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PBX Alive & Well

Posted on 29/08/2013

There will always be a place for the tried and trusted PBX, in an ever-evolving comms world where the Cloud and hosted solutions continue to gain market share. Head of Category Sales at Nimans, Paul Burn, says the humble PBX has stood the test of time despite many modern challengers to its throne. 

“As a business we continue to diversify to offer our customers a complete spectrum of hardware and software-based solutions but the telecoms industry is like many other sectors, it’s not an all or nothing conversation,” he emphasised. 

“Predicting it will completely go one way or another simply isn’t going to happen. I recall when Centrex came out many years ago, there were the same arguments we are having now about the PBX. There are all sorts of factors which determine market trends – architecture of the technology, where it needs to be situated and the overall cost implications. 

“At the moment I see no reason to doubt that there is always going to be a place for traditional PBX’s. We’re still shipping relatively healthy numbers of analogue switches each month. There’s a long rocky road between that and the IP PBX or cloud-based systems. There’s a mix of technologies and industries to consider. In reality is a guy who owns a car garage who has three extensions ever going to embrace the Cloud? For me it isn’t going to happen. Of course it’s going to be more prevalent, but only in certain environments.” 

Burn says there is now much more choice for resellers and their customers to consider than ever before. He continued: “This probably makes it slightly more confusing for end users. Before they had a choice of PBX’s but now there’s a choice of PBX’s and a platform of other options involving how integrated communication can be delivered.

“The same levels of complication could also apply to resellers but I think in reality the most successful ones tend to specialise in certain areas rather than being all things to all men. They have to choose their horse to ride. Ultimately the end user is driven and influenced by who they speak to and who is the best at selling a particular type of technology.”

Resellers continue to expand their portfolios but it often comes down to what they are running their companies for, according to Burn. “Are they running it to build a base to sell on or is it a lifestyle business? All of these will dictate the type of technologies they sell. Minutes and maintenance or recurring revenues; it depends where their skills, objectives and customers operate. As I’ve said before, hosted isn’t going to be for everyone.

“There are so many boxes to tick in terms of today’s technology. The technology itself is a delivery method. Resellers have to look at what clothes best fit their business – and what their customers require. There are no right and wrong answers. It’s not just black and white.”

Burn concluded: “The market will always drive choice. It’s where you draw the line. I’m sure there will be something new around the corner to blur the picture even more. In this industry we are always hearing about the next big thing. Ten years ago it was all about IP with no more digital devices, but that’s not how it evolved because that’s not how the end user wanted it. Everything is driven by the speed of adoption. It’s not driven by what technology is capable of doing. It’s driven by the desire to use it by the end user.”

Hosted and IP PBX platforms should be viewed as complementary rather than competing technologies, according to Burn who says meeting the needs of customers should always be the number one priority.

“There are arguments good and bad in both camps but it’s vital for a reseller to have the choice. An end user buying technology often likes to see what they are getting. Deploying an actual solution which they own and equipment that they have is a strong case for an IP PBX. Some companies are still nervous about reliance on a data infrastructure in a hosted environment. I think there’s an awful lot more features available on an IP PBX and more flexibility. If you talk about routing patterns and being able to control what’s happening on the PBX and the ability to dynamically change them in-house, via their IT Manager for example, they are in control.

“Hosted can also work very well. If you have lots of different applications and are paying individually for those then the cost can soon escalate. But bandwidth is key in a hosted environment. Depending on how many calls are being deployed dictates how much bandwidth is needed and falling costs make this much more attractive.”

Burn emphasised: “They are not necessarily rivals, they can both sit together. It should be an ‘as and when’ scenario for a reseller - one solution when it suits and the other when it suits. It’s not a competing one. There are very few resellers only selling one or the other. The key is to understand your customer’s needs and fit the right solution. At the end of the day in many ways the product is irrelevant. The only criteria is what the customer wants to happen in their business and how technology can help make that happen. It’s about identifying how their best needs are suited now and also in the future. It’s using technology to match their needs not making them match the technology.”

Nimans is enjoying particular success with its exclusive iQ PBX platform that’s ideally suited to novice and experienced resellers. Burn explained: “All systems are developing their fixed mobile convergence message, IP data integration and Lync integration. But as the iQ PBX uses Asterisk-based open standards that’s very attractive to the data market because it’s very much speaking their language in their language. It takes us into markets that not all other products can.”

He added: “Ultimately if you are going to install a system onto a customer’s network then it can be a tricky process. As soon as you are working with their firewall and messing with their security and involved in their e-mail it’s not easy. We recognise that it’s complicated if you are competent and it can get out of hand if you are not sure what you are doing – or engaging with partners that do.

“That’s why we place particular emphasis on helping partners not fall into any obvious traps - so they are not deploying any bad solutions and not giving products a bad name and eroding customer confidence.

“We have our own training academy that allows them to hone their skills on a free basis. Critical elements to arm resellers with enough skills to be able to sell these solutions is our main objective.”

As for the future, Burn concluded: “I think eventually we will see an amalgamation of a standard PBX with Cloud-based services. You will have the flexibility of applications in The Cloud but the resilience of a PBX on site. The best of both worlds.”

eCommerce by: Cohesion Digital