Unless you’re starting a new company, moving office environments, or dealing with a system that’s simply unreliable, you probably haven’t put too much thought lately into whether or not you have the best phone system for your business. Why not? Well, there are a couple of misconceptions when it comes to business phone systems…
- Switching carriers or systems takes a long time and is very expensive
- Most phone systems have a similar cost and quality, so switching isn’t urgent
Actually, most businesses are overspending on phone bills for systems that have equal or lesser quality compared to other options. That’s why understanding the ins-and-outs of business phone systems is so important! First, you want to make sure you’re not throwing money away. Second, you want to make sure you’re using the phone system that’s the best fit for your business needs.
The key components you want to think about when determining the best phone system for your business are:
- Reliability (can you rely on the quality of your network and bandwidth?)
- Affordability (are you choosing a system that’s going to be sustainable to your budget and allow you to grow?), and
- Flexibility (are you considering any/all technological solutions offered today that can help accelerate business communications?)
Conveniently, technology has improved! Now there are phone systems that check off all 3 boxes – they’re reliable, affordable, and flexible. Let’s dig into the key items to think about when planning for the best business phone system:
What’s the Main Difference Between Traditional Landlines and VoIP?
Businesses today generally use one of two phone systems: traditional landline phone system (aka “traditional PBX”) or a VoIP system. Traditional landlines use analog technology – copper wiring that connects to your business’s internal hardware (PBX). This is supported by a traditional local telecom company. On the other hand, VoIP systems use your existing Internet connection to transmit voice data. They don’t require physical hardware (unless you want it). Thanks to advanced technology, it’s now generally accepted that VoIP is identical or better in quality compared to landline systems. Whether you use a landline system or VoIP, you’ll be able to make and receive business calls reliably. The main difference is now based on affordability and flexibility… How much is ideal for your business to spend monthly per user? Do you want just the basics – making/receiving calls and voicemail, or do you want to integrate more than the basics? Are you able to easily add new lines as your business grows?
What are the Major Types of Business Phone Systems?
When deciding on which business phone system is the best fit for your company, you’ll want to think about several things. These include how many users/lines you’ll require, what your budget looks like, and which digital telecom features you want to add.
Let’s break down the different types and what they offer in more depth:
- Traditional PBX System
Also known as a “landline phone,” a traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system is supported by a local or regional phone company and uses on-premise analog hardwiring. This means when adapting a landline phone system for your business, you’ll need to purchase all the physical hardware in order to host multiple lines in your network. Most traditional PBX systems now feature call transferring and call directories, but their options in terms of digital communication add-on features are limited.
Although they’ve been around the longest as business phone systems, it’s important to note that landline systems are becoming outdated compared to other telecom features IP systems now offer. For instance, traditional PBX systems aren’t portable or flexible – meaning, they typically don’t offer mobile options or away-from-desk flexibility. They’re also now often the hardest to repair when something goes wrong, as technology is moving away from analog systems.
2. VoIP Systems
One thing to keep in mind when exploring different traditional and VoIP options is that many different systems now fall under the “VoIP” category. That’s because so many phone systems now route calls through the Internet! We’ll try to keep it simple and break it down into its most commonly referred-to forms…
A hosted PBX VoIP system uses Internet signals to direct calls without having to purchase physical PBX hardware. All you need to operate a hosted system is high-speed business Internet connection. You have two options for hosted PBX systems. You can either host it yourself on-premise (which gives you more freedom in how you can use your system) at your business location, or have a VoIP provider host it for you (which keeps costs low but gives you less freedom in how you use it). Whichever hosting option you choose, a hosted PBX VoIP system allows you to either use your mobile devices to send and receive calls or install equipment that connects to your network, depending on what’s more convenient for you. Learn more about the pros and cons of hosting vs. hosted PBX systems.
Also known as a “virtual PBX” system, a cloud-based system is similar to a hosted system but is the “lighter” option of the two. It’s also Internet-based, but it offers fewer features and is less expensive. Mainly, the businesses that benefit most from this option are those that don’t require desktop equipment to make calls, and would prefer to route calls to their mobile device. These systems give you the convenient option of adding a “business line” to your personal phone. Other benefits of the cloud-based system are quickly adding new lines, avoiding paying extra charges on equipment, and avoiding paying IT teams when something goes wrong. On the downside, the virtual PBX doesn’t have quite the same abilities as a physical phone system, but they’re a good alternative for remote or on-the-go employees.
What are the Cost Differences?
