One huge expense that most companies (small and large) have to absorb at one point or another is the cost of a phone system (PBX). PBX systems are extremely expensive (even systems that only support a few users can cost upwards of $10,000 USD).
As most companies rely on phone communications, this expense cannot be avoided. The benefits of having a PBX are numerous and necessary:
- A single phone number to reach all employees.
- A single phone number / fax number to put on business cards.
- Lower calling costs using voice over IP (VoIP).
- Get advanced statistics of phone usage.
- Configure auto attendants to route calls to the appropriate people.
- Allow employees to work remotely (even with their cell phones) and avoid the costs of renting office space.
- And much more…
So how can you save money for your company? Switch to Asterisk, the open source PBX.
What is Asterisk?
Asterisk is an extremely popular open source PBX system. It costs nothing, can be installed on almost any computer system, and is stable and reliable. Equally important is the fact that Asterisk has a large user base, a plethora of documentation, and tons of developers and consultants who can help you set it up (even if you aren’t a tech person) for cheap.
So let’s get down to business. Here are 5 ways that Asterisk can save your company money:
1. It’s Free
Obviously, the factor which drives most companies to ditch their current PBX is cost. Asterisk is free, and it is hard to justify paying $10,000 or more for a small office phone system when the competition offers better functionality, reliability, and costs nothing.
2. Avoid Licensing
With most commercial PBX systems, you have to buy into the licensing schemes that come with them. For example, check out the Shoretel PBX system price list (pdf) (effective Jan. 1st, 2010).
Look at those licenses. Every phone you want to hook up requires an extension license and voice-mail license. And it isn’t cheap, either.
My thought is: why pay recurring costs just to use a phone? You’ve already got to pay for phone service, why not only pay for your hardware, and be done with it?
With Asterisk, you’ll be paying only for your hardware. This usually includes:
- A decent server to install Asterisk on: ~500$ -> ~1,000$.
- VoIP phones for each employee: ~30$ -> ~100$.
If you want to add a new employee to the system and get a phone, no problem. Just buy another phone, and plug it into the network.
If you need to support video calls, no problem. Just purchase a video phone, and plug it into the network.
3. Make Your Company Portable
Let’s face it, traditional business is dying out. With high-speed internet widely available, there is no reason to have a centralized office. There is a continuously growing amount of new companies which are completely distributed.
There are a lot of benefits to running a distributed business. You have no office rental costs. You can hire better workers by selecting from a larger area (get the best expert in the US instead of the best expert in your city). And lots of other things.
Supporting remote workers couldn’t be easier in Asterisk. Just ship your employees a VoIP phone with the IP of your Asterisk PBX programmed in, and they’re instantly online. All they have to do is plug their phone into their network and they’re ready to work.
4. Custom Functionality
With traditional PBX systems, getting unique and custom functionality can be not only time consuming, but very expensive. And unfortunately, customizing PBX systems is a very common need for most companies.
Here are some custom features that companies like to request:
- Integrate with their CRM system.
- Integrate with their ticketing system.
- Send custom notices to management when things go wrong.
- After hours call escalation.
- Integrate with web chat and websites (click to call).
Obviously, things like the above require custom development. When dealing with large companies (Cisco, Avaya, Shoretel), custom development is insanely expensive.
Asterisk has an extremely active business community, filled with thousands of products specifically designed to work with Asterisk to add almost any functionality you can imagine to your PBX. Let’s say you want to have a queue system where callers call in, and the system calls them back automatically when it is their turn in line-there’s an app for that!
And if you can’t find an app for what you need, you can always build it yourself, or hire an Asterisk developer for cheap online.
5. Compete With the Big Players
Asterisk is a game changing tool for small and medium businesses. It allows your small company to operate like a large company, free.
Many small companies get stuck in the ‘small business syndrome’ where they never grow beyond a small market audience because their ‘presentation’ is small. When customers call your company, and hear a professional auto attendant, they instantly feel like they’re dealing with a professional, organized company. When customers call a business, and wait for 50 rings before hearing a choppy sounding answering machine, they are annoyed, frustrated, and far less likely to return.
Asterisk is a great tool for companies looking to save money, and improve their communications infrastructure. It has all the functionality (and more) that large PBX companies (Cisco, Avaya, Shoretel) advertise, and costs nothing.
If you want to learn more, check out Asterisk’s official website.