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The Best Business Phone Systems of 2020

By Chad Brooks,
business.com Writer
| Updated
Oct 13, 2020

Our team of experts has compared the best small business phone systems for 2020. See up-to-date comparisons, reviews and costs for the top-rated services.
Featured Sponsor
Easy to manage
Incorporates voice intelligence
14-day free trial
Best for CRM Integration
HD video and voice
Available in three service plans
Includes built-in CRM
Phone Service
Offers four pricing plans
Multiple voicemail options
Mobile app for iOS and Android
Very Small Businesses
Easy to install and operate
Controlled from an online portal
Unlimited calling
Small Business
99.999% uptime
More than 50 standard features
24/7 customer support
GoToConnect
Features and Tools
Read Review
More than 80 features and tools
Phone, email and live chat support
No PBX equipment to install
Grasshopper
Virtual
Read Review
Works with mobile and home phones
Three service plans
Unlimited talking minutes
Our team of experts has compared the best small business phone systems for 2020. See up-to-date comparisons, reviews and costs for the top-rated services.
Updated 10/13/20

We've updated the FAQs section of this page to explain VoIP setup and PBX equipment.

There are an endless number of business phone and unified communications systems available in 2020. Businesses have the choice of landline or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems and cloud-hosted or on-premises solutions. And for those not needing a traditional business phone system, virtual systems are also option. With so many choices, finding the right one for your business can be a tough chore. To help ensure you choose the phone system that will work best for your business, we researched dozens of options. Based on our research, here are our recommendations of the business phone systems we think are best for different types of businesses.

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
75
Considered
18
Researched
7
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  Starting Monthly Price Free Trial Cloud or On-Premises Hosting No. of Features and Tools
RingCentral $29.99 per user 15 days Cloud 50+
Ooma Office $19.95 per user 30 days Both 30+
8x8 $12 per user 30 days Cloud 70+
GoToConnect $19.95 per user None Cloud 80+
Grasshopper $29 30-day, money-back guarantee Cloud 20+
Vonage $14.99 per user 14 days Cloud  60+
Nextiva $19.95 per user None Cloud 100+

Our Reviews

Dialpad: Featured Sponsor

Dialpad Talk is a robust business phone system that provides organizations with a mobile, flexible and secure communication solution. The system provides native voice intelligence features such as real-time transcriptions and post-call summaries with called-out action items. To help boost productivity, Dialpad Talk also offers integrations with a number of other business cloud applications, including G Suite, Salesforce and Zendesk. Built on the Google Cloud Platform, Dialpad Talk is used by more than 70,000 businesses around the world. Read Review.

Nextiva: Best for CRM Integration

Nextiva combines VoIP phone service, a CRM and help desk software into one cloud-hosted platform.
The platform includes an array of calling, productivity, mobility, conferencing and collaboration tools.
The Essential plan only includes audio conferencing with up to four participants.
Visit Site

Nextiva combines a complete unified communications system with a robust built-in CRM, which is why it is our choice as the best business phone system for CRM integration.

Unlike most business phone systems that allow you to connect your CRM with the phone service, Nextiva takes things to the next level by including a fully functioning CRM in its platform. The company also gives you the option of integrating the phone service with a third-party CRM, so you are covered from all angles.

The system is simple to get up and running, and the online portal is easy to navigate. The phone system is extremely reliable, offers several service plans and includes excellent customer support. Nextiva also has a wealth of valuable calling, collaboration, and mobile features and tools.

Nextiva Pricing

Nextiva has three service plans for both its business phone and CRM services. You can bundle the two together, or if you only want its business phone service or its CRM, you can purchase them individually. Each plan's price varies depending on the number of employees using the system and whether you sign a 12-, 24- or 36-month contract.

The phone service, on its own, ranges from $20 to $45 per user, per month. The cost of only the CRM ranges from $15 to $45 per user. However, you do save money when bundling the two. The representatives we spoke to said for a business with 20 employees that wants the two services packaged together, one can expect to pay about $55 per user, per month, or about $40 per user, per month when signing a long-term contract.

If you need desk phones, Nextiva offers a wide selection. Their desk and conference phones range from $70 to $625. Phone rentals are an option too.

Features

Nextiva's phone service offers just about every calling, collaboration, and mobile feature and tool a small business needs in a phone system. All of the service plans include unlimited local and long-distance calling, unlimited online faxing, a multilevel automated attendant, customizable music on hold, HD video and voice, and the option to receive voicemails via email and text messages. 

Upgraded plans offer team messaging, private group messaging, screen sharing, SMS service, voice analytics and unlimited video calling.

One standout feature that isn't offered by many business phone systems is the caller AI tool. This uses artificial intelligence to provide users with instant information on the person whom they are speaking with. This includes information on the customer's journey, their value and what their experience score is.

Nextiva's mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, lets employees make and receive phone calls on their business lines, make video calls, chat via instant message with co-workers, access the company directory, and update and modify call settings. In addition, you can start calls on a desk phone and move them to a mobile phone, and vice versa. 

Nextiva has conference calling built into its phone system. With the conference bridge feature, which is included at no extra charge, each employee can hold their own conference call. The number of participants on each call depends on the service plan you use. The Basic plan only supports four callers, while the Professional plan lets you have 40, and an unlimited number of callers can attend with the Enterprise plan.

The CRM solution offers its own set of valuable sales and service features and tools. The system allows you to store an unlimited number of accounts and contacts. You are also able to see a single unified view of each customer and their overall experience.

Other CRM features include contact management tools, workflow automation, email case routing, account alerts, sales and service reports, and custom reports.

When looking at the specific sales CRM features, there are customizable Kanban sales pipelines, leads and pipeline management, product catalogs, time triggers on pipeline stages, canned responses and custom sales views.

When you combine all of what Nextiva offers in terms of both its phone service and CRM, you will be hard-pressed to find a unified communication system that provides you with more in one platform. 

Nextiva Pros

The Nextiva Business Communication Suite is a cloud-hosted VoIP phone system that doesn't require any equipment or hardware. All it needs is a high-speed internet connection and IP phones. Since this is a cloud-hosted system, you don't need an IT team to install or maintain it; Nextiva handles all maintenance and upgrades. 

The entire system is run and configured through Nextiva's online portal. This portal lets you add employees to the system, assign phone numbers and user IDs, record automated greetings, create call-queue routes and priorities, and designate which features each employee can access. 

Employees can also access the system online. They can log in to set their preferences, change settings, conduct video conferences with screen sharing, and chat with co-workers. 

If you are an established business and want to keep your current phone numbers, you have that option with Nextiva. For an extra fee, you can transfer local or toll-free numbers over to Nextiva after you sign up for the service. This process typically takes two to four weeks.

Nextiva is an extremely reliable phone service. The company has a reported uptime of 99.999%. It has several fully redundant data centers worldwide to ensure customers never lose service.

Nextiva Cons

One potential downside to Nextiva is that if you are using the Basic plan, you can only host conference calls with up to four participants. If you plan on holding calls with more participants, you will need to either upgrade to the Professional plan or spend money on a dedicated conference call service.

