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Phone Systems: Quick Tips

Picking the right phone system for your business can be a challenge. Not only are there a number of digital phone systems to choose from, there are specific business phone systems designed for small businesses, large corporations, and everything in between.

The Best System For Your Business

The right phone system for your small business is one that offers the features you need at a cost that’s within your budget. Of course, there are several other factors to consider in addition to the number of system users:

  • How many employees you currently have
  • Prospects for future growth
  • Compatibility with your current hardware or internet connection
  • Services you will need including video conferencing or mobile access
  • How much you can afford, your call volume
  • Your geographic location,
  • Your level of technological knowledge and access to IT support

Before you begin comparing phone system vendors, it’s a good idea to research the basics: what types of systems are available, the requirements and costs of each, and how different phone systems function. The smart business owner is always armed with information before making a big purchase. Here’s a quick overview to get you started:

Head to our Buyer's Guide to Determine Your Business Needs.

Different Types of Telephone Systems

  • Key Systems - Also known as KSU (key system unit). These systems are typically for companies with between 5 and 40 employees, and are what most people think about when they imagine an office phone system. Key systems employ a “phone cabinet” that houses routing software, and use the public switched telephone network (PTSN) or landline system to route calls.
  • PBX Systems - Also known as Private Branch Exchange (PBX). These phone systems are for companies with more than 40 employees. PBX systems will give your company advanced functionality, and are highly customizable. PBX systems are completely programmable and can support complex implementation, so you may need to consider maintenance costs along with the costs of the system itself. 
  • Voice over IP (VoIP) - VoIP phone systems can offer significant cost savings as well as many other benefits. VoIP runs over Internet lines and routes your calls over a data network. Though internet connections have become pretty dependable, VoIP still relies on a good connection to operate, and could leave you susceptible to network outages and/or limited bandwidth.

How to Compare Digital Phone Systems Quotes

The backbone of your phone system is the VoIP service plan itself. Different companies look for certain qualities in a service plan. For example, business VoIP services offer various features including multiple extensions, video chat and mobile capabilities that don’t need to operate over a phone line.

Still not sure? Read through our Tips for Phone System Buyers.

Setting Up the Latest Digital Systems

If you are using a traditional phone system, a large portion of your total phone system budget will be spent on equipment. Phones, wiring, headsets, etc. will all need to be compatible with the system you choose, but in some cases, you may be able to use your current equipment with the new system. Equipment options include:

  • Phones: If you currently use a landline-based system, don't worry, you don't need to throw all of your equipment into the recycling bin when you choose to go digital. Many businesses use a desktop handset, which is what comes to mind when you think of an office phone. Less expensive than desktop phones are headsets: a standard headset with microphone and ear piece usually costs less than $50. More advanced phones with videoconference features, LCD media screens, call tracking and monitoring.
  • Wireless Connection: The majority of VoIP systems these days operate wirelessly. The days of slow dial-up modems are in the past, and now it is easier than ever to set up your own wireless router to get a fast connection. Wireless connectivity allows you to use your devices in areas that might not be covered by phone reception, and there is no additional cost to use web features instead of phone features.
  • Mobile Apps: Mobile Apps are now available that can equip your mobile device with the latest VoIP features at little or no extra cost. As of July 2011, over a third of U.S. adults owned a smartphone (In-Stat). The mobile market has become massive, and many of the mobile apps are free and can also be used on PCs. Of these include video conferencing apps like Skype, free calling and text messaging apps like iCall, PInger, and WhatsApp Messenger. The apps themselves are sometimes free, but still depend on a reliable wireless internet connection in order to function properly.

Choosing a Provider

Choosing an office phone system can be overwhelming, in part because there are so many options. There are companies that serve every type of business- the key is to narrow your search to only those providers that meet your requirements.

Check out our guide to Choosing a Phone System Vendor to get started.  And don't forget to review our vendors for VOIP phone systems.