Pierre Kerbage, Senior Vice President at Zultys (www.zultys.com), says:

It is difficult to wade through available options when you’re in the market for an enterprise-class phone system because there are many brands of PBX Systems that are out there. Furthermore, the terms that each brand/manufacturer use is dissimilar to another brand. While the industry is starting to agree on a common open standard protocol (SIP), the development of individual features can vary drastically from brand to brand, and even systems within the same brand.

Look out for the following when weighing your options:

1. Value (not price) and ROI
2. Features that are STANDARD into the system (and what can be added)
3. Complexity v/s Simplicity of installation
4. Complexity v/s Simplicity of administration
5. Internal training and the evolution of the staff to learn the new systems’ features
6. Reliability, high availability and failover
7. Open standards (Pure SIP WITHOUT Gateways) v/s proprietary/defunct protocols (i.e. H.323, or MGCP)
8. Interface with EXISTING applications
9. Mobility and interface with existing cell phones (Such as RIM’s BlackBerry or Apple’s iPhone)
10. Adaptability

To sort out your options, start from the list above and establish what is most important to you to the least. What we are finding today, is that most Enterprise businesses are mostly interested in investing into systems that are effective, reliable, easy to deploy, do not require multiple servers, and that does not take multiple pieces and a complex puzzle to make it work. Elegance and simplicity of the Hardware (1 Appliance – not 5 or 6 or 7) – Elegance of the SOFTWARE: 1 application that works NATIVELY on Macs and Linux and 64 as well as 32 bit PCs that has ALL the functionalities – NOT 3rd party applications that are NOT integrated. 1 application, 1 appliance, heterogeneous environment and enterprise functionality (meaning scalable, reliable, and vastly deployable).

To decide which features are most important to your enterprise, first you must realize that no enterprise and no two firms are alike. Establish what is important to YOU first. Then ask to SEE the product – understand the complexity of the product, what it will take to deploy it, ask to see the software, ask for a hands on demo, and understand the total cost of ownership (Will this new system require additional servers – how many ? And how do I backup these servers, who maintains them, how much Electrical will I need to add , cooling, ports into my Switches, KVM, Rack Space, Management and much more).

Here is a list of the most common options out there:

1. Unified Communications
2. Mobility
3. Find Me Follow Me
4. Twinning
5. Interface with common apps (Such as Microsoft Exchange) and others
6. Fax Server
7. Call Recording
8. Contact Center
9. IVR
10. Reporting