We were also a little disappointed with the live chat service we received. We tested it on multiple occasions, asking the same set of questions each time. While the agents are some of the most responsive we have ever encountered on live chat, we often got different answers to our questions. We would have felt more comfortable knowing that all of their agents are on the same page.

Customer Support

Despite the lack of consistency we had with the live chat service, overall, we were impressed with the customer support Nextiva provides. To determine the level of service a typical customer would receive, we contacted the company multiple times by phone, email and live chat, posing as a new business owner interested in phone systems. 

During our phone interactions, the Nextiva representatives could not have given us a clearer understanding of what the company offers. They spent as much time as we needed explaining how the system works, its features, uptime stats and pricing. In some instances, representatives took the time to demonstrate the different features. For example, one rep toggled back and forth between a regular connection and an HD connection to show us how much clearer the sound was, and put us on hold so we could hear the on-hold music and announcements. 

We especially liked that the representatives didn't pressure us to make a quick decision on purchasing the service. They were always respectful of our needs and timelines. We didn't always receive that level of respect from other services we investigated. 

After some of our calls, we followed up by email to see the type of response we'd get. Each time, a rep promptly responded with detailed answers to our questions and an offer for another call if we needed additional information. 

The entire support team is U.S.-based and available by phone, email and live chat. In addition, the Nextiva website is filled with helpful support materials.

More

RingCentral: Best Business Phone Service

No special equipment or wiring is needed for this cloud-hosted business phone system.
RingCentral offers an array of calling, collaboration and mobile features.
Audio and video conferencing is not included in the cheapest service plan.
RingCentral Office is one of the best business phone services because of its wealth of features, ease of use and multiple price points. The VoIP service is hosted in the cloud and requires no special equipment or wiring to install. All businesses need is the required bandwidth to support their call volume and a router that prioritizes their voice traffic. Once the service has been activated and IP phones are plugged into Ethernet ports, your business can start making and receiving calls. The entire system is controlled via an online portal from which administrators can assign employees phone numbers and extensions, configure the auto receptionist, and set up answering rules. This is a true unified communication system as it provides phone service, audio and video conferencing, instant messaging, and online faxing all from one platform. When it comes to conferencing, each user can host conference calls with up to 1,000 participants. In addition, each can host their own video conference that allows for screen sharing. Available on iOS and Android devices, RingCentral's mobile app lets users make and receive calls from their business lines, send and receive online faxes, and participate in conference calls. RingCentral's phone service is available in four different plans that vary by price and included features. Costs range between $27 and $60 per user, per month. In addition to its standard phone service, call center services can be tacked on to any user's plan. The contact center offerings include IVRs, call distributors, outbound dialing and preview, and progressive and predictive dialers. This phone service is extremely reliable. RingCentral boasts a 99.999% uptime, which means service is down for only a handful of minutes each year. RingCentral provides customer support by phone 24/7. Its website is also filled with user guides, FAQs, webinars and how-to videos. May 2020: RingCentral has launched a new unified desktop app for both Windows PC and Mac computers. The new app allows users to quickly switch between message, video and phone solutions. It also offers advanced search functionality that enables users to search for messages directed to an individual user. RingCentral features calendar integrations with Microsoft Office 365 and Google.
Read Review

Ooma: Best Business Phone System for Very Small Businesses

Ooma offers a range of core features: virtual receptionists, voicemail, on-hold music and conference calling.
Users can make and receive calls from their business line on their mobile devices.
Users do not have access to video conferencing services on Ooma's platform.
Visit Site
Ooma Office is a phone system designed specifically for very small businesses. The system is ideal for microbusinesses because it works with any type of phone: IP or analog. For those using IP phones, all you need to do is plug them into your local area network to start making calls. If you are using analog phones, there is some onsite equipment you need. However, even though it is an on-premises VoIP system, someone without IT expertise can still install it in just minutes. The main piece of equipment is the base station, which is a router that prioritizes voice data to ensure reliable service. If you are using analog phones, you need the system's Linx devices, which wirelessly connect the phones to the base station. The base station connects to up to four Linx devices. While Ooma Office doesn't have all the extras that some phone systems offer, it has many of the features and tools very small businesses find most valuable. These features include unlimited local and long-distance calling, dedicated phone numbers and extensions, a virtual receptionist, voicemail, call transfers, call logs, daytime and after-hours modes, ring groups, music on hold, conference calling, and online faxing. Each Ooma extension includes a conference bridge, which allows users to host conference calls with up to 10 callers at a time. A mobile app is also available for iOS and Android devices. From the app, users can make and receive calls using their business lines, transfer calls to other employees, and manage voicemails. April 2020: Ooma now offers two service plans: Ooma Office and Ooma Office Pro. The plans differ by price and included features. Ooma Office costs $19.95 per user, per month and includes most of the features Ooma offers. Ooma Office Pro costs $24.95 per user, per month, and includes several added features, including a desktop app that lets you use your computer as your business phone, call recording, enhanced call blocking and voicemail transcription. Regardless of the phones you are using, all businesses pay a $19.99 per user, per month fee. For those with analog phones, there is a one-time equipment fee that starts at $129. This includes the base unit, which is a full router, and several Linx devices. You can purchase IP phones from Ooma; costs range from $70 to $400 per phone. The system comes with a 30-day, risk-free trial. Ooma provides customer support by phone between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. (PT), Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PT) on the weekends. Email and live chat support are available 24/7.
Read Review

8x8: Best Business Phone System for Small Businesses

A desktop app allows users to make and receive calls from their computer.
Audio and video conferencing support up to 50 participants at a time.
The 8x8 Express plan does not include online faxing.
8x8 is a cloud-hosted VoIP phone system that's a top option for small businesses: It is easy to use, has a variety of valuable features and offers excellent customer service. March 2020: 8x8 has recently updated the pricing of its most expensive plan, the X6, to $115 per user, per month. Overall, 8x8 offers four service plans. The service plans include 8x8's latest offering, the Express plan, which costs $12 per user, per month. This new self-service plan is designed for businesses with just a handful of employees. The other three service plans now range from $25 to $115 per user, per month. With the 8x8 mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, employees can make and receive calls from their business lines, video chat, and check voicemail and online faxes. 8x8 is extremely reliable. It has 17 data centers worldwide to ensure uninterrupted service. The company reports a 99.999% uptime, which means service is down for just a few minutes each year. The company provides excellent customer service. Customer support is available by phone, email, chat and the 8x8 website 24/7/365. The website also includes a number of helpful training and user materials.
Read Review

GoToConnect: Best Business Phone System for Features and Tools

No multiple service plans with different included features.
All GoToConnect users have access to all of the features and tools offered. The entire system can be controlled from an online portal that is accessible from any internet-connected device.
If you require robust contact center services, you need to work with InConnect, one of GoToConnect's partners.

GoToConnect is our choice as the best business phone system for features and tools because of all that it has to offer for an affordable price. GoToConnect is a complete unified communications system that combines  business phone service with audio and video conferencing services.

