Open Standard Office Telephone System FAQ

This article contains short and simple introductory answers to a number of Frequently asked Questions concerning Open Standard Office Telephone systems. If you have additional questions please forward them to BNT using the Contact Us form.

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Disclaimer

The information provided here is intended to provide short and simple introductory information in response to your most common questions. This information does not constitute advice for any given customer. It may help you get a general idea of what you might be able to do or not do but is not intended to be complete enough to suit your specific needs.

If, after reading this document you have any comments or concerns about the wording or of any question or answer, or if you have any additional general questions, please take a moment to Contact Us.

You must not act or rely upon the information provided here without first discussing your specific needs and circumstances with a BNT Solutions representative.

Glossary

PBX An acronym meaning Private Branch Exchange. It's the brains of any telephone system.
PSTN The Public Standard Telephone Network. That's the system that the major telephone companies are running. It's the backbone that connects together all the phone systems of the world.
VOIP An acronym that means Voice over the Internet Protocol. It refers, in general, to digital telephone service. Telephone service, in general, has been digital for some time. The public internet has become so efficient in recent years that it's now possible to use it for telephone call routing. VOIP calls are often routed over the internet instead of going through the private networks that are operated by the major telephone companies.
SIP The name of the main Open Standard communications protocol that most modern telephone systems are built around. It's the language that the phones speak when they are talking with the PBX.

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General Questions

  • I have under 5 extensions in my office. Can I use your PBX instead of installing my own?

    Short Answer: It's possible!

    BNT Solutions offers hosted PBX service as well as remote PBX administration. The only issue to consider for Hosted PBX service is the performance of your internet connection. Two simultaneous conversations often work very well with common ADSL services.

  • Can I connect my existing land lines to an Open Standard PBX?

    Short Answer: Absolutely!

    • Adapters exist to connect Public Standard Telephone Network lines (PSTN) to SIP standard systems.
    • Adapters exist to connect standard analog phones to SIP standard systems.
  • My telephone system contract is up for renewal in two weeks. Can you help me scrap all my land-lines and switch to VOIP?

    Short Answer: This is often a bad idea.

    The technology is amazing and it's really easy to build a fantastic telephone system and install it in two weeks. It's also easy to setup VOIP services. The services might even pass stress tests with flying colors - even if they're not really reliable. So you can install a new system easily - then find yourself using your cell phone for important conversations!

    The problem is that your 10mbps internet service is probably nowhere near as reliable as you think it is. You might also have lots of traffic on your office network that you don't normally notice.

    A far better approach is to run tests at various times of the day for a few days to evaluate your network performance. You can then install a new system which initially uses your existing land-lines for the bulk of your call traffic. You can move the call traffic over to VOIP in stages. This allows you to verify the call quality after each change - and cancel land-lines that you are sure you no longer need.

  • I only have two lines. Can I scrap them and use only VOIP Lines?

    It's possible but not always advisable. VOIP systems should always have a backup available in case your internet service goes down.

  • Some of my employees work from home. Can they have extensions on my PBX?

    Short Answer: Absolutely!

    You can connect an extension to your system from almost anywhere in the world where there is high-speed internet service.

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  • Will my existing office phones work with an Open Standard PBX?

    • Adapters are available to allow you to connect your existing analog phones to an Open Standard PBX.
    • Phones that are part of a proprietary telephone system are rarely standards compliant. You will probably not be able to find any adapters to connect your proprietary phones to an Open Standard PBX.
  • Can I call out through my system while traveling?

    Short Answer: Absolutely!

    • You can connect an extension to your system from almost anywhere in the world where you have high-speed internet service.
    • You can call through a Mobile WiFi IP phone or VOIP software for your smart-phone or PC.
  • Can I receive calls through my Open Standard PBX system while traveling?

    Short Answer: Yes, in many ways!

    • Calls can be routed to your cell phone.
    • A mobile WiFi IP phone or VOIP software on your Smart Phone will ring if in range of a hot-spot.
    • IP Phones (such as your PC) can ring when connected to the internet.
  • Can I record calls using my Open Standard PBX?

