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Updated May 24, 2024

The Best Phone Systems for Small Businesses

Our top business phone systems support multiple communication channels and offer collaboration tools that help businesses grow.

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Jeff Hale, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.
Best for Collaboration
RingEX
RingCentral company logo
  • Starts at $20 per month
  • Monthly and annual contracts
  • Four service plan options
USALinks to RingEX
Visit Site

855-619-0564

  • Starts at $20 per month
  • Monthly and annual contracts
  • Four service plan options
Best for Small Businesses
Ooma
Ooma company logo
  • Starts at $19.95 per month
  • Month-to-month contracts
  • Three service plan options
USALinks to Ooma
Visit Site
  • Starts at $19.95 per month
  • Month-to-month contracts
  • Three service plan options
Best for Video Conferencing
Zoom
Zoom company logo
  • Starts at $10 per month
  • Annual contracts
  • Three service plan options
USALinks to Zoom
Visit Site
  • Starts at $10 per month
  • Annual contracts
  • Three service plan options
Best for Multisite Retail and Healthcare
Nextiva
Nextiva company logo
  • Starts at $18.95 per month
  • Monthly and annual contracts
  • Three service plan options
USALinks to Nextiva
Visit Site
  • Starts at $18.95 per month
  • Monthly and annual contracts
  • Three service plan options
Best for Voice Intelligence
Dialpad
dialpad company logo
  • Starts at $15 per month
  • Monthly and annual contracts
  • Three service plan options
  • Starts at $15 per month
  • Monthly and annual contracts
  • Three service plan options

Table of Contents

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At Business News Daily, our team of experts spends time researching and analyzing the best business products. Our goal is to ensure that when you need a tool or service, you can trust that we have done comprehensive research to recommend the products and services that are most valuable to businesses like yours.

When choosing the best business phone systems, our team of small business experts attended live demonstrations, conducted hands-on testing and researched the leading solutions on the market thoroughly. We started by examining pricing and plans to determine the best value for each budget. We also considered how complex installation and setup was for each system as well as whether companies offered additional support. Then, we tested the most important features of a business phone system, including omnichannel communications, collaboration tools and third-party integrations. Finally, we analyzed customer reviews to find out what each company’s existing users had to say about their experience.

Staying connected with customers and clients is of vital importance for all businesses. Without reliable communication channels, getting work done can become increasingly challenging. Today’s business phone systems are less phone-related and more unified communications platforms that ensure you can communicate with your customers and employees via whatever channel (phone, video, text) you prefer. The best business phone systems offer a streamlined platform that not only gives you access to each communication channel, but weaves them together in a way that makes conversations simple to follow, regardless of whether they are happening over the phone or via text message. We have spent dozens of hours researching all of the top options to figure out where each excels and where some drop the ball. Below are the systems we find most valuable for businesses like yours.

RingEX calls

Today’s business phone systems give users the ability to make and receive calls directly from their computers. Source: RingCentral

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems are becoming a necessary tool in modern business settings, serving as central hubs that unify communications across voice, chat and video. These cloud-based phone systems have largely replaced traditional landlines in business settings thanks to their advanced features, accessibility and cost. Most business phone providers include essential features like a phone number, voicemail, call routing, and unlimited voice calls to the United States and Canada. However, services vary widely, with some boasting advanced features that use artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically prepare and send meeting summaries with action items after each call.

Whether you’re a small business that speaks to a few clients a week or a large business with a sales team that spends most of the day on the phone, there’s a system geared toward your needs. Our best small business phone system reviews below will help you determine which solution is most effective for your needs and suitable for your budget.

How We Decided

Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.

75

considered

20

reviewed

7

selected

Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.

75

considered

20

reviewed

7

selected

Compare Our Best Picks

BND Ribbon
Our Top Picks for 2024
Nextiva
Dialpad
GoTo Connect
8×8
Rating9.3/109.4/108.8/109.5/109.4/109.2/108.4/10
Best use case

Collaboration

Small Businesses

Video Conferencing

Multisite Retail and Healthcare

Voice Intelligence

Remote Teams

Scaling Businesses

Monthly price

$20 to $35

$19.95 to $24.95

$10 to $20

$18.95 to $32.95 (billed annually)

$15 to $25+

Unlisted

Unlisted

Customer service

24/7 chat and phone

24/7 phone and chat

24/7 live web and chat

24/7 email, chat and phone

24/7 web and chat

24/7 phone and chat

24/7 phone, chat and web

Free trial length

14 days

30 days

N/A

7 days

14 days

N/A

30 days

Available plans

4

3

3

3

3

3

2

Add-on features

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

VoIP phones for sale

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Review Link
Scroll Table

Reviews

RingCentral company logo
  • Starting Price: $20 per user/month
  • Key Features: Unlimited calling in the U.S., video meetings, AI meeting recaps, online fax and advanced call routing.
  • Free Trial: 14 days
Editor's Rating: 9.3/10
Visit Site