Out of the more than 70 business phone systems we investigated, few had as many features and tools as GoToConnect did. It has every key feature businesses are looking for in a unified communication system, including attendants, call recording, voicemail transcription, call queuing and conference calling. Additionally, it integrates well with existing CRM systems and offers contact center services.

GoToConnect Pricing 

One appealing aspect of GoToConnect is that unlike the majority of business phone systems on the market today that have different service plans based on the number of features included, GoToConnect offers all users access to nearly all of its tools. Pricing varies based on the number of employees you have. The more users you have, the less you pay per person. 

GoToConnect has five pricing tiers that range from $20 to $30 per user, per month. The pricing tiers are as follows: 

  • 1 to 4 users: $29.95 per user, per month
  • 5 to 9 users: $25.95 per user, per month
  • 10 to 24 users: $23.95 per user, per month
  • 25 to 49 users: $21.95 per user, per month
  • 50 to 99 users: $19.95 per user, per month 

Custom pricing is available for businesses with more than 100 employees. 

GoToConnect offers users a wide selection of desk and conference phone options. Desk phone prices range between $75 and $800 per phone. It doesn't require businesses to sign contracts or pay annually; however, companies that do are eligible for better deals on service or phones. 

Features

What really makes GoToConnect stand out is its breadth of features. The system provides users with more than 80 features and tools. There are 45 basic VoIP features, such as auto attendants, barge, call monitoring, call recording, three-way conferencing, custom hold music, custom greetings, dial by name or extension, paging, ring groups, voicemail, voicemail-to-email and virtual fax. The system includes custom schedules that allow administrators to set time-based call routing. This feature can be used to route calls during open and closed business hours, for example. 

One valuable feature for businesses where employees share workspace is the hot-desking tool. This lets more than one employee use the same phone. 

Call-management features include call history, call park, auto reject, auto divert, call queues, call routing, call waiting, call transfers, caller ID, do not disturb and Find Me/Follow Me. 

A nice aspect of GoToConnect is that all users receive some contact center services at no extra cost. This includes advanced ring strategies; custom queue hold messages and music; precall announcements; report caller hold time; queue call barge; recording, spy, and whisper; and wait-time announcements. These types of features aren't free with most of the other business phone systems we evaluated.

However, one downside is that if you need more extensive contact center tools, like skills-based routing, automatic call back and agent scripting, you will need to work with one of its partners, InContact. 

What really makes GoToConnect a solid choice is that it includes access to GoToMeeting, which is our choice as the best video conferencing service for smaller businesses.  You can host video meetings with up to 250 participants, 25 of which can have their webcams on at the same time. Features include dial-in options, recording, drawing tools, and keyboard and mouse sharing. Read our review of GoToMeeting. 

With GoToConnect's mobile app, available for iOS and Android devices, users can make and receive calls from their business line, conduct conference calls, send and receive text messages, view call histories, and choose ringtones. 

GoToConnect integrates with many third-party business applications like Salesforce, Zoho, Redtail CRM, Chrome, Slack and Outlook.

GoToConnect Pros

Since GoToConnect is a cloud-hosted VoIP phone system, there is no PBX equipment to install. The system runs on the same internet connection you use to get online – you don't need a trained IT staff to keep it running smoothly. Because it is a cloud-hosted system, GoToConnect handles the maintenance and upgrades. If you buy your phones from GoToConnect, they come preconfigured and are ready to use as soon as you plug them in.

The entire system is controlled via an online portal. From the portal, which you can access any internet-connected device, administrators can configure new phones, add or delete users, manage extensions, change on-hold music, set auto-attendant greetings, and update call filter settings. 

Employees can log in to change their call forwarding, voicemail and online fax settings. They can use a softphone to make and receive calls from their computer, instant message with co-workers, and start video meetings. 

GoToConnect is extremely reliable. The system has a 99.999% uptime service level agreement, which guarantees the system is never down for more than a handful of minutes each year.

GoToConnect Cons

While GoToConnect has a conference calling service built into its system, it only allows for conferences with up to 10 callers at a time. That caller limit is smaller than a number of the other business phone systems we considered.

Depending on your needs, you may be forced to use an additional conferencing calling service. These services allow for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of callers on each call. You can find more information on these services on our conference call services best pick page.

Customer Support 

We were pleased with GoToConnect's customer service. We contacted the company multiple times by phone, email and live chat, posing as a business owner interested in a phone system. 

Each time we contacted the company, we were greeted by helpful representatives who provided us detailed answers to our questions. They helped us better understand the system's platform, how it worked, the available features, the pricing structure and the mobile app. By the end of our calls, we always had a clear understanding of GoToConnect and all it had to offer. 

Customer support is available by phone, email and live chat 24/7. In addition, the company's website offers helpful information, including data sheets, user guides, FAQs and videos. 

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Grasshopper: Best Virtual Business Phone System

With Grasshopper, you don't need any equipment or desk phones.
All calls are forwarded to your mobile or home phone. You determine which phones you want calls forwarded to and the order in which they are rung.
Grasshopper doesn't have a traditional phone system. If you need one at some point, you'll need to change providers.

Grasshopper is our choice for the best virtual phone system because it gives businesses the ability to present a professional image at all times without investing in a traditional in-office phone system. Grasshopper is the market leader in virtual phone systems because of its affordable pricing plans that include unlimited minutes, its ease of use for both administrators and employees, and its extensive call routing system in which employees can direct their calls to any phone in any order at any time.

Grasshopper Pricing

Grasshopper is available in three service plans, all of which include unlimited minutes and all of the available features. The plans differ in the number of phone numbers and extensions they include.

Here's a rundown on each plan:

  • The Solo plan costs $29 per month and includes one number and three extensions. The cost drops to $26 per month if you pay annually. 
  • The Partner plan is $49 per month and includes three numbers and six extensions. The cost drops to $44 per month if you pay annually. 
  • The Small Business plan costs $89 per month and allows five numbers and unlimited extensions. The cost drops to $80 per month if you pay annually.

There are no contracts with Grasshopper, and the company offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee.  

Grasshopper offers professionally recorded greetings for your automated attendant. You can get a professional recording of up to 250 words for $75.

Features

What makes Grasshopper stand out as the best virtual phone system is that it includes a number of features that give remote employees the tools many traditional in-office phone systems provide. Some of the more valuable features are automated attendants, hold music, a name directory, call screening, voicemail-to-email, voicemail transcription, text messaging and online faxing.

With the Grasshopper mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, employees can make and receive calls from their business lines, check voicemail messages, see their faxes and call history, set up push notifications for missed calls and messages, and change call-forwarding options. Additionally, iOS app users can sign faxes and PDF email attachments using their finger.

Grasshopper also has a desktop app that features a softphone. With the softphone, you can make and receive business calls and text messages from your business line.

Grasshopper Pros

Since this is a virtual service, absolutely no equipment or desk phones are needed to use the system. Instead of connecting with desk phones like most traditional phone systems do, Grasshopper's virtual service works in conjunction with mobile and home phones.

