Businesses have been transitioning to IP phone systems for the last 10 years. In our office we have used an IP phone system since we opened our doors in 2002. The problem in bringing IP Telephony to hotels has been the complexity of all the integrations (PMS, POS, etc.) that need to function on site. Business IP phone providers were not interested in a more complex environment and the traditional phone system providers made money off hardware so transitioning to IP would result in a loss of revenue. Like all technology, things are changing.
IP Telephony can have several options and thus mean different things to different people. An IP phone system is a true IP connection internally and externally. Guestrooms can remain analog phones (preferred) or be changed to IP phones. Administration desk phones become standard IP phones. All functionality can be hosted locally on site (in the brains, a.k.a CPE) or in the cloud. Most important, the hotel can use any carrier services including PRI, T1, analog lines, or SIP.
What has changed?
The first companies to enter this space simply lacked the experience to make a positive impact. Early adopters jumped on the opportunity to save money but the savings were not always the reality. Like any technology, there were bugs to be worked out. The industry also lacked legitimate competition in both providers and support. If you didn’t like the provider because of the equipment or poor support, your choices for changing were extremely limited. At this time franchises were not on board either. Most took a wait and see approach which was smart since so much was changing with no real proven track record.
Fast forward to 2011, now we have both the competition and developing maturity to make an impact. The technology has developed creating a very vanilla deployment meaning that a majority of the equipment on site is generic (Cisco, HP, etc) which can be replaced by the property or on the open market. The onsite equipment now interfaces with the necessary hardware and software on site. Perhaps the biggest impact has been the entry of the traditional phone vendors in the space. With the phone vendors on board and embracing the change (they’ve seen their traditional hardware revenues fall and don’t want to be left behind) properties now have multiple support options no matter who they choose as their provider.
Why an IP PBX?
The most important reason an IP PBX would be considered in cost. IP phone systems cost less to install upfront (by 30 percent to 60 percent) and because all of the equipment on site is generic, the ongoing cost to maintain the system is much less expensive. Just consider the fact that you are moving from proprietary pieces and parts to a system in which you can buy a component at Best Buy or online at Amazon. More vanilla equipment means more competition which means lower costs. One additional cost savings is the ability with an IP PBX to choose any carrier service available which again increases your options and lowers your monthly cost. This may allow you to either use the money for a larger internet connection or afford you the opportunity to leverage your services to lower your monthly bill.
Depending on your current phone system most of your features and functionality will stay the same with an IP PBX on site (voice usage itself hasn’t changed much). There are obvious operational advantages such as movement of phones without reprograming and remote assistance. You also can take advantage of operational improvements such as the ability to put the main number in the cloud which gives you additional redundancy and capability to route calls off property without tying up lines or facilities on property.
Voice is generally a straight expense so don’t confuse our IP PBX blog with a recomendation to buy a new phone system. As always, know your options. More and more companies are competing in this space and we’ve found a few who can make a significant impact with their business model and expertise. So when your current system does crash or the cost to maintain it becomes too high, an IP PBX is an option you should consider.