The Best Business Phone System for Business
Nowadays, there seems to be an endless number of unified communications and business phone systems to choose from. Business owners can now use the landline or switch to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), and further decide whether the systems will be installed inside the premises or cloud-hosted.
With these choices, finding the perfect system that suits your business can get really difficult. No wonder most small-business owners only go along with what their service providers have to offer. After consideration of various factors such as costs, features, reliability, and flexibility, here are some details on finding the best phone system for your business.
Different Types of Business Phone Systems
This setup uses the standard wall-mounted phone jack to connect the telephone on your desk to the service provider. For small businesses, traditional phone systems are also known as Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems.
Traditional business phone systems can cater to both single or multiple lines and it usually comes with its own handset. Some providers can also offer headsets and hands-free options. Service providers take it a step further with a hosted PBX, which offers the same flexibility as VoIP services.
- Can handle up to hundreds of lines
- Internet connection not required
- You can choose between on-premise or hosted options
- Requires continuing maintenance services
- Quite costly in terms of reconfiguring or upgrading
- Packaged with monthly costs which are also costly
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
VoIP systems are perhaps the most widely-used phone system among businesses today. A large part of its success in the market is because it shares a lot in common with traditional PBX systems, only a lot cheaper. Voice over Internet Protocol is named as such since instead of copper wires, your calls are transmitted through a high-speed Internet connection.
In terms of infrastructure required, the service provider routes your phone system in the same way as your emails and file sharing avenues. Your call requirements tap into your existing data connection. Small businesses can now use features previously unavailable with the traditional phone system like call recording, conference calling, and auto attendant use.
Another important feature of VoIP is that the use of conventional telephone becomes optional. In taking calls, you can either use the customary handphone that comes with the plan or use your office computers. This eliminates the need to provide telephone jacks on the wall which saves cost and installation time.
Since it shares the same mode of transmission with most of your office equipment including computers, printers, and fax machines, it becomes flexible as a phone system. It is easy to add new users and to either upgrade or downgrade your existing setup.
- Flexible configuration allows easier upgrade or downgrade
- Easily available calling and voice conferencing
- Available in affordable plans.
- Technical knowledge required for installation and troubleshooting
- Reliant on a stable internet connection
- Voice quality prone to transmission losses
On-premises means that the PBX equipment necessary will be installed inside your place and business. Hosting your VoIP phone system on-premises allows businesses to keep their traditional landlines together with the new VoIP lines. Moreover, keeping the entire system within your establishment gives you total control.
Usually, the accompanying equipment is stored inside the server room of your building. The challenge with this setup though is that upkeep, maintenance, and upgrade all rely on your own IT team. Keeping your phone system up and running depends on the skills of your team.
Another strength of hosting your VoIP system on-premises lies in security. Experts strongly recommend this kind of setup for security and privacy since all data are kept inside your business and your IT personnel can manually configure your firewall to meet your company’s specific needs.
- Flexibility in configuring your network
- Better security options
- Ideal for transitioning from traditional system to VoIP or for using both since it works side by side
- Accountability for maintenance and upgrades lie solely on the IT team
- Requires PRI circuits or SIP trunks to connect a dial tone
Cloud Hosted VoIP
For a streamlined and convenient solution, VoIP phone systems can also be cloud-hosted instead of being set up on-premise. In this type of business phone system, all equipment is kept in the cloud by the provider. Your company no longer has to worry about upkeep and maintenance. Equipment-wise, the business only needs the phones and you’re all set up.
Basically, cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems are easy to deploy and are mostly plug-and-play. After the subscription with the provider, your phones and computers only need to be connected to the Internet and the features are readily available.
On the other hand, cloud-based systems depend on the provider for maintenance. Most service providers keep their systems up by including redundancies and fail-safes in the event of a failure. Some service provider companies maintain several data centers so, in the event any of them fails, the data is transferred to other centers and keeps the service running.
