HomeBusiness DigestThe essentials of office telephony

The essentials of office telephony

THERE are a number of things one must consider before buying a private automatic branch exchange (PABX). There are many types of PABXs, with various capacities and an assortment of features, but most are commonly classified as analogue PABXs, from yesteryear technology; Internet Protocol PABXs (IP-PABXs) from the recent past; and the most modern being Unified Communication Servers (UCS). All work depending on requirements, which is why it is critical to ensure you have the correct specifications from the beginning. Here are top-five tips to consider when buying a PABX for your organisation.

Size of the PABX

The size of the PABX translates to the number trunk lines like TelOne, GSM or VoIP (or a combination of lines) and number of extensions for staff. Some PABX systems will allow for the connection of TelOne lines only, while some can connect to technologies listed above.

Deciding the number of extensions will depend on a number of users in the office who require constant telephone connectivity. For example, the administration department would generally require more extensions than the factory, where one extension can be shared by a number of people. Future growth prospects of the organisation must also be considered, meaning the PABX system must be scalable, in terms of extensions, lines and other features.

Future upgrades

Scalability of the PABX is an important factor to decide what PABX to buy. There are PABX models which can be upgraded to a certain number of trunk lines and extensions, voice mail, auto-attendants, mobile extensions, least-cost routing, advert-on-hold, etc.

The cost of upgrade varies depending on the upgrade required. So, one should consider up-gradation costs carefully and ask for the costs as options, to get a clear picture. For any organisation which is growing, it is advisable to buy a scalable PABX, which can then be installed with expansion cards as the needs of the business grows.


Price is a very important factor to decide on what PABX to buy. However, if the correct PABX specifications have been accurate, as recommended in our first article, it becomes easy comparing quotations, in fact, as easy as comparing oranges and apples! (You can view the first article from info@standardglobal.co.zw).

One should never compromise the quality of a PABX system in order to choose the cheapest with less features than required, as it is the heart of communications for the organisation. There are many auxiliary costs with PABX systems like wiring, power supply back-up, battery, rack, etc. In addition, one should also consider maintenance costs and after-sales service before deciding on purchasing one.

Choice of PABX supplier

Purchasing a PABX is a long-term investment — generally a minimum of 10 years. Get your equipment from a professional, experienced and authorised distributor of a PABX manufacturer, ensuring access to genuine warranty on hardware and software upgrades.

To eliminate fly-by-night, “PABX experts”, ask for the Authorised Dealership Certificate from the PABX manufacturer, VAT Clearance Certificate from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and PABX Dealer Licence from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and at least three customer reference letters. Remember, communication is key to the success of your organisation.

Features of a PABX

Modern businesses require an integrated communication solution that is easily expandable and can grow with the growing communication needs of the organisation. Furthermore, features that help in efficient call management and reduction of telephone bills are a must. Some of the features readily available on modern PABXs include:

VoIP: This feature allows the carrying of voice traffic using data networks, especially for organisations that have offices located at different sites. Thus, telephone calls to the other branches are made free of charge if internet connectivity is available;

Least-cost routing: This unique function is designed using structured programming, selects the most cost-effective trunk from the allotted lines like PSTN (landline), GSM (mobile) and VoIP, to make the cheapest possible outgoing calls, to any destination local and international, resulting in major call savings.
GSM connectivity: Allows for instant communication by connection of GSM lines on the PABX using GSM expansion cards, especially where no landlines are available or are prone to vandalism.

Auto-attendant and voice mail system: This feature allows the optional automatic answering of telephone calls and routing them to desired extensions, relieving pressure on the switchboard operator.

In addition, external callers can leave messages for your staff and staff can leave messages for each other, ensuring messages are captured accurately.

Telephone recording: This feature is for recording and archiving of all business telephone conversations for customer service, training and security reasons, as well as reviewing these recordings as and when required.

Use your own device: Forget cordless phones! Now you can go wireless with your GSM phone as an office extension, from anywhere in the world, as long as internet access is available.

Telephone management software: Helps effectively manage telephone usage, capturing records of dialled numbers, by what extension, department, when, costs per call, etc, and generates consolidated reports; holding every user accountable.

Call budgeting: Allows for allocation of call budget for every extension in order to control usage.Advert-on-hold port: Allows for connection of studio-recorded audio marketing messages about the organisation, to callers on-hold, waiting to be connected on the phone.

Hotel and hospital features: These are customised comprehensive hotel or hospital features built into the system.

In conclusion, we hope you make the right decision when investing in one of the most important business tools, a PABX.

This article is published by Standard Global Communications (SGC). The company has been deploying telecoms and llectronic security solutions in Zimbabwe for over 20 years. SGC offers free consultation, designs, deploys and provides after-sales support. Our flexible and scalable solutions help reduce telephone costs, while increasing operational efficiency at an affordable cost. For inquiries or more information, questions and comments on this article, please call +263 24 2790 791-5, Cell +263 772 875 577, e-mail info@standardglobal.co.zw or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or visit www.standardglobal.co.zw for more info or to download this article.

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