When a customer or client calls, the system's automated attendant answers the call and then forwards it to the appropriate employee or department. With this service, employees designate the phone numbers they want their calls forwarded to. This could be a mobile device, a home phone or any other phone of their choosing.

Employees have total control over how calls are routed to them. They choose the numbers – up to 15 – they want their calls sent to, in which order those numbers should be rung, how many rings should occur before switching to the next, and when they want calls forwarded to them. For example, they can choose to receive calls 24/7, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays or only on the weekends.

When employees get calls, they have several options as to how they want to handle them: They can answer the call, send the caller to voicemail, or hear the caller's phone number or name to decide if it is someone they want to speak with right away.

Besides each employee having their own extension, employers can create department extensions, such as for sales or customer service. Employers then group workers into the proper department and set those employees' numbers to ring when someone contacts their department.

The entire system is controlled through an online portal. Each user can access the portal to set the call-forwarding tree. They can designate the numbers they want calls forwarded to and the order in which they will ring.

Grasshopper Cons

Grasshopper doesn't offer a traditional phone system. So, if your business outgrows this service, you will have to look for a new provider. Some phone system providers offer both types of service, which makes switching from a virtual system to a traditional system a smooth and easy process. 

In addition, you should know that Grasshopper doesn't offer all of the features you would find in a traditional VoIP cloud-hosted phone system, such as call recording or integrations with programs like Microsoft Office.

Another potential negative is that while Grasshopper allows for conference calling, it limits the number of participants in those meetings to 10. If you plans to host calls with more than 10 participants, you will need to use a conference calling service. These services allow hundreds, sometimes thousands of people on each call.

Customer Support

We were pleased with the customer service Grasshopper provided. To test the quality of support, we contacted Grasshopper multiple times, posing as a business owner interested in a virtual phone system.

Each time we reached out, a helpful representative immediately answered our call. They always took as much time as needed to answer our questions and never tried to rush us off the phone. There were times when we felt they could have provided more thorough answers to our questions, but by the end of each call, we had a good understanding of how the system works, the features it offers and the pricing options.

The Grasshopper support team is available by phone 24/7. In addition, you can request help via online form. On Grasshopper's website, there is a comprehensive user guide that walks you through each aspect of the system.

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Business Phone System Costs

Multiline business phone systems have a variety of price points and structures. How the PBX system – and the equipment that is used to run the phone system is hosted – are the determining factors governing how your costs will be structured. 

The costs of an on-premises system are mostly one-time, upfront expenses, while cloud-hosted phone system costs revolve around monthly fees. The prices for each type of system vary based on the provider, how many users your small business has and how many features you want access to.

Cloud-Hosted Pricing 

Since the hosted PBX equipment is stored in the cloud, there usually aren't any large installation or setup costs. Cloud-based VoIP phone systems typically cost between $10 and $75 per user, per month. Many office phone system and unified communications system providers have several service plans that vary based on price and included features. Many allow businesses to mix and match service plans, so each employee has access to the features they need. 

For example, a service plan that includes the basic features like unlimited calling, voicemail and caller ID, and call forwarding might be $25 per user, per month, with an upgraded plan that includes more advanced features such as automated attendants, call recording and ring groups costing $35 to $40 per user, per month. 

To give you a better idea on pricing, here are some estimates of what it might cost for businesses of various sizes. These estimates do not include taxes or other surcharges that all providers add: 

  • Businesses with 10 employees: Service may cost between $100 and $500 per month. 
  • Businesses with 25 employees: Service may cost between $250 and $1,250 per month. 
  • Businesses with 50 employees: Service may cost between $500 and $2,500 per month. 
  • Businesses with 100 employees: Service may cost between $1,000 and $5,000 per month. 

In addition to monthly fees, a company using a cloud-hosted system will likely want new IP phones. Phones typically cost between $50 and $400 each. If you have a cloud system, some providers will rent you phones for as little as $5 each per month.

On-Premises Pricing 

While cloud-hosted systems mostly revolve around monthly recurring fees, on-premises system costs comprise mostly one-time, upfront fees. On-premises systems cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per user. In addition, since all associated equipment is housed onsite at your business, there are large installation and setup charges. Some providers have a set installation fee, while others charge a percentage of your per-user equipment fees. At a minimum, you can expect to pay several thousand dollars. 

The costs of on-premises systems are much more customized than they are for cloud-hosted systems. On-premises systems are typically used by larger organizations that can afford the upfront fees. 

For a business with 50 employees, you should be prepared to spend $30,000 to $60,000 in one-time fees for all the equipment and installation needed for an on-premises system.

There are some smaller monthly fees with on-premises phone systems. To connect to a dial tone, on-premises VoIP phone service users have to pay for SIP trunking or PRI circuits. Depending on your call volume, this could be several hundred or several thousand dollars per month.

Another expense users of either type of system could incur are for toll-free numbers. While some systems include toll-free numbers, they usually only offer businesses a set number of minutes per month. Businesses that go over that set number of minutes pay a per-minute fee for their toll-free numbers.

Negotiation

When running a business, every penny counts. You want to make sure you aren't overpaying for the services you use. Whether you go with an on-premises or cloud-hosted system, follow these steps to get the best deal possible:  

  • For cloud-hosted systems, there often isn't a lot of room for negotiation. Most cloud-services have set prices that vary based on the features you need and how many users you have. However, there are a few questions you can ask to see if there is any wiggle room in the price. Since these are monthly services, your best chance at getting a discount is committing to the company for a lengthy period of time. You should see if there are any discounts for signing long-term contracts or for paying for a year in advance, instead of in monthly installments. Another potential option for getting a lower price is to consider starting with a new service near the end of a quarter. Some representatives we spoke to indicated there was more wiggle room for discounts at the end of March, June, September and December. 

  • For a hosted system, there is often more room for negotiation. These are systems that are built for you, so there is more opportunity to ask for certain features to be included for free. Depending on how much you are spending, a vendor may add some features for free to ensure they land your business. In addition, you should always try to ask for the cost of installation to be lowered. Finally, ask if the vendor is willing to lower their user licensing fees if you commit to expanding your service in the future. 

  • Another area you can negotiate on with both types of systems is phones. Many providers have a lot of options and are willing to give you upgraded phones depending on the service you choose and the length of time you commit to. In addition, providers often run specials that include phones for free. See what kind of phones they are offering and whether they would be willing to upgrade them if you commit to their service. 

  • Regardless of the type of system you choose, it is always important to shop around and get several quotes. Even if the first one you investigate is the one you definitely want, considering other service providers could help you get a lower price when you do commit. If the system you like best isn't the cheapest, ask whether the vendor is willing to match the lower price. If you tell them that another system you really like is giving you a better deal, they may lower their prices to get you as a customer. 

When you commit to a business phone system provider, they will likely require you to sign a contract. It is imperative that you read all the details carefully before signing it. Make sure the terms of the contract are what you negotiated and that there are no hidden fees. 

