Communication is a crucial part of success in any well-established business. Companies are using business phone systems to do much more than making and receiving calls. The methods that companies use to interact with customers, clients and partners are ever-changing, but when it comes to a primary phone system, how do you choose from all the options you have?
There are many methods and factors to consider so you can maintain a professional image in the most cost-efficient way. Certain features, connection methods and technology are essential to achieving this goal. The best systems integrate voicemail, conference calling and more. Many different types of phone systems offer these capabilities alongside a multitude of other features, but settling on one can be confusing and stressful.
Thankfully, there are many different routes a business can take to ensure they make the right decision. To choose the right system, you must understand the options you have available and which would be best suited for your particular needs.
The Different Types of Phone Systems
There are a few significant types of business phone systems, and each one provides benefits and setbacks that must be evaluated to see which best fits your own specific needs.
The most traditional phone system is a landline. These systems work by plugging each phone into a wall and using a physical wire that allows for telecommunications with regional phone companies and the system itself.
Business landline phone systems are a reliable, tried-and-true method. However, the system provides far fewer features compared to Internet-based phone systems. As new business communications technologies are innovated, traditional landline telephones are fading. With phone system providers moving away from landline desk phones, they become increasingly difficult to purchase. Repairing components that will eventually become damaged is going to be more challenging.
Even though landlines are a dated phone system, that does not mean they are the least expensive. They usually require a private branch exchange (PBX). This hardware makes it possible for call transferring, and its acquisition may raise the cost of an office phone system higher than another method.
- Pros: They have a reliable connection and service.
- Cons: Additional hardware is expensive. They have fewer features than Internet alternatives, and repairs may be difficult as they are phased out.
2. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Instead of relying on your local phone company to establish a connection, VoIP systems interact with an Internet service provider to connect with other users. The effectiveness of VoIP solutions correlates with how robust your Internet connectivity is in the office.
Setting up additional system features such as automated voicemail boxes and conference calling is easy with these office phone systems. Many of these benefits cannot be achieved easily or at all while using a landline. The benefits also do not need extra hardware and can be accessed through the Internet.
VoIP is an emerging technology and has vastly improved in recent years. The quality of the connection is on the same playing field as an expensive landline system and is more cost-efficient. They can also interact with computers and other devices so your employees can make their calls through other means than traditional phones.
There are a few options for how to host a business VoIP system. The two most common ways are at your business or the online cloud. Deciding to host an on-premise VoIP system requires pricey equipment and software plus a monthly fee. Your company is also responsible for managing and maintaining the technology. While this is unsurprisingly the more expensive route, some businesses choose an on-premise VoIP system if they want more power over their phone system.
Cloud-based systems do not require any extra hardware, and the maintenance is taken care of directly by the provider. A service fee is typical, and its price will depend on the size of your business. Not having to buy additional hardware or incur the upkeep associated with an on-premise system generally saves companies a great deal of money in the long run.
- Pros: You’ll get affordability and a vast amount of easily obtainable features with no need to purchase PBX system hardware.
- Cons: It requires a strong Internet connection.
3. Virtual Phone System
This type of phone system works by connecting remote workers to the company phone number through their mobile or home phones. Customer calls are transferred to the employee’s extension even if they are not at their desk or anywhere near the office. While they do not have as many advanced features as VoIP systems, they offer many useful features such as auto-attendants, call screening, voicemail and online faxing.
If your employees frequently travel or work from many different locations, a virtual phone system can be a great option. Although these systems are not as robust as the others mentioned, they provide many features while using a non-centralized network. They supply access to business calls while employees are away from their desk phones using home or mobile phones.
Today’s technology provides workers with flexible work arrangements so that customers can reach them at all times. Forcing clients to hunt down their service representatives when they need them most is terrible for the customer relationship and could lose business.
Virtual phone systems see a lot of use by smaller businesses that want to maintain a professional image without investing in a full-fledged VoIP or landline system. Another advantage is that employees no longer have to share their personal phone numbers with work contacts and convolute their home and work lives.
- Pros: Remote workers and those on business trips can make company calls on the go and take advantage of features their own device does not offer.