    Short Answer: Yes but you probably won't want to.

    The technology included in an Open Standard PBX is able to record calls. Some customers will use this feature, for example, to record customer service calls that go through a call queue. However, in theory, any call can be recorded.

    In practice the call recording feature represents a massive load on your PBX. It cuts dramatically the number of concurrent calls that your PBX can handle. For this reason the feature is often disabled.

    Note that many jurisdictions have rules concerning the recording of phone calls. In some parts of the world such recordings constitute a crime. As such it is important that each user check with a local lawyer to determine what the local regulations allow and require before using the call recording feature.

    BNT Solutions does not restrict or control your use of your PBX service. It is your responsibility to use the service in accordance with any legal obligations and restrictions that apply to you.

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Costs & Savings

  • How much will an Open Standard PBX for my office cost?

    Short Answer: A lot less than you might expect:

    • There is a vast array of phones to choose from. As of mid-2011 prices are starting as low as $100 and averaging about $150 to $200 for many popular models. Estimate approximately $125 to $250 or so per extension + networking. For example: Let's say you need 25 extensions and you decide you like a model of phone that sells for $200. Let's also say that your office network is not very active and you are not expecting any network problems if the 25 extensions are connected to it. In this case you can estimate a total of $200 x 25 = $5000 for telephones.
    • Estimate $2k to $3k for the basic setup of a simple PBX with an automated attendant, a customer service queue and voicemail for each extension.
    • Feature setup and network issues, including battery backup, may add to the total cost of the system. You may need to install a separate ethernet network for your phone system if your current network is overloaded. You may also need to install a router with QOS functionality.
    • Large installations involving a significant number of simultaneous calls may require additional hardware and cabling to handle the call volume.
    • The cost of any VOIP services that you might want to use will depend on many factors. If your total number of minutes of VOIP usage per month is low you will probably just pay a flat fee for the VOIP services that you use. If your usage is high (ie: over 5000 minutes per month,) you must determine your needs and ask for a quote.
  • How much money will I save if I use my existing analog phones with my new Open Standard PBX?

    As of mid-2011 you can get a basic Office IP phone for as little as $100. An adapter for analog phones typically costs about $50.

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  • How do I save money on Long Distance using an Open Standard PBX?

    Short Answer: By carefully routing each call.

    You can program the PBX to route each call according to your needs:

    • Route calls through the providers who offer the best call quality at the lowest price on a route-by-route basis.
    • Use VOIP long distance for generally good rates.
    • Route local calls over local land-lines for high-volume unmetered calls.
    • Route some calls through long distance calling services where special deals apply.
    • Purchase land-lines in regions where you have lots of customers. Then, when making calls to those regions, route the calls over the internet to those land-lines for unmetered outbound calling.
  • Can I save on my mobile call charges?

    Short Answer: Very often, Yes.

    • You can use VOIP software on your smart-phone to bypass the phone company altogether when you are near a WiFi hot-spot.
    • You can use DISA (Direct Inward System Access) to make long distance calls through your PBX and bypass mobile supplier long distance charges.
    • You can use a call-back on your PBX to have the system call you and give you a dial tone. This allows you to use your free incoming minutes for outgoing calls.
  • Can I connect directly to a wholesale VOIP service provider?

    Short Answer: Absolutely!

    Your Open Standard PBX can connect to any standard services including wholesale services – you do not need to route your calls through BNT. BNT can update your routing tables for you if you are having trouble with one of your wholesale suppliers. We do it all the time for our own network – we are happy to do it for you.

  • Do I have to buy an IP phone?

    You have many options:

    • Many people prefer to use VOIP through their Android or iPhone smart-phones over WiFi as it's most convenient. Cost is often under $10 per smart phone.
    • Some people pefer to use free VOIP software on their PC as it's more comfortable than using a handset.
    • Inexpensive no-frills IP phones are available for as little as $99.

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Capacity & Limits

  • How many landlines and extensions can I add to my PBX?