855-619-0564

Why We Chose RingEx

RingEX (formerly RingCentral MVP) is a UC platform with excellent tools and features to facilitate collaborative work in remote settings. The easy-to-use dashboard is accessible from web browsers, desktop apps and mobile apps, providing open lines of communication across any internet-connected device. As a unified platform, RingEX works as a digital repository where team members can find or share files, previous communications threads and data for shared projects. Aside from the rebrand, big changes to the platform were identified in our review center on RingSense AI, the company’s new suite of AI-powered tools designed to boost efficiency. This time-saving technology includes a real-time notetaker, generative search capabilities, text translator, post-meeting summaries and conversational intelligence with features like sentiment analysis to improve customer outcomes.

RingEX Ringsense

Our team was impressed with RingEX’s new AI-powered RingSense tools that help increase efficiency within the platform. Source: RingCentral

RingEX Pricing

Service Plan Price per user, per month Key Features
Core $20 Unlimited domestic calling, 100 toll-free minutes, SMS/MMS, interactive voice response, single sign-on, real-time transcription, AI meeting summaries, call recording, video meetings, remote desktop control, 24/7 support and many integrations
Advanced $25 Everything in Core plus automatic call recording, multisite management, complete integration access, internet fax, advanced call routing/monitoring, hot desking, advanced analytics and 1,000 total toll-free minutes
Ultra $35 Everything in Advanced plus 10,000 total toll-free minutes, video meetings with 200 participants, unlimited communications storage, advanced business analytics and unlimited HD video conferencing.

RingEX Pros

  • RingEX includes AI-powered transcription tools and automated video highlight reels with every business communications plan.
  • RingEX has more than 300 prebuilt integrations covering the most popular business applications
  • With RingEx, you can host video meetings with as many as 200 participants

RingEX Cons

  • With RingEX, you can not mix and match service plan options to fit each employee’s needs.
  • Some top integrations, like the Salesforce one, are not included in each service plan.
  • Many of RingEX’s premium AI features are limited to “early access preview for select customers” only.

RingEx User Score

Based on more than 400 reviews, RingEX has a 7.7 out of 10 Trust Radius score.

Learn more in our full RingEX review.

Ooma company logo
  • Starting Price: $19.95 per user/month
  • Key Features: Unlimited calling in the U.S., digital ring group, video calls, overhead paging, call recording and CRM integration.
  • Free Trial: 30 days
Editor's Rating: 9.4/10
Visit Site

Why We Chose Ooma

While many cloud-based phone providers offer tailored solutions for small businesses, we think Ooma has the ideal mix of communications features, ease of use and pricing to make it the best phone system for smaller operations. The entry-level plan comes with more than 50 call management features including a virtual receptionist, music on hold, call routing and virtual extensions—all of the essentials for a professional VoIP phone system. In our review, we scored the platform higher than any other for its usability, which we think is an especially important factor for small businesses without IT staff to help implement or manage new software.

While many cloud-based phone providers offer tailored solutions for small businesses, we think Ooma has the ideal mix of communications features, ease of use and pricing to make it the best phone system for smaller operations.

Ooma platform

We found everything to be simple and straightforward when setting up various features and tools within the Ooma platform. Source: Ooma

Ooma Pricing

Service Plan Price Per User/Month Key Features
Essentials $19.95 Unlimited calling in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico, 500 toll-free minutes, 24/7 support, virtual receptionist, ring groups, hold music, digital faxing, mobile app access, call park, extension monitoring, virtual extensions, call forwarding, conference bridge, distinct ringtones, overhead paging, intercom and IP phone paging.
Pro $24.95 Everything in Essentials plus the complete desktop app, text messaging, video conferencing, call recording, enhanced call blocking, voicemail transcription, Caller Info Match, dynamic caller ID, analytics, Google integrations and Office 356 integrations.
Pro Plus $29.95 Everything in Pro as well as call queuing, CRM integrations, enhanced video conferencing, video recording, team chat, hot desking, screen sharing, call screening and shared voicemail.

Ooma Pros

  • Ooma offers transparent pricing without any long-term contracts.
  • All Ooma plans come standard with more than 50 calling features.
  • We found Ooma especially simple to get started with and use.

Ooma Cons

  • Ooma’s entry-level plan is missing key integrations for Google and Office 365.
  • Ooma has yet to integrate as many AI tools as some of its competitors.
  • The desktop app does not offer as much functionality to users of the Essentials plan as those using the higher-priced options.

Ooma User Score

Based on 75 reviews and ratings, Ooma has a 7.5 out of 10 Trust Radius Score.

