Put the PBXes to pasture: An argument

A telecommunications analyst suggests that companies are fooling themselves if they think they can put off migrations forever


Canadian network managers take note: the old axiom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may no longer apply when it comes to that aging PBX system.

According to Jon Arnold, a Toronto-based independent telecom analyst, success in today’s world of communications means delivering valuable features like web conferencing, BYOD, unified messaging, unlimited scalability and more. And while that legacy PBX system is serving the company well now, various factors — things like sunsetting vendor support and the aforementioned valuable communication features — mean that network managers are best served by transitioning towards a modern IP-based architecture, sooner rather than later.

Arnold made the comments during a “Migrating Your PBX” webcast produced by IT World Canada and sponsored by Cisco. The PBX is perfectly fine for what it needs to do today, but not very effective for how companies look to communicate tomorrow, says Arnold, adding that PBX is good for telephony — but not much else. “It’s an expensive asset that’s sitting there in the business, does the job it’s designed to do, but the value of PBX is declining on all fronts.”

Indeed, as the industry migrates to IP PBX — legacy environments are reaching end of life. And regardless of vendor, legacy PBX environments won’t be supported much longer. This means, he offers, taking a proactive IT approach is the best way to go when it comes to “getting beyond dial tone” and migrating away from an old school PBX environment.

“PBX has not evolved over the years, at the point where it really does function as a silo. These days, communication isn’t simply a matter of updating a phone system,” says Arnold.

And while there’s “no visible trigger” for replacing PBX — change is coming when considering ongoing maintenance, upgradeability and declining usage. Whether an organization looks at making a new system premise-based, hosted, or a hybrid of the two, it’s important to note that making minimum upgrades necessary to allow the legacy system to continue won’t cut it anymore, Arnold argued.

So what steps should IT departments take in looking to migrate away from PBX?

First off, VOIP should be seen as the starting point for any legacy migration, Arnold offers. This means either an IP PBX or a hybrid scenario. And even though Canada lags behind the U.S. when it comes to SIP trunking adoption, Canadian organizations should nonetheless consider the SIP protocol as a “great enabler” for real-time and multimodal communications moving forward, he added.

Building a business case means more than just cutting costs but rather adding value or the organization via incorporating the communication modes/strategies/technologies — such as social media, Web conferencing and BYOD — that enable staff to be more collaborative and productive. This shift in thinking ultimately translates to delivering greater business agility and a competitive edge for the company — and a compelling and strategic case for moving to IP-PBX in the first place. How are we best accommodating our mobile workers? How are we best integrating the contact centre with our business processes? “If all you’ve done to date in IT is just update your phone system (or) put new software upgrades on the network, that’s okay. But it’s not enough to give you some long term leverage.”

Understanding the fundamental limitations of legacy PBX is a key factor for business success, says Arnold.

“If you’re not on top of these trends and the business sees that IT is falling behind, IT could stand to be outsourced. Staying put seems safe but not the best thing to be doing long-term. You can hang on milking what you’ve got but you’re avoiding the issues that need to be addressed.”

Need more convincing? Download our free Gartner whitepaper, ‘The Business Case for IP Telphony Revisited: Five Reasons Why The Time To Evolve Is Now.’

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