Best Business Phone Systems
A reliable and efficient phone system is crucial for a business – small or large - to have in place. Whether for fielding calls from customers or keeping the lines of communication open within intrapersonal employees, you need a system that can handle a high volume of calls. Newer, more developed technologies, allow individuals to integrate computer and messaging tools as well as other advanced functions.
Business collaboration may take many shapes and forms but at the core is the need to communicate and share information seamlessly. With the proper phone system, you can accomplish just that. Take a look at these five business phone systems that rank the highest within the industry.
Considerations When Looking for the Best Business Phone Systems
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when shopping for a business phone system. While many of these systems can be customized to meet the immediate needs of your company, they also have the ability to expand as your needs evolve. Take the things into consideration:
- Collaboration Capabilities - Does the system make it simple to communicate with customers or coworkers? Is there a conference calling option that allows you to integrate other mobile devices?
- Features - Take a close look at what sorts of features the phone system boasts. Does it have things like automatic call transfer, customizable hold music, computer/phone integration, adjustable number of users, etc. ?
- Help and Support - Does the provider offer support via email, phone, or chat? Are they on call 24/7? What types of additional help services do they provide?
- Cost and Product Offerings - Evaluate the line of products they carry (i.e., IP phone, softphone, DECT, etc.) in relation to their monthly or annual costs.
Let's explore the three main types of products a business phone system provider usually carries. An IP Phone is one which uses VoIP technology to receive or place calls. A softphone uses a type of software hosted through an internet connection rather than the regular telephone network. Digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) is a form of cordless phone.
Review the aforementioned considerations in relation to our top picks including Cisco, ShoreTel, 8x8, RingCentral and Vonage.
The Best Small Business Phone Systems
Cisco Phone System Review
- Range of collaboration features
- Longstanding history for excellence
- Able to expand with business
- Great help and support center
- Unified messaging
- One year warranty period
Founded in the mid 80s, Cisco Systems has been meeting consumer needs for over two decades. As a worldwide leader in IT, they've pioneered many of the technologies used in business and home across the globe. Cisco's business phone system does not stray far from their other excellent business solutions.
The Business Edition 6000, Cisco's top rated small business phone system, provides a range of commendable features including instant and unified messaging, customizable messages, call transfers, auto attendants, and more. What's great is you can even integrate the computer tools to enhance and expand your company's collaboration capabilities.
Users have remarked how easy to program and use this system is. The Business Edition can accommodate up to 1,000 users which is perfect for small to mid size organizations. Along with that you receive 1,000 mailboxes with the system so each individual can have their personal voicemail. This product comes with unified messaging which allows you to follow-up on voicemails via your mobile phone or have the message forwarded to a designated inbox. Moreover, you have the full suite of conference calling features which include video and web access tools for on-the-go communication.
Verdict - Superb
All of Cisco's products come with a one year warranty so if for whatever reason you're not pleased with its performance you can contact customer support. They can be contacted via phone, telephone or live chat 24/7. Cisco's business phone system really rates high on our list for its vast array of features, longstanding reputation, and comprehensive support center. The one caveat is that the hardware warranty is only for one year. Other companies offer a 2-5 year periods, which is obviously more favorable.
RingCentral Phone System Review
- Easy setup and use
- Responsive interface
- Useful online resources
- Extensive support
- Mobile application
- Interface somewhat complex
- No bulk user management
Getting your business's phone system set up has never been easier. RingCentral paves the way as far as cloud-based and mobile phone systems are concerned. They've combined hosted phone system with advanced call management features, VoIP and fax service. Their smartphone app allows you to connect a range of mobile devices or tablets including iPhone and Android. Whether you're looking to outfit a small or mid-sized business, RingCentral has many of the capabilities and functions you've come to expect.
You can establish many of your customization features directly on their web portal including call queus, automated messaging, call attendant, routing, blocking, voicemail, etc. What's great with this provider is you can personalize many of the features to meet your immediate or developing needs.
RingCentral stands behind their product so much that you get their 30 day guarantee if you're not satisfied at the end of your trial. Based on customer reviews, individuals are typically very satisfied with the quality and service they receive. Their support staff is available on-call 24/7 and their website has addition support guides and articles.
Verdict - Great
All-in-all, RingCentral has a nice selection of offerings that embody flexibility, advanced functionality features. Again, as far as mobile-focused phone systems go, this one is a winner for more than a few reason. Some users have commented that their interface takes some getting used to and that the lack of a bulk user management system can be cumbersome.
