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The Top PBX, PABX and IPBX Phone Systems for Small Businesses 2023

The Top PBX, PABX and IPBX Phone Systems for Small Businesses 2023

Efficient communication is crucial for businesses, regardless of their size. With technological progress, phone systems have undergone substantial development. From the conventional Private Branch Exchange (PBX) to the advanced Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) and Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange (IPBX), each presents distinctive, cutting-edge features that enhance business communication to a higher level of ease and convenience. The question remains: Which option suits your business needs most effectively? 

If you have a phone line set up or are utilizing a VoIP system, you might be seeking a solution for swift and effortless call transfers between phones. In such instances, your attention is likely to be drawn to a communication system known as an “exchange.” This system facilitates efficient call routing and redirection. 

What is PBX? 

PBX, which stands for Private Branch Exchange, is a telecommunication system employed within organizations to facilitate call routing between internal phones. Additionally, it permits multiple users to access a predetermined number of external phone lines. This arrangement ensures that while one user is engaged in a call, whether internal or external, other users can access available phone lines. 

This system is commonly known as a PABX or private automatic branch exchange. In its basic configuration, traditional PBX systems require a dedicated operator to handle call answering and transferring between handsets. 

PABX systems introduce an extra control unit that manages the system’s operations. This control unit often requires connection to an external computer or laptop, equipped with specialized software. PABX integration with VoIP technology is also on the rise. 

Benefits of a PBX System for Small Businesses: 

1. Improved Internal Communications: A PBX system enhances internal calls by keeping them within your premises, eliminating the need for external routing. This not only simplifies communication but also proves cost-effective. 

2. Centralized Control: Utilizing a single number for incoming calls centralizes control. You can manage incoming calls efficiently without requiring multiple phone lines or numbers. 

3. Efficient Automation: PBX systems offer automated options, like menu selections for specific purposes. This feature reduces the need for receptionists and can include direct extension dialing. 

4. Flexible Call Routing: PBX systems enable dynamic call routing. For instance, you can redirect calls to another location when you’re away from your desk, ensuring you don’t miss important calls. 

5. Customized Access Levels: The PBX software allows you to establish varying access levels for different extensions, enhancing security and privacy. 

6. Call Cost Tracking: The system logs all incoming and outgoing calls, providing insights into call expenses, aiding in effective cost management. 

7. Enhanced Customer Impressions: Familiarity with PBX systems creates a positive customer impression, as they are accustomed to menu-driven call handling. 

8. VoIP Integration: Modern PBX systems can integrate with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), enabling calls to be delivered directly to office handsets, bypassing traditional phone networks. 

9. Low-Maintenance Solution: Easy to install and maintain, PBX systems are simple yet effective, minimizing downtime and eliminating the need for costly technicians. 

10. Cloud-Based Advantages: Hosted PBX services offer features for small businesses. Features like call rerouting to mobiles ensure no vital calls are missed even when your team is on the move. 

While PBX systems bring multiple advantages, it’s important to consider potential drawbacks. Initial costs and maintenance requirements might be factors. However, the enduring benefits and returns on investment make it a sound business decision. Expert installation and maintenance may be necessary for PABX systems to ensure uninterrupted functionality. 

Incorporating a PBX system demands a clear understanding of its potential benefits and associated considerations. The investment, although substantial, is poised to yield lasting advantages for your small business. 

PBX and PABX Systems 

In the realm of PBX and PABX, two distinct systems are available for consideration: 

– Hosted PBX: This consists of a provider hosting the PBX at their central exchange or facility, granting your business cloud-based access. Notably, this option often incurs no initial setup costs or installation charges. 

– On-Premise PBX: With this approach, the PBX system is hosted on-site within your premises. This demands higher upfront setup expenses and necessitates the procurement of equipment. However, over the long term, it can prove more cost-effective and provides enhanced control over the system’s management. 

In scenarios where analog phone lines are in use, a small business can employ a traditional PBX phone system. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that the traditional phone line landscape is evolving, suggesting a potential shift from conventional practices. 

PBX System Costs and Providers 

The expenses associated with implementing a PBX system hinge on whether you’re opting for an on-premises setup or a hosted, VoIP, or cloud-based PBX system. 

For on-site solutions, particularly suitable for small businesses with the capacity to manage substantial upfront expenditures for installation and equipment, it’s crucial to factor in maintenance costs as well. 

The overall cost of a PBX system is also influenced by the intricacy of your requirements. A call center, for instance, necessitates a system adept at handling high call volumes. 

When evaluating pricing for a PBX system, it’s essential to factor in the costs associated with phones and equipment. Here’s a breakdown of estimated costs for different types of PBX phones: 

1. Basic PBX Phone: 

   – Price Range: £25 to £50 

   – Features: Headset support, Speaker, Monochrome display, Contacts, Messages 

2. Standard PBX Phone System: 

   – Price Range: £50 to £100 

   – Features: 100+ number phonebook, Hands-free functionality, Caller ID, One-touch memory, 10 number redial 

3. Complex or Advanced PBX Phone: 

   – Price Range: £100+ 

   – Features: 100+ number phonebook, Hands-free functionality, Caller ID, One-touch memory, 10 number redial 

These varying price ranges correspond to the features and capabilities offered by each type of PBX phone. The choice of phone should align with your specific communication needs and preferences. 

When assessing PBX provider costs, it’s common to encounter “price on application” due to the customized nature of these systems. Small businesses aim to balance minimal expenses with optimal system quality and functionality. 

Hosted systems offer flexibility, but on-premises PBX systems should not be dismissed outright, even for small businesses. 

