Small Business Phone System: An Ultimate Buyer’s Guide9.9 min read
Today’s small businesses have extensive options for selecting a business phone system, particularly now that small business VoIP systems are so prominent in the marketplace. To help you get started in an easier way and choose the best phone system that fits your organization, we’ve assembled the key information you need in your selection process.
In this guide, you’ll know the basic business phone system knowledge, your available options, things to look for, and get inspiring insights on some common questions that small business will encounter. As you read, you will note a significant of information about small business VoIP, including:
♦ How Business Phone System Works
♦ Your Options – Small Business Phone System Type Explained
♦ Things to look for in a VoIP Systems for Small Business
♦ Business Phone System FAQs – Common Scenarios and Solutions
♦ Free Ebook Download: Small Business Phone System Buyer Guide
How Business Phone System Works?
Before we jump into your available options and must-consider elements, it’s important to understand how business phone systems work in the first place. Without that basic understanding, you’ll find yourself struggling to see the difference between the different small business VoIP phone system options. Armed with this knowledge, you will be in a better position to make the best choice for your business. Just don’t underestimate the value of a quality, small business VoIP. Choosing the best business VoIP will significantly increase your ability to remain competitive while saving your costs.
Small Business Phone Systems And Private Branch Exchange
A business phone system often works with a PBX (private branch exchange), a telephone system within a company that manages call flows and auto-routes calls based on pre-configured rules. This means that with a PBX, when a caller reaches your company, he can be directed to his desired extension automatically without your staff having to intervene, greatly enhancing business efficiency.
The Growth of Small Business Phone Infrastructure
PBX phone system components evolved over time. When it first came out, generally known as analog/legacy PBX phone systems, small businesses had no option but to rely on traditional phone lines to communicate. And only very limited telephony features were available to leverage at that time. Yet the emergence of internet-based phone (VoIP) technology has changed the game. The possibility of using internet phone service has brought about the next generation of VoIP-based phone systems that allow you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection. Such robust VoIP systems for small business has made advanced telephony services like auto-attendant, music on hold, call queue, call recording possible and opened up more opportunities for companies to rocket business communications in regards to reduced call costs and improved efficiency.
Your Options: Different Types of Small Business Phone System
Small business phone systems generally come in 3 types: traditional landline systems, on-premises VoIP Phone systems, and Hosted PBXs or Cloud Phone Systems. Below is a quick run-down of each type of system. Review the following to explore which business VoIP system is the best choice for your company.
1. Traditional Landline Systems
Typically supported by a local or regional phone company, traditional landline systems are analog-based and use physical PBX hardware boxes. They run over the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) and physically connect phones via the telephone company’s copper wiring. The key to an analog PBX is that it connects to POTS lines that pre-date the Internet. And although such systems have the longest history, they are not capable of many modern-day phone system features, such as voicemail-to-email, and cannot deliver high definition calls. They also don’t allow for ease of upgrades or the intuitive dashboard interfaces that you will find in a small business VoIP phone service.
Best for businesses already purchased landline services and has little requirement for advanced telephony features like mobility extension, unified communications, video calls, etc. This option may be useful for a small business that must rely on a legacy business phone service, and cannot upgrade to VoIP service for the time being.
2. On-premises VoIP Phone Systems
An on-premises VoIP business phone system is one where the PBX hardware is kept on-site in your server closet. Instead of physically connecting to the PBX with copper wiring, phones connect to the PBX over an office’s Local Area Network (LAN), often leveraging the same Internet connectivity that your office computers do. Peripheral devices such as gateways and softphones normally interact directly with the PBX. In addition, besides the VoIP line (SIP Trunk) supports, some on-premises VoIP telephone systems can even incorporate traditional phone lines (ISDN, PSTN, GSM) without relying on other devices, offering greater flexibility and cost-savings.
Top-notch on-premise VoIP systems for small businesses allow you to reap all the benefits of modern VoIP technology: reduced call rates, free internal calls, rich VoIP functionality, increased mobility, scalability, etc. Advanced features like IVR, call queues, call recording, and conferencing are delivered with ease of use.
