In 2005, for the first time, incumbent PBX vendors claimed that they shipped more IP PBX units than analog PBX. It is clear that this transition will accelerate in the next few years. Having said that -- there are still companies buying analog PBX or hybrid solutions instead of investing in pure IP systems.
The cost of buying a new analog PBX should be considered over time. It is not only what you invest initially but the associated net costs for the next five years -- or at least three years depending on how soon you want to depreciate your phone system.
You can still enjoy some of the benefits of IP telephony with an analog system -- for example, toll bypassing using IP gateways between remote sites. But what makes IP telephony click is the integration of applications and convergence. Even though this can be done with analog systems, the cost is much higher.
Analog systems are hardware intensive, so the maintenance costs will be higher in the long run. The cost of moves, adds and changes, the cost of provisioning new users, the cost of management and administration of the system, the requirement of support people needed to assist the phone users in basic configuration tasks -- these are all elements to be consider in making a decision. You must also consider what type of configuration you want, the size of the project, the number of users and the applications desired. All together, these factors can make the analog system a very costly decision.
After this basic introduction, we come to the real issue, in my opinion -- not considering the flow of your business when developing a new voice solution. IP telephony is not a new replacement technology, designed to do the same thing as its predecessors. IP telephony is a business enabler -- a great opportunity to redefine business processes and interactions to boost service levels and productivity. It is a chance to rethink communication strategy and to empower organizations. The worst-case scenario is buying your next phone system, or any technology, without understanding the possibilities and opportunities it should present.
For more information, view the follow-up question from our reader about analog vs. digital PBXes.
This was first published in March 2006