When choosing a business phone system, there are a number of factors that enterprise organizations must consider that small businesses don't. While small businesses typically have a limited number of employees that, often, are in the same location, large businesses have to support hundreds or thousands of employees who work across numerous offices or stores.
Additionally, larger businesses want flexibility in the system itself. Not all enterprise businesses are the same, so some may want the control an on-premises system provides, while others like the flexibility a cloud-hosted system affords. The system should also be able to be used in multiple locations but managed from one central portal.
When it comes to features, enterprise organizations don't want a cookie-cutter phone system. They want a solution that is customized and built for their specific needs. It should be a unified communications system that combines voice, video and online calls. Other key features are CRM integrations, integrations with other key programs, IVRs, call analytics and excellent call quality.
It's for these reasons and more that Cisco is our choice as the best enterprise business phone system.
Cisco's phone systems can be hosted in the cloud or on-premises, are easily configured for businesses with multiple locations and support thousands of employees. All of Cisco's unified communication systems can be configured specifically with the calling, mobility and collaboration features an enterprise needs. Additionally, the systems offer contact center services.
View all our recommendations for business phone systems on our best picks page.
Cisco offers several different systems, each of which has varying costs. In addition, it is important to note that Cisco systems are sold through resellers in your area. This means that pricing will likely differ by location and the specific reseller you work with.
During our research, we looked specifically at the Business Edition 6000 system. This is an on-premises system. For our purposes, we asked for pricing for a business with about 150 users.
For this on-premises system, we were given price estimates of one-time charges that start at about $600 per user. This is just for the basic service without any of the added applications. For every added component, we were told to expect the price to increase by about $100 per user. Added components include those for integrated voice messaging, human operator attendants, instant messaging, presence and online meetings. For a system that includes everything Cisco offers, we were given pricing estimates of about $1,300 per user.
There are also installation and training costs to consider. To have the system professionally installed and training conducted by the reseller who worked with us, we were told to expect costs to be between 15 and 25 percent of the total per-user fees.
Keep in mind that these were price estimates by a specific local reseller. Whether you are interested in this system, another on-premises system, or Cisco's cloud-hosted systems, we would encourage you to contact a Cisco local reseller in your area. They will be able to discuss your specific needs and provide you with more accurate pricing.
The other additional cost to consider, for either hosting option, is IP phones. Cisco offers a wide selection of desktop phones, which range from $150 for a simple breakroom phone to $600 for a top-of-the-line executive phone.
Ease of Use
Cisco offers a variety of on-premises phone systems that support thousands of employees. The solutions we looked at specifically are part of the Business Edition 6000 line.
The Cisco BE6000 is a set of purpose-built, all-in-one Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions designed for businesses with 25 to 1,000 employees. Businesses can choose from several different servers, which vary in the number of users they support and how many devices can be connected to them.
Various applications that are available with each system are those for mobility, voicemail and automated attendants, instant messaging, video conferencing and other collaboration tools. In addition to supporting up to 1,000 workers, the BE6000 systems support up to 100 call center users and can accommodate 1,000 voicemail boxes. Additionally, the system can be used by organizations that have up to 50 different locations.
All these features come preloaded onto private branch exchange (PBX) equipment. However, you only activate and pay for the features you need. Should your business grow, and your needs expand, you can "turn on" the features and tools you need. This is nice because when your needs do change, you don't have to change or upgrade the equipment you have.
Overall, there are more than 10 different applications to choose from.
- Unified communications manager: This is the call-processing component of the system. It is what's needed to bring voice and video calling to various devices, such as IP phones, telepresence endpoints, media-processing devices, gateways and multimedia applications.
- Unity connection: This component integrates voice-messaging and voice-recognition functions to provide access to calls and messages. It allows you to check voicemail messages using your computer. It also provides auto-attendant functions, including intelligent routing for incoming calls and customizable call-screening and message-notification options.
- Unified attendant consoles: Larger enterprises that have human operators answering phones and directing calls will need this application. It provides call operators with the tools needed to dispatch incoming calls to individuals across the organization.
- Jabber: The Cisco Jabber application allows for voice and video calls from iOS and Android devices, as well as Mac and Windows computers. The app also lets users access the presence feature, instant messaging, voicemail messages, desktop sharing and conferencing.
- Contact center: This is designed for midmarket companies or enterprise branch offices. It supports call center agent‑based services and fully integrated self-service applications, including Automatic Call Distributor (ACD), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), and digital channels, including email and chat.
- Telepresence management suite: This application is needed for the scheduling of video meeting and integrations with Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Office 365.
- Meeting server: The meeting server gives organizations the ability to host video, audio and web meetings.
- Expressway: This application is used to give remote workers access to the system without the need for a separate VPN.
Other applications include those for 911 service, paging, collaboration provisioning and collaboration deployment.
Businesses with more than 1,000 employees can deploy some of Cisco's other unified communications systems, which can be used by tens of thousands of employees.
Cisco's BE6000 has a conference calling service built into its phone system. With the conference bridge feature, which comes included at no extra charge, each employee can hold their own conference call with up to 24 callers. However, the complete plan allows for an unlimited number of participants. Learn more about conference call services on our best picks page.
While the Business Edition 6000 is an impressive business phone solution, we were less than impressed with Cisco's customer support. We contacted the company multiple times by phone, email and live chat posing a business owner interested in phone systems.
Each time we reached out to the company we received less-than-stellar service. For each call, we were quickly told by representatives that they couldn't help us and they would need to connect us with a reseller in our area. They took our information and said someone would be in touch with us. Unfortunately, one time it took several weeks for us to get a return call from the reseller, and several other times, we never received a call back.
On a positive note, the reseller we did speak with was extremely helpful. He provided tons of details about the on-premises and cloud-hosted systems. He talked about how each works and what they include, gave us pricing estimates and followed up by email. However, we can't guarantee other resellers offer the same high level of service.
We had more success when contacting the company via email. Instead of being immediately turned over to a local reseller, the representative we were messaging provided us with some answers to our questions about the system. They also sent data sheets that provided some detailed information on the Business Edition 6000 and its features. However, when we asked for pricing information, we were again told they would need to connect us with a local reseller. Unfortunately, we again never heard back from anyone.
We also weren't very impressed with the live chat tool on the Cisco website. Each time we tried using Cisco's live chat, we either messaged with someone who couldn't provide answers to our questions, or we were never connected to a support agent.
If you are interested in this system, Cisco's website features a link to find a local reseller in your area. This will give you the contact info for several people who can give you the information you need on the system and its pricing.
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