Another question I am frequently asked is "how long will my business phone system last?". This is another one of those questions that has no simple answer.
One of our manufacturers, Iwatsu, publishes mean time between failure statistics (MTBF). One of the the shortest MTBF is 197,902 hours (over 22 years) for a power supply, and the longest MTBF is 346,675 hours (over 40 years) for a central processor.
So, does this mean your business phone system will last at least 22 years?
What is notably absent from the MTBF statistics is any of the components that have hard disc drives on them. Many systems use computer style hard disc drives to store data and applications, and messaging. Most IT folks will tell you that if your hard dive is over five years old you should be looking to replace it.
So does this mean your business phone system will only last for five years?
My experience over the past 25 years selling phone systems is that few actually fail, unless they are helped by water, lightning or fire. Most of the business phone systems I replace are working just as they were designed. Therein lies the problem. They are working as they were designed...ten years ago. Companies replace them because they are have become technologicaly obsolete.
Apple just released the i-phone 4s, and over 4 million people ordered them. This is before they were available! Do you think 4 million cell phones died the day before Apple started taking orders?
So, a while your business phone system may last 10 years, 15 years or longer, there will likely be a compelling and sound business reason to upgrade it before it becomes that mature.
The good news is that most systems, especially VoIP phones system, have embraced more open architecture. Hardware and software can be updated to take advantage of new technologies. One of our manufactureres, Altigen, has a "soft switch" which can run on your company server. In certain configurations, the only hardware is the phones. These can even be replaced with softphones, in which case there is not a single electronic or mechanical component to wear out. With software upgrades, you would never have and "old system". Would the MTBF be unlimited?