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A Buyer's Guide to Selecting a Business Phone System

When selecting a business phone system, you must first decide what type of system you want (landline, VoIP, or virtual) and where the equipment will be housed (on-premises or in the cloud). Today's phone systems provide important calling, collaboration, and mobile features to organisations of all sizes. Employees may use their company phone lines in a variety of ways when away from the office thanks to business phone systems. This article is intended for company owners who want to know what to look for and consider when selecting a phone system.

  • Is a comprehensive phone system with actual desk phones required, or can your company get by with a virtual phone service that depends on mobile devices?

  • What type of service do you want if you do require desk phones? Are you comfortable with a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, which operates over the Internet and is offered by a variety of providers? Or do you like to utilise a standard landline phone service provided by a local or regional phone company?

  • If you pick VoIP, do you want to host the system in-house (on-premises) or have it hosted by your service provider (cloud-based)?

Effective communication is the foundation of any successful business. A reliable and efficient business phone system can help organisations streamline their communication processes, improve customer service, and enhance overall productivity. In today's fast-paced business world, a modern phone system with advanced features and capabilities can provide a competitive edge. From small startups to large enterprises, businesses of all sizes can benefit from a well-designed and optimised phone system. In this context, we aim to explore the world of business phone systems and provide insights into the latest trends, technologies, and best practises that can help organisations improve their communication infrastructure and achieve their goals. Below are the different types of phone systems and their pros and cons.

Virtual Phone Systems

  • Virtual phone systems route calls from a primary corporate phone number to distant workers' mobile or home phones.

  • When a consumer dials the main phone number, these systems act as a comprehensive call-forwarding solution, moving calls to an employee's mobile or home phone rather than a desk phone.

  • These systems come with a variety of functions, including automated receptionists, voicemail, call forwarding, call screening, toll-free lines, and online faxing.

Pros: This sort of service enables firms with offshore personnel to maintain a professional image at all times. It also provides distant employees with access to phone system functions that mobile and home phones do not have. For more details, see our review of Grasshopper, our top-rated virtual phone system.

Cons: Virtual phone systems are not fully functional phone systems. Your calls are frequently still routed through your mobile or home phone network. This implies that you are charged for the call on the virtual system and your mobile or home phone minutes are depleted. While utilising the provider's mobile app, certain virtual services allow you to make calls over an internet connection.

Ideal for: Small firms with remote employees or sole proprietorships.

Traditional Landline Systems

  • Landlines are classic phone networks that are normally serviced by a local or regional phone operator.

  • Landlines, also known as public switched telephone networks (PSTNs), are analog systems that use the traditional copper cable from telephone companies.

  • A landline service requires on-premises PBX (private branch exchange) infrastructure. This hardware can support many extensions as well as phone system capabilities like call transferring and call directories.

  • Several landline networks are now hybrids with VoIP systems. A standard phone line links to a company's data network, which is then used to connect each phone.

  • Several phone system providers are discontinuing landline services, so it may be difficult to find one that still provides this service.

Pros: Landline systems are a dependable, time-tested solution that many businesses trust.

Cons: Because most phone system providers are abandoning landlines, they are becoming more difficult to acquire and fix. It will only be a matter of time before these systems are rendered obsolete.

Best for: Big enterprises having the funds and in-house IT expertise to operate and maintain them; required for firms without high-speed internet connectivity.

VoIP Phone Systems

  • VoIP phone systems employ the same internet connection that a firm currently has, rather than the copper cables that landlines require.

  • VoIP systems provide features that were previously only available to major organisations employing expensive PBX hardware, such as automated attendants, call queues, and computer integration, which allows voicemails to be forwarded to email inboxes and PCs to be converted into softphones.

  • VoIP solutions enable distant workers to use their mobile devices to access the company's phone system.

Pros: VoIP includes a sophisticated phone system with all the bells and whistles. These systems are simple to set up and configure, and they are substantially less expensive than landline systems.

Cons: The disadvantage is that these systems rely on your internet connection. This sort of phone system will not operate if you live in a place with poor internet connectivity.

Best for: Small businesses who desire the capability of a sophisticated phone system at a low cost, as well as businesses that want remote employees to have access to the phone system.