Read our full Ooma review.

Zoom company logo
  • Starting Price: $10 per user/month
  • Key Features: Unlimited auto-attendants and IVR, conference calling, desktop and mobile apps, and hot desking.
  • Free Trial: None
Editor's Rating: 8.8/10
Visit Site

Why We Chose Zoom

Despite a sea of competition, the brand synonymous with video conferencing remains our favorite for virtual meetings. As part of our in-depth review process, we participate in live video demonstrations with as many phone service providers as possible. During these demos, we found Zoom provided the highest-quality video with easy-to-understand audio, clear visual elements and zero discernable lag. All of Zoom’s phone plans include Zoom Meetings, allowing you to elevate a voice call seamlessly to a video conference or transfer a call to a Zoom Room with the appropriate license. The AI companion available for meetings can provide summaries, action items and answer questions about what was said.

Despite a sea of competition, the brand synonymous with video conferencing remains our favorite for virtual meetings. As part of our in-depth review process, we participate in live video demonstrations with as many phone service providers as possible. During these demos, we found Zoom provided the highest-quality video with easy-to-understand audio, clear visual elements and zero discernable lag. All of Zoom’s phone plans include Zoom Meetings, allowing you to elevate a voice call seamlessly to a video conference or transfer a call to a Zoom Room with the appropriate license. The AI companion available for meetings can provide summaries, action items and answer questions about what was said.

Zoom call management

With Zoom, you can easily manage your calls from wherever you are. Source: Zoom

Zoom Pricing

Service Plan Price per user/month Features
U.S. & Canada Metered $10 Metered domestic calling, metered international calling, domestic SMS/MMS, administrator portal, 24/7 support, toll-free numbers, desktop and mobile apps, conference calls, voicemail transcription, unlimited auto attendants and IVR, call recording, team messaging, hot desking, video conferencing, some integrations, single sign-on and hybrid integrations to legacy PBXs.
U.S. & Canada Unlimited $15 Everything in U.S. & Canada Metered plus unlimited domestic calling in the U.S. and Canada with an optional paid add-on for unlimited international calling.
Global Select $20 Everything in U.S. & Canada Unlimited plus unlimited regional calling in one of 48 countries and territories; SMS and MMS are limited in most international locations.

Zoom Pros

  • Zoom offers pay-as-you-go and unlimited regional calling plans in 48 countries and territories.
  • All Zoom phone plans include the company’s high-quality video conferencing tools.
  • You can mix and match service plans based on employee needs.

Zoom Cons

  • Software integrations are quite limited at all subscription tiers.
  • For the phone aspect of Zoom, AI tools are limited.
  • Need a paid add-on for deep analytics.

Zoom User Score

Based on 92 reviews and ratings, Zoom has an 8.8 out of 10 Trust Radius score.

Read our full Zoom review.

Nextiva company logo
  • Starting Price: Starts at $18.95 per month
  • Key Features: Free international calling, visual plan editor, unlimited auto attendants and ring groups, video meetings and real-time analytics.
  • Free Trial: None
Editor's Rating: 9.5/10
Visit Site

Why We Chose Nextiva

In our review, we found the unified communications (UC) platform stood out for its Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant features, flexibility across different office locations and ample toll-free minute allowances across multiple plans. Nextiva has designed an especially easy-to-use dashboard with a simple and effective drag-and-drop interface for routing calls. This intuitive dashboard makes it easy for businesses without a dedicated information technology (IT) staff to set and adjust business hours, holiday routing and emergency routing to numerous devices and locations. Retailers and medical professionals working with repeat customers and patients will appreciate the phone system’s ability to integrate with popular customer relationship platforms (CRMs), ensuring fast yet personalized service for incoming calls.

 Nextiva Threaded Conversations

Nextiva’s Threaded Conversations gives users the ability to track all of their communications, regardless of whether it is via phone, text or video, in one place. Source; Nextiva

Nextiva Pricing

Service Plan Price per user/month Key Features
Essential $18.95 Unlimited voice and video calling within the U.S./Canada, voicemail, toll-free numbers with up to 1,500 minutes, 24/7 support, desktop and mobile apps, unlimited internet faxing, video meetings, auto attendant, call log reports, threaded conversations, 500 shared contacts, team status alerts, shared lines, call groups and integrations with Outlook and Google Contacts.
Professional $22.95 Everything in the Essential plan, plus unlimited conference calls with 40 participants, unlimited video conferencing, screen-sharing, multilevel auto attendant, up to 3,000 toll-free minutes, SMS/MMS and CRM integrations.
Enterprise $32.95 Everything in the Professional plan, plus voicemail transcription, call recording, up to 12,500 toll-free minutes, unlimited video conference recording, single sign-on, unlimited participants on voice conferencing and additional integrations.

