A PBX phone system manages the interconnectivity of a company's internal phone lines and also connects each extension of that private network to public telephone networks. It saves costs and also makes intra-organization telephone connectivity faster. Popular PBX phone systems include the Rhino Ceros 3U-IP PBX, the Xorcom XR1-12 and the Sangoma Vega 50 Media Gateway.
Having a PBX phone system reduces not only the cost of calls between members of an organization but also the cost of long-distance calls when combined with VoIP solutions. VoIP PBX allows companies to use a single self-managed network for both voice and data.
PBX Phone System: What to Look For
In addition to traditional PBX (circuit-switched) and VoIP PBX (packet-switched) systems, private telephone networks can also use hosted (virtual) PBX systems. Hosted PBX can either be packet- or circuit-switched. A fifth type of PBX is mobile PBX. Mobile PBX replaces some or all fixed PBX phones with mobiles phones. All PBX systems share a common set of calling features, but manufacturers also add advanced features to differentiate their products. Here are the key features to look for in a PBX system.
PBX phone systems have come a long way since the days of switchboard operators managing interconnectivity with cord circuits. A modern PBX system should come with a rich set of features but must also gain new features with hardware and software upgrades. For example, you can easily add VoIP features to a PBX system with NIC ports. Therefore, a good port selection is important to extending the functions of your PBX system. As long as the system has the hardware support required, manufacturers can easily unlock more capabilities with firmware upgrades.
As the size of your organization grows, you need a PBX system that can accommodate the new employees you add. A scalable PBX system should provide unlimited numbers of extensions, voicemail boxes and auto attendants. In addition, it should be easy to add new phones to the PBX network. Therefore, auto provisioning is an important requirement for a scalable PBX system. Auto provisioning makes it easy to quickly add new users to the network.
The basic function of a PBX phone system is to establish, maintain and disconnect calls between extensions and from outside lines. Besides these core features, manufacturers of PBX equipment also add different sets of call features. These features include auto attendant, auto dialing, conference call, do not disturb, and find-me/follow-me, as well as call forwarding, blocking, waiting, transfer, park, pickup, trace and logging.
Extension Dialing & Roaming
Extension dialing is a key feature to look out for in a PBX system. It allows you to call other employees with short extension codes rather than their full phone numbers. Extension-to-extension dialing saves time, just as extension roaming provides true mobility within your PBX network. Extension roaming ensures that you can still receive calls when you are away from your desk. This feature quickly provisions the phone you have with you and routes all communication sent to your extension to the new phone. Extension roaming is especially useful for employees who work from multiple stations or sometimes work remotely.
A PBX phone system improves the efficiency of an organization by making it easy for the members to communicate with one another. Therefore, PBX systems can drive your organization's unified communications system by linking all voice, video and text communications conducted by the employees. With VoIP and hosted PBX systems, you and your employees can easily telecommute and take part in teleconferences from different parts of the world.
ADTRAN NetVanta 7060 Review
The ADTRAN NetVanta 7060 adds IP telephony to your established IP data network. This device is an IP PBX solution for small and midsized businesses.
With a height of 1.7 inches, the ADTRAN NetVanta 7060 has a 1U (rack unit) chassis. It is also 17.2 inches wide and 12.8 inches thick and weighs 11 pounds. Port selection on this PBX equipment includes 24 10/100 Ethernet ports, two 10/100/1000Base-T ports, two analog trunk ports, a WAN Ethernet port and two module expansion ports.
With so many Ethernet ports, this PBX phone system supports multiple network speeds and can connect with any router or switch. You can also expand its port selection and add more PBX phones with the optional voice interface and fiber expansion modules offered by ADTRAN.
The PBX system requires an established IP data network. Basically, it helps organizations with robust internet connections lower the cost of communication between their employees by combining voice and data communications. This not only establishes an IP PBX system that reduces the cost of local and long-distance calls, but also powers telecommuting and teleconferencing between multiple remote sites. Besides the standard calling features, the ADTRAN NetVanta 7060 also provides voicemail with email notifications, multilevel auto attendant, call queuing, call forwarding, find me/follow me and music on hold.
