With all of the different flavors of VOIP in the marketplace today, products like Vonage do not bode well for an office with more than a few employees. The other route is purchasing a VOIP enabled key system. Well, I would like to mention a third option that is often overlooked, the Hosted VOIP PBX.
The Hosted IP PBX is a great solution for many mid-sized companies looking for the advantages of an enterprise type of phone system but not wanting to spend the capital to acquire one. Plus you get many more inherent advantages a traditional phone system can not offer you. Let's look into detail what these advantages are in comparison to a traditional key or PBX phone system.
First, let's do a comparison of features between the different solutions. Typically, when buying a traditional system you are limited by the expansion of how many cards and ports the unit can acommodate and when making any changes like moves or adds, you need to pay a technician to come out and service the unit. With a hosted system the technology resides in the phone companies network, so any type of adds, moves or changes can be done easily by you through a web browser and a secure login website, this removes the cost of hiring someone to do this. It also adds tremendous power for redundancy and backup situations. For example, you have an awesome weather event such as a snow storm (which being from Buffalo is my point of reference) and most people can not make into the office, you can get on your broadband connection at home, login and forward all of your calls to any number in the world, like your cell phone or home phone. This way you still will be able to be productive.
Additionally, with a traditional phone system, you have to purchase additional software to get added features. In a hosted environment the upgrades are automatically propagated down to your phone giving you things like unified messaging (getting voicemail files on your computer and using your address book to dial phone numbers), hot desking (being able to go between offices and logging onto any phone and it will not only route all of your calls to you automatically, but will also bring over your speed dials and all of your custom phone settings to that other office phone) and any new enhancements that the software developer creates.
Finally, cost. A traditional system purchase includes phones, separate phone cabling, the box in the phone closet, a voice mail system and any additional cards or software you need to give it the features you want such as auto attendant, IVR functionality, etc. A hosted system only requires data cabling, the phones, a switch and a router. This allows approximately a 40% reduction in upfront expense versus traditional phone systems and at least a 60% reduction against a VoIP system that resides on site.
In summary, a hosted VOIP system is an excellent choice for the mid sized business due to the fact that they can achieve enterprise functionality at a fraction of the cost while also inheriting redundancy not heard of in this market segment. But, you should always consult with a professional to help guide you through advantages and disadvantages of the choices currently out there and find the solution that best suits your businesses current and future needs.