There are many factors that large organizations have to consider when choosing a phone system. While small businesses are only concerned with a limited number of employees all located in the same location, large enterprise businesses are dealing with hundreds or thousands of employees working across numerous offices or stores. With this in mind, the business phone system enterprises choose first and foremost has to be able to support their large number of employees.
Additionally, you want some 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 would 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 phone 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.
Cisco is our choice has the best business phone system for enterprises because of the variety of options it offers. 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 each business wants. Additionally, the systems offer contact center services.
View all our recommendations for business phone systems on our best picks page.
Competitive Pricing and Terms
Cisco offers a number of different systems, each of which has varying costs. In addition, it is important to note that Cisco systems are sold through local 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 that is installed and housed on location inside your business. 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 built in. 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.
Cisco's Business Edition 6000 offers a comprehensive selection of features and tools. The specific features are broken up into different components, which you need to select when customizing the system for your specific needs. Unlike other systems that are more of a one-size-fits-all type of phone solution, Cisco's Business Edition can be customized for your specific needs.
Overall, there are more than 10 different applications to choose from. They include:
- 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 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.
The system can also integrate with Cisco's online cloud-hosted meeting service WebEx.
Cisco's BE6000 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 24 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 pick page.
Ease of Use
Cisco offers a variety of on-premises phone systems that can 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 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, videoconferencing and other collaboration tools. In addition, some of the systems allow for contact center services.
All these features come preloaded onto the 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 it means when your needs do change, you don't have to change or upgrade the equipment you have.
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.
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.
While the Business Edition 6000 is an impressive business phone solution, we were less than impressed with the customer support Cisco provided. To test the service, 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 would need to connect us with a local reseller in our area. They took down 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 did have a little 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 along some 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 the system we either messaged with someone who wasn't able to provide answers to our questions, or were never connected to a support agent.
One option you may want to consider if you are interested in this system, is finding a Cisco local reseller and avoiding Cisco's support team altogether. The Cisco website features a link to find a local reseller in your area. This will give you the contact info for several options of people who can give you all the information you need on the system and its pricing.
The biggest drawback with Cisco is its customer support. As we mentioned above, the service we received on multiple occasions was less than stellar. We have checked out other phone system providers that also use local resellers, but we rarely had as much difficulty being connected to one as we did with Cisco.
Another downside to Cisco is that it is not an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau. Despite that, the company has an A rating. Over the past three years, 17 complaints have been filed against the company, of which only 4 were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant. It is important to note, however, that not all of the complaints were about Cisco's phone systems.
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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