3CX FAQ: Features and Benefits of an IP PBX
- What is an Auto-attendant?
- Benefits of an IP PBX VoIP Phone System?
- How an IP PBX / VoIP Phone System Works
- What is IVR?
- What is DID – Direct Inward Dialing?
- What is a Voicemail System?
- What are the Benefits of an IP PBX?
- What is Unified Communications?
- What is Voicemail to Email?
- What are BLF Function Keys?
- Arrow 3CX’s Unified Communications features
What is an Auto-Attendant?Auto-Attendant (or automated attendant) is a term commonly used in telephony to describe a voice menu system that allows callers to be transferred to an extension without going through a telephone operator or receptionist. The auto-attendant is also known as a digital receptionist.
For a caller to find a user on a phone system, a dial-by-name directory is usually available. This feature lists users by name, allowing the caller to press a key to automatically ring the extension of a user once his/her extension is announced by the auto attendant. If a user is not available, the auto-attendant directs callers to the appropriate voicemail of the user to leave a message. Having an auto-attendant in a phone system is a very useful and cost-effective feature for a business, as it replaces/helps the human operator by automating and simplifying the incoming phone call procedure.
10 Reasons to Switch to an IP PBX
What is an IP PBX?An IP PBX is a complete telephony system that provides telephone calls over IP data networks. All conversations are sent as data packets over the network.The technology includes advanced communication features but also provides a significant dose of worry-free scalability and robustness. The IP PBX is also able to connect to traditional PSTN lines via an optional gateway – so upgrading day-to-day business communication to this most advanced voice and data network is a breeze!
Enterprises don’t need to disrupt their current external communication infrastructure and operations. With an IP PBX deployed, an enterprise can even keep its regular telephone numbers. This way, the IP PBX switches local calls over the data network inside the enterprise and allows all users to share the same external phone lines.
How it works
How an IP PBX integrates into the networkAn IP PBX or IP Telephone System consists of one or more SIP phones, an IP PBX server and optionally a VoIP Gateway to connect to existing PSTN lines. The IP PBX server functions in a similar manner to a proxy server. SIP clients, being either soft phones or desk phones, register with the IP PBX server, and when they wish to make a call they ask the IP PBX to establish the connection. The IP PBX has a directory of all phones/users and their corresponding SIP address and thus is able to connect an internal call or route an external call via either a VoIP gateway or a VoIP service provider.
Benefit #1: Much easier to install & configure than a proprietary phone system: An IP PBX runs as software on a computer and can leverage the advanced processing power of the computer and user interface as well as features. Anyone proficient in networking and computers can install and maintain an IP PBX. By contrast a proprietary phone system often requires an installer trained on that particular system!
Benefit #2: Easier to manage because of web/GUI based configuration interface: An IP PBX can be managed via a web-based configuration interface or a GUI, allowing you to easily maintain and fine tune your phone system. Proprietary phone systems have difficult-to-use interfaces which are often designed to be used only by phone technicians.
Benefit #3: Significant cost savings using VoIP providers: With an IP PBX you can easily use a VOIP Provider for long distance and international calls. The monthly savings are significant. If you have branch offices, you can easily connect phone systems between branches and make free phone calls.
Benefit #4: Eliminate phone wiring! An IP Telephone system allows you to connect hardware IP phones directly to a standard computer network port (which it can share with the adjacent computer). Software phones can be installed directly on the PC. You can now eliminate the phone wiring and make adding or moving of extensions much easier. In new offices you can completely eliminate the need for wiring extra ports to be used by the office phone system!
Benefit #5: Eliminate vendor lock in! IP PBXs are based on the open SIP standard. You can mix and match any SIP hardware or software phone with any SIP-based IP PBX, PSTN Gateway or VOIP provider. In contrast, a proprietary phone system often requires proprietary phones to use advanced features, and proprietary extension modules to add features.
Benefit #6: Scalable! Proprietary systems are easy to outgrow. Adding more phone lines or extensions often requires expensive hardware modules. In some cases you need an entirely new phone system. Not so with an IP PBX. A standard computer can easily handle a large number of phone lines and extensions – just add more phones to your network to expand!
