features that your company must have. Your vendor should be able to report on call answering features, call management features, call screening features, intercom, call paging and menu-driven systems. In addition to these obvious features, voicemail to email, interactive desktop alerts, private enterprise chat, real-time employee status and others can boost productivity.
In addition to providing switches and routers, Cisco also provides IP PBX systems for both small and large enterprises. Their small business package, called “Systems Unified Communications Manager Express,” is an offshoot of their larger “Systems Unified Communications Manager” which can handle up to 80,000 users. Both are feature-rich, robust systems that effectively handle all communications needs.
Other PBX Providers
The Nortel Meridian PBX system used to be the most widely used in the world. However, just as the breakup of Ma Bell saw the emergence of competitive baby bell providers, the bankruptcy of Nortel brought a crop of new PBX providers. Some of the more reputable include Mitel, Avaya, 8x8, Inc., Talkswitch and Fonality. If you are working with a consultant, he or she should be able to discuss the pros and cons of how these systems fit your company needs. While the initial cost outlay for a new PBX system might seem extreme, especially if this is the first time you have contracted for such a service, it rapidly saves money on expensive phone bills for multiple communication products.