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Open-Source versus Proprietary IP PBX

When comparing different IP PBX platforms, it’s easy to get caught up over the technical specifications. However, since solutions today are rather competitive with one… continue below

Open-Source versus Proprietary IP PBX

When comparing different IP PBX platforms, it’s easy to get caught up over the technical specifications. However, since solutions today are rather competitive with one another, the main focus should fall on the platform’s overall compatibility with your business. In other words, is the platform open-source or proprietary?

You can access many of the same features and functionalities through both models, but the service and support aspects differ radically. Understanding said differences will cast light onto the technical specifications of each platform and help you to make more accurate comparisons.

Open Source

Cost

Part of the allure of open-source software is its affordability. The software itself costs nothing to run, besides the associated hardware costs. Without licensing fees, resellers can create their own pricing structures for their clients.

A platform like Asterisk illustrates this advantage. It comes with both a General Public License and a Proprietary Software License, which enables free use, modification and distribution. That’s why Asterisk is a very popular backbone in commercial products.

Likewise, open-source licensing allows for other community-developed applications and integrations. Borrowing Asterisk as another example, FreePBX and Elastix both build onto the project—the former offering a sleek graphical user interface while the latter delivers additional voice, fax, IM and MMS packages.

Customization

The direction of an open-source IP PBX depends on the community of developers behind it. Anyone can add to the source code to make improvements or apply patches, placing a great deal of technical responsibility on the person or business setting up the solution.

Nevertheless, the open-source model does encourage interoperability and integration. For businesses looking to achieve niche functionality, sometimes it’s only attainable through open-source programs where the customization is endless.

Proprietary

Support

For many resellers and business consumers, the resources necessary to create and maintain an open-source setup are infeasible. Not to mention, there is something to be said for the support packages available through channel programs. When paying for a service, there are more quality assurances and support structures in place.

Perhaps one of the greatest value-adds for proprietary software is the development directive. Community-based projects release code based on developer needs whereas proprietary developments are customer- and investment-driven. User feedback plays a tremendous role in determining what facets of the solution receive the most attention. This helps businesses and resellers stay current on emerging technologies and demands without the pains of identifying and executing such things themselves.

Ease-of-Management

As can be seen, ease-of-management is a big perk. Resellers can focus most on selling and supporting rather than testing and innovating. Most solutions come with simple installation packages that work on existing hardware. For instance, 3CX is a frontrunner for Windows-based IP PBX, recently breaking ground in Linux too. On any server, the PBX is painlessly rolled out and provisioned, as the built-in tools are designed to empower administrators and users alike.

Licensing

When assessing a proprietary IP PBX, there are two common pricing models that you’ll find—per seat or by usage licenses. For instance, 3CX charges based on call capacity, providing an unlimited number of extensions. Conversely, a service like Broadsoft sells per user.

The licensing model affects resellers greatly, as it determines their own pricing schemes. That said, it makes for a rather predictable billing model; the reseller always knows the maximum capacity of the customer base and what that demands from the hardware.

Partnerships

For reseller businesses, proprietary IP PBX systems also boast channel partnerships with other business incentives. Partner programs have additional tools and services available to empower their resellers (i.e. sales enablement or support assistance). Sometimes the partner incentives outweigh the technical specifications, and so researching companies in addition to platforms is an essential part of the comparison strategy.

Recommended read: How to Reinforce a Reseller Brand During Product Delivery

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