Benefit #7: Better customer service & productivity! With an IP PBX you can deliver better customer service and better productivity. Since the system is now computer-based, you can integrate phone functions with business applications. For example, bring up the customer record of the caller automatically when you receive his/her call, dramatically improving customer service and cutting costs by reducing time spent on each caller. Outbound calls can be placed directly from Outlook, removing the need for the user to type in the phone number.
Benefit #8: Twice the phone system features for half the price! Since an IP PBX is software-based, it is easier for developers to add and improve feature sets. Most VoIP phone systems come with a rich feature set, including auto attendant, voice mail, ring groups, and advanced reporting. Unified Communications features are included, to support presence, video and audio conferences and free calls via the data network. These options are often very expensive in proprietary systems.
Benefit #9: Allow hot desking & roaming! Hot desking, the process of being able to easily move offices/desks based on the task at hand, has become very popular. Unfortunately traditional PBXs require extensions to be re-patched to the new location. With an IP PBX the user simply takes his phone to his new desk – No patching required!
Users can roam too – if an employee has to work from home, he/she can simply fire up their SIP software phone and are able to answer calls to their extension, just as they would in the office. Calls can be diverted anywhere in the world because of the SIP protocol characteristics!
Benefit #10: Better phone usability: SIP phones are easier to use! Employees often struggle using advanced phone features. Setting up a conference, or transferring a call on an old PBX requires detailed instructions. Not so with an IP PBX – all features are easily performed from a user friendly GUI. In addition, users get a better overview of the status of other extensions, of inbound calls, call queues, and presence via the clients. Proprietary systems often require expensive “system” phones to get an idea what is going on on your phone system and even then, status information is cryptic at best.
IP PBX: How an IP PBX / VoIP Phone System WorksA VoIP Phone System / IP PBX system consists of one or more SIP phones / VoIP phones, an IP PBX server and optionally includes a VoIP Gateway. The IP PBX server is similar to a proxy server: SIP clients, being either soft phones or hardware based phones, register with the IP PBX server, and when they wish to make a call they ask the IP PBX to establish the connection. The IP PBX has a directory of all phones/users and their corresponding SIP address and thus is able to connect an internal call or route an external call via either a VoIP gateway or a VoIP service provider to the desired destination.
At the center we have, the IP PBX. Starting from the bottom, we see the Corporate Network. This is the company’s local network. Through that network, Computers running SIP clients such as the 3CX softphones, and IP Phones connect directly to the PBX. On the left, we see the company’s router/firewall connected to the internet. From there it can connect to remote extensions in the form of computers running the softphones, remote IP Phones, mobile devices running the 3CX Android and iOS clients, and Bridged PBX’s. Using a VoIP provider we can connect to the PSTN network. To the right a VoIP Gateway connects the PBX directly to the PSTN network.
What is IVR / Interactive Voice Response?Interactive Voice Response or IVR is a telephone technology that allows customers to interact with the company’s host system through configurable voice menus, in real time, using DTMF tones.
How does an IVR System operate?In an IVR system, callers are given the choice to select options by pressing digits. The press of the digit on the telephone keypad sends a DTMF tone to the company host system which then selects the appropriate action / response according to the digit pressed.
Where are IVR Systems Used?IVR systems can normally handle and service high volumes of phone calls. With an Interactive Voice Response system, businesses can reduce costs and improve customers’ experience as Interactive Voice Response systems allow callers to get information they need 24 hours a day without the need of costly human agents.
Some IVR applications include telephone banking, flight-scheduling information and televoting.
3CX has a built-in IVR that is designed to boost the competence of any business by increasing flexibility, simplifying processes and reducing costs, at the same time as improving customer satisfaction.
What is DID – Direct Inward Dialing?DID stands for – Direct Inward Dialing (or DDI, Direct Dialling Inward in Europe) is a feature offered by telephone companies for use with their customers’ PBX system, whereby the telephone company (telco) allocates a range of telephone numbers associated with one or more phone lines. DID allows a company to assign a personal number to each employee, without requiring a separate physical phone line, for each, to connect to the PBX. This way, telephony traffic can be split up and managed more easily.
For example, if an organization has 25 employees and each employee has a separate telephone number, or extension, within its physical location, the organization can rent 10 physical trunk lines from the telephone company that will allow 10 phone calls to take place simultaneously. Others would have to wait for an available line and anyone dialling into the system while all 10 lines are in use would get either a busy signal or be directed to a voice mail system. A DID system can be used for fax and voice transmissions.
