If you plan to be in the market for a business phone system in 2023, there are several questions you need to consider first to ensure you get the solution that best fits your needs.
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If you’re not sure yet, read on. We’ll fill you in on the pros and cons of these types of phone systems:
Pros: This type of service allows businesses with offsite employees to present a professional image at all times. It also gives remote workers access to various phone system features that mobile and home phones don’t offer. See our review of Grasshopper, our top-rated virtual phone system for more information.
Cons: Virtual systems aren’t full-fledged phone systems. Your calls are often still processed on your mobile or home phone network. This means you are charged for the call on the virtual system and use up your mobile or home phone minutes. Some virtual services allow you to make calls via internet connection when using the provider’s mobile app.
Best for: Small businesses with remote workers or sole proprietorships
Pros: Landline systems are a reliable, time-tested solution that many companies are comfortable using.
Cons: Most phone system providers are moving away from landlines, making them more difficult to purchase and repair. It’s only a matter of time before these systems become obsolete.
Best for: Large corporations that have the budget for them and an in-house IT staff to manage and maintain them; necessary for businesses without high-speed internet access
Pros: VoIP provides a sophisticated phone system with all the bells and whistles. These systems are easy to set up and configure and are significantly cheaper than landline systems.
Cons: These systems rely on your internet connection. If you’re in a community with spotty internet service, this type of phone system won’t work for you.
Best for: Small businesses wanting the functionality of a sophisticated phone system at a reasonable price and businesses that want their remote employees to have access to the phone system. See our review of Ooma Office for the best phone system for remote teams.
If you decide that a VoIP system is best for you, your next decision is how you want it hosted. While landline systems require you to house the equipment inside your business, VoIP systems give you the option to buy your equipment outright and self-host or to rent the equipment from your service provider, who hosts it in the cloud.
Pros: You are always in control of your service. You and your IT team ensure it is up and running and configured how you like.
Cons: There is a significant upfront cost since you have to buy all the equipment. Additionally, you need someone on staff who can service and maintain the system.
Best for: Businesses that don’t feel comfortable using the cloud and want total control over their system and access to the equipment at all times; businesses with an in-house IT team that can set up and maintain a VoIP system; businesses with regulatory or compliance requirements that may be difficult to meet in the cloud
Pros: There is no PBX hardware or dial-tone service to purchase and maintain. Your provider takes care of all that for you. You can set up and configure the system for your business from your computer.
Cons: You aren’t in control of the hardware. If the system goes down, you must rely on your provider to fix it as quickly as possible.
Best for: Growing businesses on a fixed budget with no IT staff to operate and maintain PBX hardware; businesses that want quick access to new phone system features or have multiple locations and want their system all on one platform.
Still not sure if you even need a business phone system, or if VoIP fits you? No problem. Here are some questions and answers that may help you decide.
A: The simple answer is yes. Because so much of a business’s success depends on how it presents itself, all businesses can benefit from some sort of phone system.
It is critical for businesses to always present themselves professionally. Letting customers and clients reach you on a business line that an automated attendant often answers is an excellent way to achieve that. Businesses that don’t want to spend money on a full-fledged phone system can still present the image they want by using a virtual system.
A: It is definitely possible if you invest in a virtual phone system. This system allows you to use your mobile device while presenting a professional image.
Using just your mobile line, without a virtual system, presents a few issues. First, it doesn’t convey a professional image to your customers. Second, mobile lines don’t provide the features and tools that small businesses find most valuable, such as voicemail to email, call forwarding, call screening, music on hold and online faxing.
A: The problem with landline systems isn’t their functionality; they still operate at a high level. The biggest issue you will run into with traditional landline phone systems is that new options are no longer being built. This means no new technology is being developed for landline systems.
No new software upgrades are available for landlines either. This means you won’t have access to many new features and capabilities.
Finally, finding experts to provide customer service and support for these systems, and the parts to keep landline systems up and running, is increasingly difficult.
At some point, likely in the near future, new features for VoIP systems won’t be compatible with landline systems. Depending on the feature, that could very well put your business behind the eight ball.
A: The decision really comes down to your resources. You need to consider your budget, whether your business is growing, whether you have an IT staff capable of running and maintaining an in-house phone system, and whether you have access to a high-speed internet connection.
When choosing a phone provider for your small business, it is important to find a service that has the features and tools you want in a phone system and offers the level of customer support you expect from a vendor partner. Check out our review of 8×8, our top choice for the best phone system for small businesses.
If you are considering a cloud-hosted system, one factor you want to give serious thought is uptime. This is how often the system is operational. When the system is down, you won’t have access to your telephone services. The best providers have numerous data centers around the world to minimize downtime with the service. When speaking with different providers, ask about their uptime stats and whether they have any guarantees to give you money back should the service be down for longer than the guaranteed time each month.
A: There are some upfront costs with cloud-hosted phone systems. You most likely will pay for IP phones, which range from $50 to $600 each. Some providers also charge setup and training fees.
A: Many cloud phone system providers offer businesses the option to use a shared server or pay extra for a dedicated server. This decision depends on if you want the system solely devoted to you, or if you want to buy it as a service on the same platform the provider offers to everyone else.
Smaller businesses without many special requirements and customizations are typically comfortable using a shared service. Large organizations with complex needs likely prefer a dedicated server that provides the high-quality service and privacy they want.
A: While some users might be concerned about the sound quality of a VoIP system, the technology has come so far that it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between landline and internet-based calls.
To ensure call quality is clear and strong, your business has to be conscientious about how you set up your data network. You need to ensure you have enough capacity to handle your call volume and that your network is set up to prioritize voice calls over other types of internet traffic.
A: While feature-rich phone systems were previously used only by large corporations, today’s VoIP options give small businesses the same benefits. Here are some of the calling and collaboration features you may find most beneficial:
A: VoIP technology gives employees the freedom to take and make business calls from anywhere, without the need for a business-dedicated cell phone. Business VoIP systems offer smartphone applications and mobility features that give employees the full functionality of their desk phones anytime, anywhere.
A: In today’s age of remote workers and flexible work arrangements, it’s critical that employees can be reached at all times, regardless of where they are. You don’t want your customers to have to hunt down your employees when they need them or, worse, not be able to reach them at all.
Mobility ensures that your employees are always reachable. It also allows them to be connected without sharing their personal phone numbers.
A: Many of today’s phone systems are unified communications systems. These systems combine voice calling, messaging, and video or online meetings into one service. They also offer audio conferencing and online faxing. Many of today’s phone system providers offer these services on their platforms.
Solutions that aren’t unified communications systems are those that only offer voice calling and related features.
A: While both on-premises and hosted systems can support organizations with multiple locations, a cloud-hosted solution can simplify things.
Cloud-hosted systems don’t require you to install complex PBX equipment inside each of your locations. This not only allows easier setup but can also save you money. These cloud-hosted systems can be managed from one online platform, making using them easy.
A: That is one of the beauties of today’s cloud-hosted VoIP systems – there aren’t many limitations to the number of phone lines your business can access. Typically, the more lines you have, the cheaper your per-user cost is. Moreover, adding new lines is a simple process. With on-premises systems, you have to do actual work on your equipment to install new lines. With cloud-hosted systems, you can add a new line in seconds straight from your computer. [Read more about multiline phone systems.]