Of course, the price of your business phone system depends on a number of factors, including the number of users/lines and your subscription package with your telecom provider. However, VoIP costs less than traditional PBX systems (landlines) across the board.
Firstly, VoIP has a lower set-up and maintenance cost compared to landline phones, which means your ongoing costs with VoIP will be more affordable. Consider that a business will pay about $70 per line for set-up charges with a landline service (based on Verizon’s charges in New York) while VoIP users often enjoy free set-up. In fact, telecom experts estimate 50-75% savings with VoIP, in terms of long-term cost.
Second, monthly costs with VoIP are more affordable. Businesses who use VoIP save approximately 60% on their monthly phone bills compared to landline users – since VoIP packages usually start at around $20 per user (and go up, depending on the amount of digital add-on features). Compare a monthly phone bill for a small business that uses 5 lines. If the company went with a traditional landline system, they would average around $435 per month (after they’ve paid for installation). The same company would pay around $150 per month (at $30 per user).
What are the Top Features for the Best Business Phone Systems Today?
Since businesses are now reaping the benefits of advanced technology to boost productivity and communicate faster, there are many telecom features you should be considering. Not to mention, you can add many for pennies on the dollar! There’s no reason to still be using outdated technology for your communication needs!
Here are the top features to consider when trying to find the best phone system for your business:
- Unified messaging
Since companies have been implementing more communication channels than ever before, it only makes sense to streamline all messaging into one place. VoIP systems allow you to save time with a unified messaging tool, where you can access voice messages, fax, text messages, emails, and more in one mailbox.
- Mobility & Call Forwarding
Companies have increasing on-the-go needs in recent years. Around 45% of American businesses now either require or allow remote work, while over 60% of American employees travel for work. Not to mention, workplace environments are moving faster and expecting demands to be met quickly. It makes sense to consider a telecom system that facilitates mobile usage (ie. mobile apps) and call forwarding to devices you use outside the office.
- Auto attendant
Especially for companies receiving a lot of inbound calls regularly, you want to think about integrating an “automated attendant” that can easily route calls to correct extensions/departments and save you time. They can seriously boost customer service, as you’ll never have to worry about missing a phone call or keeping customers waiting too long, and they’ll let you avoid constant interruptions throughout your day.
- Video conferencing
Video conferencing is becoming a popular way of conducting meetings in recent years, with 86% of companies saying that they utilize a video conferencing platform regularly. VoIP systems offer integrated video conferencing options so that co-workers or collaborators can meet, anytime anyplace. Plus, you don’t have to pay additional fees for an external platform – you can use it in the same place as your other telecom needs.
- Admin portal
It’s important to many business owners to oversee internal operations, which are becoming increasingly logged via telecom systems. There’s no longer any need to take notes or remember important business conversations. VoIP offers real-time reporting on conversations (ie. call recording), analytics, and metrics so you can stay up-to-date at all times.
Who are the Top Business Phone Suppliers?
There are tons of reputable business phone system suppliers that can help you fulfill your business needs. Luckily, providers offer handfuls of different subscription packages and options for add-on features. They can work with you to find the best fit. Before selecting a few suppliers to call, it’s best to get an idea of your priorities, goals, and must-have’s so your call goes efficiently!
Here are a few telecom suppliers who offer reliable, affordable, and flexible options:
Many sources list Nextiva as their #1 recommendation as a telecom supplier. This is because they’re affordable, experts in their field, and offer add-on features that most businesses find sufficient. Their pricing typically runs from $19.95 – $27.95 monthly per user. This includes free domestic calls, free phone numbers, and voicemail and fax options. Upper level Nextiva packages also allow more collaborative tools, making conferencing easy.
If you’re a company that needs to make international calls, 8×8 is a good option to consider. Their pricing typically ranges from $25-$55 monthly per user. This includes free domestic calls, plus a fair amount of international zones. You’re also in luck if your company utilizes a CRM! 8×8 offers free CRM integration, so you can streamline your phone system with your everyday tasks.
If you’re a tech-savvy company that wants to customize your phone system, you might choose Vonage. Their average pricing for basic tier is between $19.95-$27.95 monthly per user. This will include free domestic calls, phone numbers, and auto attendants. Higher level packages with Vonage offer CRM integration, call recording, visual voicemail, and video conferencing.
Are you ready to compare your options and see how you can save? With our service, all you have to do is answer a few questions about your needs. Then, we match you with our top suppliers that can deliver on them. You get to compare prices and features, and there’s never any obligation to buy!