Once your business makes the decision to employ a business phone system, there are typically three important things to pay attention to:
- Does your business require a full phone system? Does your business require physical telephone hardware or could your business operate efficiently through a virtual service, through cell phones or soft phones.
- If your business does require physical office phones, then choosing an appropriate service is important. Your business will need to choose either a traditional legacy phone system that uses landlines or a VoIP system that uses your businesses Internet connection.
- If your business is smaller, then VoIP might make more sense in terms of bang for your buck. If VoIP is your choice, then your business must choose either a self-hosted system, where all infrastructure, maintenance and operation takes place at your location, or choose a hosted system, where everything is located and maintained by a third-party or service provider.
Each system has it’s own advantages and disadvantages and businesses customer communications often solely rely on your business phone service, so phone service decisions are sometimes not easy to make. Luckily there are many business telephone service providers out there with the ability to provide small business phone services for your company.
Business phone services that are available for you are:
- Virtual phone systems
- Traditional Legacy or Landline telephones
- VoIP setups
- Self-hosted VoIP
- Hosted or cloud-based VoIP
Virtual Phone Systems
A virtual phone system operates through a phone line that connects workers on their cell or home phones. This type of phone system can act as a call-forwarding solution by transferring incoming calls on the main business phone line to employee’s phones or extensions, regardless of location. This type of system allows for a large list of features including, voicemail, advanced call forwarding, online faxing, email to text, automated call centers and call screening. The main advantage of this type of phone system is that employees in remote locations are able to connect with the home officeat any time. It also gives out-of-office employee’s access to the company’s network as if they were in their office. The main disadvantage of this type of communication system is that phone calls to cell phones are counted against usage minutes on your monthly plan. This system is best suited for businesses such as sole-proprietor operations or businesses using remote workers.
Known as legacy or traditional phone systems, landlines are also known as PSTN’s and are analog systems that run on copper wire infrastructure maintained by local or regional telephone companies. To make use of a landline based system, your business requires on-site installation of PBX hardware, which creates the multiple extensions required for businesses, and allows for the use of a call network or call center. Landlines are very reliable, time-tested solutions but are very costly to operate and maintain. Monthly bills can be high and your business is best off staffing an IT department specifically for the phone service.
VoIP phone systems make use of your businesses existing Internet connection to make phone calls, instead of the copper wire infrastructure a landline-based system would use. A VoIP system offers features that were previously extremely expensive and required extensive PBX hardware to provide. Features made available to smaller businesses with limited budgets include call queues, voicemail, call id, call routing, call center operation, voicemail to text and the ability to use cell phones or desktop computers as communication devices on the business network. VoIP systems offer a huge advantage to small businesses that would normally not be able to afford complex business phone systems. A VoIP system offers complete telephony at a fraction of the price of a landline system. A drawback is that the phone system is dependant on an Internet connection, so if your Internet connection is sub-standard then a VoIP system may not be beneficial.
On-Premise VoIP system
Offering the same features as all VoIP systems, an on-premise or self-hosted system means that your business owns and pays for all equipment used and maintenance thereof. The biggest part of this is the PBX hardware that allows for your systems to switch calls and direct communications. The benefit of such a system is that your business is in full control of the service. This advantage can be easily turned into a disadvantage because it raises costs significantly. Your business will have to pay for hardware, create space for the hardware, install the hardware, configure and maintain the system. Unless, your business is already employing capable IT staff, then that is another necessary expense. This system is best for a company that already employs knowledgeable IT staff and wants full control over their phone system.
Cloud-based or Hosted VoIP Systems
The same as the on-premise variety except that all hardware, other than phones, is housed and maintained by your VoIP service provider. This means no infrastructure purchases are required,neither are IT staff to operate the system. Having the system hosted in the cloud also adds to the scalability of the system, as any customization is done through a web portal or simple phonecall to your provider. Businesses pay a monthly fee based on usage, with rates being very competitive. The advantage of a cloud-based system is the ease-of-use and the affordability of the system. Scalability is also a bonus. The downside is that your business is not in full control of the system and if any downtime occurs you will be at the mercy of your provider to fix the issue.
Regardless of which option you choose for your business, having a professional image ready when your customer’s call is important for continued business success.