Do we need a PBX system to use VoIP?

Is a PBX system required when organizations move to VoIP? Or do they need to replace it? Telephony expert Jon Arnold explains the options available to organizations.

Does a company need a PBX system to deploy VoIP? Is there anything I can use that can replace a PBX?

The answer depends largely on your definition of a Voice over IP (VoIP) solution. If you currently have a PBX, then you'll likely migrate to an IP PBX when going to VoIP. You can also keep your PBX and IP-enable it for VoIP by using an analog telephony adapter that allows legacy phones to interface with VoIP services. This is an economical path to VoIP for companies with PBXs that are still performing well but looking to move on from TDM.

If you don't have a PBX system -- or any form of switched telephony, you probably don't need to invest in an IP PBX when going to VoIP. Many VoIP solutions are cloud-based, and these often minimize the need for on-premises hardware, including switched phone systems. You can still get full-scale VoIP functionality by using inexpensive IP phones or PC-based softphones. They may not completely replicate all that an IP PBX does, but for smaller businesses this path is good enough and far more economical.

These cloud-based options also extend to cases where your PBX does need replacing. At some point, all phone systems reach end-of-life, and the good news is that VoIP provides more flexibility than legacy systems when it's time for an upgrade. Instead of migrating from a PBX to an IP PBX, you could dispose of the premises-based phone system altogether and rely on IP phones or softphones. Mobility has now become part of that option set, but requires more analysis before you can make decisions on that front.

All the features and functions of a switched system can be supported by a hosted offering, meaning that your endpoint requirements are simpler and less reliant on capital expenses. The main tradeoff for a less costly solution is having the core phone system functions hosted and managed off-site. There are lots of scenarios where this makes sense, especially for smaller companies with limited IT resources.

Do you have a question for Jon Arnold or any of our other experts? Ask your enterprise-specific questions today! (All questions are treated anonymously.)

Next Steps

How VoIP differs from a virtual PBX

VoIP and UC define the future of voice

Take a look at the most recognized unified communications cloud providers

Dig Deeper on VoIP Migration and Implementation