Choosing whether to buy an on-premise phone system or sign up for cloud based business phone service is often a hard choice. Much depends on your business needs and the size of your organization and how many extensions you will require. If you have 12 or less employees or multiple small offices, then hosted business VoIP from a provider might be the best choice, however, if your company is larger or has existing traditional phone lines, a PRI (T1), then other variables need to be considered.
Open source Asterisk PBX software was what helped hosted cloud based phone companies become popular and affordable. The same open source Asterisk has now made new on-premise appliances affordable and popular.
One important item that precedes all others is your current carrier and if you have a contract. Do you want to switch or add other cost saving options? An Asterisk based PBX system can connect to any type of a telephone provider's service whether it's traditional copper phone lines, a PRI circuit or SIP/VoIP.
Just in the last three or so years, several manufacturers of Asterisk IP-PBX appliances have built systems that when matched with their own SIP based phones have become some of the best in-house unified communications phone systems available for the SMB market. Several of these companies have been well known for other products, like Grandstream, which has been making IP phones for quite some time and Sangoma, known for great gateway cards used in Asterisk installations (now owner of both FreePBX and Asterisk). Some companies are now recognizing that traditional manufacturers of PBXs are perhaps not worth the large cost compared with Asterisk based systems.
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Asterisk has proven to be extremely stable and with so many installations more and more people are hearing first hand that these systems are hard to beat. See some great examples:
If you are looking at a cloud based business phone (also known as hosted VoIP), you may be interested to learn its benefits. Benefits of a Cloud Based Phone System