Nextiva Pros

  • All Nextiva Business Communication plans include 24/7 customer support via phone, email and chat.
  • Nextiva offers flexible mix-and-match voice, video calls, messaging, and call center plans to suit everyone’s needs.
  • Nextiva achieves its 99.999 percent uptime reliability with eight points of presence across North America, carrier-grade data centers and around-the-clock monitoring.

Nextiva Cons

  • Costs are expensive for businesses with just a handful of employees.
  • Nextiva has limited AI-powered features and tools for its business phone system.
  • Voicemail transcription is available with all plans.

Nextiva User Score

Based on 292 reviews and ratings, Nextiva has a 9.2 out of 10 Trust Radius score.

Read our full Nextiva review.

dialpad company logo
  • Starting Price: $15 per user/month
  • Key Features: Al call and voice transcription, multilevel auto-attendant, call recording, ring groups and unlimited video meetings.
  • Free Trial: 14 days
Editor's Rating: 9.4/10

Why We Chose Dialpad

Many competitors including RingEX are updating their services to offer AI-powered features and tools, aligning themselves with what Dialpad has been providing for quite some time. In our review, we were impressed with the relatively low-cost entry-level plan’s inclusion of AI-powered tools for real-time reporting and live transcription for calls, voicemails and video conferences. Other available features like AI Recaps powered by DialpadGPT will take notes and provide call summaries, allowing you to focus on a customer’s needs while adding value to the conversation instead of worrying about forgetting a key detail. All Dialpad phone business communications plans include access to the company’s video meeting platform with unlimited AI meetings for up to 10 participants.

For large teams, real-time analytics for managers and administrators provide clear visibility into call volume, usage rates and adoption. Dialpad’s separate AI Sales Center works like an AI coaching assistant, providing customizable recommendations during calls using real-time assist cards. Where most providers offer reliability or uptime exceeding 99.99 percent, Dialpad is one of the few to offer a 100 percent uptime guarantee with an SLA for enterprise plans.

Dialpad AI tools

Dialpad AI tools give a recap of each call, ensuring you never forget points of the conversation. Source: Dialpad

Dialpad Pricing

Service Plan Price per user/month Key Features
Standard $15 Unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada, SMS/MMS, team messaging, AI-powered call and voice transcription, unlimited video meetings, weekday web and chat support, multilevel auto-attendant, call routing, call recording and integrations with Google Workspace
Pro $25 Everything in the Standard plan, plus 24/7 live agent support, local numbers in more than 70 countries, 25 ring groups, CRM and Microsoft Teams integrations, open API and webhooks, multiple phone numbers per account, 10 office locations and global SMS
Enterprise Customized for each business. Contact Zoom directly for a quote. Everything in the Pro plan, plus 100-percent uptime SLA, unlimited ring groups, dial by extension, single sign-on, live priority support, dedicated account manager, dedicated support number and unlimited office locations

Dialpad Pros

  • All Dialpad business communications plans include AI-powered tools and real-time analytics.
  • Dialpad offers local number support in over 70 countries.
  • All plans include unlimited calling in the U.S. and Canada.

Dialpad Cons

  • Dialpad’s included video conferencing tool is limited to 10 meeting participants.
  • 24/7 customer support is not available with all plans
  • The high-priced plans have minimum seat requirements.

Dialpad User Score

Based on 492 reviews and ratings, Dialpad has a 7.7 out of 10 Trust Radius Score.

Read our full Dialpad review.

GoTo Connect company logo
  • Starting Price: Custom pricing
  • Key Features: Free international calling, visual plan editor, unlimited auto attendants and ring groups, video meetings and real-time analytics.
  • Free Trial: None
Editor's Rating: 9.2/10

Why We Chose GoTo Connect

GoTo Connect’s Phone System offers more than 100 business communications features available from any internet-connected device. The platform’s intuitive drag-and-drop visual plan editor makes it easy for businesses without on-site IT staff to implement and even change call flows and extensions on the fly. All communications tools are easy to access from a web browser, desktop app and mobile app and GoTo Connect is compatible with more than 180 desk phone models. In our review, we appreciated how the platform’s team messaging and one-click video conferencing tools make it easy for remote employees to initiate an ad hoc virtual meeting.

