How to Choose a Business Phone System for Your Small Business
December 10, 2019
How to Choose a Business Phone System for Your Small Business
Phone systems help businesses interact with their customers in an efficient manner. No longer are phones limited to making and receiving calls. Phone systems for businesses break down all communication barriers by engaging in conferencing, virtual interactions, messaging, and more.
Today’s phone systems give the clients and businesses an excellent communication experience with specific features like voicemail or an automated receptionist. Having a traditional phone system for your office instead of relying on some app or a mobile data plan will project a good image for your company.
Yet, not each phone system works the same way, nor do they all offer the same benefits. Choosing a telephone system fit for your business depends on a variety of factors which we’ll address in this article.
Identifying a Suitable Small Business Phone System
Whether you are installing a new phone system or upgrading to a better option, you have to consider the following key factors:
- Business activities
- Organization goals
- Expected call volume
- Company budget
Here are some hard questions you need to ask yourself before you pick the best phone system for your small business:
- Which is your current system and what do you hope to achieve with an upgrade?
- What specific features or capabilities are you looking for in phone service? eg. 4 line, multi line, cordless, etc.
- Does the new option fulfill all the requirements?
- What is the current call volume and what are your future expectations?
- Is it enough for the number of employees, office locations, potential customers, partners, existing vendors, and other stakeholders?
- Is it a scalable and portable option?
- Can you integrate with online platforms and technology?
- Will the internet speed of your local ISP suffice?
- Does the telephony system match a reasonable budget?
- Do you have a preference for a certain brand? Avaya, Cisco, Toshiba, AT&T, Vtech, etc.
Research several top service providers who cater to businesses like yours. Find out where they stand in customer support and reliability. Accordingly, try out the shortlisted options before you sign up.
Common Phone System Types
All telephone systems fall under two main categories: hard phones and softphones.
Hard phones are the traditional run-of-the-mill physical phones at your office. Softphones are devices that can access your telephone system. For example, the computer on which you get your voicemail emails, or the mobile on which you get text messages can be a softphone.
The main distinctions are the landline and VoIP, but there are also hybrid variants or subtypes:
Landline Business Phone Systems
The landline or analog phone system is a traditional system that plugged into the wall. It works on physical copper wires and provides a reliable connection. Some brands, such as VTech, specialize in cordless landline systems, but the overall features remain the same.
Although this vintage technology guarantees a reliable service, the telecom industry is not expanding in this area. Since Toshiba announced it was shutting its Telecommunications System Division, other landline services have followed suit.
A landline is mostly suitable for small businesses that do not require many internet services. However, it is comparatively expensive to install and maintain, as you will need a private branch exchange (PBX) to provide call transferring and other features.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Unlike in the landline, VoIP (also called IP telephony) communication happens as data transfers over the internet. So the quality of communication depends on your internet connection speed and reliability. Since software integrations are critical to many businesses of today, VoIP wins this round, hands down.
However, the biggest disadvantage is that power outages may disable the system unless there is an emergency power supply or if it comes with fail-safe capabilities.
Advantages of VoIP over Landline
- Affordable flat monthly fee
- Make calls from anywhere
- Easy to use portal or service dashboard
- Upgraded landline service
- Extra features like video conferencing, online chat, and mobile apps
Virtual Phone Systems
Also called Softphones, Virtual Phone Systems are software-based solutions packaged as mobile apps or browser-based desktop apps. Although these are not full-fledged phone systems for businesses, they provide an array of features that allow you to communicate via the Internet.
Virtual systems transfer business calls from the main number to a specific employee’s phone. You also get valuable tools like call screening, voicemails, and online faxing.
These are easy to install, maintain, and are very affordable telecommunication systems for small and medium sized businesses. Small businesses with several employees working remotely can make use of these great options.
Cloud-Based Phone Systems
Hosted (cloud) phone systems are VoIP systems whose service provider hosts their PBX. The service provider will be responsible for all the technical services needed for the PBX.
Cloud-based systems are significantly cheaper than VoIP systems because they do not need additional hardware. They are suited for businesses with a lesser budget.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Business Phone System
Once you know the type of small business telephone system that suits your needs, check similar services for these factors:
One of the primary factors affecting your choice of an office phone system for your small business may be its price. If this is your main criterion, then a landline or VoIP system will be the smarter option. However, if you have an existing system, then upgrade it to a hybrid system that suits your business needs.
Reliable communication channels that are both affordable and accessible are key to the success of a business. The system you use has to instill confidence in your customers. Review the fail-safe policy, uptime, and risk management plans of each provider before you sign up.
Choose a system with maximum security to prevent hostile malware attacks, fraud, and phishing attempts. Reputed services provide true encryption, redundancy architecture, authentication, and other security features.
If you want to customize your security settings, landline systems, and on-premise VoIPs are good options. With cloud-based networks, you get a data encryption feature during transmission and physical security systems for the data centers onsite.
Phone systems like VoIP enable you to communicate effectively even if you are offsite. Choose services that can be integrated with a desktop or mobile apps.
Businesses often go through downsizing or expansion, depending on their operations. Accordingly, phone systems for small businesses have to be scalable, with great operational agility.
Small businesses may not employ IT staff, and for this reason, they have to choose a service that offers 24*7 support and quick response times.
Based on the service you select, the phone system can be hosted on the cloud, onsite, or both. While a landline system is an on-premise option, VoIP systems hosting can be either way. If the PBX equipment is installed onsite, you will be responsible for its service and maintenance.
Collaboration tools like CRMs, email, instant messaging, web conferencing, and conference calling are offered by the latest office phones. The presence tools allow employees to interact with unlimited participants.
Based on the phone system and type of plan and by purchasing additional features, you get:
- Call monitoring, call forwarding & call recording
- Video chat
- Internet faxing
- Conference calling
- Missed call alerts
- Toll-free number
- Interoffice instant messaging
- Interactive voice response
- Voicemail-to-email or text
- Integrations with Outlook or Salesforce
Customers or vendors may need to reach you at any time, and a purposely designed phone system makes it possible. For one thing, a reliable business phone service provides credibility and legitimacy to your business. So you must assess all aspects of service before you decide to buy a business phone system for your small business.