Most Commonly Asked Questions When Evaluating a Phone System

By Brian Ferguson

As businesses are evaluating phone systems for a new purchase, or as part of an upgrade to a legacy system, there are some fairly standard questions that tend to come up at some point while exploring a vendor’s system. For those of you who may be in the process of researching a new system we thought it might be helpful to share the answers to some of the most common questions that we get asked when evaluating and deploying a Switchvox system. You’ll notice that some of the questions are basic – for example, needing to understand phone system terminology; while other questions are very technical and product specific. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please ask it in the comments below, or contact us directly.SwitchvoxWhat does PSTN mean?

PSTN stands for Public Switched Telephone Network, this is the telephone system we all grew up with.


What does VoIP mean?

VoIP stands for Voice Over IP or Internet Protocol. VOIP is a term used to describe the process of sending phone calls over the Internet instead of directly through the PSTN.


What is a PBX?

PBX stands for Private Branch eXchange. A PBX is a privately owned phone system that is maintained and used by an organization to route and handle it’s phone calls. Switchvox, for example, is a PBX. A PBX sits between the users of an organization and the phone company, allowing the organization to operate more efficiently than it would if each user had a normal telephone on their desk. Click Here for a diagram of a generic PBX setup.


Why do I need a PBX?

Whether your organization connects to the public phone system directly, via analog phone lines, a digital interface or via a VOIP service provider, you need a way to centrally control and route calls coming into and out of your organization. A PBX allows you to do this.


Can I use Switchvox if I connect to the Internet over dialup?

Yes. Switchvox can be set up in many configurations. One way to use Switchvox is as an interface to the PSTN, where normal analog or digital T1 lines come into the PBX and calls are routed in and out through those connections. In this setup you would not be using a VoIP provider, so you do not need a broadband Internet connection. Switchvox does, however, need to connect over the Internet to our data center in order to check for updates and for registration purposes, so some kind of Internet connection is required.


I would like to use a VoIP service provider for my telephone connectivity, what will the impact be on my Internet connection?

The short answer is that if you have an average business-class cable modem connection you should be able to handle up to about 3 simultaneous calls and if you were to upgrade to a fast cable modem connection or a T1 connection you’d be able to handle closer to 6-10 simultaneous calls at peak times. This assumes those users will be using the internet as well. However, as you were probably expecting, this short answer skips over quite a few details. VoIP connections use about 90kbps per connection, so if you know your upstream bandwidth you should be able to figure out what kind of results you’ll see.


What are the bandwidth requirements to use your phone system?

If you plan on using a VoIP provider you should allot 90kbps per concurrent call. Therefore, if you expect to have 10 concurrent calls you need to make sure your Internet connection is capable of speeds in the range of 900kbps. VoIP phones also take up that much bandwidth, but since they are usually on the same network as your PBX the impact is minimal.


I’m going to need a new Internet connection and I have the choice of DSL or Cable modem. Which should I choose?

Cable modems generally have higher speed and lower latency making them the better choice most of the time.


What are the technical requirements for Switchvox?

To configure Switchvox, you will require a desktop computer with a web browser on the same network as the Switchvox server. In addition you will need a network of some type to connect Switchvox to the Internet and to your users’ phones.


Do I need to be connected to the Internet to use Switchvox?

If you do not use a VoIP service provider to handle your PSTN connection, then you probably don’t need an Internet connection. The exception is during the installation of Switchvox. During install your phone system registers with our servers to synchronize your license data. For that period of time you’ll need to be connected to the Internet.


Do I need a static IP address to use Switchvox?

No. Most if not all VoIP service providers work with dynamic IPs.


What kind of connection to the Public Telephone System should I get?

Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, you can choose to use a VoIP service provider or the traditional telephone company to route your calls onto the public telephone network. If you have a reasonably fast and reliable Internet connection, then you will be surprised by the cost savings and calling options that a VoIP provider, coupled with Switchvox, can bring you. If you already have a connection to a local telephone company you may feel more comfortable staying with them. Either way, Switchvox can help you to manage your phone system quickly and easily.


