When exploring options for business phone systems, you have several decisions to make. The first is the kind of system you want, with options like landline, VoIP or virtual systems, and where you want to host the equipment. There are on-premise and cloud-hosted systems available, and modern phone solutions provide a wide range of calling, collaboration and mobile tools for businesses of all sizes.
Business phone systems provide employees with various methods of tapping into business phone lines when they are out of the office. In this article, we provide some guidance on what business owners should be looking for when considering new phone systems.
Finding the best phone systems in 2022
There are several questions you need to answer:
- Do you require a complete phone system with physical telephones or would a virtual phone system linked to mobile devices work?
- If desk telephones are needed, what sort of service would be best? Would a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) work or are you interested in exploring more traditional landline services? Note that landlines are likely to become obsolete in the future.
- If you choose VoIP, do you want the system hosted at your premises or would a cloud-based provider be more convenient?
To help you answer these questions, we will look at the pros and cons of the options available to you.
Traditional Landline Systems
These traditional phone systems are supported by local or regional phone companies. They are also known as public switched telephone networks (PSTNs) and are analogue-based systems operated via a telephone company’s copper wiring. To run these services, you will need private branch exchange (PBX) hardware on-site to create multiple extensions and facilitate things like call directories and call transferring.
Many landline systems are now hybrid with VoIP systems. You should be aware that landline systems are being phased out by many phone system providers so you may struggle to find one that offers a viable option for this service.
Landlines are reliable and have stood the test of time. Many companies like the familiarity of the system.
ConsThese systems are very limited in what they can do. Moreover, it is only a matter of time before they become obsolete and many companies are already phasing them out.
Cloud VoIP Systems
These systems replace the copper wires of landlines with the internet connection your company is already using. With a VoIP system, you gain access to a set of features that were previously only available to large corporations with expensive PBX hardware. This includes call queues, automated attendants and integration with computers, whereby voicemails can be forwarded to email inboxes and computers can be operated as softphones.
With VoIP systems, remote workers can access the business phone system via a mobile device.
ProsA VoIP phone system is sophisticated and powerful, providing a wide range of functionality. They are easy to set up and configure and they involve a lot less investment than a landline system or an on-premises VoIP system.
A cloud-based VoIP system is good for small businesses in need of a sophisticated phone system at an affordable price.
ConsYou need a good, reliable internet connection for these systems. A spotty internet service will not provide the uptime you need although with high-speed internet now the norm, this shouldn’t really be an issue for most.
On-premise VoIP Systems
When you host a VoIP system on-premise, you must purchase and maintain all the hardware to keep the phone system running. This equipment is quite a substantial capital expenditure as you need to own the same technology that would otherwise be provided by the cloud host.
The one-time fees associated with that hardware investment will be followed by monthly fees for things like your SIP trunking and PRI circuit – things you need to make and receive calls. You will also need an IT team to maintain, repair and upgrade the system as required.
ProsYou get full control over your service and your IT team can configure it exactly how you would like.
ConsThe upfront cost is significant and you will incur the additional cost of having someone on staff to maintain the system.
If you are not comfortable using the cloud and require complete control over your system and the equipment that runs it, this option could be for you. If you have complex compliance requirements that require complete control over the equipment, you may get the most out of an on-premises VoIP system.
Virtual Phone Systems
With a virtual phone system, calls made to the main business phone number are connected to remote workers via their mobile or home phones. Essentially, these systems are a call-forwarding solution, transferring inbound calls to employees’ phones rather than desk phones somewhere in the office.
These systems offer various features like automated receptionists, call forwarding, voicemail, toll-free numbers, online faxing and call screening.
ProsIf your business has a lot of off site employees, a virtual phone system helps present a professional image. It also enables remote workers to easily access a range of phone system features not available from mobile or home phones alone.
ConsVirtual systems can be lacking in some ways. Calls are still processed via your mobile or home phone network. This means the individual is charged for the call on the virtual system, using up mobile and home phone minutes. Some virtual services enable calling via an internet connection when you use a mobile app.
These systems can be ideal for sole proprietorships or small businesses with lots of remote workers.
The decision regarding which phone system to go for really depends on the needs and circumstances of your business. The landline option is not advised as it will be obsolete in the near future. Virtual or cloud-based VoIP systems can be very affordable and offer a number of features. They will meet the needs of most businesses without having to resort to the larger investment of an on-premises VoIP system. However, if your business needs align more closely with what that on-premises option provides, that may be the way to go.
Weigh up your needs against the features and the pros and cons of each option and you should be able to reach a decision.