How to Choose the Best Phone System for your Small Business

November 23, 2021

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No matter what type of business you run or whether it’s large medium or small, you’ll no doubt need a phone system to stay connected with clients, customers, and colleagues.

 

Choosing the best phone system for your small business

 

Whilst more and more customers expect to be able to contact your business via email and social media, this doesn’t mean that your phone system is out of action.

Phone calls are still a firm favourite amongst consumers, with around 62% still preferring to call up a company directly rather than email or chat online. It’s easy to see why phone calls have still maintained their dominance in a world full of chatbots and AI; customers want to speak to real people, in real-time.

It’s clear that your small business still needs a phone system but with so many options out there it can be difficult to know which is the right one for your business. Here at Elite Group IOM, we want businesses of all types and sizes to find the right tech for them. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to help your small business find the perfect phone system.

 

ISDN, PSTN and VoIP

It’s no secret that the tech industry loves a good acronym. Yet this can often make life much hard when trying to choose a phone system for your smaller business. So, if you find yourself getting confused between the ISDN and PSTN, or VoIP and hosted phones system, not to worry. Elite Group IOM is here with our handy jargon buster.

PBX (Private Branch Exchange)

A PBX is a phone system that businesses use to manage both internal and external calls. It’s a lot more sophisticated than your average home phone and can offer features such as call queue, transfers, auto-attendant and forwarding. These days, a PBX can be VoIP-enabled or use analogue lines; it depends on which type you opt for.

On-site PBX

An on-site PBX does what it says on the tin; your PBX servers and hardware are all located on-site at your business. For many businesses, the set-up cost and continual maintenance of an on-site PBX make them an unviable option. Yet for larger enterprises with an in-house IT team, they can sometimes be the preferred choice, as it gives them more direct control over their phone system.

Hosted PBX

A hosted PBX offers a quality phone system without the hassle or cost of purchasing and maintaining on-site equipment. When you opt for a hosted system, your voice provider will take care of all of this for you, managing servers and any hardware off-site. This lack of equipment and setup can make the hosted phone system the preferred choice for smaller businesses, who are looking for a feature-rich system without having to worry about the tech side.

PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network)

The older more traditional network of the three, the PSTN has been around since the late 1800 hundreds. Back in their day, there were only copper wires to transfer voice data over a circuit-switched network, allowing users to make landline telephone calls to each other. It was also used for connectivity purposes with the old dial-up modems but was overtaken by the much faster broadband internet service.

These days, the PSTN is still used to make phone calls but is so much more than just copper wires. It also encompasses things like cables, switching centres, satellites, and towers. A far cry away from Alexander Graham Bell’s humble telephone.

ISDN (Integrated Services Device Network)

If PSTN is the grandparent of all telephony networks, ISDN was definitely the next generation of telephone communication. Building on the PSTN, the ISDN takes the same principle but makes it digital, transmitting not only voice but also data over a digital line.

The ISDN is a true child of the 1980s; it was designed to provide a faster transmission of data to the digital phones and fax machines in the office. It helped kick off the switch from analogue to digital communication but was soon overpowered by the rise of the Internet.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

Not long after the ISDN came about, VoIP technology was soon available; and has been gaining popularity with businesses ever since. VoIP allows users to make calls over the Internet either using a WIFI connection or ethernet cable, rather than traditional phone lines.

Businesses are drawn to VoIP for a number of reasons; it’s a lot more flexible and scalable than the old PTSN or ISDN lines and can help cut down on call costs and maintenance work. If you opt for a hosted phone system, your business will be making calls over VoIP rather than the PSTN or ISDN.

 

How to Find the Right Phone System for Your Small Business

1)  Consider Your Budget

As a small business, you may not have the same budget as a bigger business. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from a quality phone system. You’ll first need to work out a budget, the monthly total your business is willing to pay for your business phones. When calculating this you may need to consider:

  • Cost of handsets

Can you reuse the equipment you already have or do you need to purchase new desk phones? If so, how many?

