Small Business Phone Systems 101
One of the least expensive ways a small business can look and act like a larger company is to choose the right phone system. By providing big-business features at an affordable price, small business phone systems are a powerful tool for growth. Knowing a thing about these services and some specifics could very well mean getting the most out of your dollar when purchasing.
Here are a few tips to help you make the right choice for your business.
Key system units
KSUs have been around in one form or another for a couple of decades, with little improvement. The good news is these systems are easily installed, proven and inexpensive.
- Pros: A KSU is easier to install and manage than PBX hardware, and can support the calling needs of up to about 40 people. You'll get all the basic business calling features you'd expect: call forwarding and transferring, caller ID, extension dialing, voice mail, and more.
- Cons: You won't get the flexibility that PBX systems offer: programming options are more limited. Furthermore, a KSU can't be integrated with robust call center management software and doesn't offer the detailed reporting on call times, hold queues, and other call center statistics that you might want.
- Tips: Do make sure you plan for the future. You should expect to get 3 to 5 years out your phone system before it needs a major upgrade or replacement, so it's important to look at your plans for growth and verify that whichever solution you choose will be able to grow with you.
- Costs: Depending on whether or not one needs to augment their cabling and how many lines they are looking to install, the price of installing a key system unit will run between $100-$200 per line. The long term savings are in the fact that additional subscriptions and licensing will not be needed.
Alternatives to a business phone system
A newer alternative to traditional small business phone systems is a hosted PBX service. Hosted PBX services operate on an application service provider (ASP) model: the service provider runs the PBXes in their data center, and all the work of routing and handling your calls is done there.
Calls don't reach your office until they're connected to a live phone number. Even your voicemail is stored in the data center. For small businesses, hosted PBX is definitely worth a look
- Pros: With hosted PBX service, you get the full power of a business-grade PBX system without having to install any hardware or pay significant upfront costs. Hosted PBX providers are able to offer these services through the Internet: your calls are transferred from their data center to your office over a broadband Internet connection. Services include the same as offered in a KSU, but there is the addition of reporting, call grouping, and the options to establish a voice prompt queue.
- Cons: If you don't have a broadband connection, you won't be able to use a hosted PBX service. Also, at times support can be an issue. Open source solutions are notorious for not having any sort of support beyond message boards. Make sure that whatever package you purchase has a remote support plan.
- Tips: To get the most out of your hosted PBX system, take a class. Most of the major software providers offer a primer to get one started. There are multiple benefits to be gained through understanding call flow and how your software interfaces with your personnel.
- Costs: Typically, one can expect to pay $65-$100 per license annually (that's, one license per user) or monthly around $20 per user plus the cost of broadband service.
To get started with hosted PBX, it's easy to submit a request for price quotes and we'll put you in touch with several leading vendors.
Choosing the best small business phone systems
Whichever type of phone system you choose, it's important to find a vendor who can work with you to develop the right system for your small business. You don't need the power and flexibility of a $15,000 phone system - but you need reliability and professional features. That's why it's important to look for vendors who can understand the unique needs of your small business.
One final tip: If you are looking at a virtual solution, be sure to understand that your broadband bandwidth will decrease as you begin to load it with voice data. Increasing your internet speed (bandwidth) will often solve these problems. While this will not be an issue for 1-5 users, any more than that will most likely eat up a lot bandwidth and either cause fatal errors to your phone solution or slow your in-house internet to a crawl.Ready to Compare Business Phone Systems Price Quotes?