The best phone system for your business will have the features you want at a price that's within your budget, whether it's a traditional phone system or one that functions over an IP connection.
The size of your business, the extra features you require, and the amount of money within your budget for both service and equipment are all important considerations in your search for the right business phone system.
Traditional Phone Systems
Traditional phone systems use landlines and intra-office networks to connect your business's employees with each other and with the outside world.
- Key (or KSU) Systems: Used in businesses with between 5 and 40 employees, key systems use the public switched telephone network (PTSN) or landline system to route calls to and within your business. This is the typical system that most people are familiar with -- the one with the easily-recognizable phone cabinet that houses the business's routing software.
- KSU-less Systems: These systems are the best for very small businesses with less than 10 workers. They do not require the purchase of any equipment outside of the phones and are thus a very cost-effective solution for small businesses that don't plan to expand beyond those 10 users.
- Private Branch Exchange (PBX) Systems: are best for companies with over 40 employees. Because they are highly customizable, programmable, and complex, they require higher maintenance costs than other systems.
The ubiquity of broadband internet has resulted in the emergence of phone systems that work over an IP (internet protocol) connection as opposed to a dedicated phone line. These systems range from basic to highly complex and offer many of the same features as traditional phone networks as well as many new options.
- Business VOIP (Voice over IP) phones can integrate with email services and can be used both on wired office phones as well as wireless mobile phones. This expands the flexibility and range of your business network beyond the constraints of the office.
- Depending on the complexity of your system, the initial start-up costs can be as inexpensive as the cost of a couple headsets, but you may need to buy more network bandwidth to deal with the heavier load of both internet usage and digital phone data. More involved systems can cost as much to install as KSU and PBX systems.
- VOIP phones can offer lower national and international rates.
Whichever type of system you choose, there are a few ways you can keep costs down both at the initial installation and in the future.
- To estimate your current system needs, count every phone line you think you need, and then double that number. You need to leave room for your business to grow. You don't want to have to revamp your entire system at a later point in order to accommodate more lines.
- Take into account both the cost of the service plan and the cost of the equipment and maintenance. Evaluate these costs together in order to determine whether a specific system or service plan will remain within your budget.
- If you can afford to wait, purchase your system at the end of the quarter, when system salespeople are anxious to make their quota and are more willing to give you a deal on installation, service, or equipment costs.
The key to finding the right business phone system and service plan is to consider the features your business needs now, consider what it will need in the future and how much it will expand, and compare a number of options to find the one that's best for you to keep your business connected.
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