PBX vs. Key System

Choosing the Right Phone System

Your telephone system is one of the most important parts of your organization.

It connects customers.
It connects employees.
It connects your business.

To find the right system, you need to consider how calls are answered and how often callers are put on hold. You also need to determine which people in your organization need phones, and what types of features they’ll need (e.g., conference calling, voicemail, call forwarding).

The two major types of phone systems in today’s market are Key systems and Private Branch Exchanges (PBXs). Key systems are traditionally used by companies with fewer than 50 employees. A key system has telephones with multiple buttons (“keys”) and lights that indicate which lines are in use. When you want to place a call, you just press a button to directly select the telephone company’s central office phone lines. Key systems typically have one unit – an attendant phone or separate box—that acts as controller for a limited number of lines for a limited number of extensions. Key systems are usually found in small companies where fewer features are required. They offer convenient elements such as hold buttons, lights, intercoms, paging, speakerphones, privacy, music-on-hold, long-distance restriction, timers, and memory dialing.

A PBX connects telephone company trunk lines with individual user lines and equipment inside your organization. A PBX is essentially your own, smaller version of the phone company’s central switching office. It controls all your incoming and outgoing calls, connecting outside callers with inside extension lines and internal extensions with each other. A PBX allows you to have fewer outside lines than extensions because it is safe to assume that not all extensions will be in use at once. PBXs can also be large, with hundreds of lines and thousands of extensions. The main benefits of a PBX are its many automated features, easy setup, and flexibility. It can be designed for your specific needs today – yet it’s scalable for easily adding new lines and features when you need them. PBXs can have simple or sophisticated features, and individual lines may have different functions on them. PBXs also offer some access potential because of their architecture. The system boxes that control PBXs are essentially computers with specialized hardware, so if access features are added to PBX software, any line connected to the system could use those features.

Which is right for your business? How about both? Allworx IP-based telephone systems are the first to truly emulate both Key system and PBX behavior. They deliver new technology with a look and feel that you’re used to. It doesn’t matter which system you have; you can set your phone to behave like a Key, a PBX, or a bit of both. It’s your choice!


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