GoTo Connect dial plan editor

GoTo Connect’s visual dial plan editor makes it easy to set how you want calls routed. Source: GoTo

GoTo Connect Pricing

Service Plan Price Key Features
Phone System Custom pricing; Contact GoTo for a specific quote. 1,000 toll-free minutes, unlimited users, free international calling to more than 50 countries, desktop and mobile apps, 24/7 customer support, smart call routing, unlimited auto-attendants, unlimited ring groups, hot desking, call recording, intercom, paging, virtual fax, team messaging, SMS/MMS, video meetings with 250 participants, meeting transcriptions, breakout rooms, real-time analytics, single sign-on and multisite admin
Customer Engagement Custom pricing; Contact GoTo for a specific quote. Everything in the Phone System plan, plus one shared inbox, custom surveys, AI messaging assistant, text campaigns, web chat widget, Facebook/Instagram messenger channel and custom dashboards
Complete CX Custom pricing; Contact GoTo for a specific quote. Everything in the Customer Engagement plan, plus multichannel inboxes, AI chat analysis, advanced call routing, call campaigns, tag management, call monitoring, auto-queue callback, agent dashboards, supervisor analytics and custom roles

GoTo Connect Pros

  • All GoToConnect plans include free international calling in more than 50 countries.
  • All GoToConnect plans include video conferencing for up to 250 participants.
  • With GoTo Connect, each service plan allows you to have unlimited accounts.

GoTo Connect Cons

  • GoToConnect does not list its pricing publicly.
  • If you user more than 1,000 toll-free minutes, you must pay additional per-minute fees.
  • GoTo does not offer a wide variety of third-party software applications.

GoTo Connect User Score

Based on 314 ratings and reviews, GoTo Connect has an 8.0 out of 10 Trust Radius score.

Read our full GoTo Connect review.

8x8 business phone system red logo
  • Starting Price: Custom pricing
  • Key Features: Voicemail transcription, video conferencing, CRM integrations, contact center solutions, advanced analytics.
  • Free Trial: None
Editor's Rating: 8.4/10

Why We Chose 8×8

With unlimited users, strong entry-level features, two UC plans and three contact center plans, we think 8×8 is a great choice for small businesses on track for tremendous growth. In our review, we were impressed by how many advanced features come standard in the basic plan, including unlimited users, single sign-on, voicemail transcription, SLAs, 24/7 support and video conferencing for up to 500 active participants. The entry-level plan also includes unlimited voice calls to 14 countries, short message service (SMS)/multimedia messaging service, team chat and key integrations for Microsoft Teams, Google Workspace and popular CRMs.

The ability to mix and match plans helps businesses stay lean as they grow by ensuring everyone has the appropriate communication tools without overspending on employees who only need basic service. As your business grows and your requirements evolve, you can upgrade from the X2 plan to an advanced contact center with quality management, skills-based routing, advanced analytics and omnichannel routing for voice, chat, email, SMS, social media and messaging applications.

8x8 AI tools

8×8’s built-in AI tools can provide summaries of meetings and highlight action items that need tending to. Source: 8×8

8×8 Pricing

Service Plan Price Features
X2 Custom pricing; Contact 8×8 directly for a quote. Unlimited users, unlimited voice calling to 14 countries, hot desking, presence detection, voicemail transcription, video conferencing with up to 500 people, live streaming, single sign-on, multilevel auto attendant, integrations with CRMs and other applications, call analytics, media storage, and 24/7 customer support.
X4 Custom pricing; Contact 8×8 directly for a quote. Everything in the X2 plan, plus unlimited calling in 48 countries, advanced call handling, 8×8 Frontdesk for receptionists and operators, supervisor analytics, and call activity analytics.

8×8 Pros

  • 8×8 offers unlimited voice calling to 48 countries.
  • 8×8 guarantees reliability with a 99.999-percent platform-wide uptime SLA for all UC plans.
  • 8×8 gives you the option to mix and match service plans based on each user’s specific needs.

8×8 Cons

  • 8×8 does not list its pricing publicly.
  • In order to access AI tools, you need to subscribe to the top-tier plan.
  • Some training resources are an additional cost.

8×8 User Score

Based on 734 reviews and ratings, 8×8 has an 8.5 out of 10 Trust Radius score.

Read our full 8×8 review.

What Is a Business Phone System?

A business phone system is a communications platform for businesses, typically including unlimited calling, automated menus, ring groups to call multiple employees simultaneously, voicemail-to-email functionality and call recording. Types of business phone systems include voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP), private branch exchange (PBX) and key system unit (KSU). The best phone systems for small businesses use VoIP technology, which allows you to use your business internet connection for the whole system. Business phone systems are continuously evolving to become entire communications platforms involving text, voice and video communications as well as collaboration between hybrid and remote team members.

Business Phone System Costs

A business phone system typically costs between $15 and $50 per user, per month, depending on the features and level of service you select. Many providers offer plans that start at around $20 per monthly user. In many cases, advertised prices are listed with the assumption of an annual payment plan for a significant number of users. The per-user price generally reduces by as much as 25 percent for larger businesses that purchase many accounts and commit to an annual contract. Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees should pay special attention to advertised pricing on websites that often preselect a plan with more than 20 users and annual payment pricing as this may not reflect the prices available to them. You’ll also want to take note of any minimum seat requirements when comparing prices for small teams.