What do I get when I purchase Switchvox?

Switchvox is a complete system. We sell Switchvox several ways: pre-installed and pre-configured on a server; in the Cloud with Switchvox Cloud; and in a virtual environment with VMware. We also sell phones and interface cards for use with Switchvox. If you order them together, we can set those up as well. This means that from opening the box to making calls, it should only take minutes. Included in the box with your Switchvox system is an installation disc so that you can easily recover from any failure.


Can I use analog phones?

Yes, there are a few ways that you can use analog phones with Switchvox, but the most straightforward is to couple them with an ATA or analog telephone adapter. An ATA turns a normal analog handset into a SIP compatible phone. At that point, you would configure it just as if it were a SIP phone. One of the most compelling reasons to use an analog phone is so that you can go cordless.


Do I need to configure any hardware?

No. Switchvox comes pre-configured to be used on a DHCP network. If the network is configured properly, Switchvox will use the IP address it is given and present that IP address and a URL for administration on the screen when it is turned on.


I already have phone lines coming into my office, can I use those with Switchvox?

Yes. You’ll need an interface card though. We have two types of interface cards, a 4-port analog interface card and a 1-port T1 card. Analog lines are the normal telephone lines you’re used to, plug an analog handset in and make calls. T1s are digital lines that carry up to 24 voice channels, they need some hardware, or a PBX to convert them into individual lines. If you need any help with this, please let us know.


I have a T1 that carries both voice and data, can I use this with Switchvox?

Yes, you just need some way to split out the voice channels to a T1 connection to feed into Switchvox. Then you would configure it just as if it were a pure voice T1.


Do I receive any support when I purchase Switchvox?

Of course. 30 days of free tech support is included which should be more than enough time to get up and running.


I need help setting up Switchvox, how do I get in touch with Technical Support?

Visit our support page for multiple options for getting in touch with our Technical Support team


Can I use an IP phone other than those sold for use with Switchvox?

Yes. You can use any SIP compatible phone, however we won’t be able to help you with configuration or any problems you might experience with it.


How many extensions can I set up?

There’s no limit.


How many messages can be stored on the voicemail system?

We don’t really know. Somewhere around 100,000 minutes. If you need more space than that, we can work something out.


What is an IVR?

IVR stands for Interactive voice response. An IVR is a system where callers interact with a computerized voice application using their phone’s keypad to choose from the presented options. Often times there are more than one pathway from the beginning of the IVR to the point where a caller connects to a real person, sometimes, depending on choices made and time of day the caller may just hear a recorded message.


I just unpacked my Switchvox box. What do I do next?

There is a quickstart guide included in the box. Walk through that to get the hang of administering your new PBX.


When I call someone outside the company, only my caller id number is shown, not my name. Is there some way to have my name display as well?

The company providing you your connection to the public phone system controls this. Only they can set the name associated with your phone number.


When people call me I only get their phone number, I would like their name to display as well. Is this possible?

If the name is passed to us, we will display it. If it is not being displayed then the company providing you with your connection to the public phone system is not sending it to us. Try contacting them and see what they can do to rectify the problem.


Can I change the default “Music On Hold”?

Yes. You can add any songs or announcements you would like through the web-based administration interface.


Can I connect to multiple VoIP service providers?

Yes. You can add as many as you like. Additionally, if you are given more than one account from a single provider you can add it as well. Each account has it’s own set of routing rules.


Can Switchvox traverse my NATing firewall?

Yes. Most SIP providers and firewalls handle this without you having to do a thing. Some providers are more difficult to get working. They should be able to tell you what you have to do to your firewall to get their service working.


Considering a cloud-based phone system and need to better understand the status of your network? Try our free Network Assessment Tool to evaluate upload and download speeds, latency, jitter, and more.

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There's One Comment

  • Bob Lowe says:

    Thank you for the post. This really helps me narrow down what I need. I think VoIP would be the best for us at this point. We are a small company and I don’t think we will be having more than three or so using the phones at once so we should be good.

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