Do You Really Know the Difference Between IP PBX and VoIP Gateways?

April 30th, 2017

As companies make the move to VoIP, many get stuck at the implementation phase. For most, each configuration decision can seem critical when companies realize how infrequently they upgrade their communications systems. Understanding the differences between an IP PBX and a VoIP gateway is a great place to start.

What is an IP PBX?

When IP telephony first came on the scene, vendors attempted to reinvent existing TDM equipment for IP communications – and the IP PBX was born. It provides the flexibility that companies need to ensure communications amongst any and all parties – between two VoIP users, a VoIP user and traditional line and two traditional lines seamlessly. By combining voice and data networks in a single line, IP PBXs offer a scalable solution that is entirely owned and operated by the enterprise.

IP PBX systems are highly localized. They take voice conversations and put them into packets at the source of data. The data packets are transmitted as native IP over the network and unpacked at the other end. This solution reflects the traditional, hardware-based telephony they were replacing. As a result, this approach is seeing sliding adoption rates as customers continue to favor software-based systems.

What is a VoIP gateway?

The packetization technique for VoIP gateways is fundamentally different than that of an IP PBX system. VoIP gateways don’t package data at the hardware source. Instead, the VoIP gateway exists at the edge of a network where it breaks conversations down to package for transmission over an IP network. Regardless of whether traffic is analog or digital, the VoIP gateway can create digital packets for efficient transmission.

VoIP gateways represent an evolution from the hardware focus of IP PBX systems and trend toward the software-based solutions that modern businesses are looking for. These solutions give organizations an option that can operate in a mixed environment, with both traditional plain old telephone service (POTS) and newer digital data. By enabling a mixed environment, VoIP gateways give SMBs a chance to take a slower path to VoIP.

VoIP Gateways vs. IP PBX Systems: The IP Communications Showdown

There are fundamental differences between VoIP gateways and IP PBX systems, but both offer flexibility benefits that traditional systems don’t. The question remains—which solution can SMBs trust to take them into the future of communications?

While IP PBX systems are scalable, their local focus makes it difficult to globalize the solution in a cost-effective way. Also, IP PBX solutions are an all-or-nothing strategy. Wholesale PBX upgrades can be expensive and buying new cabling for VoIP telephones can add to the cost. VoIP gateways are a better option for companies looking to ease into a new system.

VoIP gateways make it easier for companies with multiple locations to combine different communications systems. If one office has a standard PBX system, a VoIP gateway can translate packets for the other offices with modern VoIP solutions in place. While this sort of flexibility ensures that companies have more options as they move to IP communications, it is also more complex from an implementation and management perspective.

To decide which option is best for you, it is important to understand both the financial and implementation ramifications of your choice. If you are interested in forging your own path that extends the capabilities of your existing assets, you should consider a VoIP gateway. If you prefer to upgrade quickly and easily, the IP PBX may be your best bet.

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