Some providers, such as Zoom, offer pay-as-you-go metered pricing for calling and messaging but this arrangement is rare. For most service providers, unlimited calling to the U.S. and Canada is included, with additional per-minute fees for international calls that vary by provider and region. Some vendors also charge a one-time activation fee for new customers.

Many companies will lower their monthly prices by replacing standard features with piecemeal add-ons. For a lot of businesses, this is an excellent way to reduce costs—you can skip features, such as call recording, that may not be used by everyone. You can also utilize add-ons to design a custom solution for your long-term communication goals. While some service providers allow businesses to mix and match plans to support different employees effectively, many providers don’t offer this level of flexibility.

Most business phone vendors sell and rent preconfigured IP desk phones and other telephone hardware that range in price from $60 to $400. However, desk phones are never required to use a cloud-based phone system.

Business Phone System Features

Today’s business phone systems offer a plethora of valuable features for small businesses. This is perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud-hosted systems: They have opened the door for small businesses to access a multitude of advanced features without having to spend a ton of money. Previously, only larger businesses could afford feature-rich systems because of the capital required to install the necessary equipment. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. Below are some of the functions to look for in a new business phone system.

Unlimited callingMany of today’s cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems allow domestic calling to the U.S. and Canada for no additional charge. This gives you a fixed cost for the monthly service that doesn’t fluctuate based on how many calls your business makes and receives.
Automated attendantsAn auto attendant answers calls made to your business and routes them to the proper employees or departments.
Conference callingUC systems include a conference bridge that allows you to host your own conference calls. The number of people who can be on a call at one time depends on the provider. Some systems support five to 10 people, while others allow for hundreds of people at one time.
Video and web conferencingYou and your employees can host video meetings with video conferencing hardware or through a computer equipped with a camera and microphone. Most of these services allow for screen sharing, which lets everyone in the meeting view documents or presentations. The number of people who can be on a video call at one time depends on the provider.
Instant messagingMany UC systems enable instant messaging. You and your team can send messages back and forth to ask questions and collaborate on projects.
Text messagingSince texting has become so popular, some solutions allow you to text from your business line. This lets your staff send text messages to customers without revealing their personal numbers. [See our picks for the best text message marketing services.]
Call recordingThis gives you the ability to record calls. These recordings are then stored in the cloud or on your computer for playback later.
Virtual faxingThese systems facilitate sending online faxes rather than using a dedicated fax machine. You can send a fax to a recipient’s email or fax machine from the communications platform directly.
Ring groupsThis feature allows you to group employees so that if a person calls needing someone in a certain group, such as your customer service team, all of the employees’ phones will ring. You can choose for phones to ring in a specific order or all at once.
AIAI can reduce manual labor with web conference transcriptions, send post-meeting summaries with follow-up tasks and help determine customer sentiment during calls.
Software integrationsVoIP phone systems are capable of integrating with thousands of other business software applications including CRM platforms, office suites and the rest of your business ecosystem.

Choosing a Business Phone System

Stick to these five simple steps to identify the best business phone system and make a purchase decision with confidence.

1. Determine what’s available

Business phone systems are hardly an exciting category, which means it’s probably been a few years since you’ve taken the time to explore the companies driving innovation and offering the best features or value.

Read a few online guides (like this one) written by experienced reviewers who can compare and contrast different options objectively. To see how other customers have felt, check out some recent user reviews and customer comments on platforms like the Better Business Bureau’s website.

2. Define what you need

With such a wide variety in price between entry-level and enterprise systems, it’s important to determine the features and integrations that matter most. Once you understand the ideal set of tools across your organization, take a headcount and determine if everyone needs the same calling features.

In some cases, you may be able to mix and match plans, providing high-level features to those who need them while saving on your monthly bill for employees with fewer phone requirements.

3. Take advantage of live demos

Most service providers are willing to invest the time it takes to lock you into a long-term phone plan. Usually, this includes the offer of a live demo with a sales representative who can walk you through their phone system and address any specific questions you may have.

4. Compare costs

At this point, you should have narrowed a long list of potential phone providers to a few good choices. Rest assured that all of the platforms we’ve reviewed—and all of the major providers in this category—offer reliable service with a similar mix of features. If you’re struggling to make a final decision, the total annual expense is an excellent determining factor.

5. Start with a monthly term

While there are significant discounts available for annual subscribers, you may want to wait one month to ensure you’re satisfied with your new phone system. Typically, implementation is a fast and easy process, which makes switching services a relatively light lift.

Meanwhile, most long-term contracts have unattractive early termination fees that often require payment for the entirety of the contract. If you’re satisfied after one month, you can upgrade to a longer term and enjoy a lower monthly cost.