DID works similarly for VoIP communications. To allow PSTN users to directly reach VoIP users, DID numbers are assigned to a gateway. The gateway connects the PSTN (public switched telephone network) to the VoIP network, routing and translating calls between the two networks for the VoIP user. Calls from the PSTN will be directed to the VoIP user who holds the corresponding DID number.
DID requires that you purchase an ISDN or Digital line and ask the telephone company to assign a range of numbers. You will then need DID capable equipment at your premises which consists of BRI, E1 or T1 cards or Gateways.
What is a Voicemail System?A voicemail system is a centralized system used in businesses for sending, storing and retrieving audio messages, just like an answering machine would do at home. Voicemail systems make a Phone System more flexible and powerful by allowing information and messages to pass between users even when one of them is not present.
How does a Voicemail system work?Each extension in a phone system is normally linked to a voice mailbox, so when the number is called and the line is not answered or is busy, the caller listens to a message previously recorded by the user. This message can give instructions to the caller to leave a voice message, or provide other available options. Options include paging the user or being transferred to another extension or a receptionist. Voicemail systems also provide notifications to users to inform them of new voicemails. Most modern voicemail systems provide multiple ways for user to check their voicemail including access through PC’s, mobile phones, landlines or even through SIP clients running on smartphones.
A voicemail system in a business is essential to keep external and internal communications flowing seamlessly and efficiently. 3CX has integrated a free voice mail system in its IP PBX for Windows. 3CX Phone System for Windows delivers a complete voice mail solution that incorporates Unified Communications by allowing voicemail to be forwarded to the user’s email inbox.
What are the Benefits of an IP PBX?
- Ease of Installation and Configuration
A traditional PBX is composed of proprietary hardware and software management tools. These tools are typically managed over a serial or console cable, and each vendor has different tools for this. An IP-PBX, on the other hand, is a software-based solution. This automatically means that it is much easier to install and configure, because a system administrator is presented a familiar installation and configuration process.
- Ease of Management
Most IP-PBX solutions provide a web-based configuration interface. The obvious benefit to this is that the system administrator has access to the configuration of the system – the configuration tools are no longer hidden away from the system administrator, allowing him to make the changes himself if he so desires.
- IP-Based Means IP Network
Every telephone system needs to have wiring to connect phones to the PBX. But here is the point of an IP-PBX – your office ALREADY has the wiring, because your phones and IP-PBX run on the same wiring that your corporate network is already using. And again, your system administrator already knows how his LAN network is wired into the network cabinet – the phones are simply additional network devices just like any computer on the LAN.
- Receive and Make calls Anywhere, Everywhere
The SIP protocol is an IP-based protocol, and SIP softphones are now available for any smartphone. This transforms your smartphone into an extension on the corporate IP-PBX, so as long as your phone has IP connectivity, it can talk to the IP-PBX – from a coffee shop, from a hotel room, from an airport lounge, from a yacht marina. Be connected – anywhere, everywhere!
- Cost Reduction
You can use the services of a VoIP Provider – because a VoIP Provider is a telco that can deliver telephony over the internet. So the perfect marriage between IP-PBX and VoIP Provider can be arranged with a very simple ceremony – and the ceremony is called “number porting”. And the benefits of the marriage are immediately visible in the form of reduced call costs. Why? Because land-line telcos have been overcharging for telephony since the first “Hello”.
- Compliance with SIP Standards Eliminates Vendor Lock-In'
Today’s mainstream SIP-based deskphones improves your return on investment. If you need to change from one IP-PBX to another, your phones are still usable – this is because the phones talk a universal language called SIP.
- Scalability – No Limits
A traditional PBX was essentially a hardware device sitting in some corner of your office. It would have a number of empty “slots” to add hardware capacity to your system. Each “slot” would allow you to add “x” number of extensions or “y” number of lines. Once the “slots” were full, you would have reached the limit, and the search for a new telephone system would start – but NOT before you find the money to replace it! An IP-PBX does not suffer from this limitation, because software does not have a limited number of “slots”. If the computer it runs on has the horsepower, you can scale upwards at will. Most commercial IP-PBXs permit this by the simple mechanism of updating the licence parameters assigned to the system – no need to touch anything on the system.
