The Ultimate Checklist to Buy a Business Phone System

There’s no denying that phones have seamlessly integrated into our daily lives; they’ve become an indispensable tool of the modern world. When purchasing a mobile phone or a smartphone, our buying decisions are marked by meticulous consideration. We invest time and effort in weighing various factors like price, feature, utility, and size. The same level of diligence and consideration is required to buy a business phone system. While the right phone system can improve efficiency, boost customer experience, and streamline operations, the wrong choice can turn things upside down. So, to help you make the right decision, we have put together all the useful information in this post. 

A Comprehensive Introduction to Business Phone Systems

Primarily, a business phone system is the means to connect multiple telephone lines, but they go far beyond the basics. A phone system is the lifeline that fosters effective inbound and outbound communication for any organization. It is a central phone unit that can link up to other individual phone lines throughout an office and has the capability to transfer calls within the organization, all while separated by extensions.

To understand the concept of business phone systems, let’s take a real-world example. Imagine a law firm named Jhonson & Co. engaged in communication with clients, colleagues, and partners. To ensure that this communication happens seamlessly, the law firm relies on a business phone system. Here’s how they use it:

  • All the inbound calls are greeted by an IVR or Interactive Voice Response i.e. an Automated Attendant that presents callers with a voice menu. Callers can reach different departments or attorneys by making appropriate selections from the menu. 
  • Calls are intelligently routed by the phone system ensuring that the caller is connected to the specific department or attorney as per the selection made from the voice menu. 
  • For internal communication and collaboration, attorneys and staff members connect with each other by dialing their specific extensions and can also do conference calling. 
  • Attorneys and staff members who are working remotely or are on the go can simply connect with their office phone system via remote access. 
  • For outbound calling, attorneys and staff members use their office phone systems to display their firm’s main phone number on the recipient’s caller ID, maintaining a professional image and consistent communication. 

Now you must have a clear picture of how phone systems are being used by businesses around the globe. The next thing that must have crossed your mind is – What kind of phone systems are these businesses using? Let’s learn about this too!

Different Types of Business Phone Systems

types of business phone systems

There are basically 3 types of business phone systems- PBX, VoIP, and cloud-based. Let’s have a look at each of them for better comprehension.

Private Branch Exchange (PBX)

The PBX is suitable for large businesses. It is a centralized telephone network that connects multiple people within an organization to each other, allowing telephone company lines to send and receive phone calls. The Cloud PBX can be connected via a wide range of telephone lines including standard PSTN lines or digital PRI trunks over the Internet. You can purchase the entire system as a capital investment while paying the Phone Company or SIP Trunk provider for monthly service and the cost of your calling plan.

The modified version of this system is the hosted PBX. The main difference is that the programmable switching devices are no longer installed on-premises but it’s hosted by a telephone provider. A traditional PBX requires a large investment and ongoing maintenance and training, which can be avoided with the hosted PBX system without losing any of the advanced features it initially has to offer.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

VoIP is an advanced system that allows a potential client and phone operator to communicate with each other even if the two people live in different countries. It offers extended flexibility over other business phone systems.

VoIP can be used with an internet handle that can be connected to various devices like computers, tablets, mobile phones, and internet-enabled desk phones, which can also be a downplay if your internet or internet devices are not standardized. VoIP costs mostly depend on your provider, plan, and the number of employees needing to use the system.

The VoIP system comes in four different categories, namely- hosted, on-premise, SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunking, and virtual. You need to choose one based on your business requirements.

Cloud-Based Phone Systems

These systems are also known as hosted phone systems because they are hosted off-site by third-party providers or vendors. These are the most popular solutions for modern-day business communication requirements. 

Cloud-based phone systems come with a myriad of advantages and some of the most exclusive ones are:

  • Ease of implementation or quick deployment is one of the most popular USPs of cloud phone systems. Through the rapid deployment of these systems, a business can start using enhanced communication capabilities almost immediately. 
  • Cloud phone systems have lower upfront investment compared to on-premise phone solutions, and a nominal monthly subscription fee. So, with predictable monthly expenses, businesses are able to budget more effectively. It also saves them from unexpected expenses on hardware failures or maintenance problems. 
  • Cloud-based phone systems are managed by the service provider, so the maintenance and updates are done by them only. This frees up the business to focus on other critical tasks.
  • Another advantage of cloud-based phone systems is their scalability, which allows a business to expand and shrink as per their business needs. 

The list of benefits doesn’t end there. By enabling remote access, cloud phones present themselves as an ideal entity for modern businesses. These systems offer seamless communication for international and remote teams across different locations and time zones. 

Buy A Business Phone System: Key Considerations 

Assess your Business Needs

Every organization has some unique requirements or demands in terms of communications. Before you select a phone system for your business, it is important to understand these requirements. You can start by answering questions like:

questions to buy business phone system

Answers to such questions will help you ensure that you select a phone system that aligns with the current needs and future requirements of your business. 

Here’s a more detailed explanation of some useful points that you can keep in mind while doing a comprehensive evaluation of your business needs. 