Advantages of Business Phone Systems

Modern business phone systems offer all the advantages with practically none of the disadvantages of older landline systems, which require expensive on-premises hardware to purchase and maintain. With a lower monthly cost, no hardware to manage and an impressive list of call management tools, a cloud-based business phone system is a very compelling option for many business owners and managers. Below are some of the benefits of using today’s business phone systems.

Go beyond making calls.

Cloud-based business phone systems do far more than make calls. They also support video conferencing, team messaging, SMS and online faxing. On top of that, they offer integrations with popular business software and highly rated CRM platforms to manage customer data and communications properly across an entire business.

Ooma video call

Most of today’s top business phone systems include built-in video conferencing software, which ensures you can hold online meetings and make calls all from the same platform. Source: Ooma 

Enjoy communications flexibility.

Flexibility is another area where business phone systems have evolved, allowing employees to take calls on any internet-connected device, including computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and IP phones, that has the same functionality as a traditional-looking desk phone. Businesses can send inbound calls to all devices at one time or set up ring groups that dial specific teams or employees with a simultaneous or sequential ring setting to ensure all inbound calls are routed and received properly.

Get quality assurance.

While some traditional landline users may fear poor quality due to a bad internet connection, the reality is that cloud-based phones are on par with landline systems in terms of audio quality and reliability. The majority of business phone system providers offer uptimes of 99.999 percent and higher with SLAs. As part of their analytics tools, many vendors also include quality-of-service reporting, which details the level of quality for every call that’s made.

Alternatives to Consider

Vonage

While many platforms come with some degree of customization through a handful of add-ons and APIs, Vonage stands apart for the sheer number of available customizations and unique plan structure. Most cloud-based business phone providers place advanced communications features and tools in their top-tier plans, forcing you to adopt a high-priced plan when you may only want one or two of those features. Vonage takes more of a piecemeal approach, featuring 18 paid add-ons such as on-demand call recording, IP phone paging and an AI virtual assistant with conversational AI. Learn more in our review of Vonage.

Grasshopper

For many small business owners and solopreneurs, adding a simple virtual business phone system to an existing cell phone makes the most sense. Grasshopper enables you to separate work and personal calls from the same device easily, providing a professional look and sound with local, toll-free and vanity phone numbers. You can even hire Grasshopper to record a professional voicemail greeting on your behalf. All plans provide the same core features including unlimited minutes, mobile and desktop apps, call forwarding, virtual faxing, voicemail, simultaneous call handling, business texting and 24/7 support. Plans are largely differentiated by the number of users, phone numbers and available extensions. Read our full Grasshopper Review

Aircall

Aircall’s business phone service has the right mix of contact center features and sales-focused tools, making it an ideal choice for companies that primarily work with customers over the phone. The integration-friendly platform offers over 100 integrations and API access, including 44 CRM and help desk applications. Sales teams gain improved visibility into performance with talk-to-listen ratios to review conversation engagement levels and a power dialer tool to initiate new calls in rapid succession and automatically add new numbers from web pages. Customer service teams offer better services with features like intelligent call routing to connect customers with the best agent available for a specific issue or problem.

Open Phone

OpenPhone’s virtual phone system bridges the gap for remote teams. Its unified inbox centralizes all customer interactions, from calls and texts to voicemails, keeping everyone informed and eliminating missed opportunities. Shared inboxes and business hours routing ensure calls are distributed evenly and handled promptly. Plus, complete conversation history with transcripts and internal chats empowers your team to provide personalized service. On top of that, OpenPhone offers affordable plans with time-saving features like auto-responses and snippets, making it a cost-effective solution for remote businesses.

800.com

800.com focuses on one key element: business phone numbers. Unlike some competitors offering full phone systems, 800.com helps you establish a professional presence with 1-800, vanity, or local numbers. This separates your personal calls and creates a dedicated line for customer inquiries. They offer three flexible plans, all including features like faxing, call recording, texting, analytics, voicemail transcripts, and various call forwarding options, so you can choose the functionality that best suits your needs.

Business Phone System FAQs

All businesses can benefit from a good phone system, although not all businesses will benefit from the same type of business phone system. Communicating with your colleagues, customers and clients in a professional manner is critical. That’s why relying solely on personal mobile devices can cause problems. You want to make a great impression on your customers. A greeting from an automated attendant via a business phone system is a great first step. It shows your company is a legitimate operation.

Businesses that don’t require a traditional office phone system should at least consider investing in a virtual phone system. These allow you to present a professional image while still using your mobile device as your main communication tool. Virtual systems include automated attendants and a host of other valuable features. In addition, when you make outbound calls, your business number—not your personal mobile number—is displayed to the person you are calling.

