Business Phone Systems

by Chad BrooksLast Modified: January 5, 2018

Intro
Best Picks
Pricing
Negotiation
Reviews
State of the Industry
Do You Need a Business Phone System?
Choosing a System
On-Premise vs Cloud
Mobility
Map
Services
Compare Quotes

The Best Business Phone Systems of 2018

 Businesses have more choices than ever when it comes to phone systems. Whether they want a landline, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), on-premises, cloud-hosted or completely virtual system, businesses now have hundreds of options. With this vast selection, finding a phone system that is right for your business can often be a difficult undertaking.  

The first questions to answer are what type of phone connection you want – landline, VoIP or virtual – and whether you want the system hosted on premises or in the cloud. You then need to consider features, mobility access, cost and customer service before settling on which system is best for you. With so much to consider, we want to help you narrow down your choices.  

Besides highlighting how each type of system differs and providing a rundown of the different business phone system costs structures, this guide also offers our recommendations on the systems we think fit best for various needs. Specifically, 8x8, RingCentral, Cisco, Ooma Office, Nextiva, Avaya, Grasshopper and Mitel are the systems we think are best for different types of businesses. You can read more about each, and the types of organizations we think they are best for, below.  

If none of our recommendations work for you, scroll down even further to see a comprehensive listing of business phone systems.

Best Picks

Enterprises
On-Premises
Virtual
Cloud-Hosted
Cisco

Best Business Phone System for Enterprises

Cisco

Cisco offers both on-premises and cloud-hosted business phone systems, making it an ideal solution for enterprise organizations. These systems can support thousands of employees and are specially configured with the exact calling, mobility and collaboration features each business wants.

While Cisco offers several different solutions, we looked specifically at the Business Edition 6000 systems. The on-premises version is a VoIP system designed for businesses with up to 1,000 employees. With the Cisco BE6000, businesses can pick and choose the specific applications they want for the system. Applications they have to choose from include those for mobility, voicemail, automated attendants, instant messaging, videoconferencing and contact center services.

Avaya

Best On-Premises Business Phone System

Avaya

Avaya is a top on-premises phone system because it offers businesses several different platforms that can be customized for your organization's needs. The systems can serve thousands of employees and offer all of the features businesses would want in a phone system.

The Avaya system we researched in depth was the Office IP platform, which supports up to 3,000 users. When choosing Avaya, businesses start with a two-rack platform unit and then pick specific add-ons, such as mobility or call center services.

Grasshopper

Best Virtual Business Phone System

Grasshopper

Grasshopper is a top virtual system because it provides businesses with a remote workforce a phone system that doesn't require any special equipment or phones. Instead of being grounded in an office, Grasshopper's virtual phone system is a sophisticated call-forwarding service that works in conjunction with mobile and home phones.

With this system, customers who call a business are automatically routed to an employee's mobile or home phone, instead of their office line. When a customer calls, the system's automated attendant answers the call and then forwards it to the employee or department they are trying to reach. 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 the employee's choosing. They can pick up to 15 different numbers they want their calls sent to, the order in which those numbers should be rung, how many rings should occur before switching to the next number and when they want calls forwarded to them.

Mitel

Best Cloud-Hosted Business Phone System

Mitel

Mitel's MiCloud Office is one of the best cloud-hosted business phone systems because it offers a wide variety of calling features, valuable collaboration tools and seamless integration with mobile devices.

Since MiCloud Office is hosted in the cloud, there is no equipment to install or maintain. Mitel uses multiple data centers around the world to ensure service stays operational, and it has guaranteed 99.999 percent uptime. This means the system is down for just a handful of minutes each year.

Pricing

Business phone systems have a variety of price points and structures. The hosting method – on-premises or cloud – is the determining factor in how the cost of your system will be structured.  

The costs of on-premises systems are mostly one-time, upfront expenses, while the cost of cloud-hosted phone systems revolve around monthly fees. The prices for each type of system vary based on the provider, how many users you have and how many features you want.  

Cloud-based phone systems typically cost $10 to $75 per user, per month. Since the system is hosted in the cloud, there usually aren't any large installation or setup costs. On-premises systems cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per user. In addition, since all of the associated equipment is housed within your business, there are large installation and setup charges. At a minimum, you can expect to pay a few thousand dollars for this.  