The cost structure of hosted or cloud PBX systems usually includes: 

– A monthly fee per user 

– Usage charges, which can vary between unlimited calls and capped minutes, with a per-minute rate for exceeding caps. 

– User count, directly impacts monthly costs; hosted PBX solutions can scale up or down quickly. 

– Features and functions, with greater complexity resulting in higher costs. 

It’s worth noting that hosted PBX systems avoid: 

– Installation expenses 

– Onsite equipment charges 

– Maintenance costs, as these are managed by the hosting company. 

In addition to these factors, it’s essential to factor in equipment expenses (refer to the PBX phone costs table above) and the cost associated with obtaining a business phone number, such as a toll-free 0800 number. 

Here are details about several PBX systems: 

1. RINGCENTRAL On-premises PBX system: 

   – Pricing: Initial setup costs amount to £2,000. 

   – Inclusions: This package offers free training, configuration, software, and other valuable services. It caters to up to 20 employees. 

2. BT BUSINESS On-premises PBX system: 

   – Pricing: Starting from £1,400 (ex.VAT) for 5 to 2,000 users, and from £3,150 (ex.VAT) for 6 to 20,000 users. 

   – Notes: Additional equipment costs need to be factored in. BT Business is a reputable and reliable telecom provider known for its strong customer support. 

3. JUNO TELECOMS POA hosted and on-premises PBX systems: 

   – Pricing: Pricing available on request (POA). 

   – Notes: Juno Telecoms offers an informative website featuring a comparison guide, aiding businesses in selecting the best-suited solution. For on-site PBX systems, they work with NEC, Unify, Wildix, or Panasonic systems. 


   – Pricing: Plans start from £12.99 per user. 

   – Notes: Acefone’s offerings include unlimited calls, and over 70 features catering to customizable systems for small businesses. They provide a 30-day free trial period upon signup and flexible plans. 


   – Pricing: Packages begin at £15 per month, offering unlimited calls and a variety of features. Other plans are individually priced. 

   – Notes: CircleLoop is gaining prominence in the competitive telecoms sector. They provide flexible packages and a cloud-based PBX system. 


   – Pricing: Pricing available on request (POA). 

   – Notes: Elite Group specializes in technical solutions for small businesses, presenting bespoke hosted PBX systems as well as on-premises telephone systems. They are known for quality products, services, and customer support. 

7. GAMMA: 

   – Pricing: Pricing available on request (POA). 

   – Notes: Gamma, an award-winning company, tailors telephone systems for businesses of various sizes. They offer comprehensive, all-in-one services with expected features like call waiting, call diverting, and messaging services. 

8. YAY: 

   – Pricing: Plans commence at £3.49 per user, per month. 

   – Notes: Yay offers a spectrum of system complexities, with a commitment to deliver. They offer contract-free plans with scalability and provide insightful information on their website. 

9. Arrant Services: 

  – Pricing: $2,000. 

  – Notes: Arrant Services is a reliable provider known for strong customer support. Their package includes unlimited calls and a free trial period. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about PBX Systems 

1. What is PBX? 

PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. It refers to a system that can be either on-premises or hosted by a VoIP phone company. It enables users to manage calls, answer, and make them from multiple users. Essentially, it divides the phone line within a business into multiple channels, optimizing its usage. 

2. Why would a small business benefit from a PBX system? 

A PBX system offers several advantages for small businesses. Even with a limited team, incoming calls can overwhelm a single line. A PBX system offers features that customers expect, such as automated call diverting and personalized greetings. Employing a PBX system presents your business as organized and capable, enhancing customer confidence. 

3. How does PBX differ from VoIP? 

PBX, which stands for Private Branch Exchange, has undergone a transformative journey. It originated as external exchanges and later evolved into private, on-premises systems. In contrast, VoIP presents a cutting-edge solution that operates in the cloud. Unlike traditional PBX setups that often required substantial physical installations, VoIP sidesteps this need entirely. By leveraging the internet as the conduit for voice communication, VoIP introduces a flexible, cost-effective, and efficient approach that transcends the limitations of traditional PBX systems. This shift to the cloud not only optimizes implementation but also improves communication with features that cater to the demands of businesses and organizations. 

4. What is SIP trunking? 

SIP trunking stands for Session Initiation Protocol trunking. It serves as a technology that allows a PBX network to route and transmit calls via an Internet Protocol (IP) network. This modern communication method effectively bridges the gap between traditional telephony and digital advancements. By adopting SIP trunking, businesses can optimize their communication processes, as it facilitates the coherent management of voice, video, and messaging applications within a unified framework. This integration not only enhances operational efficiency but also paves the way for a more versatile and responsive communication ecosystem. 

5. What does IP PBX stand for? 

IP PBX stands for Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange. This sophisticated communication system serves as a crucial link, connecting internal telephone extensions within a business to the broader public switched telephone network. By harnessing the power of Internet Protocol (IP), IP PBX allows the smooth transmission of audio, video, and instant messaging communication. This convergence of communication channels not only enhances connectivity but also fosters efficient collaboration across various mediums. 

6. What is an analogue PBX? 

An analogue PBX, short for Analogue Private Branch Exchange, represents a conventional telecommunications system that operates using Plain Old Telephone Services (POTS) phones alongside copper wiring infrastructure. This system is characterized by its dependable voice quality and fundamental functionalities such as call hold, mute, and redial. It facilitates the transfer of calls between various extensions within an organization. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that the prominence of analogue PBX is anticipated to decline over the forthcoming decade. This projection is attributed to the ongoing technological evolution and the shift towards more advanced and digitally-driven communication solutions.

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