Updated: Jun 21
When selecting a business phone system, the first thing to consider would be the type of system you are looking for (virtual, VoIP, or landline) and whether it will be hosted in the cloud or on-premises.
Phone systems these days provide all types of businesses with a broad range of mobile, collaboration, and calling tools.
Business phone systems provide workers with various methods of tapping into business phone lines when they’re not physically present in the workplace.
This guide is intended for business owners looking for advice on what they should be looking for and take into account when selecting a phone system.
If you are looking for the right business phone system that meets your needs, there are various questions you need to ask to make sure that you are getting the solution that is ideal for your business.
Do you require a phone system that comprises physical desk phones, or can your business operate with a virtual phone service that’s dependent on mobile devices?
If you want to set up desk telephones, what type of service are you looking for? Do you want a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, which functions over the web and is available from an array of providers? Or are you okay with a conventional landline telephone service delivered by a regional or local phone company?
If you decide to go with VoIP, do you prefer the system hosted by your service provider (cloud-based) or have it at your office (on-premises)?
We will give you some clarity to those questions, but if you know what you want and are looking to check our suggestions for the best business phone systems, you should consider visiting our Get A Quote page for a quote specific to your business needs.
Editor's note: Are you searching for pertinent information on business phone systems? You can refer to the questionnaire below and we will get in touch with you to give you the information you're looking for.
If you aren't sure of what you want, continue reading on. We will provide you with a rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of these phone systems:
Virtual phone systems
Cloud and on-premises systems
Virtual Phone Systems
This phone system links the person calling a main business number to the home phones or mobile of workers operating remotely.
Virtual phone systems function as an expansive call-forwarding solution, diverting calls to the home phone or cell of an employee rather than a desk phone whenever a client calls the main business number.
These systems come with various features like online faxing, toll-free numbers, call screening, call forwarding, voicemail, and automated receptionists.
Pros: This kind of service enables businesses with employees working remotely to maintain a professional image always. It also provides offsite employees with access to different phone system features that home and mobile phones don’t provide.
Cons: These systems aren’t completely established phone systems. Your calls are usually processed on your home or mobile phone network which could influence call quality. Other virtual services enable you to make calls through the Internet when you’re using the mobile app of the provider.
Best for: Sole proprietorships or small enterprises with offsite employees or sole proprietorships
Traditional Landline Systems
In this type of setting, landlines fall under the purview of traditional phone systems, usually supported by a regional or local phone company.
Landlines are basically analog systems running through the conventional copper wiring of the telephone company.
To operate a landline service, you require on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) hardware. This hardware allows for multiple extensions and delivers phone system features like call directories and call transferring.
There are landline systems these days that are considered an amalgam with VoIP systems. A conventional phone line links to the data network of a business, which then connects to every individual phone.
Most phone system service providers are getting rid of landline systems, so it can prove to be daunting finding one that still provides this sort of service.
Pros: Landlines are dependable, tried and tested solution that most business are comfortable using.
Cons: The majority of phone system service providers are shifting from landlines, which makes them not only hard to buy, but also to do repairs. These systems are at the end of their line and it won’t be long before they become obsolete which can also make them much more expensive.
Best for: Big companies that have the resources for them with an Onsite IT support team our an outsourced IT support team to run and maintain them; ideal for enterprises with no high-speed internet accessibility.
VoIP Phone Systems
Rather than using the copper wires landline systems run on, VoIP systems the company’s Internet connection.
VoIP phone systems offer a feature that only Big companies with pricey PBX hardware previously had access to, like computer integration, call queues, and automated attendants, which enable computers to be altered into softphones and voicemails sent to email inboxes.
VoIP phone systems provide offsite employees with accessibility to the phone system of the business from the comfort of their mobile phones.
Pros: VoIP offers a highly developed phone system with all the whistles and bells. VoIP systems can easily be set up and configured, and they are significantly affordable compared to landline systems.
