Intercom vs. Paging Systems Feature Comparison

By Ryan Ayers
Updated: February 14, 2011

One of the benefits associated with modern business telephone systems is the ability we now have to incorporate the functions of what used to be several separate pieces of equipment into one cohesive package. What used to require several stand-alone pieces of hardware or a complex restructuring of your phone system can now be accomplished simply and cost effectively as an add-on to your existing network.

Intercom and/or paging systems have been widely used in a variety of business types for quite some time. Rather than trying a set extension for a specific department or employee, and often not being able to reach the intended party, these tools allow for messaging throughout a building or room. This is a vital resource for many businesses, allowing a faster response and/or action from the necessary employees.

Paging: A One-Way Street

Think of airports or your days in elementary school and you have an idea of the basic setup of a paging system. Similar to a public address system, paging allows for a message to be relayed from one source to either a specific extension (or set of extensions), or to be broadcast throughout an area.

Paging is particularly effective for businesses in which employees are not often in a static location, such as on a sales or manufacturing floor. Paging a group of employees can deliver messages to alert employees that their presence is required at another location, or that an event is imminent.
Paging is particularly useful and effective in environments where a response to said messages is not necessary, or in which employees may not be near an extension and are unable to rapidly respond.

Intercom: Give and Take

Intercoms can provide a similar set of benefits to paging, in that these systems typically transmit through speakers (either on a telephone handset, or over a larger area), thereby reaching employees who are not readily accessible by dialing an extension. The difference in using an intercom is that this system is designed to be interactive – the parties on the receiving end of the message have the ability to respond directly to the sender.

Intercom systems usually operate in a manner similar to that of a radio – think walkie-talkies. This system allows for a message to be transmitted to an employee who may be involved in a procedure that does not allow them to easily answer a telephone handset immediately. Rather than having a work stoppage for each telephone call, a business is enabled to get in touch with the intended person, relay a message, and if necessary, receive an immediate reply.

Intercom systems function in basically the same manner as a paging system, but are invaluable for a business in which a response is necessary for the outgoing messages.

The Best of Both Worlds

Many business telephone systems (particularly the IP variety) allow for a combination of both intercom and paging systems. This affords businesses the best parts of both systems. Telephone handsets and/or external loudspeakers can be used to broadcast the initial message, and employees can respond to the message by entering a code on any available handset from anywhere within the network.

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