PBX Phone Systems for Businesses

How to decide between the 4 types of PBX systems & meet your budget!

All businesses that have multiple internal extensions and or phone lines need a PBX. A PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is the software that connects multiple incoming calls to the right company departments and employees, and connects internal office calls with each other. With a PBX, incoming calls first reach the attendant (automated or not) that helps direct the call to the right department and employee extension line. Outgoing calls are routed through the PBX to connect to outside callers.

A lot of companies with older PBX equipment are gun-shy about replacing their existing or legacy (legacy = old dated technology) phone gear. In years past PBX costs were extreme but a modern PBX or telecommunications platform is surprisingly inexpensive and the ROI is measured in days to weeks due to increases in productivity in and out of the office. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is very important in this investment and should be considered along with other factors such as need and budget. As authorized agents for over 30 phone and ISP carriers we include free consulting to ensure you are getting the best deal on your phone and internet service and can typically save a business enough money on their monthly bills to offset the purchase of a new PBX that meets your companies needs and budget. We offer solutions specific for small to medium business and advanced solutions for real estate, finance, medical, legal, retail and automotive.

There are 4 major types of PBX systems, and each has particular strengths and weaknesses. As a result, different types of businesses will get the most out of different PBX systems depending on their size, average number of callers, and resources available for new equipment.

1. Traditional (legacy)/Hybrid PBX

A traditional PBX connects callers through multiple phone lines (POTS) to multiple extensions. A Hybrid PBX uses POTS as well as more modern connections such as T1/PRI, SIP and VoIP. A modern Hybrid PBX can replace a legacy PBX for a fraction of the cost of the traditional PBX. Most businesses are shocked at the low cost of a Hybrid PBX, especially when purchased under lease. Hybrid PBX systems are usually procured outright and as such have the highest cost of entry, but provide the most rapid ROI and typically have the lowest TCO. A Hybrid PBX is good for companies that want direct control over exactly how their PBX is configured in-house, and don’t want to pay perpetual monthly fees for capital expenditures. Avoid long-term maintenance fees when purchasing this type of PBX as it should come with a 3-5 year warranty standard.


An IP/SIP PBX is a natural upgrade from a traditional PBX and has advantages over a “forklift” upgrade (tear everything out and start new). An IP/SIP PBX may be able to leverage your existing investment by reusing some or all of your existing equipment. Like a Hybrid PBX there is a larger start-up cost to purchase and install the network, but IP/SIP PBX have lower TCO overall due to SIP VoIP technology. As a general rule SIP/VoIP phone system technology can save your businesses around 50% on your average monthly phone bill. An advantage SIP PBX has over legacy connections is fast deployment of new phone lines. In a POTS or PRI infrastructure it usually takes 30-120 days to procure new or additional phone lines versus 4 business days for SIP lines. SIP lines are usually about half the cost of POTS lines and often come standard with unlimited long distance which can be a huge TCO savings. An IP/SIP PBX is good for companies that want direct control over exactly how their PBX is configured in-house, and don’t want to pay perpetual monthly fees for capital expenditures. Avoid long-term maintenance fees when purchasing this type of PBX as it should come with a 3-5 year warranty standard.

3. Hosted/Virtual/Cloud PBX

Hosted/Virtual/Cloud PBX systems are becoming increasingly more popular due to the lowest start-up costs and quickest deployment. A Hosted/Virtual/Cloud PBX can literally be deployed in hours vs. weeks or months and you only purchase what you need. Expansion is immediate and the costs are easily definable and departmentalized. These solutions offer the most redundant, disaster proof and business continuance infrastructure available. You can literally appear “in the office/system” anywhere you have stable and sufficient internet connectivity. If your building is blown away, burned to the ground or the construction crew next door cuts your phone/internet lines your employees simply work from home or a predetermined location. (We can help you establish this same redundant, disaster proof/business continuity solution for your data platforms as well!)

A hosted PBX is operated off-site and maintained by a VoIP provider. Businesses simply pay a low monthly fee to have most of the advantages of a PBX phone system with none of the headache. Since there is no initial investment and you will reuse your existing phones this appears to be the least costly solution. However, this solution also offers the least functionality and as such the least productivity enhancement. If a business needs a simple, basic but reliable communications platform for up to 25 users/employees Hosted is certainly worth a look.

A virtual PBX is almost exactly the same as a hosted PBX but on a smaller scale. Virtual PBX solutions usually cost less than their hosted PBX counterparts and also offer fewer features. A virtual PBX solution is a good fit for companies in the 1-10 user/employee range who have basic needs such as voicemail and music on hold.

Both hosted and virtual PBX infrastructures are considered “in the cloud”. Your physical infrastructure is not on site nor do you own it. The TCO is usually greater for these cloud solutions but they provide a value service and have inherent advantages over premise based solutions.

4. Blended Architecture

Blended Architecture is the latest “blended” technology available, and perhaps the best. Blended Architecture delivers a perfect blend of system features, call quality, reliability and savings. Blended Architecture combines the benefits of all 3 of the above solutions. Blended Architecture has the advantage of owning your gear for the lowest TCO (Hybrid PBX), Blended Architecture has the advantage of SIP for rapid growth and lower monthly costs with the fastest ROI (IP/SIP PBX) and is in the cloud so you never have to worry about maintenance and upgrades (Hosted/Virtual/Cloud PBX).

As you can see there are a lot of options to consider when enhancing or replacing your telecommunications platform. Active Telecom is happy to consult with you and help you determine the best solution or combination of solutions to meet your needs and budget.