How well would your business function without phone service? Even with alternative communication channels such as email and instant messaging, the loss of dial tone for any length of time will almost certainly have negative consequences such as disrupted operations, lost productivity, opportunity costs, damaged reputation and repair expenses.

Organizations often have trouble deciding when it’s time to upgrade or replace an aging phone system, particularly if the existing system seems to be working fine. After all, business phone systems aren’t cheap — traditional PBX systems cost about $800 to $1,000 per user for midsize companies, including hardware and installation. However, an older system that still functions has a high risk of failure.

It can be difficult to anticipate problems. There’s no “check engine” light for a phone system. However, here are five warning signs that should get your attention:

  1. Dropped calls. The loss of communication in the middle of calls is a sure sign of trouble. Another is if callers frequently get busy signals when trying to reach you. While these could be carrier issues, it could also point to the failure of system components or power supplies.
  2. Poor call flow. Typically set up when systems are installed, the call flow determines rules like how many times a person’s phone rings, whether a call gets routed back to the receptionist or into voice mail, and what happens to calls after hours. Over time, configuration changes, equipment replacement and other factors can disrupt the flow, creating never-ending loops between extensions or “black holes” where calls just endlessly ring without being answered.
  3. Increased maintenance. The need for increasingly frequent service calls can be a sign of imminent failure. As systems age, components wear out. Older cables and power supplies become prone to failure and may not be able to withstand a power a surge, causing the entire system to crash.
  4. Loss of manufacturing support. Most manufacturers stop supporting premises-based gear after about 10 years. If your system is older than that, you may no longer be able to replacement parts, upgrades or patches. Even worse, the manufacturer may be in trouble. Nortel filed for bankruptcy in 2009, Avaya filed for bankruptcy in 2017, and Toshiba ceased business phone system sales operations in 2016 and dissolved in 2017.
  5. Limited flexibility. Older systems often have predetermined levels of scalability, making it difficult to add lines and users. It can also be hard to integrate new communication and collaboration applications with the system. Older systems are far more likely to experience compatibility issues with newer switches, routers, handsets, access points and more.

Although businesses today have a range of communication options, the telephone remains an indispensable tool. A survey by NewVoiceMedia finds that 75 percent of customers still believe a phone call is the most effective way to get a quick response from businesses. That’s why it is important to ensure that you don’t experience any communication gaps due to phone system failure.

If your system is showing any of the above signs, it is time to explore an upgrade. Many businesses find that cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions offer a variety of benefits that they just can’t get from premises-based PBX solutions. Cloud-based solutions not only shift the cost structure of your business phone system, but they ensure compatibility with the newest features and applications while eliminating the risks, limitations and expenses of aging systems.