  • Installation costs

Whether you’re setting up a phone system from scratch or switching over your phone system to a more modern choice, there could be an installation fee if you’re not doing it in-house.

  • Call Costs

How much will it cost your business to make calls? Does your provider offer call plans? If you opt for a VoIP-enable phone system, for example, this could help you to reduce your call costs.

Our Advice: If you’re a business on a budget an on-site PBX is probably not the best solution for your business, as it tends to be the more expensive option. Purchasing, setting up and maintaining the on-site equipment can all add up. Opting for a hosted system means that all of the equipment will be taken care of by your supplier and that you only pay one monthly cost for your phone system.

 

2)  Weigh Up Your Users

The type of phone system your business needs will depend on the number of users. As a small business, you’ll employ anywhere between 11 and 50 employees. Considering how many users your phone system will have will help you to work out how many handsets and extensions you’ll need. You should also consider things like:

  • Scalability

If your small business is planning on growing and expanding, it’s a good idea to build scalability into your business phone system. Choosing a phone system that can expand or reduce users as and when required is definitely a good idea if you plan on growing and expanding.

  • Ease of Set-Up

If you do decide to hire extra employees, there’s a good chance they’ll need to be added to your phone system, either via an extension or complete handset. You might want a choose a phone system that makes it easy to set up additional users.

  • Hot-Desking

If your business uses the hot-desking model, where no one has a fixed desk or desk phone, you need a phone system that can accommodate this dynamic way of working. Opting for a phone system that allows users to log into their extension from any phone is a good place to start.

 

Our Advice: If your small business plans on expanding in the future, we’d recommend you opt for a hosted phone system from the get-go. This will allow you to easily set up additional users in the future, allowing your phone provision to grow as your business does. All in all, a hosted phone system allows for greater scalability; your provider can simply add another extension and you’re good to go.

 

3)  Think About What Features You’d Like

When looking for your ideal phone system, you should definitely consider what features your business needs. Not all small businesses will have the same calling requirements, so this will be something completely unique to you, your business and your employees. You may not need a high-tech phone system to get the job done and could save money by opting for a more basic system. Conversely, you may find your business in need of a feature-rich phone system. Here are some things you should mull over when deciding what features are needed:

  • Call Volume

Just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean that you won’t have a lot of calls to take. If your business is regularly taking calls from customers, you’ll need features that make managing calls easier such as hunt groups, call forwarding and reporting tools.

  • Employee Opinion

If you’re looking to upgrade your phone system, why not engage with your employees using your phones to get their opinion on features? They may have some insight that could help you decide what your business needs.

  • Your Customers

It’s also worth thinking about what features your clients might expect from your business. Here, it’s all about ensuring you can provide an excellent customer experience, whether they’re ringing up for the first time, following up or even making a complaint. Things like hunt groups can help ensure there’s always some on hand to answer the phone, whilst call queues can reassure callers that their call will be answered (even if not right away).

 

4)  Evaluate your Connectivity

As VoIP calling and hosted phone systems require a reliable Internet connection, you need to ensure that your connectivity is up to scratch and can support your internet-enabled phone system. Here are some things your business should consider when it comes to VoIP phone systems:

  • Connection Quality

It’s no good switching to a VoIP-enabled phone if your connectivity is constantly dropping out or slow; you won’t experience the full benefits of Internet calling. Whilst making calls with VoIP doesn’t take up a lot of bandwidth, it’s still worth considering if your current connectivity can support your future phone system.

  • Cost of Upgrade

If you or your phone system provider doesn’t think your current connectivity could support a phone system, it’s worth factoring in the cost of upgrading your connection into your monthly budget. This will ensure a VoIP phone system makes financial sense for you.

  • Security

As VoIP phone systems deliver data packets over the Internet, they’re generally considered to be less secure than the old PSTN lines. With the right security wrap in place, however, you can protect your VoIP system from hackers. It’s just another thing for you to consider when opting for a VoIP phone system.