Best for small businesses wanting the functionality of a sophisticated phone system at a reasonable price and want to take full control over their system and access the equipment at all times.
3. Hosted PBXs or Cloud Phone Systems
If you want the best of the maintenance-free small business VoIP systems as well as have a toehold on the future, cloud phone systems are the ideal choice. They take the form of software or web application and work with the help of an Internet connection. They really don’t have a physical PBX system. Instead, a virtual PBX hosted on the cloud keeps its engine running. The service provider handles all the virtual PBX maintenance and updates, freeing you from many IT concerns.
Cloud phone systems are considered future-proof. They offer features of a complete phone system and allow growing businesses to add phone lines and users with ease. Greater mobility can also be expected as users can access their office phone functionality anywhere with an Internet connection.
Best for growing businesses on a fixed budget that don’t have an IT staff to operate and maintain PBX hardware. Also good for businesses that want quick access to new phone system features or have multiple locations and want their system all on one platform.
Things to Look for in a VoIP System for Small Business
When you’re thinking about which type of VoIP system to invest in, there are certainly a handful of elements you must consider. Here are a few major categories to think about and choose a business VoIP service:
The first and most important aspect of choosing the right solution is understanding what features are offered. Identifying the features available and aligning them with the needs of your business is crucial.
If critical telephony features like call queues, auto-attendant and conferencing are missing or cost extra, then the product may not be the right solution. In general, a VoIP small business phone system that comes with unified communications capacity will be the best for business to grow and shorten communication runaround time.
Below is a list of must-have features to pick the best VoIP system for small business:
Checked here for more features a modern VoIP phone system should offer and get a general understanding of how they work with common use cases.
2. Costs and Investment
Best VoIP systems for small businesses must be able to accommodate the business needs while also accommodating the budget. Initial costs, total costs of ownership, and existing infrastructure should all be taken into considerations.
Hosted VoIP solutions usually have a low upfront cost and are typically charged as a monthly fee per user. Using an on-site VoIP phone system has a higher upfront cost, but then no, or only very little, recurring monthly fee. If both systems offer sufficient services you’ll need, consider if your company finances call for one payment model over the other, that will likely decide which type of system you should choose.
Total Costs of Ownership:
It’s hard to decide if a hosted VoIP solution could cost less or higher than an on-site hardware investment, as they’re paid in different models. But your years of system usage may give a basic hint. Make a simple calculation based on the year you tend to use the system, and you’ll get your answer.
Consider your current technology infrastructure: your existing PBX, phone sets, gateways, cabling or any type of trunks. Make an evaluation or consult with possible service providers to see if they can be preserved and incorporated to the new system seamlessly. Excellent interoperability between your existing infrastructure and the new solutions will not only help you achieve the best cost-efficiency but save you much trouble on the provisioning process as well.
3. Ease of Use and Management
If you do not have dedicated IT resources, think of a phone system that is easy to use, manage, and setup. Quality small business VoIP telephone systems, either cloud-based or on-premises, offer a seamless deployment process and help you configure your services with a web-based intuitive panel. Ideally, with a top-rated phone system, you can make changes (e.g. adding extensions for new users) within point-and-click configuration in minutes and without relying on professional system administrators.
Below are 4 key features an easy-to-use VoIP phone system for your small business should be equipped with:
- Web-based Control Panel (Online Portal)
- IP Phone Auto Provisioning
- Mobile Softphone
- Event Notification (Instant Alert)
Tips: Reputable VoIP solution providers like Yeastar would offer Cloud PBX free-trial or on-premises PBX web panel demo for you to experience or even try out the services before purchasing. It’s important to see if a system is easy-to-configure in that process.
4. Future Expansion
Nothing should stifle your company’s growth, especially your phone system. Consider how your business may grow in the coming year. If there is potential for rapid growth you will need to consider how this will impact your purchase. It may help to view any extra per month cost of upgrading now and investment towards upgrading your telephony services in the future. By implementing a modern system, you will be prepared for growth without having to install physical lines each time you need a new phone number.
