Experts Guide to buying phone systems for small businesses.
The phone is one of the few pieces of older technology that has stood the test of time & proved it is not going anywhere. It’s not only vital to most of our own daily lives but is also the bloodline of thousands of businesses for sales & customer service. Enterprise companies recognise the importance of the humble telephone & set up huge call centres with complex phone systems which offer excellent benefits, features & real time reporting/statistics.
For SMEs that have stuck to the same BT business phone & broadband contract since opening – making the move to a new system can be daunting. We hope to help explain what types of small business phone systems are available & give you enough information that you can decide what’s right for your company.
There are two main types of phone systems that smaller businesses use – traditional PBX & VoIP. Before getting quotes it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
VoIP vs PBX Phone systems for small businesses.
PBX aka Private Branch Exchange aka the grandfather of phone systems. It’s a type of phone system that’s been around since 1882 where attorneys in Virginia hosted the very first private switchboard which was an early version of what we now know as PBX. By the 1900s most businesses, hospitals & schools had made room for their own PBX equipment.
A PBX telephone system companies use to communicate internally & externally. It allows you to have more phone lines than a traditional physical phone like the one you have at home. It also saves money on costs of calls & can give you features like call transfer, voicemail, recording, IVRS & queues. PBX uses traditional phone lines to deliver calls & they usually come with a cost to the business.
Advantages of a PBX phone system for small businesses:
- Efficiency rich features – PBX features are often designed to help maximise efficiency for your business. They allow easy communication between departments & include call recording, call waiting & transfers as standard.
- Scalable – PBX are highly scalable without needing to invest in other additional resources. Once you have the set-up of the PBX system done it’s easy to add additional lines.
- Integrations – Most on site PBX systems can link into your existing customer database so when customers call their names can pop up. They can also allow sip trunking & providers now also offer hosted cloud-based PBX systems.
Disadvantages of a PBX phone system for small businesses:
- Cost – The main issue with on premises PBX system is the install cost is substantially more than a VoIP alternative. Usually 4 figures.
- Space – Having a PBX system on site means you need space for the equipment & it needs to be somewhere secure that won’t get damaged or broken.
- Hard to fix – PBX are often referred to as a single point of failure! This is because when something goes wrong it can impact the entire system which means all phone lines go down & until you have an engineer fix it, they are likely to remain down.
Enter VoIP (which stands for voice over internet protocol) – the smarter & cheaper phone system for small businesses. It was 1995 when Vocaltec invented the first Internet phone software. The software they invented was the first of its kind to compress the voice signal, turn it into digital packets & distribute it over the internet.
Over the last quarter of a century technology has improved a lot so the quality has improved drastically. VoIP has disrupted the traditional phone market & become an important part of many small and medium businesses.
Advantages of VoIP phone systems for small business:
- Easy to set up, use & maintain – VoIP is delivered via a “plug & play” software & can often be up and running the same day.
- Price – One of the best advantages of having a VoIP system for your business is how much you will save on cost. Most providers charge less than £30 per month per user with a minimal install cost, if any. Calls are included so no addition costs other than the rental.
- Easy Integration – Because its cloud based it’s easy to integrate with various other business applications like office 365 & your CRM. It’s got some features great for sales teams like click to call.
Disadvantages of VoIP
- Internet reliant – if your internet goes down & you have VoIP phones then so does your phones. If you have poor connectivity it will also impact the quality of the call sound so it’s important to have a stable connection if you have VoIP.
- Latency – Because the data travels through the internet there is sometimes a slight delay or lag users can experience. This can be because of a struggling internet connection which causes your VoIP services to lag so again highlights the importance of a stable internet connection.
- Emergency Services struggle to locate – not a major disadvantage as it 2019 & we all have smart phones etc but sometimes emergency services can struggle to locate a call from a VoIP phone so if it’s an emergency where you can’t speak you may be in trouble.
What’s the best type of business phone systems for me?
Figuring out the best type of business phone system depends on a few factors like your budget, what you need it to do, where you are located etc. A few questions worth considering are:
- Do you already have a business phone system in place? If so, you need to know what system it is, if you are tied into a contract & how easy it is to get out of it. Some systems may even just need an upgrade instead of getting a new one
- What features do you need? Some may include call transferring, call centre features, call recording, IVR, Quality of Service (QoS), faxing and voicemail.
- What do we currently pay & what is our budget? If you need a feature rich system, its likely to cost more than a single VoIP line so it’s important to understand what you can afford & what you need for that price.
- How much are we expecting to grow? Knowing the answer to this will help the provider give you the best option for your business.
- What time will we put aside to train staff at how to use it? New systems of any kind need a training plan to ensure all users have the best experience and can use it successfully.
- What kind of Internet Connection do we have in place? Can it scale? The reason this is important is because VoIP based phone systems rely on having a stable internet connection. You can get a free comparison for business grade internet here.
What is the best business phone system?
Now you are prepared to get a quote & you have information on the types of business phone systems but what is the best business phone system? It all depends on what you need it for. If you are still unsure feel free to talk to one of our experts who can help show you what options are available & what the difference in price is.
There’s lots of business phone providers out there & it can be hard knowing who to go to. We recommend researching any company you are going to take any service out with – review sites & case studies are always a good place to start.
Another key factor when deciding what telephone lines are best for your business is how cost effective they are. One office phone will be significantly less than a 3 site system & the best way to understand what cost savings you could get is to run a comparison. This not only gives you the best options but has already screened providers to ensure you get a great service as well as price.