There are many different types of Telephone Systems.
These are briefly explained below. However, if you are a small to medium business you should focus on either a Hybrid Telephone System, an IP-based system, a hosted system or perhaps a software based telephone system although these latter two options are still in the vast minority.
Note that each type of system below has been given a general explanation. Each system will still vary in many ways such as ease of use, flexibility, modularity, longevity, functionality etc etc.
In the last few years, most of the systems we have been installing are hosted systems.
Analogue Telephone Systems
Businesses rarely install analogue telephone systems these days. Prior to 2000, analogue telephone systems were still installed in moderate numbers. These days, a business would only install an analogue system if they had the very most basic of requirements. This is the equivalent of buying the cheapest and most basic car on the market.
We very rarely install analogue telephone systems these days - sometimes if a business wanted maybe just one line and a couple of extensions, it may be an option to consider. Note that modern analogue telephone systems can have digital extension phones connected - confusing isn't it? Ring us as we wll explain.
An example of a current analogue telephone system would be a Panasonic KXT-E624. We are struggling to think of any others!
Digital Telephone Systems
Digital Telephone Systems have been popular now for small to medium sized businesses (ie up to 200 users) since about 1995. The term digital means that the telephone system is capable of connecting to a digital telephone line (ISDN) and can have proprietary digital telephones connected providing normally high numbers of features.
With the advent of IP and VoIP, digital systems have become a thing of the past over the last few years. In fact we can't think of any. When we think of some we will add them here.
Hybrid Telephone Systems
A hybrid telephone system gives the customer the most flexibility. A hybrid would normally allow you t o connect any type of line (analogue, ISDN, SIP/IP) and any type of extension (Digital, Analogue, IP phone, SIP phone etc). Arguably the Hybrid Telephone System is currently (2009) the most popular type.
An example of a hybrid system would be the AVAYA IP Office, Mitel MiVoice Office 250 or the Samsung OfficeSERV.
IP enabled Telephone Systems
IP based telephone systems are just that. The system is totally based around IP. Therefore, the customer will be forced to deploy IP telephones rather than digital telephones. Most IP based telephone systems can also allow analogue telephones to be connected (eg for faxes, audio conferencing units etc). We won't explain IP or VoIP here.
An example of an IP enabled system would be the Mitel MiVoice Business platform.
Hosted Telephone Systems
Hosted telephone systems are still relatively new. however, they are becoming more popular. Basically, you dont have a telephone system in your premises. You would have a connection to the internet (normally ADSL broadband) which forms the 'lines' to your premises. This connection would be conncted to a router on your computer network. You would then have IP telephones connected through your PC network switch.
Hosted systems tend to sound attractive financially and they can be. However, you need to ensure that you consider it wisely. We can help you decide if you are confused. Hosted systems are ideal for you if the size of your system may vary from time to time or if you have many users dispersed across multiple locations.
A hosted example would be Gamma Horizon - we install lots of these!
Software based Telephone Systems
These types of telephone systems are sold in such few numbers that we have never heard of a system being installed. An axample of a software based telephone system is Swyx or 3CX.
BT Feature Line
BT feature lines are analogue lines from BT that allow very basic telephone system functionality between them(ie transfer etc). BT Feature Lines are only really ideal for start-up businesses with 2 or 3 extensions.