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Don’t Go Reinventing the Wheel... Here's Why Building a Physical Phone System is a Bad Idea.

So you’re thinking of putting together a physical phone system. Good. Let’s try something for a minute. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Count to ten.

Still seem like a good idea?

Ok, read on then.

It may have been the norm in the old days to have your hand in everything: grow your own food, raise your own beef, build your own house and even cut your own hair. But not too long ago a little something called the Industrial Revolution took place. That pretty much changed all of it.

Adam Smith, for instance, had observed that a worker trained in making nails yielded a far greater quota than a man uninitiated in the fine art of nail-making. This was a process he had identified as the division of labor, or specialization, and argued that a man becomes far more productive when his time, energy, and resources are directed in a single endeavor.

So let’s see how it applies to the question at hand.

You’re running a business. That’s your niche. If it’s a small business, chances are you’re already wearing more than a few hats.

Do you really want to add another with a small ‘IT’ logo to your wardrobe?

Let’s look at it from a Cost vs. Value perspective, dear to the heart of any entrepreneur.

You might have read a clever article about some open source PBX product now available for free download. Then recalled how, flipping through the flyer of a local electronics store, you had noted the rock-bottom prices of hardware components. Your little number-crunching machine then went on to put two plus two together—and next you were in your car driving towards the nearest Tigerdirect outlet, ready to build that sexy phone system you’ve always wanted.

Well, it’s a good thing your wife did some research and sent you this article before you got too far, because here comes a reality check:

A physical phone system is a complex combo of software and hardware equipment that will require, at the very least, proper setup, configuration, and maintenance.

There was only one reason businesses in the past went through the trouble of setting up those clunkers—and that’s because they didn’t really have an alternative.

It’s true that today you can put together an equally robust physical system for a fraction of what it used to take—especially with open source applications—but that doesn’t mean that every 10-year-old and his sister can crack open their piggy-banks and go nuts... That’s because buying the equipment is only half the trouble. Next you need to have everything set up, configured, and installed—a highly involved process.

So your options quickly dwindle down to either taking a crash course in the relevant IT technologies, or (more likely) hiring a professional.

Guess what, the professional has a family to feed, and he didn’t get that nice certificate only to cover a hole in the wall—he got it to bring home some milk. One guess who’s going to be his cow...

But even once everything has been set up, it’s still only half the trouble (no, I didn’t skip simple math at school). Like a brand new house, once it’s been built, the darn thing still has to be maintained. Go see any homeowner after his first winter to find out if he’s still wearing that picture-perfect smile.

Equipment fails, software gets corrupted, and even when everything seems to be sailing smoothly, the whole thing needs to be periodically updated and upgraded. So if you thought you’ve seen the last of that ‘professional’ with the first visit, be prepared to find yourself signing a long-term contract and feeding the calves on a regular basis.

So why not spare yourself the pain and go with a more streamlined solution? After all, you didn’t lay down infrastructure when you needed your first land-line, or opened a hairdressing salon to get your hair cut—you simply purchased a service. Why start doing things differently?

As for value, a virtual PBX gives you all the features you’d find in a physical one (and more) with the added freedom of the web, for a single low monthly fee.

This has ‘Smart Business ’ written all over it.

You must be good at what you do, but virtual phone systems is our niche. So why not prove the father of capitalism right yet again and start trading?

For more information about the benefit of going virtual, check out: ‘5 Reasons Virtual Systems are Taking Over the Physical World’.

And for a breakdown of most features you’re likely to encounter, try our last post: ‘Anatomy of a Virtual Phone System: What’s In It, and Why You Need It’.

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posted by Maty Grosman @ 6:41 PM