There are also some smaller monthly fees with on-premises phone systems. In order to connect to a dial tone, on-premises system users have to pay for SIP trunking or PRI circuits.  

The other major expense with either system is IP phones. Phones typically cost anywhere from $50 to $400 each. If you have a cloud system, some providers will rent you phones for as little as $5 each per month.

Editor's Note: Looking for a business phone system? We can help you choose the one that’s right for you. Use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

 

 

Negotiation

Whether you go with an on-premises or cloud-hosted system, you should take several steps to ensure you are getting the best deal possible:

  • For cloud-hosted systems, see if there are any discounts for signing long-term contracts.
  • Also see if there are any discounts for paying for a year in advance, instead of in monthly installments.
  • For a hosted system, ask if the vendor is willing to give cheaper per-line costs if you commit to expanding your service in the future.
  • For either hosting option, be sure to shop around and get several quotes. If the system you like best isn't the cheapest, see if that vendor would be willing to match the lower price.
  • Ask if the vendor would be willing to provide your IP phones for free in order to land your business.   I

t is critically important when agreeing to a contract with a phone system vendor that you read all of the details carefully before signing anything. Make sure the terms of the contract are what you negotiated and that there are no hidden charges. You should also ask what taxes or surcharges will be tacked on to your monthly service. It's important to know what your full bill will be and not only what the service charges are.  

It is also important to know the cancellation policy. Are there any cancellation fees? Do you have to provide advance notice? These are questions you want answered before agreeing to a contract.

Reviews

Below are all of our reviews for business phone systems and related categories. Our coverage includes reviews of the best small business phone systems, business phone services and PBX phones and systems. See all of our reviews below.

State of the Industry

Today's business phone systems provide much more than just a way for employees to talk with customers and clients. From instant messaging with co-workers to holding video and online meetings, business phone systems now offer a whole new range of functionality.  

Part of this expansion in services has been the introduction of VoIP and cloud-hosted phone systems. Previously, all businesses used landline systems that operated off of copper wire connections and required large, expensive equipment to install and maintain on the premises. Now, landline systems are being pushed out the door in favor of VoIP systems, which operate on the same internet connection businesses are already using to get online.  

Soon, nearly all U.S. phone users will be using VoIP. Research projects show that by the end of 2018, just 6 percent of U.S. phone users will still be using landline systems. In turn, the VoIP market is expected to grow by more than 10 percent a year through 2021.   

Unlike landline systems, which are only available as on-premises solutions, VoIP systems can be hosted either on premises or in the cloud. Since they don't require any expensive upfront costs, cloud-hosted business phone systems are growing in popularity. Research from Information Week revealed that 70 percent of organizations have deployed, or are planning to deploy, their communications systems in the cloud.  

Cost is a huge reason many organizations are jumping to the cloud. In contrast to the major capital expenditures necessary with on-premises systems, cloud-hosted solutions have very little upfront costs. Instead, most of the cost comes in a monthly per-user fee. The only upfront purchases businesses might have to make with cloud-hosted phone systems are IP phones. Research from Telzio revealed that businesses can save as much as 75 percent on their phone system costs when switching to VoIP.  

In addition to traditional phone systems, some businesses, especially those with a remote workforce, opt for a virtual solution. 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 systems transfer those calls to mobile and home phones.

Do You Need a Business Phone System?

Despite the growing popularity of email and text messaging, many customers and clients still prefer being able to reach businesses with a telephone call. Some small businesses, especially those with just a few employees, may think they can get away with everyone using a mobile phone. But having a complete phone system, whether it’s a traditional system with desktop phones or a virtual system that works in conjunction with mobile devices, can give a better appearance. For example, an automated attendant, hold music or the ability to host conference calls signals to customers that you're running a professional operation.

While small businesses previously had very few options for phone systems, today's market offers a wealth of options.

In the past, traditional landline phone systems were the only option. Today, many small businesses have switched to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and virtual systems. This provides access to the same feature-rich, high-powered systems that only large corporations used in the past. Today's systems also offer dozens of calling features, a number of collaboration tools, and the ability to integrate with computers and mobile devices, all for a fraction of the price of what old phone systems used to cost.

Choosing a System

With dozens of options, picking the right system for your business can be difficult. Here are some factors you should consider before selecting one.