- Cons: It is not an all-inclusive phone system. Calls are processed by employee’s device and can incur charges.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Phone System
There are many questions to ask when buying an office phone system to ensure you make the best choice to fit your company’s particular needs. Consider the following aspects during your phone systems for business comparison to make a functional and cost-effective decision.
1. Current and Future Needs
Do you already have a phone system in place, or are you starting fresh? If you do not already have the infrastructure in place, it is more feasible to invest in a cloud-based phone system to save on upfront costs.
If you already have a PBX system and other equipment needed for a landline, it might not be profitable to switch to another system quite yet. VoIP phone systems and other digital forms of communication are rapidly improving. So, making use of your current system for a little longer might get you a better technology when you do switch in the future.
A successful company is always thinking ahead. If it is time to make the switch from a landline, consider which system will grow with your business and not become obsolete in the coming years. Constantly replacing outdated and problematic systems is not worth the money and time investment. Establish your exact needs moving forward, and find the method that will leave your customers and employees most satisfied.
VoIP and virtual phone systems are vastly more scalable, flexible and mobile than a landline-based connection. Once you make the switch, the future of your telecommunications becomes much less of a headache.
No one wants to spend more than necessary. Although some types of phone systems generally cost more than others, deciding on a preferred cost structure and what you are comfortable with spending your money on will likely impact your decision.
No matter the phone system you choose, the price will likely vary depending on the size of your business and what equipment you want to be included. Usually, landline systems cost about $70 monthly per line. You can find a plan at this price point that will likely provide the number of minutes you need but does not include the PBX system software that significantly raises the expense.
Cloud-based VoIP and virtual phone systems are less expensive monthly and can be anywhere from $10 to $50 per user a month. If you include more features that come with premium plans, the price will increase. If a monthly cost structure is unappealing to you, on-premise VoIP costs only initial fees, which charge between $500 to $1,250 per user on top of an installation fee.
When choosing an option, you must consider both upfront and ongoing costs. On-premise VoIP and landline systems can have a high upfront cost, including equipment, licenses and installation fees. Cloud-based and virtual systems have no upfront costs, and instead charge a monthly fee per user. Do not be deceived by “too good to be true” discounts from vendors, because they will likely charge hidden fees later in the buying process.
3. Reliability and Connection
Maintaining stable connectivity is vital in any business. Ensure the phone system you select has many data centers that provide a high percentage of uptime so there is no service loss. In the event of a server crash, an emergency protocol should be put into place so the service can reach restoration quickly.
As more regions host fast and reliable Internet connections, VoIP is an acceptable option for most. If your business is in a rural area or somewhere that cannot guarantee a stable connection, a traditional landline might be the superior option until better Internet becomes available. This consideration is the largest when dealing with the VoIP vs. landline for business debate.
Choosing a VoIP system is not as cut and dry as what landlines once were. Making the wrong decision when choosing a package can be a waste of thousands of dollars. Common issues that can arise through mishandled VoIP systems include extended downtime, poor sound quality and other communication problems.
A stable and reliable connection is arguably the most critical element in a phone system. Besides the plan itself, you need an experienced IT staff to manage data centers and office places. If your business does not have an IT staff, 24/7 support from your provider is a must.
You will also want to familiarize yourself with how to contact support and when you can expect to get a response. The best telecommunications companies offer many ways of reaching them and can get back to you quickly. Read the phone companies’ information about their business as well as user reviews to get an idea of the most common complaints and issues.
If your company relies on tools such as CRM software, email services, ticket managing software, live chat and call scripts, choosing a system that can easily mesh with those business applications is essential.
You know how convenient it can be to have all your systems interconnected and easy to transition between in the workplace. A virtual phone system allows you to handle customer experiences with ease by unifying your communication system interface without having the costs of expensive services and software.
If accessing phone data such as voicemails and other important aspects of your plan through other devices is essential, but you cannot justify investing in a full-fledged virtual phone system, some VoIP providers make it possible to convert other devices into virtual systems known as softphones.
Hardphones are the traditional phones in the office. While a softphone can not make or receive calls, they do access some features such as forwarding calls, sending messages to an email or transcribing them through text. Certain applications can also allow users to tap into their business phone lines and even make or receive calls.
