Although many customers use email and messaging apps to contact businesses for service, support and queries, a significant segment still prefers speaking with company representatives on the phone. Additionally, numerous businesses and sales reps rely on telephone-based marketing to generate new leads and sales.
While voice calling may no longer dominate business communication, it still plays a crucial role for consumers and companies alike. We’ll outline various phone system types and features to help you choose the right business phone system for your organization.
Three primary business telephone system types exist:
Each type has cloud-based phone system options and on-premises versions. Here’s a breakdown of each type and how they differ.
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KSU phone systems are the most basic phone system type. Given their phone line limitations, they’re only suitable for small businesses with at most 40 employees.
KSU phone systems are easy to use and comparable to home telephones. They have many essential features businesses need. However, they lack portability and flexibility. KSU phone systems use a central switching device ― the KSU ― to determine phone-line selection manually.
KSU phone systems have a variation called KSU-less phone systems. KSU-less phone systems don’t use a central switching unit and are completely wireless, making them portable and flexible. However, KSU-less systems have severe limitations. They allow only approximately 10 phone operators and are not sold commercially. You must request a KSU-less system from a phone system provider. KSU-less phone systems are ideal for very small businesses that don’t intend to expand their workforce. They’re not suited to small businesses with a growth mindset.
Pros and cons of KSU phone systems
KSUs are intuitive and easy to use.
KSUs are limited to 40 phone lines.
KSUs have all the basic telecommunications features a business needs.
KSUs are not portable or flexible.
KSUs allow you to determine an appropriate phone line manually.
KSUs don’t offer the versatility growing businesses need.
A PBX is another business phone system option. PBX phone systems are more advanced KSU and KSU-less systems. They use programmable switching devices that enable automatic incoming call routing.
PBX phone systems are suitable for businesses with 40 or more employees because they’re largely automated. PBX phone systems have uninterruptible power supplies ― a significant advantage that allows a business to remain functional without electricity for some time.
A hosted PBX system, sometimes called a cloud PBX, is a PBX system modification. In a hosted PBX system, the programmable switching device isn’t installed on-premises ― a telephone provider hosts it. Its primary advantage is that you’ll avoid some of the installation and maintenance costs of standard PBX systems without losing any advanced features.
However, the writing is on the wall for the traditional PBX system. Panasonic stopped manufacturing them in 2023. Although there are digital PBXs you can host in your office, modern VoIP systems can outperform them on almost every metric for a lower price.
Pros and cons of PBX phone systems
PBX phone systems can automatically route incoming calls.
A dedicated team is required to manage your PBX configuration.
PBX phone systems can serve companies with many employees.
Your business is responsible for all PBX phone system maintenance.
PBX phone systems have dedicated power sources to stay up and running during electrical interruptions.
Redundancy issues can occur between worksites.
VoIP is a popular business innovation that requires the internet and a computer or internet-enabled device. Many VoIP phone system benefits exist because the technology is far more advanced than other business phone systems. For example, a potential client and a VoIP phone operator can communicate even if they’re in different countries.
User numbers determine VoIP system costs. However, they’ve generally become much cheaper than PBX phone systems. The primary benefit of a VoIP system is that all functions are accessible by computer via your company’s business internet network.
Like PBX phone systems, VoIP systems can be hosted. In a hosted VoIP system, the service provider hosts the central telephone system. Hosted VoIP systems offer the same advantages as basic VoIP systems but without installation and maintenance costs and hassles.
Pros and cons of VoIP phone systems
VoIP-enabled devices allow increased accessibility for communication.
VoIP phone systems require a stable internet connection, limiting when and where you can use them.
You can use the internet to easily communicate from anywhere around the world.
Latency and bandwidth issues could create delayed or frozen communications.
VoIP phone systems are easily scalable to enable communications between more teams.
VoIP devices can be targeted for cyberattacks, but there are ways to protect yourself.
Business phone systems allow companies of all sizes to manage inbound and outbound calls. Their features differ significantly from residential phone systems. A good business phone system must handle multiple calls simultaneously and transfer calls within the organization.
Today’s best business phone systems may include the following features:
Top business phone system costs generally range from $10 to $20 per user. For example, NextivaONE has a service plan that charges $10 per user, per month, while Ooma Office has a plan that starts at $19.95 per user, per month.
However, as with any business service, numerous factors will affect your costs, including the following:
Replace your home phone line by using your internet network to connect alternative VoIP devices like a tablet, smartphone or laptop.
There are hundreds of phone system providers available for companies to choose from in the United States. We’ve highlighted eight of the best business phone system providers to help you decide.
Read our in-depth RingCentral review to learn more about the vendor’s collaborative communication features, service and support.
Read our comprehensive Ooma review to learn about this easy-to-use business phone system and its generous support.
Our Zoom review shares more about this platform’s scalability and customizability.
Read our in-depth review of NextivaONE to learn about this platform’s extensive analytics and reporting capabilities.
Read our comprehensive review of Dialpad to learn about this platform’s helpful features, like a multi-level auto-attendant and built-in speech recognition tools.
Read our review of GoTo Connect for more on this platform’s cybersecurity tools and bundled plans.
For mobile phone systems, the general practice is to upgrade every two years. This prevents maintenance problems with mobile phones and ensures that the business operates with up-to-date systems.
This cycle can be pricey, so there are two other ways to determine if it’s time to upgrade your business phone system:
Eduardo Vasconcellos contributed to this article.