While small businesses like the simplicity of cloud-hosted phone systems, on-premises phone solutions are built to handle more of what larger organizations need. These systems are professionally installed in your business’s server closet and typically require an IT staff to ensure it runs smoothly. However, while it might be complicated to install and get up and running, it should be just as easy to use as a cloud-hosted system. It should be able to grow with you and not be complicated to add new users to. It should also offer a robust set of features and tools, including automated attendants, call routing, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, conference calling and video conferencing.
When considering an on-premises business phone system, you also want to consider the price structure. With these systems, you are typically paying larger upfront one-time costs, instead of monthly per user fees. However, some providers offer the opportunity to pay off the system in monthly lease payments. In addition to the cost of the system, you should also factor in the cost of installation, wiring, and connecting the system to a dial tone via SIP trunking or PRI circuits, among other things.
Avaya is our choice as the best on-premises business phone system because it can serve thousands of employees and includes a wide array of calling, collaboration and mobile tools. The system's service plans allow businesses to designate which employees can access which features. Avaya's on-premises systems support multiple locations and can easily have contact center services tacked on to the service. For those not interested in an on-premises phone system, Avaya also offers cloud-hosted VoIP systems. They offer the same functionalist and features as the on-premises versions.
View all our recommendations for business phone systems on our best picks page.
Competitive Pricing and Terms
Unlike many phone systems that are sold directly by the phone system provider, Avaya works with local resellers to sell and install the systems. This means that pricing will likely vary based on the reseller you work with.
The local reseller we spoke with quoted us prices for 80 users on Avaya’s IP Office on-premises phone system. The phone system itself would cost about $45,000, which is about $550 per user. This reseller also offers the option to lease the system for five years. Instead of paying the $45,000 up front, the reseller offered the option of paying $900 a month on a 60-month lease. Voicemail is included in these costs; however, a robust reporting system would cost an additional $5,000 or $100 a month for 60 months. Call center services were estimated at $1,200 per user.
Another cost to consider with the on-premises system was PRI circuits, which would cost between $500 and $1,000 a month. The reseller estimated we would need two or three of these based on how many simultaneous calls we expected. Other costs included data switches and internal wiring, which were estimated at a one-time cost of about $42,000. Some of the wiring costs may not be necessary depending on what type of wiring your office already has.
The cloud-hosted system cost $25 to $30 per user per month. That included 1,200 calling minutes per station. Call center services cost an additional $36 per month per user. However, there is an additional $400 charge per station for phones and installation. These prices were based on a 36-month contract.
Since the pricing we were quoted was for our specific requirement and by a reseller in our area, the costs for the system and any required contracts for your business would be different. Knowing that Avaya offers such a wide range of system options, we would encourage all businesses to contact Avaya, or a local reseller, early on in their research process to get specific pricing for their exact needs.
Overall, Avaya's business phone systems offer more features and tools than most of its competitors. In total, the system is available in five editions – Basic, Essential, Preferred, Server and Select – that differ in the number of included features. Altogether, Avaya offers more than 600 features and tools.
Calling features include automated attendants, caller ID, automatic callback, the ability to put calls on hold, message waiting indicators, multilingual automation capabilities, hold music, the option to transfer calls and toggle between multiple calls at one time, park and page, and voicemail and voicemail-to-email.
The Avaya Communicator allows employees to use their mobile devices or computers to talk on their business lines, make video calls, and instant message their co-workers. A presence feature indicates who is online and available for a meeting.
In addition to choosing the edition with the features you need, your business can designate which employees have access to which features. Each employee is designated as a basic user, office worker or power user.
Basic users can make and receive calls and have access to most of the standard features, such as the ability to put calls on hold and transfer calls.
The office worker designation allows employees to use the visual voicemail tool, access the corporate directory, and integrate their systems with Microsoft Office and Salesforce.
Power users have total control of the system. This allows them to make and receive calls on their mobile devices over cellular, Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G connections. They can also schedule conference calls and turn their home phones into their office phones.
In addition to its regular phone system features, the Avaya contact center module offers features and tools for businesses with a call center. Among them are the ability for customers to connect with businesses via the phone, email and web chat. It also has skills-based call routing, interactive voice recordings, call recording, integrations with customer relationship management software, and access to real-time and historical reports. The contact center services also let businesses make telemarketing and outbound campaign calls.