For larger businesses, business phone systems not only help you present a professional image to your customers but also give your employees all of the communication tools they need to do their jobs well and keep in touch with co-workers. Mobile apps allow team members to take their business lines with them wherever they go and video conferencing services ensure they can connect with anyone, regardless of where they are or how they want to communicate.

UC is the ability to access all of your communication tools from one platform. Many of today’s business phone systems are UC systems. While these systems still offer traditional phone service, they include other communication tools that professionals now commonly rely on.

The additional features in UC services include audio, video and web conferencing; instant messaging; and text messaging. Previously, to have all of these communication tools, organizations had to use a different vendor for each one. UC streamlines the process by allowing you to access all of these features from the same provider. This not only boosts employee productivity but can also be a significant cost-saver for businesses.

In today’s highly competitive market, it’s never a bad time to invest in a business phone system. There are so many providers seeking new customers that they are always offering some type of discount or incentive to sign up. This could be a few months of free service, free phones or discounted rates.

That said, we have noticed that a lot of vendors ramp up their incentives near the end of each quarter. As they close their books on the quarter, providers want to have the best sales numbers possible, so they may offer extra incentives to get more sign-ups. Consider this time frame before you start talking to companies.

There aren’t many differences between a business phone service and a business phone system. Both provide you with all the tools you need to effectively communicate with those inside and outside of your office.

When evaluating which is best for your business, look at how well the system runs. Is the service reliable? This is especially important for cloud-hosted PBX systems. Traditionally, business phone services were based on landlines. Reliability was rock-solid because everything was hardwired and there was no internet to deal with. Today, as cloud-hosted PBX business phone systems have become increasingly popular, finding a business phone service that offers the same reliability as a landline system is crucial.

One of the key factors you can use to determine reliability is uptime statistics. Uptime is how often a cloud-based phone system is up and running. One of the most critical elements of a business phone system is the promise that you can pick up the phone and make a call whenever you need to and that whenever someone calls you, they can get through. The best business phone services and systems have uptimes of 99.999 percent. This means service is down for only a handful of minutes each year. Some business phone providers go as far as to guarantee their uptime—if it ever falls below a certain threshold, they will reimburse you.

What makes today’s cloud-hosted unified communication systems so appealing to small businesses is that they provide the same functionality as systems large businesses use.

Before the advent of VoIP and cloud-hosted solutions, large companies were typically the only ones that could afford the expensive on-site equipment needed for a robust phone system with features like automated attendants, extension dialing and call queues. VoIP, specifically the cloud-hosted VoIP phone system, has leveled the playing field. The point of entry is no longer expensive, so small businesses can easily implement these systems in the same way large businesses can.

One difference, however, might be in the service tiers small and large businesses choose. While small businesses might select a lower-tier plan that doesn’t offer every feature under the sun, larger businesses may be able to afford the more expensive plans that give them access to everything the phone system provider offers. Some packages are geared to smaller, larger or even midsize businesses based on features and pricing. But nothing is stopping a small business from signing up for the most feature-rich option—unless the vendor has user minimums.

The setup process depends on the kind of business phone system you choose, but a huge benefit of today’s systems is how easy they are to implement. VoIP solutions are completely managed from an online portal. Administrators can log into the portal to assign business phone numbers and extensions, add new users, delete users and turn features on or off for individual users. You can access this portal from anywhere with an internet connection. Naturally, on-premises implementations are more involved.

Employees tend to benefit most from a VoIP business phone system. These systems provide workers with valuable tools to facilitate all of their communication and collaboration needs. Voicemail-to-email, call recording, instant messaging and call forwarding are some of the features employees can typically access with a VoIP system.

Additionally, VoIP solutions allow lots of mobility. Many vendors offer their own mobile apps that give workers the freedom to answer and make calls to and from their business lines via their mobile devices. This helps ensure they never miss an important call.

Small business owners also are big beneficiaries of VoIP office systems. These platforms give small businesses access to features and tools that were previously affordable by only larger organizations. The ability to install these systems for a relatively low price is a huge advantage for smaller companies.

Technically, there are IP phones and analog phones. Most of today’s VoIP phone systems use IP phones. These phones plug directly into your internet router and are essentially ready to start making and receiving calls immediately. To use an analog phone with many of today’s VoIP systems, you need a special adapter that allows these phones to connect to your network.

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Jeff Hale, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Jeff Hale is a communications and content marketing expert with extensive experience leading teams as a managing editor. He has deep knowledge of B2B communications technologies, including business phone systems and customer relationship management (CRM) software. Jeff is also an entrepreneur who knows the realities of launching and managing a small business, where he serves as a Content Director and SEO Consultant. In his role as an entrepreneur and professional, Jeff has identified new market opportunities for Fortune 500 clients and developed communications strategies and digital branding for tech startups and small businesses. Jeff holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Irvine, and an MBA from Chapman University.
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