At first glance, business telephony systems can seem confusing. Trying to understand them can feel like you’re wading through a constant stream of jargon, abbreviations and specifications.
For some small to medium business owners, this confusion is enough to avoid business telephony altogether and opt for less effective methods of communication – simply because these ways of communicating may seem more familiar.
In reality, however, the basics of business telephony are simpler than you think. Knowing this can make all the difference to how your business operates. In this section, we will explain the fundamentals of business telephony – from its importance, to how you can go about choosing the right SIP provider for your business.
A PBX (or Private Bank Exchange) system acts as a private telephone network for a business. Think of it as the doorway between a company and its clients. Traditional PBX for SMEs is onsite, meaning it physically relies on the public switched telephone system (PSTN) – the copper infrastructure that connects telephone lines, cellular and other types of communication.
PBX for larger companies is also on site, but instead of using PSTN, it often relies on the integrated services digital network (ISDN). The main difference between PSTN and ISDN is that ISDN supports multiple simultaneous functions and channels, which is more viable for larger organisations.
Session Initiation Protocol or SIP – also known as VoIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol – is a telephony system that uses the internet to send and receive voice data (as opposed to ISDN and PSTN). Because it uses the internet to operate, it’s hosted in the cloud rather than being stored as a physical unit onsite. For this reason, SIP is also commonly known as hosted PBX or hosted telephony.
MEX stands for Mobile Extension.
By activating MEX on your mobile phone subscription it allows all calls to go through the company’s PBX solution and is then forwarded to the right person and telephone. Mobile calls are also allowed to go through the company PBX with important information, such as referral and line status. So, for example employees who are busy on a call or booked as busy in meetings then calls can be handled and other employees can see they are unavailable.
In many countries the traditional telephone networks are being phased out. In the UK you may well be aware that BT Openreach, now known only as Openreach, are forging ahead with its plan to shut down the traditional telephone network in Britain, with the intention of moving all customers over to IP telephony services by 2025.