The 7060 works with ADTRAN IP phones as well as Polycom phones. In addition to PBX, this IP solution also works with key telephone systems. With its Sessions Initiation Protocol support, you can use it for voice and video calls. As an IP PBX solution, it supports up to 100 SIP stations. This makes it a solid small-business PBX system. However, with a maximum limit of 100 stations, the NetVanta 7060 may not be a good fit for businesses with larger workforces.
The PBX phone service runs the ADTRAN Operating System. This proprietary PBX OS has an intuitive graphical user interface. In addition to helping you quickly set up and manage your PBX network as well as provision phones, the operating system also keeps the network secure. ADTRAN delivers free firmware updates to the NetVanta 7060 via the operating system.
While the AOS is robust, it is not compatible with some non-ADTRAN PBX accessories. Unlike with free open-source PBX software, you cannot add new features to the AOS or customize it for your organization's specific needs.
The ADTRAN NetVanta 7060 is an IP-ready enterprise PBX solution for consolidating voice and data communications. However, it cannot serve more than 100 users and is only compatible with ADTRAN and Polycom phones.
AudioCodes Mediant 1000B M1KB Review
The AudioCodes Mediant 1000B M1KB is a hybrid media gateway for connecting legacy analog and PBX phone systems to IP networks. Therefore, the M1KB can power IP PBX platforms for branch offices of midsize and large businesses.
AudioCodes also refers to the system as an SBA or Survivable Branch Appliance. It can serve up to 1,000 branch employees and support up to 192 PSTN channels.
This telephony appliance comes in two variants: a basic model that supports third-party software and a high-performance model with an Intel Core i7 processor and provisions for advanced enterprise communications applications. It has a 1U chassis size. It is rack-mountable and modular and is, therefore, scalable for rapidly growing organizations. Each M1KB module provides an additional four FXO and FXS ports for analog POTS and PSTN phone lines, as well as four BRI ports for ISDN channels. The Mediant 1000B supports up to 24 FXO and FXS ports and a maximum of 20 BRI ports. It also supports up to eight T1 lines for carrying both voice and data in an IP PBX network.
With its Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, this PBX phone service system can easily serve as a VoIP gateway between the headquarters and branches of an organization. It runs on the Microsoft Lync Unified Communications platform. Therefore, the PBX system deployed with the M1KB has continued access to Lync services as well as call capabilities even when your company's wireless Internet network goes down. Overall, the M1KB connects a company's IP network to outside public lines, hosts an internal PBX network, and integrates all the SIP phones, analog phones, smartphones and Lync terminals on your company's intranet.
In addition to persistent Lync connectivity, the Mediant 1000B provides special Lync features such as call forking, active directory look-up and emergency location identification numbers. Even though this multifunctional telephony system works well with Microsoft Lync, it runs on Open Solution Network server platform. Therefore, AudioCodes' partners and resellers can use it for IP PBX, call centers, conferencing and interactive voice response applications. The M1KB offers a lot of features as well as analog and digital phone ports, but it works best for organizations running Microsoft Lync on their servers.
The AudioCodes Mediant 1000B M1KB is a fully modular and highly flexible all-purpose telephony solution for organizations of all sizes, particularly midsize or larger. Its robust PBX features can keep your branches connected to the head offices at all times. However, the M1KB not that efficient a PBX solution for small businesses and any organization not running Microsoft Lync.
Digium R800 Review
The Digium R800 is an analog failover appliance for IP PBX systems. The R800 provides failover capabilities for POTS (plain old telephone service) lines and supports up to eight PSTN (public switched telephone network) connections.
This PBX phone service system serves as a gateway between legacy analog telephone networks and packet-switched PBX solutions. In addition, it also supports a secondary redundant IP server for ensuring that your organization's connection to outside lines never fails. The R800 has a 1U design and, therefore, can sit on a single rack mount. It is 1.72 inches tall, 5.85 inches long and 15 inches deep. In case you prefer not to mount it on a rack, the Digium R800 also comes with the brackets required to mount it on a wall. The actual hardware weighs a little over 3 pounds. It has eight ports for PSTN circuits, three USB ports and 32 ports for analog telephone connections.