You should also ask what taxes or surcharges will be added on top of your monthly service (as well as the estimated cost of those charges). It's important to know what your full bill will be before agreeing to the deal – not just what the service charges are. The last thing you want is to open up your first month's bill only to realize it is significantly more expensive than you anticipated. That not only negatively impacts your budget, you start off on the wrong foot with your vendor. 

You should also know what you are in for should you cancel your service or change providers. Are there cancellation fees? Do you have to provide advance notice? Can you take your local and toll-free phone numbers with you if you switch to a different service? These are questions you want answered before agreeing to a contract.

Buying Guide

Types of Phone Systems

The process of choosing a business phone system requires you to answer a couple of questions. First, what type of phone connection do you want – landline, VoIP or virtual?  Second, how you want to host the system – on premises or in the cloud? 

Regardless of the type of system you choose, all business phone systems today are PBX phone systems. The PBX equipment is what allows these systems to provide all of the features and tools, such as multiple extensions, voicemail, call recording, etc., they they do. However, the type of system you choose affects where that PBX equipment is physically located. 

With on-premises systems, your IT staff needs to install and maintain PBX equipment. Conversely, cloud-hosted solutions require very little IT resources since all of the PBX equipment is housed and maintained by the phone system provider. With the cloud-hosted option, IT teams focus more of their attention on managing the system's features rather than the infrastructure. 

Read a breakdown of each type of phone system.

Traditional Landline  

Previously, businesses used traditional analog landline telephone systems. These systems were connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network and ran on the telephone company's copper wiring. 

While these multiline phone systems were extremely reliable, they required equipment that was expensive to install and maintain. Besides the copper wiring that had to be run through the business, landline systems also required costly PBX equipment. The PBX is what is used to switch calls between the business and the telephone network. It's also what is needed to offer various calling features, such as voicemail, conference calling and automated attendants. 

All of this PBX equipment (and the other hardware needed to run the phone system) are housed onsite in your businesses, typically in a server room or closet. 

Today, analog multiline landline phone systems are becoming obsolete. Telephone companies aren't developing new analog systems and are no longer providing updates to the systems they used to offer. Finding IT professionals with the skills to keep these systems running is becoming increasingly difficult. Telephone companies have largely shifted their attention to VoIP technology. 

Some landline systems now use a mix of landline and VoIP technology. There might a traditional landline connection to a business, but instead of having traditional wiring throughout the building, organizations use an internet connection to tap into that outside landline. 

Very few new businesses are choosing landline phone service for their phone system needs. Knowing that support for these systems is diminishing, the organizations they are best served for are those with an in-house IT team that is skilled with these systems and can handle the maintenance and upgrades on their own. 

In addition, landline systems are the only option for businesses in communities where there isn't high-speed internet access.

VoIP 

Nearly all new business phone systems use VoIP. Instead of running on copper wiring like landline systems do, VoIP systems run on a high-speed internet connection. It's the same connection most businesses already use to get online.

When making a phone call, the user's voice is instantly converted into a data packet that is moved throughout the internet like other pieces of data, such as emails and images. Tapping into an existing data connection saves you the trouble and expense of installing and maintaining phone lines throughout your offices or stores. 

In addition, VoIP systems work in conjunction with cheaper and less bulky PBX equipment. This allows small businesses to access calling features they previously couldn't afford, like an auto attendant, conference calling and call recording. 

VoIP systems easily integrate with computers, which lets employees make calls from their devices and have voicemails sent directly to their email, among other things. It can also be beneficial for businesses using CRM programs.

Similar to how a landline system works, the VoIP provider allows you to choose a phone number with a local area code, a toll-free number or both. 

Ease of use and scalability are a big benefit to VoIP phone systems. Most VoIP systems can be totally managed from an online portal. By logging into the system, administrators can assign phone numbers and extensions, and turn various features on and off. 

In addition, VoIP providers make it easy to add new users. Administrators can quickly log into the system to add new lines on their own within the system's online portal. This simplifies the process of setting up new employees with their own line. 

When VoIP was first introduced, there was concern about call quality. Many felt calls sounded staticky; others had problems with calls dropping off. As technology has improved, so, too, has call quality. In fact, the difference between VoIP and landline is now so insignificant that most users have no idea when they are using VoIP when they are on a landline connection. 

VoIP is becoming a standard option for all businesses. Soon, nearly all U.S. phone users will use VoIP. Research from IBIS World projects that by next year there will be more than 3 billion VoIP users worldwide.

Cost is a huge benefit of VoIP. Research has shown that moving to a VoIP system from a traditional landline system can save businesses up to 75% on their phone service costs. 

The only businesses that can't take advantage of VoIP phone systems are those in communities without access to high-speed internet service or with unreliable internet service. 

A huge factor when choosing a phone system for your business is deciding how you want the PBX equipment, which is what's needed to run the system, hosted. Some providers offer on-premises or cloud-based systems, while others offer both options. 

VoIP On Premises 

With on-premises systems, the PBX equipment is installed inside your business. Your IT team is responsible for securing it, keeping it up and running, and upgrading it when necessary. Hosting on-premises gives businesses the ability to keep a few traditional landlines working alongside SIP-trunked VoIP lines. 

Similar to landline systems, on-premises VoIP systems have all the equipment installed and housed onsite inside each business. The hardware is typically stored in your company's server closet. 

With this option, you are in total control of your system. You aren't relying on anyone else to make sure it is running, and you can configure it to your exact specifications. However, since it is located onsite, your IT staff handles all repairs and upgrades. On-premises systems need to be professionally installed. 

If you have a VoIP on-premises system, you will need SIP trunking or PRI circuits to connect a dial tone to the system. 

Another difference is security. On-premises systems don't have the same security concerns as cloud-hosted solutions, since all the data is stored within your business. 

Experts say businesses concerned with privacy are best served by on-premises systems. This option allows businesses to configure their firewalls exactly as desired to protect the phone system from any type of intrusion. 

Other businesses well suited for on-premises phone systems are large corporations that can afford the upfront costs and businesses that want a system they can customize. 

Cloud-Hosted VoIP 

Cloud-hosted phone systems are becoming popular among small businesses. With this system, the equipment is housed in the cloud by your service provider, which handles all maintenance and upgrades. The only equipment the business needs is the phones themselves. 

Most cloud systems are essentially plug-and-play ready. Once you activate your service and receive your phones, they can be plugged into any Ethernet port, and calls are ready to be made and received. 

The downside to cloud-based solutions is that businesses are at the mercy of the provider to keep their service up and running. To ensure this happens, most of the top vendors have several redundancies built into their systems. This includes having multiple data centers so that if one goes down, the data can be transferred seamlessly to another to ensure the continuation of the business's communications service. 

One important factor to consider if you are considering a cloud-hosted system is bandwidth. Consult your business's internet service about obtaining the bandwidth required to support a new phone service. Most of the cloud-providers we considered required just short of 100 Kbps per phone call for the best quality. You'll also want to estimate internet needs for other equipment, such as computers, servers and Wi-Fi-connected devices. 

