Choosing a multi-line phone system
Most multi-line phone systems offer all the standard features you'll want, such as voice mail, call forwarding and transfers, attendants, music on hold, and more. So your primary concern when buying a multi-line phone system should be choosing the system that is the right size for your business.
First, get to know the main types of multi-line phone systems:
If your company has more than 40 employees, you'll probably want a PBX system. These days, a powerful PBX for a small company can sit unobtrusively on a desk. Most come standard with all the features you might want in a multi-line phone system. In addition, they are totally programmable, so they can support the most complex implementations. You will likely pay a premium for this flexibility, but in many cases the price difference between PBX systems and less adaptable solutions will be smaller than you might expect.
In the 5 to 40 employee range, key systems are more typical. This type of multiline business phone system uses a central control device called the key system unit (KSU) to provide features that are not available with ordinary phones. For example, a central unit typically allows users to make calls to another in-office extension, and prevents other users from accidentally picking up a line that is being used. Modern key systems also come standard with most features a business would expect - but in some cases they are less customizable.
If your company has fewer than 10 employees, you may be able to meet your business telephone needs with a KSU-less system. For a much lower initial investment, KSU-less phones are designed to provide many of the features of a multi-line phone system in a decentralized manner. The phones themselves contain the technology necessary to provide business telephone features, instead of connecting to a central control unit. Because they are so inexpensive, KSU-less systems are not usually sold or supported by telecom vendors - you will need to do the shopping, installation, programming, and maintenance yourself.
How big do you need it?
There are two main factors that will determine the size of the system you need:
- Lines. Also called "trunks," lines indicate the total number of outside phone lines the system connects to.
- Extensions. Extensions are needed for every device in the company that needs to connect to the phone system. Most will be telephones - however fax machines, credit card terminals, modems, and any other equipment that requires a phone connection must also be tallied.
In key systems, system size is usually indicated as a combination of lines and extensions. For example, a 12 x 36 system accommodates up to 12 lines and 36 extensions. In contrast, most PBXs define size in terms of "ports." Ports indicate the maximum number of connections that can be made to the system, including both outside lines and inside extensions, as well as phone system accessories such as voicemail or automated attendants.
Want to learn what type of multi-line phone system you can get for your business? Select different phone system providers and conduct a side-by-side comparison to decide which services and features would work best.