The USB ports on the Digium R800 are for connecting to the main and backup PBX servers. The failover equipment draws its power from these USB ports. To provide a fully redundant PBX phone system, the R800 connects to the primary and standby servers at all times. With lines from public telephone networks connected to the R800, the equipment routes all calls to the primary server but also keeps a secondary connection to the standby server. A software constantly monitors the primary server for signs of hardware and software failure. In the event of a failure, the Digium R800 moves all PSTN connections over to the standby server. The transfer occurs within seconds and ensures uninterrupted business communication.
Both Digium R800 servers run the Asterisk operating system. This is a Linux-based PBX operating system. Although Digium created and still sponsors the operating system, Asterisk is a free open-source telephony software. Resellers may install other Asterisk-based PBX software, such as FreePBX, on the Digium R800.
While Asterisk allows you to modify and add new features to the failover equipment, it also requires that you have the know-how to do so without compromising your entire communication network. Furthermore, although Asterisk runs the servers, you need third-party applications to unlock certain features. For example, third-party applications monitor the health of the primary server and mirror Asterisk configuration files between both servers. This means that you have to add the price of third-party Asterisk applications and long-term support for them to the cost of owning the R800.
The Digium R800 creates a physical layer failover for analog and digital telephony connections. It can keep your business communications system going when a PBX server fails. However, it only works with Asterisk servers, and its automatic failover feature depends on third-party applications.
Edgewater EdgeMarc 4570 Review
The Edgewater EdgeMarc 4570 is an ESBC, or enterprise session border controller, for small and medium-sized businesses. It connects, optimizes, monitors and protects IP-based communications, including IP PBX systems.
The PBX system comes in a metallic rectangular box with a 1U chassis. It measures 9.25 x 6.5 x 1.75 inches and weighs 2 pounds. To adequately bridge analog and digital telephony systems with IP networks, the EdgeMarc 4570 has four Ethernet LAN ports, one Ethernet WAN port, eight FXS ports for analog phone lines and a DB9 console port. It also has two USB ports and comes with a 12-volt external power brick. It can support up to 30 concurrent WAN calls, enough for small or midsized offices. When the wireless internet access fails, it automatically reroutes VoIP calls locally or over public telephone networks. At all times, the device prioritizes data traffic for VoIP calls.
As an enterprise session border controller, the EdgeMarc 4570 connects your business's communications infrastructure with the internet, a PBX phone system and session initiation protocol (mainly used for voice and video calls as well as instant messaging) trunk service providers. It can serve as a bridge for digital and analog phone services and the foundation of your organization's unified communications platform.
This all-in-one IP box also provides a single management console and a web-based graphical user interface. It packs multiple security features for keeping your business communications secure. Some of these security measures are password encryption, a firewall that inspects data packets without lowering the quality of VoIP calls, denial of service protection and AES encryption.
The PBX phone system boasts a number of basic and advanced call features. These include call waiting, hold and transfer, conferencing, caller ID, fax support, and passive call monitoring. However, in its basic configuration, this multipurpose telephony appliance only supports a maximum of eight concurrent WAN calls. You have to pay additional licensing fees to upgrade it to support 15 and 30 simultaneous calls. In addition to licensing fees, extending the capacity of the EdgeMarc 4570 means paying for modules that let you add more phone lines.
While the Edgewater EdgeMarc 4570 securely ties analog phone systems, PBX systems and IP services in one easily managed platform, it cannot be scaled to meet the needs of large organizations. Even for small and medium-sized businesses, extending the limited capacity of the standard model of the EdgeMarc 4570 can be costly.
Elastix NLX4000 Review
The Elastix NLX4000 is a unified communications server designed to deliver IP PBX to medium and large businesses. It supports both hardware VoIP phones and softphones.
The equipment has a 1.5U design. This means that it is 1.5 times as tall as a standard 19-inch server rack. It is 2.64 inches tall, 17.32 inches wide and 14.65 inches long, and it weighs 9.5 pounds. The NLX4000 comes in an orange chassis with Elastix branding. It has an LCD display on its front panel as well as a removable hard drive bay. The bay houses a 2.5-inch 500GB SATA hard drive, but you can also add a second 500GB hard drive in a RAID 1 configuration.