Avaya has a complete conference calling service built into its phone system. With the conference bridge feature, which comes included for no extra charge, each employee can hold their own conference call with up to 64 callers. However, the complete plan allows for an unlimited number of participants.
If your company is looking to host conference calls with more callers than this phone system provides for, you will need to use a conference 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 picks page.
Ease of Use
Avaya offers a robust VoIP phone system that can be configured specifically for each business. The system we researched was the Office IP platform. This system is designed for businesses with five to 3,000 users and can be deployed as an on-premises system or a cloud-hosted solution.
Both options have the same functionality; however, with the on-premises system, your IT staff is responsible for maintaining it and making any upgrades when necessary. With the cloud-hosted system, Avaya handles all maintenance and upgrades.
Businesses can configure the on-premises system for their specific needs. Each system starts with the main platform and a two-rack unit. From there, businesses can choose from the different add-ons. Add-ons can include mobility options and call center services. As a business grows, the equipment can easily add storage, phone lines and new capabilities.
Avaya offers several different editions within the IP Office platform. The basic edition can support up to 100 users. It includes basic telephone and messaging services, including voicemail, voicemail-to-email, call forwarding, audio conferencing and an automated attendant.
The Essential edition includes everything in the basic edition, plus IP telephony and mobility features, as well as one-number access and dial by name or extension. It serves up to 350 users.
The preferred edition has everything in the essential edition, as well as instant messaging, presence, web collaboration, mobile access, video and call recording. It also offers a variety of integrations and includes contact center services. It supports up to 1,000 users.
The server edition supports up to 2,000 users. It includes advanced features, such as active directory integration and web-based administration.
The IP Office Select edition supports 3,000 users and offers a duplex server option and over 500 ports for audio and video conferencing.
Businesses that have more employees than the Office IP platform supports can deploy Avaya's Aura platform. This platform can serve up to 250,000 workers, including 2,500 on a single server.
For businesses operating multiple offices or stores, the IP Office platform can expand to work in 150 different locations. Businesses can manage each location from a single browser-based interface. In addition, businesses using IP phones can automatically switch their service to one of the other locations should the office they are working in lose power.
The entire system is managed via an online portal. From the web manager, administrators can edit users, view details of incoming and outgoing calls, view changes to the system and who made them, review system performance notifications, set security restrictions and view analytics.
Avaya's customer support is a little hit and miss. To test the support offered, we contacted the company multiple times by phone, email and live chat posing as a business owner interested in phone systems.
Each time we called, an Avaya representative took down our contact info and gathered some details about our business. However, since they work with local resellers, they indicated that they would pass along our information to someone in our area who would be able to provide more details about the system and its cost.
On several occasions we were contacted within a couple of days by local resellers who were extremely helpful. They asked us questions about our needs and explained the different options we had. They talked about the differences between the on-premises and cloud-hosted systems, the features each offered and the prices of each. They also answered all the questions we had about the system.
In addition, these local resellers always followed up with an email that included more detailed information on pricing. Each time we emailed them back with a follow up question, they responded promptly with answers.
While we did have several positive experiences, we also had some negative ones. There were a couple of times where Avaya took down our information and said a local reseller would get back to us, but no one did. We had to follow up several times via email and live chat, before we finally got someone to get back to us, weeks after the fact. It is frustrating to have to jump through hoops to get more information about the system.
In all, the positive interactions outweighed the negative ones in our eyes. However, your best bet may be to work with the local reseller who installs your system. They may be able to provide you with more prompt attention.
Avaya is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau with an A+ rating. In the past three years, only one complaint has been filed against the company. That complaint was resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.
The customer service was the biggest drawback we encountered with Avaya. Its structure of working with local resellers could be to blame. We have encountered mixed results when trying to connect with local resellers, and the inconsistent service left us less than impressed.
Another potential negative with Avaya’s on-premises system is the cost. The prices we were quoted would put a large dent in any business's budget. However, if this is a system you expect to be using for five to 10 years, then the upfront investment will likely pay off in the long run.
Editor's Note: Looking for a business phone system? Click the Compare Quotes button below to have our sister site Buyer Zone connect you with vendors that can help.
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