If you determine that a VoIP system is the best option for you, the next step is to decide how you want it hosted. Whereas landline systems require you to store the equipment within your organisation, VoIP systems allow you to buy your equipment yourself and self-host it or rent it from your service provider, who hosts it in the cloud.

On-Premises VoIP Systems

  • With on-premises systems, all of the equipment, including the PBX hardware required to maintain the phone system operational, is hosted within your organisation.

  • On-premises solutions necessitate a significant capital outlay since the equipment must be purchased in advance.

  • While a self-hosted system has one-time expenses for all hardware, an on-premises system has monthly fees for your SIP trunking, or PRI circuit, which allows you to make and receive calls.

  • Your IT staff is in charge of system upkeep, repairs, and upgrades.

Pros: You always have complete control over your service. You and your IT staff ensure that it is operational and set up correctly.

Cons: There is a substantial upfront expense because you must purchase all of the equipment. You also need someone on your team who can service and maintain the system.

Best for Businesses that are hesitant to use the cloud and want complete control over their system and constant access to the equipment; businesses with an in-house IT team capable of setting up and maintaining a VoIP system; businesses with regulatory or compliance requirements that may be difficult to meet in the cloud.

Cloud-Based VoIP Systems

  • There is no need for maintenance or hardware other than phones with cloud-based solutions. The PBX technology is housed, maintained, and upgraded for you by the service provider.

  • The cloud enables expanding organisations to rapidly add new lines and gain quick access to new services.

  • Companies often pay a monthly charge based on the number of users.

Pros: There is no need to acquire or maintain PBX gear or dial-tone service. All of the stuff is handled by your supplier. From your computer, you may set up and customise the system for your company.

Cons: You don't have control over the hardware. If the system fails, you must rely on your provider to restore it as soon as feasible.

Best for: Developing businesses on a set budget with no IT personnel to administer and maintain PBX hardware; businesses that want rapid access to new phone system capabilities; or organisations with various locations and want their system to be all on one platform.

Business Phone System FAQs

Still not sure if you need a business phone system or if VoIP is right for you? No worries. Here are some questions and answers to assist you make your decision.

Q: Do I require a phone system for my company?

A: The straightforward answer is yes. Because how a firm portrays itself is so important to its success, all businesses may benefit from some form of the phone system.

Businesses need to show themselves professionally at all times. Allowing consumers and clients to call you on a business line that is frequently answered by an automated attendant is an ideal approach to this. Companies who do not want to invest in a full-fledged phone system can nevertheless provide the desired image by utilising a virtual system.

Q: Can't my staff and I just use our cell phones for work?

A: If you invest in a virtual phone system, it is achievable. This technology enables you to utilise your mobile device while maintaining a professional appearance.

Utilising only your mobile line without a virtual system raises a few concerns. For starters, it does not provide a professional picture to your consumers. Second, mobile lines lack the capabilities and tools that small companies value the most, such as voicemail to email, call forwarding, call screening, music on hold, and online faxing.

Q: I've always used a regular landline telephone system. Will I be at a disadvantage if I continue to use this sort of system?

A: The issue with landline systems is not their operation; they continue to work at a high level. The main issue with existing landline phone networks is that new choices are no longer being created. This means that no new technology for landline networks is being developed.

There are no new software upgrades available for landlines either. This implies you won't get a lot of new features and capabilities.

Lastly, obtaining professionals to provide customer care and support for these systems, as well as the parts required to keep landline systems operational, is becoming increasingly challenging.

At some point, likely soon, 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.

Q: How can I determine which phone system and service provider is best for my company?

A: It all boils down to your financial resources. Consider your budget, if your company is expanding, whether you have an IT team capable of running and maintaining an in-house phone system, and whether you have access to a high-speed internet connection.

When selecting a phone provider for your small business, look for one that delivers the features and tools you want in a phone system as well as the quality of customer service you expect from a vendor partner.

If you are considering a cloud-hosted system, one important consideration is uptime. This is the frequency with which the system is operating. You will not be able to use your telephone services if the system is down. To reduce service downtime, the leading providers have several data centres throughout the world. While chatting with different providers, enquire about their uptime statistics and whether they provide any guarantees to refund your money if the service is down for more than the guaranteed time each month.

