When making a telephone system decision, put the end goal first.
What highly important technical information should every business decision maker know about voice over IP, IP telephone systems, hybrid telephone systems, hosted PBX, SIP, TDM, and all the other buzzwords telecom vendors like to use? Unless you are an IT or telecom engineer, I would say the answer is nothing!
It is easy to get caught up in the information overload of the web and the confusing technical [the thinker] information from telecom vendors who often seem to contradict each other. I recommend that my clients focus on their business needs and goals first and not the underlying technologies like IP or TDM. These are simply possible means to an end. Are you interested in improving the customer service experience of your inbound callers? Tracking the productivity of employees? Creating a central communications hub for staff members that work from home or for staff that are highly mobile wireless phone users? Maybe your primary goals are to move to a more reliable or easier to use system, or significantly cut your monthly telecom costs. A successful technology purchase, implementation, and long term experience always starts with a clear understanding of the business end goals.
Secondly, what is your budget? Do you you plan to pay for your solution as a one time capital expense or would it suit your company's finanacial needs better to pay for the solution as you use it on a monthly basis.
Once you fully understand your needs and end goals, you are ready to begin the search for an experienced partner to meet these needs. Notice, I didn't say began the search for the equipment or technology to meet your needs, I emphasized finding the right organization and people to partner with. Unless you are in the telecom business yourself, you probably have better things to do than attempt to become a phone expert.
In summary, when making your next telephone system or service decision don't allow yourself to become overly concerned with buzzwords like "VoIP" or "IP telephone system". Instead, focus on the needs of your business and what you hope to accomplish with your new purchase or service change. Find a trusted partner who understands your options and can communicate how the proposed solutions will improve your business. Look for a partner that will enable you to focus on your business, not the phone business!
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.