5. Call Volume
Consider the amount of inbound and outbound calls you receive, and if these numbers fluctuate seasonally.
If you constantly get a large number of calls, as you might at a call center, a stable landline connection might work best. However, if these numbers vary throughout the year or if your team is considerably large, the digital route will likely save you some headaches. Adjusting the number of users is flexible, easy to do and avoids a surplus of equipment.
Choosing the Right Business Phone System Installation Service
Most voice service providers offer on-premise system installation services. For some companies, installing your phone system is free when you subscribe to their services. Others offer installation as a separate fee. Comparing the cost and quality of installation services is critical for choosing the right phone company.
Of course, you need a reliable, fast connection once your system is set up. You also need an installation service that respects your time and can get you set up as quickly as possible. Remember installing your new phone system, whether it’s a PBX or VoIP phone system, can take time. It can take a lot more time with the wrong partner. Consider if you have a deadline for when the phone services need to be ready to go.
For most businesses, replacing your phone system becomes necessary because the old system doesn’t work as needed. For a new business or one moving to a new location, setting up a phone system is vital to helping you get off the ground. No matter the situation, you’ll likely have a deadline, and your phone company needs to be able to meet it. Ask about the time frames for getting the technicians in the office and make sure it works for your schedule.
During the installation itself, you need an installer who can minimize downtime. Depending on the number of phones, installing your own system can take a long time. After the old phones are disconnected, every second counts. Your customers may have to wait to get in touch with you until after the changeover is complete. A professional installer should be able to create a seamless transition. Ask how long the installation will take and precisely how much if any downtime you’ll incur.
2. Cabling or Infrastructure Needs
Whether using a landline or Internet-based phone service, you’ll need the correct types of cables and a system that can handle your voice needs. You need reliable, high-speed Internet to handle VoIP, especially at higher call volumes. So, choosing a cable infrastructure for your multiline phone system that can transfer high amounts of data is critical. If you use a PBX phone system, the hardware needs to be able to handle internal call transfers to the correct extensions.
Your cabling needs may change depending on the number of phones and your average call volumes. They should also be easy to expand to keep up with the growth of your company. The right installer should be able to tell you what kinds of cables you need if you don’t have them already. These cables may include:
- Category 5
- Category 5e
- Category 6
- Category 6a
- Category 7
- Fiber Optic
Your installer should work with many of the major manufacturers to find the cables and components that fit your network requirements and budget.
3. Services and Feature Needs
Since most installation services are provided through the voice service provider, you’ll need a company that can offer you the arrangement you need. Consider which system is necessary for your small business need. Which will be the most reliable for your area, call volume, budget, software integrations and expectations for growth? Look for a company that can install the components you need to keep your phone calls connected, and the features you need to run your business.
Consider whether the installer is a landline, cloud-based phone system or local VoIP provider. You’ll also want a responsive customer contact center and technicians who can be in the office quickly to repair any malfunctioning on-premise system hardware. If your team goes on business trips or has some employees working from home, you’ll need a system that can connect mobile devices to the company phone line.
Need Help Choosing a Phone System for Your Business?
Wrestling with the pros and cons of business phone system options is not easy. If you feel you are drowning in comparisons and technology that you are not sure exactly what it is all about, there is no reason to be overwhelmed. In the fast-moving business world, your particular area of expertise is where the most effort should lie.
These feelings are why Merlin Communications have assisted their customers in meeting their business communications goals for many years by knowing precisely what to look for in a business phone system. In particular, we offer the following services:
- Telecom Services
- VoIP Services
- Cloud-Based Services
- Conference Call Services
- Telecom Expense Management
- Telecom Audit
- Telecom Inventory Management
- Cable Services
- Carrier Services
- Phone System Installation
Letting us take care of all your telecom necessities allows you to focus on the work you love doing while enjoying increased profits, streamlined operations and reduced risk by outsourcing your telecommunications management services.
Our team with over 80 years of combined experience in business telephone solutions and provides businesses with excellent service and custom products. We work with over 200 suppliers, so we make it as easy as possible to find the best phone solutions for your needs.
Before you bog yourself down with extensive research or make a compromise that could be less than ideal, contact us and receive a free quote today.