How much should a new IP PBX system cost per user?

Small Business Options

By Kevin Stewart
Updated: February 02, 2011

When you compare IP-PBX systems, pricing is one of the more difficult factors to consider. Without making sure that each system has the same features and capabilities, you cannot compare prices accurately. Fortunately, most vendors offering hosted IP-PBX have adopted plan-based pricing for their systems. This makes comparison between systems more accurate and reliable.

At the lowest levels, you can expect to pay $9.95 per month per user for a hosted IP-PBX plan. This will usually include up to three extensions, so that is effectively $3.32 per user for each month of service. This type of entry-level plan will typically not include phone equipment or toll-free access, but it may meet the needs of a small office or start-up that needs a reliable hosted VoIP service.

The next tier of pricing will support 5 or more extensions or users. In many cases incentives are offered to encourage organizations to purchase at this plan level, including toll-free numbers, equipment, and special service agreements. The particular services offered do vary widely, so the best approach is to examine each plan carefully.

The included services that will vary the most in price are calling charges. The cost of placing and receiving calls can be hard to determine for comparison purposes, because the pricing models are all different. The best option for businesses that anticipate high call volumes is an unlimited calling plan. While the cost is higher for a comparable plan that has limited minutes, this can be an important area of cost savings if you exceed your allotted minutes.

For on-premise IP-PBX systems, computing the cost per user is not a simple task. You have to figure in the cost of equipment, installation and configuration, phone stations, training, and support. Then divide that number by the number of users to determine the cost per user.

There are IP-PBX systems on the market priced as low as $250. These systems use open source software and standard personal computer hardware, and they offer an “unlimited” number of extensions. So assuming you have 5 users and minimal installation, configuration, training, and support costs (another $250), you could run this type of system for a year for a total of $500. The annual per-user cost would be $100, and the monthly per-user cost would be $8.33. For larger organizations, this figure would be reduced dramatically by the high capacity of this type of system.

So price comparison, while important to any purchasing decision, may not be the best way to choose the IP-PBX system that meets your needs.

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