Cons: VoIP phone systems are dependent on the Internet connection. If your business is situated in a place with irregular Internet service, this system may not be for you.
Best for: Small to Large enterprises who want to get the functionality of an advanced phone system at an affordable price and companies that want their offsite workers to have accessibility to the system.
If you decide to go with a VoIP system, the next thing to decide is how you want the system to be housed. While landlines will need you to keep the equipment Onsite, VoIP systems allow you to purchase your equipment altogether and host in your business or to you can decide to rent equipment.
On-Premises VoIP Systems
With this type of system, all the equipment keeping the system running is hosted Onsite, and this includes the PBX hardware.
It will cost a significant chunk in terms of capital expenditure when you are setting up On-premises systems because you will be buying the equipment upfront.
Although you will have paid a one-time fee to acquire all the hardware, when it comes to an on-premises system, you will have to pay monthly charges for your PRI circuit or SIP trunking, which is what enables you to receive and make calls.
Your Onsite IT support or outsourced IT support personnel is responsible for upgrades, repairs, and maintenance of the system.
Pros: You will always have full control of the system. Your IT staff will make sure that it operating seamlessly and is configured exactly how you want.
Cons: The upfront cost is high given how you'll have to purchase all the hardware. What's more, you will need somebody on your payroll who can maintain and service the system.
Best for: Enterprises that don’t want to use the cloud and businesses that want full control over the system and accessibility to the equipment all the time; Enterprises with an on-premises IT staff or outsourced IT support that can maintain and set up a VoIP system; Enterprises with compliance caveats that may be hard to achieve if the system is cloud-based.
Cloud-Hosted VoIP Phone Systems
When it comes to cloud-hosted systems, you don’t need to worry about doing any maintenance or acquire hardware other than phones. Burtronics will house, upgrade, and maintain all the PBX tech on your behalf.
The cloud enables developing businesses to include fresh lines very easily and allows fast accessibility to new features.
Typically, enterprises will need to pay a monthly stipend for every user.
Pros: There's no dial-tone service or PBX hardware you need to buy or maintain. Burtronics will handle that on your behalf. You have the power to configure the system right from your computer.
Cons: You don’t have control over the hardware.
Best for: Up and coming enterprises on a tight budget that can’t afford to hire an IT support team to maintain and run PBX hardware; enterprises looking to have fast access to new phone system features or have several locations and want their system on a single platform.
Now that we have covered the basics, you may be in a position to make a choice. If that’s the case, you should review our top picks for business phone systems.
Business Phone System FAQs
You still have questions about a business phone system, or whether VoIP is suitable for you? Don’t fret. Below are a few questions and answers that may assist you in making an informed decision.
Q: Can't my employees and I just use our mobile phones for business purposes?
A: This is very plausible if you decide to make an investment in a virtual phone system. This kind of system enables you to utilize your mobile devices while at the same giving off a professional look.
Using your mobile device without having a virtual system, comes with a couple problems. Firstly, it doesn’t give off a professional look to your clients. Secondly, mobile lines don’t come with tools and features that small enterprises consider to be most valuable, like online faxing, call screening, call forwarding, voicemail to email, and music on hold.
Q: I've always had a traditional landline system. Will I be at a disadvantage if I continue using this type of system in the future?
A: The issue with landlines doesn’t lie in their level of functionality; they still function on a very high level. The main problem associated with landline systems is that there are no new options being built. Going with that premise, no new technologies are being designed for landline systems.
There are no software upgrades being developed for landline phone systems as well. Considering this factor, you won’t be able to have access to a lot of new capabilities and features.
Moreover, getting skilled professionals to give excellent customer support and service for these types of systems, and the components to keep landlines up and running, can be expensive when compared to other options.
Q: How do I know which phone system and provider are right for my business?
A: This decision will ultimately come down which features your business needs and your resources. You will need to take into account your financial situation, if your business is developing, if you have a capable IT support team that's able to run and maintain an on-premises phone system, and if you've got access to a fast Internet connection.
