In the early days of Ixis, we ran the open source PBX Asterisk in-house. At this stage we didn't have servers coming out of ears like we do now and ran it from an archaic Pentium 3 that was literally shoved under a desk. Whilst this worked and got us by, it was far from ideal being a single point of failure. We also spent much more time than we should have on the initial setup and learning Asterisk, and were still only just scratching the surface of it's full capabilities.
So we moved to a hosted Asterisk setup from Gradwell. For just £8 per month we got an external 01x phone number and 10 internal extensions, which was more than adequate as we only 4 staff at the time. Since then we've added a few things on, an extra external 24/7 support number that routes to a partner, an interactive voice menu and aliases to transfer recruitment spammers directly to the CTPS.
The service is all web based so we can easily make config changes like adding new hunt groups, extensions and so forth. There's various other useful functionality that you'd expect like conference rooms and music on hold (we recently changed ours to Trolololo which has been really well received ;)
What is also interesting is the cost savings we have made over the past few years. In our previous office space the internal Avaya phone system costed £20 per month per handset, which for 8 of us was £160 per month. Then there's the call charges, we pay 1.25p per minute currently vs 3-4p in the building, calls to mobiles are substantially cheaper also at about a quarter of the price. We calculated that Gradwell cost us £1000 to setup, £240 per annum in rental for the services / extensions and around £300 per annum in call charges. To use the buildings phone system would have cost nothing to setup, but £1900 per annum in handset / service rental and around £750 per annum in call charges. The setup cost was for us to buy physical phones.
We mostly bought Cisco phones, as heavily endorsed by Jack Bauer etc. Out of the box they ship with Cisco firmware on but can easily be flashed to use SIP firmware, enabling them to work with Asterisk (or Gradwell in our case) By using a hosted service we are saving ourselves over £2000 per annum, we were in our last office for 5 years so these savings can become substantial over time.
We aren't massive phone users either, clearly the cost savings increase even more for larger companies and those with heavier phone use. It's not all been completely smooth however, the internet connection in our last office was a managed 100mbit connection with VOIP prioritisation, so moving back to our own connection has brought up issues of ensuring call quality on our own network. Nothing insurmountable, but the only major downside we've experienced.
When we recently moved offices there was no hassle transferring numbers or dealing with the likes of BT, as we simply plugged the phones in and everything worked as expected. So in summary we've had increased resilience, saved money and freed up internal resources by using a hosted service. As a technical company it's nice to do things in-house, but over time it becomes obvious supporting these sort of things is a big distraction from $dayjob!
Moving our PBX to the cloud was a no brainer. Next up we'll be talking about how we finally ditched Sage for accounting, in hindsight something I wish we'd done years ago.