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My Office PBX Has Reached Its End-of-Life. Now what?

Updated: March 19, 2014

The decision to switch office phone systems isn’t always in your control. Every PBX and Key system comes with an expiration date. As manufacturers develop new technologies, and vendors shift strategies, older systems are phased out and become increasingly limited and expensive. Although your phone system can last beyond its End-of-life (EOL), the longer you wait to upgrade, the more susceptible you are to communications problems.

End-of-Life (EOL) Notifications

Most PBX manufacturers release an EOL notification when they no longer support a particular piece of hardware, usually between 5 and 10 years after the product’s launch. This is the first sign that you should start looking into a new technology, and will likely be the start of additional maintenance costs, and functionality or compatibility issues.

Although the manufacturer will no longer develop updates, upgrades or new applications for your PBX phone system, it can still work adequately after the EOL date. Assuming your business will not benefit from advanced voice functionality or a more cost-efficient phone service, your current system could even last for years to come. But postponing the switch can be more trouble than it is worth as issues begin to add up.

Rise in Costs, Drop in ROI

Most companies experience a rise in operational expenses after their system’s EOL. This is caused in part by the manufacturer raising the prices of its older hardware to better market and sell their new products.

Even though older parts will be available after a system’s EOL, they will no longer be in production. This simply means that there’s an eventual end to the supply. Sometimes businesses will even have to seek out specialized equipment or technicians to maintain their outdated service (usually at a premium). System vendors increase the price to maintain and repair older models as parts and technical specialization increase in demand.

It doesn’t make sense take on a cost increase right as functionality hits a wall. Without ongoing support, features and applications become stagnant. The combination of additional expenses and limited functionality eats away at any return on any upcoming maintenance investments.

No More Upgrades, Updates or Patches

If you’re lucky enough to dodge any major bugs, your EOL system may keep on giving. But, it’s still generally true of any system that the longer it goes without a patch or update, the more likely it is to encounter errors. Manufacturers are routinely uncovering minor bugs in software and hardware components that eventually lead to major problems when left unchecked.

A system’s EOL is just the beginning of things going unchecked. Just as with sales and pricing, providers direct their engineers towards newer products while older systems lumber along. Again, some systems last for years without any major issues. As long as your business doesn’t need any significant network expansions or new features, your EOL doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your system.

Impossible to Integrate New Features

New applications will only be offered on newer systems as providers focus their strategy around their most viable products. The chances of being able to deploy a new application (new to your company or new to the market) are dramatically reduced once your system has reached its EOL.

This makes it impossible for companies that are trying to stay competitive and relevant to stay on an outdated system.

Stuck in Transition (When Parts Aren’t Available)

In the worst case scenario, after years of using an unsupported system, your business could be stuck without any voice capabilities. Very few companies will take the risk and push their system this far past the EOL, but every so often a business is crippled by a break in their old system that can’t be resolved at all.

It could take days or even weeks to deploy another comparable or upgraded system, leaving the company incapacitated by the mistake.

Cloud Telephony and the End of EOL

The beauty of a cloud-based business phone network is that you never have to worry about EOL again. Part of the service includes protecting your business from the constant evolution of technology. The provider manages and maintains their network, including all of the hardware and software in your office. When particular components or applications reach their EOL, the provider is responsible for the upgrades while you reap the rewards. Even when particular IP phone models reach their EOL, it is up to you whether or not you want to upgrade. Without any risk to your network performance or functionality. Simple as that.

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