This PBX system runs a dual-core processor clocked at 1.86GHz and packs 4GB DDR3 RAM. It has two USB ports, two Gigabit Ethernet network interfaces, up to 48 FXO and FXS analog ports to connect to POTS and PSTN networks, and up to four T1 ports. It supports up to 300 phones and up to 120 concurrent calls. In addition to providing hard drive redundancy, the Elastix NLX4000 has an optional redundant power supply to keep the equipment going in the event of primary power failure.
The NLX4000 runs the 32-bit version of the Elastix PBX operating system, but it is also compatible with the 64-bit version of the software. Elastix is Asterisk-based PBX software and, like Asterisk, free open-source software. This software makes it possible to integrate multiple telephony systems with the Elastix NLX4000. It also enables advanced PBX features such as call forwarding, least-cost routing, extension roaming, voicemail and virtual conference rooms. In all, the NLX4000 provides over 100 basic and advanced PBX configurations. You can add new features and extend the functionality of the PBX equipment with third-party software. There are over 30 such programs in the Elastix add-ons marketplace.
The free and open-source operating system of the Elastix NLX4000 is its major strength and flaw. On one hand, it reduces the cost of the PBX equipment and allows you to build features tailored to your organization's specific needs. However, the hidden cost of this open-source software is its third-party add-on program. Third-party add-ons offer desirable features not provided by Elastix and are usually not free. In addition, lack of long-term support for third-party add-ons may make it hard to successfully implement the advanced PBX features they promise.
The Elastix NLX4000 is an enterprise-grade telephony solution that consolidates analog and digital phone lines. However, its heavy reliance on third-party software can quickly make it a costly PBX solution.
Grandstream UCM6510 Review
The Grandstream UCM6510 is an enterprise-grade IP PBX system for companies, retail outlets and apartment complexes. It not only combines voice, video, data and fax applications, but also hosts security and surveillance solutions.
The unit weighs 4.8 pounds and measures 17 x 7.3 x 1.7 inches. You can mount this PBX equipment on a rack or place it on a tabletop. It has a dot-matrix LCD with a resolution of 128 x 32 pixels on its front panel. Also found on the front panel are a USB port, an SD card slot, two FXS ports, and two FXO ports for analog and PSTN phone lines. The unit also has a T1/E1/J1 port, three Gigabit Ethernet ports and LED indicators for each of these ports.
The PBX phone system runs on a quad-core Cortex-A9 processor with a clock speed of 1GHz and also comes with 1GB DDR3 RAM and 32GB flash storage. At peak performance, the ARM processor may struggle with keeping up.
For software, the Grandstream UCM6510 runs Asterisk, a free open-source PBX operating system from Digium Inc. It supports up to 2,000 PBX phones and can easily serve as a unified communications platform for big organizations. The system also supports up to 200 concurrent calls and up to eight remote teleconference sites for a maximum of 64 attendees. For videoconferencing needs, this IP PBX equipment supports major voice and video codecs and packs carrier-grade line echo cancellation. In addition, it offers strong software and hardware-based security for IP traffic, including defense against malicious attacks.
The web-based user interface makes it easy to set up and run the equipment. It automatically discovers and provisions IP and video phones and IP security cameras. Businesses with multiple offices around the globe can also set up their employees' smartphones and laptops as softphones with the IP PBX hardware. This mobility feature, as well as the advanced PBX features such as call recording, call routing, five-layer auto attendant and voicemail, comes standard with the equipment. Grandstream offers free lifetime firmware updates for the UCM6510 and does not charge licensing or subscription fees for the device's advanced features.
The Grandstream UCM6510 is a robust IP PBX solution and a well-featured all-around telephony system for businesses of all sizes. However, the manufacturer provides only a short two-year warranty for the UCM6510.
The Rhino Ceros 3U is customizable IP PBX equipment that runs open-source software. It has an unmarked chassis and weighs 25 pounds.
This PBX system measures 5.25 x 17 x 13.5 inches and comes in an all-black design. It has a removable top lid, and on its front panel, it has an aluminum plate, a five-button keypad and an LCD display that resellers and organizations can customize with their names. In addition to being mountable on a rack, it can sit on a table and mount on a wall. It has a washable air filter, two internal fans keeping it cool, rubber bumper feet and mounting brackets.