- Relative rare and short downtimes, averaging a few minutes only in an entire year.
- Does not require specialized IT expertise
- No additional hardware
- Low upfront cost and affordable monthly charges
- Security and privacy configurations are limited, based on the provider
- Not advisable for places with poor internet speeds
It is called virtual because it does not require any additional physical hardware like the first two. While it is based on the traditional PBX systems, it uses cloud technology to process all calls. It means that users can send or receive calls from their laptops or mobile phones anywhere. It has the advantage in terms of flexibility and mobility that is not achievable with traditional on-premise systems.
While it is tempting to have with all the features it has, small business owners need to carefully assess the solution they intend to subscribe to. Virtual systems usually start out with pretty affordable packages, but the monthly costs skyrocket depending on which features and services you include.
- Flexible payment arrangements
- Mobility ideal for remote and off-site employees
- Compatible with mobile devices – phones, laptops, and tablets
- Without precaution, monthly costs can get costly
- Voice quality depends on the mobile signal strength
Understanding the Costs of Business Phone Systems
A variety of business phone systems means there is also a variety of price and payment structures. How the necessary equipment will be hosted is one of the factors which will determine your costs.
Usually, an on-premise system will only require a one-time purchase for all the infrastructure needed. Other costs down the road go towards maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. Meanwhile, cloud-hosted systems are structured around monthly payments. Other factors that will reflect on your costs include the number of users in the system and the features available, all of which then depends on the provider.
Pricing for On-Premises Systems
Costs in this type of phone system can range from a hundred to a few thousand dollars per user. In terms of hosting the equipment, there will be significant setup and installation charges. Depending on the service provider, it can either come from a predefined set of prices or a percentage of the project cost.
Based on the high upfront costs involved, on-premise systems are usually used by bigger companies who can afford them. A conservative estimate for a company with 50 employees would cost you anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 USD, inclusive of all equipment plus the installation costs.
After setting up your on-premise system, expect ongoing costs in the form of subscriptions to PRI circuits or SIP trunking services, which are used to connect your VoIP phones to a dial tone. This monthly cost depends on the call volume within your company.
Pricing for Cloud Hosted Systems
With cloud-hosting, the intimidating costs that come with buying your own equipment and paying for installation and set-up are eliminated. Cloud-based VoIP averages from 5 to 75 USD for every user, but this is on a monthly basis. Most providers of unified communication and business phone systems determine their prices based on the number of users and features included. Cost-wise, you can choose a combination of services they have, and each employee can choose the features they will need.
Take for example a basic business phone plan for one employee, inclusive of voicemail, unlimited calls, call forwarding feature, and caller ID, might go for around 25USD per month. An upgrade that will add more advanced features like auto attendants, ring groups, and call recording might cost up to 40USD per month for one user.
Also depending on the situation, you might have to purchase IP phones compatible with the services and features you will be having. Although, some providers include affordable payment plans for them and some even rent phones for as low as 5USD per month.
Negotiating for the Best Deals
As a business, cost-efficiency is of utmost importance. You want to avoid overpaying for services you might not fully use or underpaying and end up costing more in terms of adjustments or reorganization. Here are some tips to land the best deal available.
- For an on-premise system, there is more room for negotiating with the service provider. Since it equates to a lot of sales from the provider’s end, you have an allowance to ask for features to be included in the equipment you will be purchasing. It would also help to remember not to proceed with the initial quotation. You can always haggle for slightly lower prices and lower labor costs.
- For a cloud-hosted system, there are fixed price corresponding to each feature they can offer and how many users there will be. Opportunities for negotiating this kind of monthly service arises when the length of service is discussed. Usually, service providers implement a lock-in period bound by contracts. As a business owner, you can ask for a slight discount if you can commit to a longer partnership with them.
STG Ohio can recommend the best business phone system suited for your office requirements. Contact us today to streamline your business communications with a fast and reliable phone system.