Somewhere north of 50 percent of all small firms do
not have a telephone system, meaning no voice mail, call transferring and
all the other features we take for granted in a PBX. It is cost that
prohibits many of these companies from purchasing a PBX, but this
shouldn�t be an issue any more. There are companies out there that sell
inexpensive phone systems that have many of the bells and whistles of the
bigger systems at a fraction of the price. One such example is Centrepoint
a company making affordable small office PBXs for a decade. I have known
the company and founder for that many years myself, and the fact that he
and his company have lasted so long in a field where so many of their
competitors are gone must say something about his company and product(s).
An interesting statistic from the Yankee Group says
that 80 percent of small businesses with one to 20 employees have
broadband. That statistic is from 2003, so I assume it is even higher now.
Naturally, VoIP makes sense for many of these small companies and the
combination of an inexpensive PBX and VoIP means they can save money on
long-distance by purchasing VoIP equipment.
The starting price for their TalkSwitch system is
$695, while a system with VoIP starts at $1,795 (available June 2004). The
TalkSwitch platform gives you voice mail, auto-attendant, expandability to
32 local extensions and easy setup and configuration. You also get find
me/follow me, remote extension transfer, remote message notification and
remote extension call screening. You can also network certain models
together as you grow. You receive a minimum of 30 minutes of voice mail
per box. Voice mail memory is expandable as well through solid-state
memory cards costing $85 for 30 minutes, $135 for one hour and $235 for
two hours. A total of nine hours of voice mail can be stored in a box.
The devices support international callback, meaning
you can record an announcement on the device and tell it to call you back
at the number you called from and then deliver the announcement. If you
are in a hotel in
, you can tell the phone to call the hotel and the announcement can ask
for your room number. When the hotel operator picks up, they hear that
your room is asked for and they transfer the call. Once you answer, you
can check voice mail and make calls through the device. You can also call
in with a cell phone to make international IP telephony calls.
A continuing concern of mine is what happens to the
dealer channel as equipment costs plummet. Centrepoint tells me that VARs
can still make money installing, servicing and by doing user training, but
they will obviously need to sell in volume.
Small businesses don�t have to fear phone system
costs anymore. The prices are low enough and the features and functions
are great enough that they can jump on the PBX bandwagon and even enjoy IP
PBX functionality and long-distance savings for a few hundred dollars
more. Check out http://www.talkswitch.com
for more information.
Please talk back to
me in our forums
Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments.
Participate in our forums.
reprints of this article by calling (800) 290-5460 or buy them directly
online at www.reprintbuyer.com.