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How to Choose the Best Phone System for Your SMB

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, IT Strategy (30-slide PowerPoint presentation). The key drivers of Information Technology (IT) or Management Information Systems (MIS) value are an organization's IT mindset and its ability to execute. Today’s best practices show that IT value can be maximized when enterprise IT investments are aligned with business goals and IT execution is [read more]

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If you are running an SMB (or small to medium-sized business) you will want to ensure that your communication systems are efficient and workable. Business phone systems, or PBXs, generally do not simply allow employees to make and receive phone calls. Many PBX providers allow for features such as messaging and multi-caller conferencing.

Online features such as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and cloud hosting have also changed the game in recent years.

There are a variety of factors to think about when choosing the best phone system for your SMB. In this article, we detail some of the factors that should be kept in mind, and some tips on how to choose the best provider for your needs.

Virtual or Physical

If your business is based in an office, you may decide to opt for a physical phone system for its familiarity. However, there is also the option of a virtual phone system, where calls are transferred online between employees’ personal phones via a website. These systems often come with a variety of features, such as call screening and voicemail, that would be found on traditional physical phone systems. Virtual systems are often best suited for businesses that are not based in an office, or businesses that use a home working model.

Landline or VoIP Connection

The two main connection options available are VoIP or a conventional landline. With a landline, the connection works using copper wiring provided by a telephone company. If you opt for a VoIP system, as many companies have been doing in increasing numbers, callers will connect to each other using an internet connection.

VoIP systems cost less money to install and to maintain, making them generally the best choice when choosing and installing a new phone system.

Cloud or Onsite Hosting

Phone systems are hosted either in the cloud or on your own premises (known as onsite). Different providers will offer different options. If you have a landline you will have to host the system and keep all equipment onsite, yet a VoIP connection leaves you with either option. An advantage of using a cloud-hosted system is that you are not responsible for the maintenance of the system.

Features

There are various features that different phone systems provide, such as automation, voicemail, email capabilities, call screening, forwarding, and recording, and missed call notifications. Many systems even include conference calling and web conferencing tools, which can be really useful for holding meetings. Many providers offer apps that let employees use the system from their personal smartphones, eliminating the need for separate work phones.

It is worth doing plenty of research on which features each provider offers. Online reviews, like this Phone.com review, can offer plenty of information about each option.

Cost

Cost is always an important factor when making business decisions. You should weigh up whether paying more for a more reliable and feature-rich system is viable for your business. Onsite systems require you to pay for equipment and installation, whereas cloud-hosted systems usually do not come with upfront fees but have a monthly or yearly subscription fee.

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About Shane Avron

Shane Avron is a freelance writer, specializing in business, general management, enterprise software, and digital technologies. In addition to Flevy, Shane's articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Forbes Magazine, among other business journals.




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