Cisco offers a variety of robust phone systems. They 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. Businesses wanting a Cisco system should be aware that they are all sold through local resellers and not directly from Cisco.
Pricing and Terms
It is important to note that Cisco systems are sold through local resellers in your area. This means that pricing will likely vary by location and the specific reseller you work with. In addition, there are various systems that Cisco offers, which are all priced differently. For the on-premises system, we looked specifically at the Business Edition 6000 system. For our purposes, we asked for pricing for a business with about 150 users. For the 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. 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. The cloud-hosted Spark system has monthly fees of $12 to $35 per user. The costs vary by which features are included and how many people can be in a web or video meeting at one time.
Cisco offers businesses a 20 percent discount if you pay for an entire year of Spark service in advance.
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. The system starts as basically a blank canvas, with each business choosing the features and tools it wants.
- Businesses can choose from several different servers, which vary in the number of users they support, how many devices can be connected to them and how many applications can be added in. Various applications that can be built into 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.
- In addition to supporting up to 1,000 workers, the BE6000 systems support up to 100 call center users. Additionally, the system can be used by organizations that have up to 50 different locations.
Cisco Spark is a cloud-hosted unified communications system that allows voice and video calling, messaging, and online meetings.
- Spark is designed to work on a variety of devices. The service enables voice and video communications via mobile phones, desktop phones, computers, and room-based systems. With this system, your contact list and call history sync across all of your devices.
- Spark's meeting component allows users to easily schedule or join a meeting at a main office, a branch office, remotely from home or on the road, or from a room-based video system. Every meeting has audio, video and web conferencing capabilities. When conducting a meeting, users can move back and forth among different devices.
- The messaging application lets users prepare, share and work on content together. This can be done one on one or in group settings. In addition, integrated messaging, meetings and calls can be initiated with just a click of the mouse. The system also supports interactive drawing. Users can draw together and share a virtual whiteboard from any touchscreen device.
- Other features the Spark system offers includes anytime screen sharing, up to 5GB of file sharing, single sign-on, companywide analytics and metrics, and end-to-end encryption. The system also integrates with a variety of other programs, including Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, Zendesk, Github, and Zapier.
- The Cisco Jabber application can be added to the system and 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.
- 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. Among the features the system and its add-on applications include are voice and video calls, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, voicemail transcription services, videoconferencing, paging, and a presence tool that shows which employees are busy and which are available for calls and messaging.
- 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.
- The biggest drawback with Cisco is its customer support. To test the service, we contacted the company multiple times posing a business owner interested in phone systems. Each time we reached out to the company we received less-than-stellar service. We were quickly told they couldn't help us and would need to connect us with a local reseller in our area. Unfortunately, one time it took several weeks for us to get a return call from the reseller and another time we never received a call back. The good news is that the reseller we did speak with was extremely helpful. He provided us tons of details on 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.
- Cisco is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
Cisco is an excellent phone system for larger organizations. It can be deployed as an on-premises or cloud-hosted solution, plus it supports multiple locations and thousands of employees. The systems are chock full of calling, collaboration and mobile features. The only drawback is that instead of working directly with Cisco, you will need to find a local reseller in your area, which means pricing and level of service will vary.
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