27 February 2019

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What Are the Best Office Phone Systems for Small Business?

Business Phone Service by Tom Collins

Imagine a rogue nation fired 30 long-range missiles at major US cities. Within 30 seconds, the president is on the phone with our allies. Just as the directive is about to come through, the voices start to sound like they're underwater.

No one can hear what anyone else is saying. Why? Because the phone system is malfunctioning.

Now, your business isn't going to face the prospect of war. But, your phone system is still critical. No one thinks much about the phone system until it doesn't work. And, when your phone service gets caught in a technical sneak attack, your business suffers.

If that happens, getting a steep discount on that budget phone system won't seem like such a great deal. If your business is going to always be great, you need the best phone system.

As a well-respected business phone service provider in the Washington, D.C. area, we've helped hundreds of small businesses implement and manage office phone systems successfully and we'll show you the best systems to consider.

The 5 Best Office Phone Systems for Small Business

In other posts, we've covered the factors which should influence the choice of small businesses when they select a phone system. In this post, we'll touch on some of those considerations, but we'll discuss the Top 5 actual brands here. Make sure to check out What is the Best Small Business Phone System? and What is the Best Virtual Phone System for Small Business? for more detail on the factors you should consider.

Small Business Office Phone System Considerations

Before we cover the top phone systems, it's important to talk about whether your organization should use premises-based or cloud-based solutions. In almost all circumstances, we recommend cloud-based PBX because the price and features of modern cloud solutions often make them the better choice. Cloud-based PBX solutions consistently beat premises-based PBX for total cost of ownership, scalability, flexibility, and advanced features.

Cloud-based PBX is almost certainly the right choice for the following company types:

  • Small businesses with less than 50 handsets
  • Businesses with multiple sites
  • Remote worker employees

Related Reading: Cloud-Based Phone System Pros and Cons

1. Cisco / Broadsoft

This is the platform on which our hosted PBX is delivered. In February 2018, Cisco completed its acquisition of Broadsoft, and the result is an already-fantastic cloud calling and call center solution combined with the backing of a mature and resourceful tech company.

Cisco/Broadsoft has succeeded at producing products which are both reliable and innovative, a combination which is rare in any industry. It is a feature-rich solution which is licensed through service providers (like us). You'll get media-oriented services like voice messaging, conferencing, and auto attendant, trunking services, unified communications, and call center solutions.

Cisco / Broadsoft is the largest Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider with 41% market share and three times more users than its closest competitor. The platform regularly receives high marks from users for scalability, configurability, variety of services, and compatibility with vendors.

Some of our customers say that the software environment is difficult to understand at first, which is one of the reasons why we are very are hands-on during installation and training.

Related Reading: A Professional Review of the BroadSoft UCaaS Platform

2. Vonage

Formed in 2001, Vonage is a good office phone system for companies with specialized needs. Originally intended for residential users, Vonage has morphed their business model to service business, too. Vonage provides a wide range of integration options and plan customization with a host of add-on functions available. Small to mid-sized businesses will find pricing to be competitive, enjoy simple setup, and receive excellent call quality, depending over which network their calls traverse. It is primarily an 'over the top" service.

Vonage has worked hard to make switches between desktop and mobile devices easy and provide good conferencing and collaboration tools. Features include virtual receptionist, call monitoring and recording, and integration with Amazon Chime for chat, screen share, and conferencing.

3. RingCentral

RingCentral offers solutions for a broad range of business sizes, from freelancer to enterprise, though the majority of their customers are small businesses with less than 50 employees. Like Vonage, RingCentral has features which make the switch from desktop to mobile devices seamless.

RingCental has all of the basic calling features covered and includes functionality for video and audio conferencing as well as webinars. G2Crowd Reviewers give RingCentral good ratings for ease of administration, product direction, and instant messaging

4. Mitel

Mitel has been a long-term player in the enterprise communications space, gaining 70 million business customers in 100 countries over their 45 years in business. With a history as a legacy firm, the company has been working hard to reposition itself as a premier cloud-based, integrated SaaS provider. The company recently acquired Shoretel and was subsequently purchased by Searchlight Capital Partners in April 2018.

PCMag gives Mitel kudos for "built-in team collaboration, great mobile app, and predictive contacts search." Small businesses with a largely mobile workforce have been happy with this solution. Customers often compliment the phone system's easy-to-use software.

5. Avaya IP Office

In 1995 AT&T spun off Lucent Technologies which subsequently spun off of Avaya in 2000. The company now boasts 26 million users. The phone system works well for enterprise companies that need lots of customization and integration options.

Avaya IP Office gets consistently high ratings for screen sharing, conference call, automated attendant, and software paring features. The Call Reporting functionality gives managers and administrators useful dashboards and customized reports.

Some Avaya IP Office customers say that the solutions are overly complex and that average users need IT support for basic tasks.

Evaluating Small Business Office Phone System Costs

Finding the right small business phone system means identifying needed features, the best customer service providers, well-made products, and, of course, the right price.

Unfortunately, understanding and comparing office phone system pricing is not always a straightforward task. There are a lot of complex factors which can seem overwhelming at first.

We've compiled an overview of the main factors that will affect your final price tag in The Essential Guide to Phone System Pricing, which you can access for free right now. You'll quickly understand how phone type, number of users and sites, features, redundancy, and training will affect the price you pay. In just a few minutes, you'll be able to make an informed decision, no matter which solution you go with.





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About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.

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