Hooking up a home phone is a piece of cake: Plug in the handset and start dialing. But for business — even one with just a handful of employees — business phone systems can be much more complex.
When choosing a phone system, keep in mind what features your business currently needs and how much you expect your business to grow in the next few years. The best system for your business will work within your current budget and adapt to future business growth.
Choosing a Business Phone System
The type of phone system you choose for your business depends in large part on the size of your business. When choosing which type of phone system is best for your business, you should consider not only how many employees you have, but also the number of fax machines, credit card terminals, and modems are in use in your office or store.
Outfitting your retail store? Be sure to check out POS systems, as well.
All of these require their own line in order to function efficiently within the system. In order to determine how many lines you will need on your new system, you should count the number of lines you currently use, and then double it. The types of systems currently on the market include:
- Private Branch Exchange (PBX) systems are most often found in the corporate world, where businesses may have hundreds of employees all utilizing the system. They require a large amount of hardware in order to support a digital switchboard.
- Key System Unit (KSU) systems utilize digital switchboard technology similar to that of the larger PBX systems, but are available at a lower cost. As such, they also have a lower carrying capacity – usually limited to 60 employees or less.
- KSU-less (or keyless) systems function without the large hardware box typical of PBX and KSU systems but are limited to 10 employees or less.
- Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems are a relatively new technology emerging onto the business world. Rather than traditional phone lines, VoIP calls are transmitted over an internet connection. Some of the more extensive VoIP systems can require just as much hardware as a PBX system, although most traditionally utilize a computer or even just a specialized handset.
Each type of phone system comes with its own special set of considerations. For example: keyless systems require less up-front and continuing costs than other phone systems. However, if your business grows beyond the limit of 10 seats, the cost of an upgrade can overwhelm any previous savings you gained from the keyless system. Other considerations include:
- Wiring is a big issue. If you are leasing a pre-wired business space, there should already be telephone lines installed. However, depending on the size of your business, you might need to add lines - which means construction cost. If your current wiring situation is insufficient, an upgradeable business phone system might be the best choice for you.
- The benefit of VoIP phone service is that long-distance calls are much less expensive than over traditional phone lines. However, you will need to purchase much more bandwidth from your Internet Service Provider in order to handle peak call volumes, especially if your business utilizes other bandwidth-heavy processes like social networks or video streaming.
- The move to monthly, fee-based virtual phone systems is very tempting, but remember to do the math first: Multiply the number of users by the final per-station quote (including all add-on services like voice-mail, employee directory and call forwarding) and then multiply that by at least 60 months. Saving thousands in the first year might not be a savings if you can finance cheaply, plus you can depreciate the hardware cost.
The price of each system will depend on the size of the system you need, how much hardware you require, and how much installation will cost. Some business phone providers will charge you for the number of lines, or “seats,” that you use, whereas others may charge a flat fee.
Consider the up-front as well as monthly costs of the system you choose and determine whether they fit within your business’s budget. Finally, make sure that the system you choose can handle how much your business expects to grow over the next several years.
If you’re interested in business phone systems, be sure to check out virtual phone systems.