Which is right for your business, a hosted or premised based telephone system? Here are some basics on how the options compare.
Processor & Software - Cloud based for the hosted. Housed at your office for the premise solution.
Telephone lines - Included in the monthly fee with the hosted. Billed separately by a telephone company with the premise solution.
On going maintenance - Included in the monthly fee with the hosted. Typically billed on a time and materials basis or as part of a monthly maintenance contract with premise phone systems.
Feature sets - For most organizations, more than they will ever use with either solution. However, some really cool features like unified messaging and call reports tend to be [describe the image] included with hosted systems while they are an additional upfront cost with the premise systems.
Ease of making system changes - If you are looking to make your own programming and call routing changes, most hosted systems win hands down. Giving you not only control of your phones, but true control over your telephone numbers. This simply can not be achieved with a combination of premise equipment and traditional telephone company phone lines.
Cell phone integration - This is another area where the hosted solutions have a big advantage. No need to bridge two telephone lines to transfer/forward a call to a cell phone or to provide twinning.
Remote IP phones - Can be done with either solution. For the hosted, it is a matter of having adequate bandwidth and possibly opening firewall ports at the remote site. In addition to this, the premise systems usually require additional licenses and often a VPN between the sites that are to be connected.
Upgrades - Automatic and include with the hosted. Often a separate cost or included with a maintenance contract for premise systems.
Survivalbilty - with the hosted, off site call hosting makes re-routing calls simple and with some systems automatic in an emergency. Good options can be set up for premise systems also, but they require planning and may be expensive for smaller businesses.
I hope these guidelines are helpful. Every situation is unique and I would advise seeking the help of a professional with a true understanding of both hosted and premise options before making a decision. Few decisions have the direct and immediate impact on a business that choosing a new telephone system can have. Make sure the impact on your business is a positive one!
Richard Hill has worked in the telecommunications field for over 20 years, 15 of those as the President and owner of SafeCall, a Charlotte, NC based company offering business telephone systems, VoIP telephone service, carrier consulting, and voice/data cabling.