The way businesses are communicating – both internally with their own team and externally with customers/clients – is changing. With technology advancing and more teams using remote work, businesses need more robust communication systems than ever. Learn about the different types of business communication systems available to you today, including basic business phone systems, cloud-based phone systems, and unified communication systems. Then, you can decide which system will be the best fit for your business.
What is a business communication system?
Business communication systems can be any tool – digital or analogy – that helps employees communicate. Companies today rely on business communication systems to stay connected with their co-workers as well as clients and customers. In the past, business leaders considered basic phone systems such as landline phones sufficient to get the job done. But nowadays, teams are using digital solutions to streamline their communication needs, boost productivity, and stay connected from anywhere in the world. There are lots of types of business communication systems today, including phone calling, video calling, visual voicemail, email, instant messaging, live chat, and much more.
Types of Business Phone Systems
To start, let’s start with the basics and discuss the different types of business phone systems. Business phone systems are meant primarily for phone calls. But these days, many have additional communication tools built-in so that you can streamline communication tasks.
1. PBX System
Most standard business phone systems are referred to as PBX, or Private Branch Exchange systems. In short, a PBX system is a business-grade phone system that runs through a private branch exchange network. PBX is typically different from a residential landline phone because it offers more features that can help business professionals. Some of these business communication features include –
- Extension dialing
- Call routing and transferring
- Hold queues and hold music
- Call conferencing
While most companies today use digital forms of PBX systems, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), PBX systems also include older analog systems (such as landlines). Analog PBX systems use POTS lines to route phone calls rather than the Internet.
2. VoIP System
VoIP, a certain form of PBX system, is the probably the most common business phone system for businesses today. It stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol” because it uses the Internet to route phone calls. This is convenient for businesses today because most already have an existing Internet connection that they pay for. Additionally, VoIP’s quality is comparable to any other PBX system and costs companies much less money than landline phone systems. There are two main types of VoIP to know about – hosted PBX systems and cloud-based phone systems.
Hosted VoIP is a business phone system that uses the Internet to route calls. It is hosted by either an on-site server, at your business’s location, or off-site server, at a VoIP provider’s location. Businesses that use hosted VoIP systems enjoy benefits such as having multiple office extensions and having connectivity through hardware like desktop phones or handheld phones.
Hosted VoIP systems typically include many different business communication features, such as:
- Audio calls
- Video calls
- Conference/group calls
- SMS messaging
- And more
Hosted VoIP systems are beneficial because they are very flexible. Your employees can use almost any device that connects to the Internet to connect to their business phone line. This makes it simple for professionals to access their business communication system at or away from the desk. However, they tend to cost more per month compared to their counterpart – cloud-based VoIP systems. Learn more about the pros and cons of hosted VoIP.
Cloud-based VoIP, aka Mobile VoIP, also uses the Internet to route phone calls. However, it does not require a hosted server and instead is designed for on-the-go or remote use. Most businesses who use cloud-based VoIP solutions do so because they need constant access to their business communication system, but are frequently away from their desk and may not have access to hardware such as a desk phone.
Cloud-based phone systems typically allow many of the same features as hosted systems do. To use cloud-based VolP, you can simply download a mobile VoIP app to your smartphone or other portable device that connects to the Internet. This is usually much cheaper on a monthly basis compared to hosted systems. However, cloud-based VoIP depends on Internet connection and bandwidth wherever you are, so you have to make sure you can maintain a strong Internet connection. Learn more about the pros and cons of cloud-based VoIP.
Types of Unified Communication Systems
A Unified Communication System is a type of business communication system that is similar to VoIP, in that they offer various communication features. However, VoIP phone systems tend to be centered around audio calling. Unified communications recognize that much of business communication today involves more than just audio calls. These systems tend to offer more robust communication tools and are meant to integrate all your communication tasks in one place.
UCaaS, or Unified Communications as a Service, is another term used for a Unified Communication System. A UCaaS platform streamlines all your business communication needs in one place. Think of it as a single integrated communication channel where you can get access to all your communication tools, such as:
- Audio calling
- Conference calling
- Video calling
- Call management tools (ie. call transferring)
- Instant and SMS messaging
- File sharing
- Screen sharing
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- CRM integration
- And more
More and more teams are upgrading their VoIP phone system plans to more integrative UCaaS plans to take advantage of more robust communication features. For instance, a 2015 survey found that 80% of business employees are utilizing web-based texting to boost productivity at work, and that number is only increasing!
UCaaS is simple to download and use from any mobile device. Typically, UCaaS does not involve an internal IT team to facilitate usage which makes it a cost-effective solution right off the bat.
CPaaS, or “Communication Platform as a System”, is a more technologically advanced unified communication system. It is a cloud-based business communication platform that allows tech developers to add communication features to their existing applications, so they don’t need to switch to an entirely new communication interface to use them.
When you start a UCaaS system, you usually have to have its particular software installed onto each employee’s computer. This means that if your company is already using communication tools and applications that you already enjoy using, you will likely have to “start from scratch” and switch over to the UCaaS software instead. On the other hand, when you have a tech team install a CPaaS system for you, you can simply add new communication tools to your existing applications. You can learn more about the similarities and differences between UCaaS and CPaaS here.
Which business communication system is best for your business?
Great question! The business communication system that will be best for your needs often depends on factors like:
- Business size
- Communication needs
- In-office vs. remote work styles
Take a look at 360Connect’s recommendations.
Small to Medium Businesses
Small businesses would most likely find a basic VoIP phone system or a unified communication system to the best fit. This is because these systems offer many robust communication features while remaining cost-efficient. With a VoIP phone system or a unified communication platform you’ll be able to utilize features to keep your business running smoothly such as:
- Audio calls
- Video calls
- Conference calls
- SMS messaging
- Email and CRM integrations
If your business operates remotely or is frequently on-the-go, we recommend looking into a cloud-based system. Start by considering top cloud-based VoIP providers, such as Grasshopper and Ooma. If your business operations are mostly in the office, we recommend comparing some top-rated hosted VoIP systems. Get started by comparing brands like Nextiva vs. RingCentral or Ooma vs. Vonage.
Large to enterprise-level businesses
If your business is larger, you likely have a lot of different communications to manage on an everyday basis across your company. Your call volume will likely be higher. Additionally, you will likely need robust communication features and extra phone line extensions.
For this reason, we recommend either a UCaaS or CPaaS for large and enterprise level businesses. UCaaS will give you an integrated communication platform with tons of robust communication features, which you can utilize in the office or on-the-go. CPaaS will be the better choice if you have communication systems in place that you are already comfortable with using.
Keep in mind that kickstarting CPaaS usually requires an in-house tech team or outsourcing IT help. RingCentral has both UCaaS and CPaaS options for customers. Get started by comparing Jive vs. RingCentral.
Businesses with internal tech team
If you have a great in-house tech team and already have communication applications that you enjoy using, we recommend looking into CPaaS. This will allow you to build communication tools into your existing software, to create a customized business communication solution. Learn more about CPaaS here.
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