The Rhino Ceros 3U is available in different configurations. However, the base configuration has an Intel Core motherboard, 500 SATA hard drive, 1GB DDR3 RAM and a 400-watt power brick. This base model can easily serve as a small-business PBX system. You can upgrade the Ceros' storage to a 1TB hard drive or a solid-state drive. Memory upgrade tops out at 32GB DDR3 RAM, and you can add an optional, hot-swappable 400-watt power supply.
Port selection on this PBX phone system includes six USB ports as well as PS2, VGA, DVI, HDMI and audio ports, plus an integrated 10/100/1000 NIC port. With these input ports, you can attach an external monitor, a mouse and a keyboard to the unit and also deploy it as an IP PBX system.
Rhino preloads the Ceros 3U with AsteriskNow, free open-source PBX software based on Linux. However, the company will also install any Asterisk-based Linux distribution of your choice. The three other such operating systems offered for the Rhino Ceros 3U are FreePBX, PBX in a Flash and Elastix. These software programs help your organization build your own unified communications platform and managed telephony networks with custom features.
While these open-source Asterisk-based operating systems are free and make it possible to add new features to the Rhino Ceros 3U, they also require constant updates and tweaking. Therefore, Ceros may be a ready-to-go PBX solution, but customizing it for your organization's needs means that you need to know how to use Asterisk and be familiar with deploying back-end software for PBX installations. In addition, while you can get core PBX features for free from these Linux-based software programs, add-ons, custom features and hardware support are not always free and may end up costing more than paid bespoke PBX software.
The Rhino Ceros 3U is a full-featured PBX system with a rich port selection and customizable hardware and software. However, it is not available directly from the manufacturer and runs an open-source operating system. Therefore, you may end up paying extra for third-party support and advanced PBX features.
RockBochs PhoneBochs RBBM-00 Review
The RockBochs PhoneBochs RBBM-00 Mini Telephony Appliance is a small VoIP PBX system for small businesses. The RBBM-00 is the base model of a trio of PhoneBochs PBX equipment that also includes the standard and premium models.
The PBX system has a heavy-duty cold-rolled steel chassis covered in black wet-look paint with texture coat. It has a blue front panel with two USB 2.0 ports. There are four other USB 2.0 ports at the back of the PBX equipment as well as two PS2 ports, one VGA port, one LAN port and three audio jacks. The RBBM-00 also has a Realtek 10/100/1000 NIC card and a half-length PCI slot. The Gigabit NIC card allows the RBBM-00 to integrate with any data network. However, the PCI slot only accepts Sangoma digital telephone cards. The RBBM-00 may look small, but it can take up to eight FXO and FXS analog lines and up to two T1 lines.
Inside the chassis, there is an Intel motherboard, a dual-core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.6GHz, 1GB DDR2 RAM, and an 80GB, 3.5-inch SATA hard drive. RockBochs offers hard drive upgrades to equip the RBBM-00 with your choice of 160GB, 250GB, 500GB and 1TB hard drives. In addition, you can double the size of the RBBM-00's memory. Hardware is not the only part of this PBX system that you can customize. RockBochs preloads it with your choice of Asterisk-based PBX operating system. The choices are Elastix, FreePBX, FreeSWITCH, Trixbox CE and PBX in a Flash.
All of these programs are free open-source software for running PBX applications on dedicated hardware such as the RBBM-00. They allow small businesses to add the basic and advanced features in order to build bespoke PBX phone systems. However, to build a robust PBX solution with these open-source software programs, you must be familiar with them enough to install, run and troubleshoot your PBX network with no help from the manufacturer. RockBochs does provide support, but it charges for this support by the hour. Furthermore, the PhoneBochs RBBM-00 ships with free software, but you still have to pay for third-party applications to get the best out of it.
The RockBochs PhoneBochs RBBM-00 is a miniature telephony hardware for small businesses that need VoIP PBX solutions. However, it cannot support more than 50 employees, and even though it runs free open-source software, any advanced features and support may end up being costly.