  • Figure Out Your Objectives 

Identify the goals that you want to achieve with the technology or system you’re considering. Whether you want to boost efficiency, reduce operational costs, meet compliance requirements, or improve customer service. Having clarity about your objectives will help you a lot throughout your decision-making.  

  • Understand Your Current Challenges 

What are your pain point areas? List out the challenges that your business is facing currently in terms of communication, workflow, and operations. For some companies, remote work is a big hurdle to effective communication. While others may experience that their teams work in isolation resulting in communication silos. 

  • Evaluate Your Growth Projections

Considering your business’ growth expectations beforehand helps a lot in frequent system replacements or upgrades. Put in some time and effort to check out whether the phone system will be able to scale up and down with your company. 

Budget Considerations 

cost of business phone system

Setting a clear budget is a crucial step that should not be missed. First and foremost, consider the upfront costs. This will depend upon the type of phone system chosen by you. While on-premise phone systems incur high upfront costs, cloud-based phone systems have almost negligible initial investment. Apart from this, also consider the ongoing monthly expenses such as subscription fees, service, maintenance, etc. 

You can also calculate the TCO i.e. the Total Cost of Ownership for the phone system. This is done by looking beyond the initial cost of the system and considering factors like support costs, upgrades, and any hidden costs that may apply. 

Features and Functionalities

The present-day business phone systems come with a lot of added attributes that can help your business run hassle-free. They include the following features;

  1. Multiple Lines: This feature allows the employees to switch between calls for better time management during high call volumes.
  2. Conference Calls: Meetings can be scheduled by phone with multiple callers participating in the web conference calls. It is helpful for those organizations with remote employees working for them.
  3. Virtual Attendant: You must ensure whether you want your customer’s calls to be attended by a virtual assistant or a real one. 
  4. Other Advanced Features: Some advanced features like call queues, virtual phone numbers, call routing, call recording, click-to-call, text-to-speech, and reporting can cost additional charges. You can consult with your service provider about the features that will help your business before investing.

Reliability and Uptime 

Reliability is paramount when it comes to business phone systems. Downtimes that last for even a few seconds can lead to missed business opportunities and customer dissatisfaction. It is important to consider phone systems that come with redundancy and disaster recovery features. This will help you in providing uninterrupted services to your customers in case of outages. 

Vendor Selection

Choosing the right vendor is equally important as choosing the right business phone system. You must put in some filters when selecting the vendor such as their reputation in the industry, commitment to customer support, and positive reviews from the clients. A vendor with a solid reputation will ensure good quality of service which will have a positive impact on your business as well. 

To start your search for the right vendor, you can ask for references from other businesses that are already using business phone systems. 

Compliance and Security 

The aspect of compliance and security must be carefully considered because it will help safeguard your business’ reputation, data, and operations from potential threats. Some key considerations to ensure compliance are:

  • Comply with industry-specific regulations such as HIPPA i.e. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act for healthcare organizations and PCI DSS i.e. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for financial institutions. You must identify the specific regulations that apply to your industry. 
  • Analyze how the sensitive data is handled by the phone system technology. Check whether information related to your customers, finances, and employees is being protected by effective mechanisms and compliance with data privacy laws such as GDPR in Europe. 

In terms of security, the following aspects must be considered to buying a business phone system:

security of business phone system

  • Data Encryption – Encryption makes sure that even if communication gets intercepted, data still remains unreadable to unauthorized parties. Ensure that the phone system encrypts data during transmission and storage. 
  • Access Controls– Enforcement of defined access controls helps in restricting unauthorized access to data. Role-based Access Control i.e. RABC is a commonly used approach.  
  • Authentication – Verification for access with the help of a strong authentication mechanism such as 2FA i.e. 2 Factor Authentication must be there to enhance the security of the information. 
  • Data Backup and Recovery – It is important that the technology must implement robust data backup and recovery mechanisms. This allows for easy restoration of data in case of any cyber attack or accidental loss. 
  • Vendor Security Practices – Your technology vendor must have a robust security posture by practicing regular security audits and industry best practices. 
  • Employee Training- Educating your employees about the latest cybersecurity practices is an essential step to ensure the security of the phone system. You can check with the vendor if they offer employee training for the same. 

User Training and Support 

support

Proper user training is imperative to use any solution efficiently and maximize its benefits. The same goes for the business phone systems. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that your vendor provides training resources. This will help you in familiarizing your staff and employees with the phone system quite easily. By conducting a few training workshops, users can get their hands on the new phone system and utilize it efficiently. 

Apart from training, ongoing support is another critical element of the business phone system service. Support service from the vendor will help you in resolving issues promptly. 

Let’s Bring it All Together!

choose right business phone system

Running a business is no small feat. Often, the decisions that might appear straightforward can have a colossal impact. When it is about choosing the right office phone system, it’s not just about making calls, rather, it’s about making the right calls in the most effective manner. Your decision can either propel you towards growth or hold you back. So, make sure you give thorough consideration to the points mentioned above because the right business phone system can be a game changer for your business. 

Note- This post has been updated with the latest information on 28-09-23.

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