- Reporting and Monitoring
Again, the power of software-based solutions really shines through on the reporting and monitoring functions. For the IP-PBX vendor, extracting data from the call records is a relatively simple task. If a reporting feature is requested by the vendor’s user base, then a new report can be provided simply by way of a system update. Live monitoring of activity on the system is another great bonus which web-based management brings to us.
What is Unified Communications?Currently, there is a large number of communication channels, and of different types, made available to technology users. To put a (indicative but by no means complete) list together:
- Telephony (fixed-line, mobile, VoIP-based)
- Audio/video conferencing
- Presence (as an example, consider your list of contacts in Skype, and the relevant icons that show individual contacts to be online or away)
- Social media (think Twitter, Facebook, Vines, Whats App, Instagram, and so on…)
Some of these communication channels are of the “store-and-forward” type, in the sense that the information is delivered in one direction, and remains accessible (almost) indefinitely for the remote parts to view it when he has the time; e-mail is the grand-daddy of this communication style. Others, however, are more immediate, and require rapid response (often interrupting other tasks); telephony is the obvious largest contender in this category.
Each of these different communication channels typically requires its own “app” to access the information being exchanged. As the number of channels we need to give attention to increases, the harder it becomes to manage them all efficiently.
So What is Unified Communications?Unified Communications, often abbreviated to simply UC, is a generic hold-all term to describe the market’s efforts to integrate all the “apps” (and therefore the communication channels) to allow the user to have all this information easily accessible, irrespective of when or where he needs access (home, work, in a car, on a train…), and how he needs access (laptop, tablet, smartphone, internet cafe…).
UC effectively blurs the demarcation lines between the communication channels. For example, a user can receive a voicemail message and can choose to access it through email or any phone. The sender’s status can be seen through presence information, and if online a response can be sent immediately through chat message or video call.
The objective of Unified Communications is to unify and streamline those business procedures that involve human communications.
Voicemail to Email – Unified Communications on the Go!SIP uses Methods / Requests and corresponding Responses to communicate and establish a call session.
With the voice and FAX delivery feature, your voicemail messages are delivered to multiple email addresses with 3CX Phone System for Windows. As part of its extensive Unified Communications features, 3CX customers leverage the Voicemail to Email feature to ensure they’re always reachable, even when they’re on the go! 3CX Phone System converts voicemails into .wav audio files and sends them directly to you.
BLF Function Keys
Some IP phones have BLF function keys. BLF is an acronym for Busy Lamp Field, which is a light on an IP phone that tells you whether another extension connected to the same PBX is busy or not. Depending on the type of phone you have, BLF’s will remain green, meaning the extension is free to talk. If the BLF starts to flash red, it normally means someone is calling that extension. If the BLF function key is red, it means the owner of that extension is on a call.
BLF’s are also helpful when answering another colleagues phone. For instance, if Bianca isn’t at her desk and someone rings her extension, Andy can pick up the call simply by clicking the flashing BLF. Also, before Helen calls Chris, she’ll be able to see if Chris is on a call or not.
Unified Communications Made Easy1. See Presence of Colleagues
The ability to view the status of other colleagues (“Presence”) is a great time saver avoiding unnecessary call transfers or voice mail tags and makes managing and working with remote employees easier than ever. Need some quiet time to finish a project? Customize your status and prevent any annoying disturbances.
- Eliminate expensive voice mail tags
- Avoid unnecessary call transfers that irritate customers
- Visible from all 3CX clients: Mac, Windows, iOS & Android
2. Deliver Faxes & Voicemail to Inbox
Inbound faxes are converted to PDF and forwarded to users via e-mail, without requiring any fax server software. Likewise, voicemails are converted to sound files and forwarded via e-mail.
- Forward voicemails to inbox
- Listen to voicemails without calling in
- Faxes are received as PDF files in your email
3. Instant Messaging / Text chat
Allow employees to communicate together via text chat, without the need to rely on third party internet messaging systems. 3CX users can send and receive text messages via the 3CX Windows, Mac, iOS and Android clients from anywhere.
- No need for third party messaging systems
- Send text messages, links and more at no additional cost
- Available on Mac, Windows, iOS & Android