    There is generally no restriction on the number of lines and extensions that you can connect. However, there are many factors that work together to determine the overall capacity of your system. You can build an expensive and powerful PBX and load it down by using a few heavy features so that it can't handle many calls - or you can build an inexpensive and weak PBX and connect it to lots of extensions that are only used for simple calls. Because of this flexibility it is not easy to make general comments about PBX capacity. In general you will want to determine your needs and build a PBX that fits both your requirements and your budget.

    Some of the issues involved in managing the capacity and performance of your PBX are discussed in this article (click here.) While the discussion might seem more technical than most it is important to note that the subject is complicated and many details are not mentioned.

    BNT Solutions is happy to provide monthly maintenance services for your network and for your PBX. Your agreement with BNT can include performance monitoring and management – please use the Contact Us form or call your representative to start this process.

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  • How many simultaneous calls can I route over VOIP?

    Short Answer: It depends on the performance of your internet connection.

    • Each conversation should only need an average of 80kbps but it's likely that your network connection performance will dip at various times throughout the day. A reasonable value to use for estimates of needed upload speed is 120kbps per concurrent conversation.
    • Don't risk poor call quality by routing too many calls at a time – it's too much trouble!

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Privacy & Security

  • How secure are my calls? How easy is it for strangers to listen in?

    If your PBX is physically in your office and your calls are routed through land-lines your calls are as private and secure as they have ever been. Anyone who wants to listen in on your calls must either tap your office wiring or the phone company network to be able to record your calls.

    If you are using a hosted PBX or if you are routing some calls through a VOIP service provider there are additional opportunities for crackers to gain access. Your calls will be carried over the public internet to the PBX before being routed to the PSTN. Anyone wanting to record your calls will need to access one of the routes or routers between you and the PSTN. That person will have to sniff the digital traffic, filter and decode it to reconstruct your call.

  • Can I add Encryption to my lines?

    Short Answer: Yes, if you use the same encryption on both ends of each call.

    Many IP phones contain encryption features and VOIP encryption software is available for your PC. However, these features require that compatible encryption be installed on all the phones that you want to call.

    If you are involved in work that requires call security you will need to plan and implement that securety with some care.

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Fax

  • Do you offer hosted Fax service?

    At this time BNT Solutions has declined to offer any fax services.

  • Can I use a VOIP line for my high-speed fax?

    Short Answer: If you try to use a modern fax you may find that it is often forced to reduce speed over a VOIP line. If you find that the speed is too low you can improve it. The solution is to use an appropriate codec for fax service and to route all your fax calls through VOIP providers who offer the same codec on their servers.

    At this time BNT Solutions does not offer any fax service.

    Long answer:

    All telephone networks - including the land-lines provided by the major telephone companies - use digital circuits to handle your calls. Each telephone company must choose something called a CODEC (a "coder - decoder" software program) to convert the sounds in your call into digital data that can be sent over a digital network.

    The major phone companies run physical wiring from their systems to your home and office. Because they own this cabling and because it is dedicated to you alone they have no reason to limit the bandwidth that they offer on your line.

    VOIP providers, on the other hand, are passing your calls over the public internet and paying for the volume of data that they send and receive. To keep the cost of each call as low as possible most VOIP providers will use codecs that limit the volume of data for each call. They want to send just enough data to carry your voice traffic.

    Modern fax devices use high-speed modems that want far more bandwidth than normal voice calls to get the maximum transfer speed. Many VOIP providers effectively block this traffic by their choice of codec.

  • Why don't you offer fax services?

    BNT Solutions was started with the idea that all services would be provided with excellence. In practice there are some occasional difficulties with fax service that require technical solutions and work that has not yet been done at BNT.

    Many offices these days are trying to be paper-free. In practice this means that more documents are being emailed as PDF files. Most offices now have inexpensive scanners that convert stacks of paper into PDF files that can easily be emailed. As such the market for fax services will probably not be growing over the next few years and is not a significant priority for BNT Solutions.

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