The Sangoma Vega 50 Media Gateway is a bridging appliance that sits between legacy telephony equipment and IP networks. It is available in different configurations, with two to 10 analog or BRI ports.
This PBX phone service system connects analog, ISDN and PBX phones, as well as public switched telephone networks to packet-switched data networks. The device measures 11.8 x 1.75 x 9.33 inches and weighs 2.24 pounds. Port selection depends on the configuration you order.
Sangoma offers the box with two, four or eight BRI ports; four or eight FXO ports; and two FXO ports with four or eight FXS ports. In models with FXO and FXS ports, the FXO ports act as hard-wired bypasses that take over PSTN calls during power failure. In addition, each BRI port can connect to a PSTN or PBX phone system. Therefore, the Vega 50 can connect to PBX and ISDN systems at the same time.
This simultaneous connection removes the need to reconfigure the IP equipment you already have while installing the Vega 50. In addition, it gives you multiple choices for call routing, and you can choose the lowest cost option as the default routing pathway. However, choosing between the 12 possible configurations of the Vega 50 can be difficult, especially if the communication needs of your business change regularly.
The PBX appliance works with a wide range of IP equipment and supports up to eight VoIP channels. Therefore, it can serve as an IP PBX system for a small business or a branch office. As VoIP equipment, it supports both SIP and the H.323 codec along with the three major audio codecs used in teleconferencing systems. It also supports fax and modem.
When used to make IP calls, it provides caller ID presentation and screening. For calls coming through the FXS ports, the call features include call waiting, call forward, call transfer, music on hold, three-way conference, visual and audible message-waiting indicator, and do not disturb. You can also quickly provision phone lines and configure your PBX terminals from the web-based graphical user interface of the Vega 50.
The Sangoma Vega 50 Media Gateway is an all-in-one telephony system that binds analog and digital phone lines to SIP, PBX and IP networks. However, it can only serve small and midsized businesses.
The Xorcom XR1-12 is a modular VoIP PBX system based on Asterisk. It can serve as a complete IP PBX solution for a small business or an office branch connected to a corporate headquarters.
This PBX system has a small chassis and takes up no more than a 1U (rack unit) space on a standard server rack. You can also mount it on a wall. It weighs 1.77 to 3.3 pounds depending on the model you select.
This enterprise PBX equipment has an Intel Atom processor with a clock speed of 1.8GHz and packs 2GB RAM, a 16GB solid-state drive, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port and four USB 2.0 ports. Besides USB, its port selection varies from one configuration to another with different combinations of FXO, FXS and BRI ports. FXS and FXO are ports used by POTS (plain old telephone service) analog phone lines, while BRI ports connect ISDN lines to PBX equipment. The Xorcom XR1-12 has up to eight BRI ports and up to 16 FXO and FXS ports. It can be used by organizations with 50 or fewer employees, and it can handle up to five concurrent calls. These capabilities show that the XR1-12 cannot serve for big organizations or busy businesses with high call rates.
The Xorcom XR1-12 runs a free open-source PBX operating system known as Asterisk and a Linux distribution. It ships with version 11 of Asterisk and version 5 of CentOS. CentOS is a free, community-supported Linux operating system for running free open-source enterprise software such as Asterisk. Asterisk is open-sourced software for PBX systems. The XR1-12 is also available with other free open-source, Asterisk-based operating systems such as Elastix and FreePBX.
There are advantages and disadvantages to deploying this PBX solution on free open-source software. Doing this makes it possible to add new features as well as customize the software for your organization's specific needs. However, all of these require that you have the technical know-how to successfully install, run and manage Asterisk, CentOS, FreePBX and Elastix.
Secondly, these software programs may be free, but the third-party add-ons that unlock advanced PBX features are not usually free. Therefore, it is possible to spend a lot more on fleshing out the basic PBX software that ships with the Xorcom XR1-12 than it would cost to buy a PBX phone system with proprietary software and a specific set of features.
The Xorcom XR1-12 is a small-business PBX system for aggregating analog phone lines into an IP PBX network. However, you cannot provision it for more than 50 employees or send more than five calls through it at the same time.