Cloud-based VoIP systems are ideal for small businesses – they have few upfront costs, the consistent monthly charges fit easily into a budget, plus they don't require trained IT experts to keep them running. 

Businesses using these systems are best served by installing backup equipment that can reroute calls during power or internet outages. With these systems, new users and features can be added via an online portal. Cloud-based options also easily support multiple locations. 

Nearly all of the providers we examined had an uptime of at least 99.990%. That means their systems are down for just a handful of minutes each year.

Virtual Phone System 

Virtual phone systems differ from regular office phone systems in that when phone calls are made to your business phone line, they aren't necessarily calling a dedicated number inside your business. Instead, they are calling a virtual phone number that routes calls to you (or your employees) wherever you are located. 

Virtual phone systems are essentially extensive call-forwarding systems. Businesses have a main number, with each employee receiving their own extension. However, instead of transferring customers to an employee's office phone, the virtual system transfers calls to mobile devices and home phones. Employees control the numbers they want their business calls sent to and the order in which those numbers are rung. 

In addition to automated attendants, virtual PBX systems offer other valuable features, including voicemail, voicemail-to-email, music on hold, call forwarding and online faxing. 

Hosted/virtual systems are ideal for businesses that don't need a full-fledged phone system. This could include solopreneurs who work out of their home and don't want to give out their mobile or home numbers to clients as well as small businesses with a large remote workforce. This type of service allows them to present a professional image at a fraction of the cost of more complete phone systems. 

Desktop Phones 

Once you decide on the type of phone system you want, then you need to choose a phone. This doesn't apply to virtual systems, though. 

Most business phone services are compatible with a variety of IP phones and offer adapters so analog phones can connect to their systems. It's likely that you can continue using the phones your company already owns. 

IP phones come in a variety of styles. There are traditional corded options as well as cordless phones and conference room phones. The phones can range anywhere from $50 to $1,000 each. In addition to buying the phones outright, some providers let you rent phones for a monthly fee. 

The per-phone analog adaptor can cost as much as $60, and a traditional fax-machine adaptor can cost $100 to $150. 

The benefit of buying IP phones from your phone system provider is that they come completely configured and are immediately ready to be used once they are plugged in. If you buy phones from an outside source, your IT team will need to configure the phones on their own to work with the system you are using. 

If you can afford it, it makes sense to upgrade your phones. If you cannot afford new phones, carefully consider how much the workaround will cost the company in the long term.

Phone System Features

Today's business phone systems are filled with valuable features and tools. The number of features each VoIP provider offers varies. Some offer a couple dozen features; others offer more than a hundred. 

Calling Features 

Among some of the available calling features business phone systems offer are:

  • Unlimited calling: Most of today's VoIP phone systems allow for unlimited calling. This includes incoming calls as well as outgoing calls. This unlimited service is usually reserved for domestic calls and calls using local phone numbers. They are often added charges and restrictions for toll-free calling. 
  • Voicemail: Each user has access to their own individual voicemail. Most systems allow users to check their voicemail from anywhere.
  • Voicemail-to-email: With this feature, users are sent an email with their message as an audio attachment.

  • Caller ID: Instantly know the number of the person calling you.

  • Speed dial: This lets you quickly dial the phone numbers of those you call most often. Instead of dialing the entire number, speed dial lets you push a couple of buttons to dial out.

  • Personal directories: Personal directories are a way for you to easily manage your contacts. It gives you access to your contact's phone numbers whenever you need them.

  • Do not disturb: When working on a big project or important task, you can put your phone in this mode to ensure you aren't interrupted. Your phone will not ring, and all callers are sent directly to voicemail.

  • Auto attendant: Auto attendants automatically answer calls to your business. The automated attendant answers the call, plays a greeting and directs the caller to the person or department they are trying to reach.

  • On-hold music: Choose the music callers hear while they wait on hold.

  • Paging: Use your phone to send a message to everyone. This is similar to a traditional intercom system.

  • Presence: This shows employees whether their peers are on a call or are available to chat.

  • Call reports: This feature provides organizations with analytics on their company's phone usage. It provides statistics, and usage can often be broken down by user, department, etc.

  • Online management: All VoIP systems can be managed via an online portal. From the portal, administrators can add users, set phone numbers, review call reports, create ring groups and see monthly statements. Users can also access the portal to check their voicemail, see a company directory and set call-forwarding routes.

  • Call forwarding: Have your office phone forward calls to another number.

  • Call recording: Most systems give users the ability to record their calls.

  • Call queues: This tool is typically used in call center settings. It allows callers to be put in line so their call can be answered when operators become available.

  • Extension dialing: Employees can use this to dial co-workers by their extension instead of dialing their entire phone number.

  • Ring groups: Businesses can create ring groups for employees who answer calls from the same set of customers. For example, the customer service team might have its own ring group. When a customer calls in and asks to speak to a customer service representative, the entire group is notified.

  • Directory assistance: This allows callers to access a company directory to reach the employee they are looking for.

  • Call transferring: Employees can quickly transfer calls to their peers.

  • Speakerphone: Many IP phones include a speakerphone offering that allows users to speak without having to use the phone's handset.

Unified Communications System Features 

In addition to all of the calling features today's phone systems offer, some providers offer unified communications systems. Besides phone service, unified communications systems include conference calling, video and web conferencing, online faxing, text messaging and instant messaging. 

Here are some specifics on the added features unified communications systems provide businesses: 

  • Conference calling: Most phone systems include a conference bridge that allows each user to host their own conference call with anywhere from a handful to several dozen participants. If the system you choose doesn't have a conference bridge that supports as many callers as you need, you may need a separate conference call service

  • Video conferencing: Video conferencing allows users to host online meetings from their computers or from rooms with video conferencing equipment. These conferences allow you to share your screen with participants.

  • Instant messaging: Many systems give employees the opportunity to instant message with each other. This provides an easy way for employees to communicate with one another without leaving their desk.

  • Texting: Some systems include SMS messaging. This allows users to send text messages from their business phone number.

  • Internet faxing: Instead of hooking up a traditional fax machine, this feature allows you to send faxes from your computer. 

Mobile Apps 

Mobility is another important aspect that today's business phone systems and unified communications systems allow for. Most offer an app for iOS and Android mobile devices that let employees tap into their business line wherever they are. 

The biggest benefit of the mobile app is that users can make and receive calls from their business line. This gives you the freedom to leave the office, even if you are expecting an important call. In addition, should you need to make a call when outside of the office, you can do so from your business phone number by using the app. This allows you to keep your mobile number private, without needing multiple cell phones. 

The mobile apps also let users review the call history, check and manage their voicemail, instant message with colleagues, start one-on-one video calls and view online faxes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why and when do you need business phone service?

Regardless of which type you choose, there is always a need for a business phone system. At the very least, a business phone system allows you to present a professional image to those you work with. Having customers or clients reach you on your personal phone lines might be practical in some instances, but it doesn't allow you to present that image most businesses are striving for. 