Typically, hosted VoIP solutions or Cloud PBX are adaptable both in scale and cost to keep pace with your business growth. But most premises-based have limited maximum system capacity. If you decide to go with an on-site PBX system, consider purchasing a larger appliance than is initially needed to accommodate your growth.
In addition, regardless of the option you select, make sure it has the broadest possible integration. This will allow you to add or remove components as the need arises through software that ties together all on-site and cloud-based resources.
Foul weather can arise at any time, wreaking havoc on business communications systems that lack robust disaster recovery solutions. This is especially problematic for organizations like emergency response centers, which need to stay up and running at all times.
In your selecting process, make sure that your new system comes with disaster avoidance/recovery capacity for seamless failover during inclement weather. Solutions like Hot Standby, 4G LTE Failover, or System Auto-backup & Restore should be taken into considerations.
FAQs: Common Scenarios and Solutions
Q: I’ve had a traditional landline system for my business. What are the disadvantages of retaining it?
A: Traditional landline systems are time-tested solutions and boast a high level of reliability. But the problem is that new options are no longer built, which means that new technology is rarely being developed for landline systems. Whilst you can still have plenty of useful features such as call transferring, intercom, and call queuing, these add-ons can quickly escalate in cost – especially if a technician is required to come out and install the necessary lines. Besides, as traditional landline systems increasingly losing support, finding experts to service these types of systems will become more and more difficult. When these experts are available, you may expect to spend a significant amount of money, all to keep a phone service that doesn’t function as well as a modern VoIP phone system for small businesses. Voice over internet protocol is an important part of the infrastructure that allows you to provide the best customer service, and use advanced features that allow you to remain competitive.
Q: Can’t my employees and I use our mobile phones for business purposes?
A: It is definitely possible if you’re investing in a VoIP system for small businesses. Using a VoIP system that offers softphone applications like Yeastar will allow you to turn your mobile devices into a fully-featured office extension. You can reach your office phone functionality anywhere and always present a professional image. For example, customers calling your business number can be forwarded to your smartphone if nobody in the office answers. You may also be able to use a mobile app to handle administrative tasks, set preferences, and access the corporate VoIP phone system.
Further, your small business will have the option to allow workers to bring their own devices. This can enhance productivity as workers are better able to conduct business via their smartphones which are easy to use. Ultimately, VoIP phone systems don’t take away your ability to use your preferred devices. Instead, they empower you to use them while implementing best business practices.
Q: Can remote employees access a business phone system?
A: Cloud-based VoIP systems for small businesses give users the freedom to take and make business calls from anywhere, even without the need for a business-dedicated cell phone. On-premises VoIP systems typically allow for remote extension registration and offer plenty of mobility features for users to remain productive remotely. If your business works with field and remote staff, you may find that they can easily connect to your VoIP phone service, and they will not experience any degradation in call quality.
Q: If my business has multiple locations, does it matter if I have an on-premises or a cloud-based system?
A: While both on-premises and cloud-based systems can support organizations with multiple locations, Cloud-hosted systems make it simple by building an online centralized system that can be reached anywhere. It worth noting that some on-premises PBX systems also offer easy multi-site solutions, like Yeastar Multisite Interconnect, to allow seamless inter-branch communications and minimize the provisioning required.
We’re Here To Help
Yeastar take the confusion out of choosing the best VoIP system for small business! Whether you are looking to have a new phone system installed or have your current system updated, we are here to answer your questions, offer advice, and customized solution that’s the perfect fit for your business goals. Contact us now to get free consultancy.
Founded in 2006, Yeastar created the revolution of small business phone system for the past decade. The top-notch Yeastar Cloud PBX and on-premises S-Series VoIP PBX breaks the price-performance matric and brings immense business opportunities with robust unified communication capacity. Explore more about Yeastar Cloud PBX here and learn how our customers boost their business with S-Series VoIP PBX here.