Is the virtual PBX the death of traditional premises-based PBXs?

February 14th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


The question of virtual PBX replacing trditional premises-based PBXs has been around boardroom tables for some time. “Do we invest in a hosted solution or do we keep our communication in-house? Do we go the IP route or do we stay with a physical connection from Telkom?”

The days of simply contacting a traditional PBX vendor to install a PBX are long gone. The latest and most advanced system today may no longer need your company’s requirements tomorrow. One simply cannot forklift a system every few years. The answers undoubtedly lie in a system that is IP-centric and can be upgraded by loading new software, even remotely.

Peter Walsh of CommsCloud says that for mid-size organisations without a large IT budget, convergence and the move to IP-telephony poses a serious challenge. Disruptive technologies like cloud computing are here to stay. The “bring your own device” trend has set in and more and more things (from fridges to phones) are being connected daily. According to Intel, the number of networked devices will be double the world’s population by 2015. For IT managers trying to cope with current needs, like managing the BYOD explosion, while planning for future network and bandwidth requirements, things are not going to get easier any time soon.

While IT managers (and CIOs) have traditionally faced the challenge of being in a continuous upgrade cycle, falling behind now could have disastrous consequences for organisations.

“Managing telecommunications infrastructure is both complicated and technically difficult. Upgrading and keeping pace with change is resource intensive, requires a strong understanding of costs and business needs, and is further complicated by the current legislative and regulatory environment,” says Walsh. “Chasing price when managing telecommunications infrastructure is the wrong way to do it – as evidenced by the cut-prices the corporate world has obtained from operators like MTN and Vodacom over the years without great service to show for it. IT managers need to understand their costs, and their business need better than their service providers do. They need to benchmark costs by product and solution (to measure and monitor progress); this will show where inefficiencies lie and where there is opportunity for improvement as well as what needs to be prioritised. IT managers should also document their business need so that they can clearly communicate this to the service providers they engage with.

“Most business will not be able to conduct this process internally. Telecommunications expense management (TEM) is a relatively new discipline in South Africa and not yet well understood or well used. Local TEM expertise does exist in specialist consultancies, however, and IT managers would be well-served to get one on board to conduct this assessment. Once the assessment is complete, price your needs on the open market via an RFP/RFI or tender process. Bandwidth costs are coming down and if you’ve not renegotiated pricing in the last 24 months the chances are you are paying too much.

“Use your documented business need along with clearly defined deliverables, and ensure responding service providers have all the information they need to propose a viable solution. Request a servicle level agreement and get a legal mind involved in the signing of commercial agreements.

“If you have to change networks bear in mind that it is a challenging project that requires detailed planning, strong communications and change management skills, good project management and will involve some degree of disruption.

“Get the process right and you can upgrade the network to one that is scalable, resilient and redundant while fulfilling the business’ strategic IT requirements and driving down costs. You will also be able future-proof your business and embrace an evolving IT landscape.”

One thing that most companies overlook is training. While they have opted for the greatest and latest system with state of the art facilities, most of the staff are not using the facilities that the vendor told the comply would save many hour and increase the efficacy.

Yes, all vendors offer staff training and even provide manuals. The training is often just five minutes to show how the system works and the manual is written by an engineer who thinks that everyone is at his level.

So if you opt for a modern IP and hosted service, make sure that you staff are taught how to get value from the system. If not stick with your old PBX even if it is supposed to be dead and outdated. When moving into the modern world, and ultimately you must, make sure your take your staff with you!

Related Articles

  • SABS tests largest pump in 41 years
  • 20 July: The 50th anniversary of the moon landing, which SA helped plan
  • Radar sensor for vehicle detection
  • New series thermal imagers
  • Accurate time takes centre stage