  1. Reliability: The most critical aspect of any phone system is that it works. You want to research what each phone system has in place to ensure its reliability and ask several questions of the company. For instance, what is the system's uptime? How many data centers does it have? How many call carriers does it work with? What other steps is the provider taking to ensure you can make and receive calls at all times?
  2. Cost: Compare the cost of each system you are considering. Be sure to get specific price quotes that include not only the cost of service and any installation fees, but also all taxes. You don't want to budget for one cost only to get your bill and discover taxes and other fees have driven the price up by 10% to 15%.
  3. Hosting options: Not all phone system providers offer both on-premises and cloud-based systems. Be sure the provider you are considering offers the option you want.
  4. Features: Some phone systems offer hundreds of features and others far fewer. Make a list of what you want and make sure the system you choose has them available.
  5. Ease of use: A lot more goes into a phone system than just picking up the phone when it rings. Since today's systems are set up via online portals, you want one that is easy to learn and navigate.
  6. Security: If you are going with a cloud-based system, be sure there is proper security in place to keep your calls and data safe. Is the data encrypted during transmission? Are the system company's data centers guarded 24 hours a day? What precautions are in place in case of a natural disaster? These are all questions you should be asking.
  7. Mobility: If you want your employees to be able to tap into their business line wherever they are, be sure the phone system you are considering offers a full suite of mobile tools, including a mobile app and softphone.
  8. Employee access: The system shouldn't only be accessible to those in charge. Employees should also be able to tap into the system's online portal. This allows them to check voicemail when out of the office and set up call-forwarding rules for when they are away from their desks. In addition, some systems allow for instant messaging and video chats within the portal.
  9. Support: The vendor you choose should provide the level of support that fits your needs. If you are a business without an IT staff, you might want a provider with 24/7 support so you can get questions answered at any time. In addition, the best providers offer numerous ways to contact them, including email and live chat.

Landline vs. VoIP

The phone industry has undergone a tremendous transformation in recent years.  For decades, traditional landline phone systems were being used by all businesses. Today, landline systems have fallen by the wayside in favor of VoIP-based solutions.

Landline

Until recently, all businesses were using 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 phone systems were extremely reliable, they required expensive equipment that was hard to install and maintain. Besides the copper wiring that had to be run through the business, landline systems also required a costly private branch exchange (PBX). The PBX is what was used to switch calls between the business and the telephone network. It's also what was needed to offer various calling features, such as voicemail, conference calling and automated attendants.

Today, traditional analog landline 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 up and running is also increasingly difficult. Telephone companies have largely shifted their attention to VoIP technology.

VoIP

Nearly all new business phone systems use VoIP. Instead of running on copper wiring like landline systems did, VoIP systems run on an internet connection. It's the same connection most businesses already use to get online. Being able to tap into an existing data connection saves businesses the trouble and expense of installing and maintaining phone lines throughout their offices or stores.

In addition, VoIP systems work in conjunction with cheaper and less bulky PBX equipment. This allows small businesses to access a host of calling features they previously couldn't afford. These are some of the many features of VoIP systems:

  • Voicemail
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Call recording
  • Call queues
  • Call routing
  • Interactive voice response
  • Interoffice instant messaging
  • Conference calling
  • Automated attendants
  • Ring groups
  • Directory assistance
  • Internet faxing
  • Missed call notifications

VoIP systems also easily integrate with computers. This lets employees make calls from their desktop or laptop computers and have voicemail messages sent directly to their email inboxes, among other things. It can also be beneficial for businesses using customer relationship management (CRM) programs.

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

To guarantee perfect call quality on VoIP, businesses must make sure they are configuring their data network properly. This requires them to have enough bandwidth to handle all the calls being made and configure their network so voice calls take priority over other online traffic.

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.

 

On-Premise vs Cloud

Unlike landline phone systems, which require all equipment to be housed and maintained inside the business, VoIP systems offer the option of hosting everything on the premises or in the cloud.

On-Premise

Similar to landline systems, on-premises VoIP systems have all the PBX equipment installed and housed on location in each business. 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 in your business, your IT staff is responsible for all repairs or upgrades. On-premises systems also need to be professionally installed.