Even if you don't want to spend the money, or have a need for office phones, you can still use a virtual phone system to project professional appearance. This allows you to have calls directed to your mobile phones while still having access to key features like automated attendants and voicemail transcription. 

As your business grows, so, too, will your communication needs. Having a robust unified communication system will provide you with everything you need. Not only will your employees have their own business lines, which they can access from anywhere with a mobile app, they can take advantage of other communication tools, like video conferencing. 

In all, your business, regardless of its size and whether you operate out of an office or brick-and-mortar store or your own home, would be best advised to invest in some type of business phone system. 

How long does a business phone system last?

How long a business phone system lasts depends on the type of phone system you use. In the case of a cloud-hosted system, however, how long it lasts isn't really a concern. Cloud-hosted providers handle all of the maintenance and upgrades. And all of that key equipment is stored on their end, so they can work on it at anytime without interrupting your services. 

On-premises systems, however, are different. Since the equipment for these systems is housed on your own servers, there is a shorter life span. If you provide regular maintenance to this equipment, you can expect it to last anywhere from five to eight years, according to Total Communication Services. 

How do business phone systems work?

The exact way business phone systems work is based on the type of solution you choose (landline, cloud-hosted, virtual), but the general principal is the same for each. Business phone systems provide you with ways for your customers and clients to reach you by telephone, and vice versa. 

Each user of a business phone system has either a dedicated phone number or extension that can be called when someone is trying to reach them. When someone calls that number, their office phone, or any other phone they are having their calls forwarded to, will ring. 

Business phone systems utilize PBX equipment that provide many features and tools that add to the functionality of the phone system. This includes being able to have automated attendant answer calls to your business and then route those calls to the specific person trying to be reached. It also allows for things like voicemail, caller ID, conference calling, instant messaging and call recording. 

How much does a business landline cost? 

The cost of just one business landline can run anywhere from $50 to $100 per line. However, businesses typically require more than just one line, and they want PBX equipment as well as the added features that business phone systems include. 

In all, businesses can expect to pay between several hundred to several thousand dollars for a landline system. However, most landlines are becoming obsolete. Phone system providers are investing resources into the continued development of VoIP phone systems. This in turn has resulted in no new technology surrounding landline phone systems and a declining number of technicians who can maintain and service these systems,

What is a unified communications system? 

Rather than a simple phone system, many providers are offering complete unified communications systems that give businesses all of the communication tools they want to use in one platform. 

Besides phone service, unified communications systems include conference calling, video and web conferencing, online faxing, instant messaging, and text messaging. 

Having these tools in one platform can not only boost employee productivity, but it can save businesses hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a month. 

For your workers, accessing video conferencing or online faxes from the same platform makes things easier on employees. Instead of having to toggle back and forth between different services to access each tool, employees log into their unified communications portal and tap into them from the same place. 

What is a four-line phone system? 

A four-line phone system is designed for very small businesses. Instead of having only one phone line, a four-line system provides phone service for up to four users. 

Four-line systems are typically not as robust as cloud-hosted VoIP systems as they don't include the wide range of features those business phone systems do. 

What qualities should your business phone system have?

There are a number of factors you should consider when choosing a business phone system. First and foremost, it should support all of your employees. Most systems today allow you to easily add lines and allow for hundreds, if not thousands, of users. However, if you are a very small business, some providers require a minimum number of users. So, make sure it can support your needs. 

The second factor to consider is whether it offers all the tools your employees need. Besides the traditional calling features, does it offer things like video conferencing, conference calling and text messaging? You may want to look for a solution that allows you to mix and match service plans. This gives you the flexibility of ensuring each employee has the tools they need without paying for upgraded plans for employees that don't need every feature. 

Price should be another consideration. With so many options to choose from, you should be able to find a service that fits in your budget. In addition to the per-user cost, you should get a true sense of what your monthly bill will be once the added fees and taxes have been included.

The final quality you need to consider when choosing a business phone system provider is customer support. In an ideal world, the system will always work perfectly. But that is rarely the case with any piece of technology. Make sure the provider you choose offers the support options you are looking for. That may be 24/7 phone support, live chat operators or helpful online guides.

What are the differences between phone systems for large businesses and phone systems for small businesses?

While there used to be big differences between phone systems for large and small businesses, today they both have access to the same types of solutions. 

Before cloud-hosted PBX systems became an option, typically only larger business had the ability to use sophisticated phone systems that had tons of features and tools. That's because the on-premises PBX equipment required to power those features was so expensive to buy and maintain that only larger businesses could afford them. That left small businesses with simpler options that didn't have the bells and whistles that their larger counterparts could take advantage of. 

Cloud-hosted business phone systems have leveled the playing field. Instead of having to pay thousands of dollars for PBX equipment, small businesses can now tap into the same features for a fraction of the cost. Cloud-hosted systems provide all the features and tools for a much smaller monthly fee. In addition, since the equipment is housed in the cloud, there is nothing to maintain or upgrade. 

When it comes to phone service, the cloud has given small businesses the chance to use phone systems that they never would have been able to before. This allows them to access features like auto attendants, on-hold music, call recording, voicemail-to-email and video conferencing that previously only large businesses were using. Cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems give every business the means to present a professional image, regardless of how large or small they are.

What do you need to set up a VoIP phone system?

VoIP business phone systems run off the same internet connection you use to get online, so the first thing you need is a strong internet connection. In order for the system to run smoothly, you need to have the bandwidth to support your calling volume and the rest of your online needs. You also need to set your router to prioritize voice calls over other online use.

If you are using a cloud-hosted system, the only other supplies you need are the phones, since all of the PBX equipment is hosted in the cloud. The PBX equipment is what provides all of the phone system's functionality.

If you are operating an on-premises VoIP phone system, you will need all of the PBX equipment installed inside your business. This type of equipment typically needs professional installation.

Most of today's systems are compatible with IP phones and analog phones. However, if you use analog phones, you will also need a special adapter to connect them to your system.

What is the difference between VoIP and PBX?

VoIP is the type of connection used to run the phone system. With a VoIP system, calls are made and received over an internet connection. Traditional landline systems relied on copper wiring to provide those functions.

PBX (private branch exchange) is the equipment that provides the features and tools of the phone system. Both VoIP and landline systems rely on PBX equipment. The difference is that some VoIP systems are housed in the cloud, which means you don't need to install PBX equipment within your business location. On-premises VoIP systems and traditional landline systems use PBX equipment that is installed and stored inside your business, most often in the server room.

Community Expert Insight

We spoke to unified communication and business phone system users to find out which systems they found most valuable and what they liked about them. 

Ian Kelly, vice president of operations for NuLeaf Naturals, said they had been a longtime user of Ooma, and were pleased with the service, but eventually switched when their needs became more advanced. It was then that they decided a switch to 8x8 would be in their best interest. 

"Ooma was very simple and a great option for us until we decided to upgrade our needs," Kelly told business.com. "The main reason for the switch was the video conferencing feature which was lacking in Ooma." 

