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*Our Top 3 Business Phone Systems of 2024 *Our Top 3 Business Phone Systems of 2024

See expert comparisons, reviews and prices for our top-rated business phone systems this year.

Last Updated: June 10, 2024
*4.7 / 5.0
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*4.7 / 5.0
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*4.3 / 5.0
Overall Rating:
*4.3 / 5.0

How to Choose a Business Phone System

There are multiple factors to consider when choosing a business phone system provider. First and foremost, you want to ensure the system has all of the functions and features your business needs. Can it support the number of employees who need the service? Does it have all of the features your business relies on or would benefit from?

While some businesses only want standard calling features like caller ID and voicemail, others want added functions like ring groups, automated attendants and on-hold music. Also consider any other communication tools your business needs. Are you strictly looking for a system that allows you to talk over the phone, or are you in the market for more of a unified communications system that adds functions like video conferencing and instant messaging? Your answer to this question will guide you in your search for a new business phone system.

Another factor to consider is a business phone system's reliability. A phone system is of no use if it isn't up and running when you need it. This is especially important for a cloud-hosted solution. Ask each provider what its annual uptime percentage is. If it isn't 99.999%, find out what the company is doing to correct the issues. Also ask about its service-level agreements and if it has any uptime-related clauses. Many business phone system providers will reimburse customers if the system doesn't hit a certain uptime percentage.

If cloud-hosted systems aren't a good fit for your business, you need a phone provider that offers on-premises systems. With an on-premises system, instead of the PBX being hosted in the cloud, your business houses all the equipment. These systems have more upfront costs, but not many of the ongoing monthly fees that cloud-based systems do.

Very small businesses may want to consider whether they need a true phone system with on-site desk phones. Businesses that can get by with mobile phones may want to look into a virtual phone system. These systems connect a main business number to employees' mobile phones. When someone calls the main business number, they are greeted by an automated attendant that can transfer them to different employees or departments. The call is then transferred to the appropriate employee's mobile phone instead of a traditional office phone. Virtual systems are well suited for very small businesses, businesses with a large remote workforce and solopreneurs.

Finally, what type of customer support does the company offer? If you don't have a full-time IT manager or staff that can handle issues, you want a business phone system provider that will be available to answer questions when you have them, preferably through multiple channels and online resources.

Types of Business Phone Systems

Businesses in need of a multiline phone system have several options. The choices vary based on where equipment is housed, how connections are made and the cost structure, among other things.

The equipment that provides the functionality to make and receive calls is a private branch exchange. PBX technology, whether it is housed on-site at a business or in the cloud, is what gives businesses all of the features and tools unified communications systems offer, like automated attendants, call queues, and ring groups.

Landline Landline phone systems use traditional phone system connections and wiring provided by local and regional phone companies. These systems require onsite PBX equipment that your in-house IT team maintains and upgrades. These systems require a large upfront capital expenditure for all of the PBX equipment. Landline systems are falling by the wayside, as more and more phone system providers are no longer making equipment to support this type of business phone system.

VoIP Instead of using traditional copper wiring connections like landline systems do, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems rely on internet connections to facilitate calls. This allows you to run your phone system from the same internet connection your company uses to go online. There are two different types of VoIP systems:

Cloud-hosted VoIP: Cloud-hosted systems house their PBX equipment in the cloud. This means that the phone system provider is responsible for maintaining and upgrading it. To use a cloud-hosted system, all you have to do is plug your business's configured IP phones into your local area network. These systems don't typically have any upfront costs. Instead, businesses pay a monthly per-user fee. Costs usually range from $15 to $60 per user, per month.

On-premises VoIP: These systems are similar to landline systems in that the PBX equipment is housed inside your business. You are required to handle all of the maintenance. The difference is that these systems still facilitate calls via internet connection rather than landline. This gives your business more control over how the phone system operates and allows you to install any security measures you want. On-premises VoIP systems require large upfront capital investment, as well as smaller monthly fees to cover the required connections for making and receiving calls.

Virtual Phone System Another option businesses have is a virtual phone system. These systems don't require any equipment, not even phones. A virtual system works as an extensive call-forwarding tree. You set these systems up so that all of the calls to your main business number are automatically routed to your employees' mobile phones. You have total control over where calls are routed to and in what order. These systems only charge monthly fees.

Popular Features of Business Phone Systems

Today's business phone systems offer dozens of valuable features for small businesses. This is perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud-hosted systems: They have opened the door for small businesses to access a multitude of features without spending a ton of money. Previously, only larger businesses could afford feature-rich systems because of the capital required to install the necessary equipment.

Small businesses may benefit from these features, among others:

  • Unlimited calling: Many of today's cloud-hosted VoIP phone systems include unlimited domestic calling for no additional charge. This gives you a fixed cost for the monthly service that doesn't fluctuate based on how many calls your business makes and receives.
  • Automated attendants: An auto-attendant answers calls made to your business and routes calls to the proper employees or departments.
  • Ring groups: This feature allows you to group employees so that, if someone calls needing someone in that group, e.g., customer service, all of the employees' phones will ring. You can choose for phones to ring in a specific order or all at the same time.
  • Voicemail: In addition to traditional voicemail service, many business phone systems offer voicemail-to-email functionality. This feature sends audio recordings or transcriptions of voicemails to the person's email inbox, so they can read or listen to their messages even if they are away from the office.
  • Call recording: This gives phone systems users the ability to record their calls. Calls are then stored in the cloud or on their computers for playback later.

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