To take calls on a main line and then route them to the right individuals, and to enable internal calls to be connected between different people, businesses need some kind of switching system. This is the job of the PBX. It sits at the centre of the phone system and allows calls to be directed through to different lines or extensions. It is the hub through which all calls are routed – the end point of your “main switchboard” number.Back to top
What is PBX?
It’s basically a smaller version of the enormous switching machinery that you’d find in a public telephone exchange. How big it needs to be will depend, of course, on the number of connections it needs to accommodate. It could be just four or eight lines, or several hundred or even thousands.
Until a few years ago, all PBXs were hardware-based and needed to be physically installed. Now there are both hard and soft versions – the latter can be software that resides on your on-premises server, or it can be contained completely in the cloud. Either way, it will provide the virtual ‘soft’ switching and directing of calls between your users.Back to top
What does PBX stand for?
PBX is an acronym for Private Branch Exchange (PBX), which more or less explains what it is and what it does. While it used to be associated with the old-style hardware-based devices that used to be installed in the switchboard operator rooms in big organisations (remarkably, there are still some of those about), nowadays, it’s a term that tends to be used for any hardware or software-based centralised telephony switching system.Back to top
What are PBXs used for?
PBXs are the central switching system at the hub of a businesses telephone system. As well as being the route through which all calls are connected to different extensions or numbers, they are also the mechanism through which calls are connected to services such as voicemail, call-forwarding and other functions of the telephony system. In this sense, they are the epicentre of everything.Back to top
Business phones vs PBXs
You can’t really compare a PBX to any other kind of business phone system. If you have a mainline number through which you want all calls to be routed and, from there, forwarded on to different individuals, you will need some kind of centralised switching system or PBX. Without a PBX, you’d just have one number and some extensions, or a series of numbers. While a lot of us use our mobile numbers for business today, any organisation that wants to appear credible needs to have some kind of centralised phone system – or PBX.Back to top
A PBXs main jobs
A PBX today can have many different functions, especially a ‘soft’ PBX, as it is really the centrepiece of the whole telephony system. Traditionally, though, the PBX was quite literally a switching board through which the operator would connect different lines. This was soon replaced with automatic call distribution (ACD) features, which allowed calls to be routed directly to a particular extension – what we refer to today as the ‘direct dial’ number.
PBXs gradually got more sophisticated and eventually started to incorporate functions such as call forwarding, hunt groups, voicemail and auto attendant. They would also allow limited recording and reporting on call lengths and volumes.
The soft PBXs that are now available and are used to operate and manage IP-based hosted voice services have many more features and are much more sophisticated, so they really do act as that centralised resource through which the whole telephony system is organised and managed.Back to top
Functions of a PBX
Essentially, the core function of the PBX is to be that central point of contact and provide that single number dial-in for incoming calls and outgoing calls. Without that, businesses would not to be properly organised or credible. It’s vital to have that central number for customers, suppliers and other contacts to call.
The other obvious functions of the PBX are that it allows operator-managed or automated call forwarding, so that different individuals can be contacted via the same number, and internal calls to be made between the extensions.
It also means that the organisation can maintain control of its calls and its costs – and if calls can be recorded and volumes reported upon, that will help managers to keep tabs on activity and on how much calls are costing. It can also provide the extended functionality that most organisations need such as auto attendant, hold music, group hunting, call forwarding and voicemail.
As we have already noted, the ‘soft’ or IP-based PBXs that are now available to run either on a local server or in the cloud can provide a much wider range of capabilities. They are also different in that they offer much more scalability – it’s possible to increase or decrease the number of users and to make changes to the set-up very quickly and at any time.Back to top