Q: Is there simply a monthly subscription for cloud systems, or are there other fees I should be aware of?

A: There are certain initial fees associated with cloud-hosted phone systems like IP phones. Some service providers additionally charge for setup and training.

Q: Does a cloud-hosted system share a server with other firms, or does it have its server?

A: Several cloud phone system providers provide the option for businesses to utilise a shared server or pay extra for a dedicated server. This selection is based on whether you want the system to be dedicated completely to you or whether you want to purchase it as a service on the same platform that the supplier provides to everyone else.

Smaller organisations with fewer particular requirements and adaptations are more likely to benefit from a shared service. Big enterprises with complicated requirements would almost certainly want a dedicated server that delivers the high-quality service and privacy they require.

Q: Is a VoIP connection as good as a landline connection?

A: While some customers may be concerned about the sound quality of a VoIP system, technology has advanced to the point where it is nearly difficult to distinguish between landline and internet-based calls.

To maintain clear and robust call quality, your company must be meticulous in how it configures its data network. You must verify that your network has adequate capacity to accommodate your call volume and that voice calls are prioritised above other forms of Internet traffic.

Q: What kinds of features may be found in a VoIP phone system?

A: Before, feature-rich phone systems were primarily employed by major enterprises; but, today's VoIP choices provide the same benefits to small businesses. These are a few of the most useful calling and collaboration features:

  • Voicemail

  • Voicemail to email

  • Voicemail to text

  • Voicemail transcription

  • Call forwarding

  • Call recording

  • Call queues

  • The option of both local and toll-free numbers

  • Interactive voice response (IVR)

  • Conference calling

  • Automated attendants

  • Extension dialing

  • Ring groups

  • Directory assistance

  • Call transferring

  • Internet faxing

  • Call reports

  • Call monitoring

  • Missed-call notifications

  • Video conferencing

  • Online meetings

  • Instant messaging

  • Text messaging

  • Integrations with popular programs, such as Microsoft Outlook, Salesforce, and G Suite

  • International calls

Q: Can remote employees use a company phone system?

A: VoIP technology allows employees to take and make business calls from anywhere, eliminating the requirement for a company-specific cell phone. Corporate VoIP systems provide smartphone applications and mobility capabilities that allow employees to use their desk phones at any time and from any location.

Q: Why should I worry whether my staff may use the phone system while they are not at work?

A: In today's world of remote workers and flexible work schedules, employees should be accessible at all times, no matter where they are. You don't want your consumers to have to go out of their way to find your personnel or, worse, not be able to reach them at all.

Mobility guarantees that your staff can be reached at all times. It also enables people to communicate without disclosing their phone numbers.

Q: I keep hearing about unified communications platforms. What distinguishes them from a phone system?

A: Many phone systems nowadays are unified communications systems. These services integrate phone calls, texting, and video or online meetings. They also provide audio conferencing and online faxing services. Numerous phone system providers currently provide these services on their platforms.

Systems that solely provide voice calling and associated functions are not unified communications solutions.

Q: Does it matter if my company has numerous locations if I use an on-premises or cloud-based system?

A: While both on-premises and hosted systems may handle multi-location enterprises, a cloud-hosted solution can make things easier.

Cloud-hosted systems do not necessitate the installation of sophisticated PBX equipment in each of your sites. This not only makes setup easier, but it might also save you money. These cloud-hosted systems may be administered from a single web platform, making them simple to use.

Q: What are the alternatives for the number of phone lines that a small company phone system may provide?

A: One of the benefits of today's cloud-hosted VoIP systems is that there aren't many restrictions on the number of phone lines your company may use. In general, the more lines you have, the lower your per-user cost. Adding more lines is also a straightforward process. To add new lines on on-premises systems, you must physically operate your equipment. With cloud-hosted solutions, you may add a new line from your computer in seconds.

If you’re still unsure what type of business phone solutions you need for your company, or if you have specific questions in mind, you may consider contacting Simplyfree. Simplyfree is a commercial telecommunications expert in New Zealand, specialising in VOIP phone solutions for all New Zealand organisations. Simplyfree's capabilities stem from years of expertise in telecommunications, information technology, and business.

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