When you select a phone service provider for your small enterprise, it is crucial that you get a service that has the tools and features you are searching for in a phone system and also provides the level of client support you look forward to.
If you decide to go with a cloud-based system, you’ll want to give some thought into the uptime. This refers to the duration of time the system is functional. If the system goes down, you won’t be able to gain access to telephone services. The top service providers have multiple data centers across the planet to reduce downtime associated with the service. When talking with various service providers, make sure to inquire about their uptime stats and if they can guarantee a money back offer should the system experience downtime for longer than the agreed-upon time per month.
Q: With cloud systems, is there only a monthly fee, or are there other costs I should be aware of?
A: Cloud-based phone systems also come with some upfront costs. You will probably have to pay for IP phones, which are usually in the range of $50 to $600 each. Other service providers also charge for training and setup fees.
Q: With a cloud-based system, am I going to share a server with other companies, or is there a server just for my business?
A: Most cloud system service providers provide businesses with the alternative to share the server or pay a little more to get a separate server just for them. This decision is largely contingent on whether you want the system dedicated to you, or whether you want to purchase it as a service on a shared server that the provider makes available to everybody else.
Smaller enterprises without many special needs and customizations are generally okay using a shared platform. Big corporations with more intricate wants will most likely opt to go for a dedicated server that offers the privacy and high quality of service they are searching for.
Q: Is the connection on a VoIP system as good as on a landline?
A: Although there are users who may be worried about what sort of sound quality a VoIP system has, the tech has grown leaps and bounds that it’s practically impossible to distinguish between internet-based and landline calls.
To make sure that the call quality is strong and clear, your enterprise needs to be careful how you set up your network. You will need to make sure that you have sufficient bandwidth that can accommodate your call volume and that your data network is designed to prioritize voice calls over other kinds of traffic.
Q: What types of features are available in a VoIP phone system?
A: In the past, only Big companies had feature-rich phone systems. Things have come a long way since then with small business standing to gain from the different VoIP options. Here are collaboration and calling features you may find to be most advantageous:
Voicemail to email
Voicemail to text
The option of both local and toll-free numbers
Interactive voice response (IVR)
Consolidation with popular programs, like G Suite, Salesforce and Microsoft Outlook
Q: Can remote employees access a business phone system?
A: VoIP systems provide workers with the leeway to make and receive business calls regardless of their location, without needing a business-oriented phone. VoIP technology features smartphone apps and mobility features that provide workers with full control of their desk phones.
Q: Why should I care if my employees can access the phone system when they're out of the office?
A: Considering that the modern age allows for flexible work and offsite workers, it’s integral that employees are reachable at all times, no matter their physical location. It will not play to your advantage if clients have to hunt down your workers when they require services rendered or, worse yet, not get ahold of them entirely.
This system guarantees that your staff will always be on-call. Your employees will also have the benefit of being connected without having to share their private numbers.
Q: I keep seeing references to unified communications systems. How are those different from a phone system?
A: Most of the phone systems these days are unified communications networks. The systems amalgamate messaging, voice calling, and online or video meetings in a single platform. They also provide online faxing and audio conferencing. Most phone systems these days provide this service.
Q: If my companies has numerous locations, does it matter if I have a cloud-based or on-premises system?
A: Although hosted and on-premises systems support businesses with numerous locations, a could-based system simplifies matters.
When using cloud-based system, you won’t need to install intricate PBX hardware in every place you’re situated. This saves you cash and allows for an easier setup. They can be run from one platform, which makes them easy to use.
Q: What options are available for the number of phone lines a small business phone system can offer?
A: The best thing about VoIP systems is that there are no limits to the phone lines your company has access to. The more your lines, the more affordable your per-user cost will be. What's more, adding new lines is pretty much straightforward.
Are you ready to make a decision on a business phone system? Let's chat