Pricing also came into play. Kelly said as a small business, affordability is a critical factor. 

"8x8 had an express plan, which was cheaper than what we were paying for [with] Ooma," Kelly said. "That was the deal-breaker." 

Similarly to Kelly, Will Ward, CEO of Assistive Listening HQ, said as his company grew, so did his communication needs. Originally, they had been using Grasshopper. He said they liked it because was the most hassle-free installation, no equipment was needed, and it was available in a monthly subscription. 

However, Ward said they came to conclusion that they needed to have dedicated equipment inside their office.

When using their mobile phones, people got distracted," Ward said of the virtual service Grasshopper provided. "So, we switched to Ooma, and it was a great decision. The installation was very simple, and they even gave unlimited calling." 

Tyler Roark, president of Kentucky Printing Richmond, said his company was operating from two locations. One was using a simple home wireless phone, while the other was using a 30-year-old system that had very limited functionality. It had no answering system, caller ID or voicemail. It really only allowed employees to put callers on hold and transfer to other phones within the building. 

When that system died, Roark ran the numbers and determined the capital outlay required to replace the system wasn't worth the investment. 

"We ended up settling on a Voice over IP system by Intermedia with Yealink T465 phones," Roark said. "It was going to cause our monthly expenses to go up a little but had very little expense in terms of initial setup." 

After getting the system up and running, Roark said they uncovered a number of advantages they hadn't foreseen. One big advantage was that his company could use one employee to answer and route calls for both locations. 

"This has allowed us to free up time from having to deal with as many spam calls and gives us a more consistent presentation," Roark said. 

Another benefit is that the system can connect with each employee's mobile phone. 

"So we aren't necessarily tethered to our desks anymore," Roark said. While cost is always a major consideration, Roark said there is another key factor businesses should consider when looking at a new unified communications system. 

"Next to [cost], and perhaps more important than that, you really have to consider how the system will impact the overall systems within your business," he said.

Methodology

To determine the best business phone systems, we started with more than 70 providers. Next, we separated all the vendors that had a good online reputation, such as those services that were consistently ranked highly by other websites. 

We also, at periodic intervals, queried business owners to see which services they use. If multiple business owners raved about a particular vendor, the service was added to the final list of contenders. 

We then visited each company's website. If a company stood out to us, we added them to the list of contenders. We also eliminated most companies that only served businesses in their local region. 

We ultimately narrowed down our pool to 8x8, Avaya, Cisco, Dialpad, Digium, FreedomVoice, GoToConnect, Grasshopper, Mitel, Nextiva, OnSip, Ooma Office, Phone.com, RingCentral and Vonage. 

We researched each provider by investigating its services, watching tutorials and how-to videos, and reading user comments. We contacted each company posing as business owners to gauge the support it offers its users. In all, we analyzed each system based on the following factors: 

  • Deployment options  
  • Level of service
  • Reliability
  • Customer service
  • Calling features
  • Collaboration tools
  • Mobility options
  • Cost
  • Better Business Bureau accreditation, ratings and complaints

What to Expect in 2020

In 2020, the persistent growth of cloud-hosted VoIP systems will continue to take hold. While there has been a steady move to the cloud by businesses in recent years, research shows this march to hosted systems will increase in the years to come.  

Projections from Statista reveal that for the second straight year, the money businesses spend on using hosted-VoIP systems in 2020 will surpass spending with on-premises systems. That trend is projected to continue over the next five years. The research found that in 2024, the cloud-hosted unified communications market is expected to top $13 billion, compared to just $9 billion for on-premises solutions. 

Another trend expected to take more of a foothold in 2020 is the increased incorporation of CRM systems in business phone solutions. While many business phone systems have long offered integrations with Salesforce and other top CRM programs, many unified communications providers are building their own CRM software right into their platforms. 

One example of this is Nextiva's business communication suite, which now includes a built-in CRM solution. For no additional cost, the phone system includes call pops; contact management tools; account history information; email, notes, and call logs; and sales pipeline management tools. 

We expect more unified communications providers to join in on this and offer these services as an added value to businesses looking to consolidate the programs and services they use.

Chad Brooks
Chad Brooks,
business.com Writer
See Chad Brooks's Profile
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has spent more than 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014.

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I'm looking for a telephone service provider that can support VoIP for internal and remote employees across the country. Any suggestions?
9 Responses
David Sebestyen
David Sebestyen
Answered
Hi Paul, your question raises more questions. The answer is really not about one provider over another, it is about why your call quality is not up to par and not stable. VoIP is only as good as the connection the calls flow over. You can have a the Ferrari of VoIP providers but if they are driving on a pot-hole filled road, your ride will stink. I would suggest that attention needs to be paid to your connection to the provider as well as your internal networking. VoIP is very sensitive...
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What's the best VoIP solution out there, for business?
11 Responses
Brian Andersen
Brian Andersen
Answered
Farzad, There's a number of great solutions out there. As with all things, the answer is as complex as your needs are. The company I work with has a fantastic VoIP platform that is very cost-effective and delivers great value... for the right customer segment. Every technology provider has certain markets and/or verticals that they service better than others. It's important that the company you work with do a full needs-assessment. Sadly, many companies will represent themselves...
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Other Services Considered

Comcast offers multiple cloud-hosted business phone systems for companies of all sizes. You can choose a system for small businesses of up to 10 employees or for midsize and larger businesses with up to 5,000 employees, and these solutions can grow with your business. In addition, Comcast offers PRI and SIP trunks designed for your business's on-premises private branch exchange (PBX) equipment. All of its systems have a variety of valuable features and tools, including automated attendants, caller ID, call forwarding and voicemail. Read Review.

Mitel is a robust unified communications system that can serve businesses of all sizes. Part of what makes Mitel such a good option for all businesses is the multiple ways it can be deployed. The system is available in the cloud or as an on-premises system. There are also multiple service plans that give businesses the flexibility to ensure every employee has the features and tools they need to best support their job responsibilities. In addition, Mitel offers a complete contact center solution with a number of helpful features, including call routing with queuing capabilities, skills-based routing, CRM integration, interactive voice response (IVR), call monitoring tools like whisper and barge, and call recording.. Read Review.

OnSIP is a cloud-hosted VoIP phone system that can be configured in hundreds of different ways. The system requires no equipment to install and allows you to choose the type of service – pay as you go or unlimited – that best suits your business's needs. Read Review.

Vonage is a cloud-hosted unified communications system that is scalable and full of valuable features. The system is offered in three service plans that can fill the needs of any size business. The system is reliable and provides 24/7 customer support. Read Review.

Avaya offers businesses several different phone systems that can be customized for your organization's needs. The system can serve thousands of employees and offers over 600 features in all. Read Review.

Featured Sponsor
Dialpad
Dialpad offers voice calling, video conferencing and text messaging. This flexibility helps small businesses connect with clients in ways that work best for both customers and businesses. This VoIP service offers cost-effective plans and an easy-to-use mobile app.
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