 

Our Advice: If you’ve decided that a VoIP system is a right choice for your business, we’d recommend that you get your phone system and internet connection from the same provider. This not only makes handling suppliers a lot easier for you but also means that you can negotiate a streamlined SLA (Service Level Agree) for fault resolution- rather than having to go to your separate providers if there’s an issue with your connectivity or phone system.

 

 

5) Think About How You Work

For many businesses, smaller or large, some form of remote working will no doubt be standard for your business. If your small business offers hybrid or remote working options then you need a phone system that can accommodate just that. You should consider the following when thinking about your ideal phone system:

  • Accessibility

If you want to promote remote working across your business, your employees will need to be able to access their business phone from home, making a hosted phone system preferable to an on-site solution.

  • Flexibility

If your phone system is tied to physical hardware at the office, it hardly gives your business the flexibility it needs to operate effectively from anywhere. A cloud-based phone system allows accessing your business phone, even when you’re away from the office. This may also come in handy for disaster recovery purposes (should anything happen to your office).

 

Our Advice: Opting for a hosted phone system over an on-site solution ultimately allows you to access your phone system from anywhere using softphone capabilities. A softphone is basically an app that can be downloaded on your laptop or smartphone that allows you to take and make calls via your business phone number or extension. This is particularly useful for companies that want to offer hybrid or remote working, as it allows employees to access their business phones from home.

 

It’s Worth Considering the PSTN/ISDN Switch Off

If you’re purchasing a phone system, you want to get as much use out of it as possible before you need to upgrade. That’s why it’s worth considering the PSTN/ISDN switch off when thinking about what type of phone system is best for your business. The PSTN/ISDN is set to switch off by 2025 so you should definitely think twice before buying a PSTN/ISDN system.

That leaves your business with one main option if you’re looking to future-proof your business: VoIP-enabled phone systems. VoIP can be enabled on an on-site or hosted phone system, so it’s down to your business to decide which is more suited to your needs and budget.

Our Advice: For small businesses, we’d typically recommend a hosted phone system. An on-site solution means you’d have to house and manage the phone system’s server and hardware within your business. Both the initial set-up and maintenance can be costly and means that you’ll need an on-site IT team to take care of any expansion, upgrades, or fault resolution. In other words, it’s simply not worth it for many smaller businesses.

 

Is Your Small Business Looking for a Hosted Phone System?

If your small business is looking for a hosted phone system, Elite Group IOM should be your first port of call. We’re experienced voice providers, with the skills, knowledge and accreditations needed to deploy and maintain your businesses vital phone system.

For one simple monthly cost, we can become your dedicated IT department, ensuring your phones system is always ready for action. We’ll take care of any upgrades, routine maintenance and adding additional users on your behalf, so you can forget about the tech and get on with running your business.

 

Why Choose Elite Group IOM?

If you’re looking for a quality hosted phone system, why not choose Elite Group IOM as your voice solution provider?

Reliable Voice Solutions

As a reliable voice provider, you can count on Elite Group IOM to deploy and maintain the ideal voice solution for your business.

Expert Engineers

With our expert engineers on the case, you can be sure that your voice solution is in professional hands and that any issues will be dealt with by us.

Quality Connectivity

If you’re looking for a reliable connectivity solution to support your phone system, we can offer a range of connectivity services such as fibre, ethernet and business broadband to help get you up and running.

 

Get in Touch with Us

If your small business is looking for the right phone system to help power your communication, collaboration, and productivity, get in touch with Elite Group IOM today. With professional solutions, expert engineers, and dedicated account management, we’ll ensure that your phone system truly works for your business.

Elite Group IOM is one of the island’s leading IT and unified communication providers, supplying reliable and professional IT and telecoms services to organisations seeking Connectivity, UC & Voice, Cloud Service, IT Software and Security solutions.

For more information on how Elite Group IOM can help your business flourish through technology, contact us today.