The cost structure for on-premises systems also differs from cloud-hosted solutions. These systems are purchased upfront and typically require one-time large capital expenditures for the PBX equipment, phones and installation. Besides the one-time charges, there are smaller recurring fees for the use of SIP trunking services or PRI circuits, which allow the systems to make and receive calls.

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 with serious concerns about keeping their calls and phone system data private 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 specifically customize.

Cloud

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

Most cloud systems are essentially plug-and-play. 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-hosted solutions is that businesses are at the mercy of the phone system 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 service.

Overall, the top phone system providers boast documented yearly uptimes of at least 99.99%. This means their service is only down a few minutes each year. To protect against hacking, most phone system providers encrypt data when it is transferred to and from the cloud, and have round-the-clock security at their data centers. 

Cloud-based systems are totally controlled via online portals. From the portal, business leaders can add and remove users, assign phone numbers and extensions, and provide employees with access to the system. Employees can use the portal to check voicemail, set call-forwarding options, and make and receive calls from a softphone on their computer. Unlike on-premises systems that require large upfront costs, cloud-based systems have monthly fees. Most services charge per-user fees that include unlimited local and long-distance calls. SIP trunking services are also included in the cost. The only upfront cost with cloud systems is the phones.

Phone system experts believe cloud-hosted systems are ideal for small businesses because they have few upfront costs and consistent monthly charges that can fit easily into a budget, and don't require trained IT experts to keep them up and running.

Phones

Besides the PBX equipment that runs the system, the main component of a traditional phone system is the desktop phone. Most of the phones today are IP phones, which are compatible with all VoIP systems, regardless of whether they are hosted on the premises or in the cloud.

There is much variety in what type of IP phone you can connect to your system, including corded and cordless phones, conference phones, video phones, and speaker phones. Among the features that many newer phones offer are LCD touchscreens, presence status, power over Ethernet, integration with online calendars and programmable buttons.

While a few phone system providers have their own name-brand phones, most resell other brands. Among the more popular brands of IP phones are Polycom, Yealink, Panasonic, Sangoma, Grandstream, Snom, Digium and Aastra. For those who still prefer analog phones, many providers have adapters that can work with VoIP systems.

Mobility

While virtual systems allow businesses to solely use mobile devices, VoIP systems allow businesses to combine traditional phone systems with mobile options. Giving employees the freedom to always be connected with their business phone lines is increasingly important, as many employees no longer spend all their time in the office. Most VoIP systems let employees access their phone systems via a mobile app on their smartphones.

The biggest benefit of the mobile app is that it gives employees the ability to make and receive calls from their business lines. When they call a client, their business phone number shows up on the caller ID rather than a personal number. In addition, calls can be forwarded to mobile devices to ensure they never miss an important call.

Many phone system mobile apps also include a seamless transfer feature. This lets workers easily transfer a call from their desk phone to their mobile device mid-call so they can continue talking if they need to leave their office. Other features many mobile apps include are the ability to check voicemail messages, conduct video chats, chat over instant message with co-workers, set call-forwarding options, and send and receive online faxes.

These mobile tools are often critical because of the value they add in ensuring customers and clients can find employees whenever needed. At the same time, they help employees because they are no longer tethered to their desks.

Map

Grasshopper
1880 Embarcadero Rd
Palo Alto, CA
Grasshopper
Mitel
701 Brazos St.
Austin, TX
Mitel
Sangoma
100 Renfrew Drive
Markham,
Sangoma
Grandstream
126 Brookline Ave
Boston, MA
Grandstream
Audiocodes
27 World's Fair Drive,
Somerset, NJ
Audiocodes
Elastix
4300 W Cypress Street
Tampa, FL
Elastix
Xorcom
145 S Jefferson Ave
Cookeville, TN
Xorcom
ADTRAN
901 Explorer Blvd.
Huntsville, AL
ADTRAN
Rhino
30928 San Clemente St
Hayward, CA
Rhino
Avaya
4655 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA
Avaya
Cisco
2300 E President George Bush Hwy.
Richardson, TX
Cisco

Services

List of 20Business Phone Systems

Login to Business.com

Login with Your Account
Forgot Password?
New to Business.com? Join for Free

Join Business.com

Sign Up with Your Social Account
Create an Account
Sign In

Use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use, Community Guidelines, and Privacy Policy.

Reset Your Password

Enter your email address and we'll send you an email with a link to reset your password.

Cancel
close