ShoreTel Phone System Review
- Helpful resources available
- Up to 1,000 users
- Cloud-based option
- Support via phone and email
- Award winning products
- No live chat
- No DECT
- One year warranty
ShoreTel boasts about their phone system's many accolades and brilliantly simple structure. ShoreTel speaks highly of their products and with good reason. This provider's phone system has a nice range of collobarative features including a cloud-based option if you'd rather have that than the on-site phone system. The benefit of having a cloud-based system is that it can be accessed anywhere from a computer which enhances usability and overall accessibility. For example, an upper-level manger could keep a close eye on the incoming and outgoing calls from somewhere other than the office with a cloud-based software.
Similarly to Cisco, ShoreTel can accommodate up to 1,000 users which again is great for mid-sized companies. It has all of the standard features you'd need-caller ID, transfers, blocking, and hold. Plus you have access to those great collaborative functions including unified messaging, instant messaging, automated attendant, and more. What's more, you can personalize phone notifications and the voicemail recording.
Verdict - Very Good
Where this phone system falters is in two areas. First, they do not offer DECT (but they have IP Phones and softphones). The second con is their online customer support. Unfortunately they do not have an online chat feature which may be an issue for some companies. They do however offer phone and email support, plus a host of resources and guides on their website for additional information. If you can look past those two shortcomings, ShoreTel may be perfect for your organization.
8x8 Phone System Review
- Voice to email capabilities
- Mobile app for smartphone/tablet
- Computer integration features
- Easy setup and use
- IP Phone, softphone and DECT
- No 24/7 phone
- No live chat
- One year warranty
8x8 offers many of the features and services a small business would want included in their phone system. In line with the other providers on our list, 8x8, Inc offers conference calling and mobile capabilities, unified and instant messaging, and more.
One of the most significant pros about 8x8 is the ability to integrate your computer and its file-sharing tools. The mobile app that allows you to receive and make calls from your smartphone or tablet (iPhone, Android, iPad, etc.) and check things like voicemail, chat, and more. 8x8 accommodates 1,000+ users and also lets you customize many of the phone options like hold music, messaging, mailbox recordings, and automated attendant.
In terms of products they have IP Phone, softphone and DECT, which is great news for those who want a selection to choose from.
Verdict - Very Good
There are just a few cons with 8x8, Inc. It has a one year hardware warranty, which is not as longstanding as we'd like. Also they do not offer live chat or 24/7 phone support. On the other hand, their site features a number of helpful guides and resources in the event you need support and of course they provide email and standard phone support.
Vonage Business Phone System Review
- Wide selection of phones
- Collaborative calling features
- Mobile integration
- IP Phone and Softphone
- Complaints regarding customer support
- No live chat support
- Fewer users
Vonage has been a leader in VoIP service since 2006. Their customer-centric approach coupled with their quality service is what truly sets them apart. Your small business can have exceptional service with an IP phone or softphone and an internet connection, when you use Vonage.
Like many other calling features, this provider offers the full suite of conferencing capabilities including unified messaging tools, automated attendant, voicemail integration, mobile device features and more. In terms of customization, you can personalize thins like hold music, mailbox recordings, etc. Vonage supports IP Phones and Softphones but does not accommodate DECT which is a drawback. Additionally, there have been many complaints regarding their customer support staff and being able to reach them after multiple email tickets.
Verdict - Good
While Vonage made our list, they do have many shortcomings when paired against some of the other providers like Cisco and RingCentral. The maximum number of users is substantially lower than the other providers on our list (100+) which may be a deal breaker for some mid-sized companies. Nonetheless, they do provide a comparable array of phone features and their prices tend to be on the more competitive side.
Small Business Phone System Review Recap
A business phone system can revolutionize the way your business serves customers and collaborates internally. These five business phone services all excel in their offerings and while they may each have their shortcomings, they are still very worthy providers. Remember to keep the considerations in mind and evaluate their offerings in relation to your company's desires.
Best Business Phone Systems FAQs
Why are mobile capabilities important?
These days, cell phones, tablets and other portable electronic devices have become a mainstay in our everyday lives. More importantly, it's crucial to stay up-to-date on the happening of your business while you're out of the office. What's great about VoIP technology is that employees can receive business calls and make outgoing calls without the need for a business-specific cell phone.
Many business phone systems offer smartphone applications that allow workers to get the complete functionality of their work phones, while out of the office. This not only expands the breadth of use but allows upper management to better track call related metrics. Say for example, a worker needs to step out of the office for a few hours. Instead of missing their work phone calls, they can have it transferred to their mobile phone and never miss a beat. Not only does it save the hassle of returning phone calls, but allows constant communication capabilities.
Does my business need a new phone system?
Often times, small business owners may question whether or not they need a VoIP phone system. Determining the ideal time and type of phone system to purchase is a decision which takes thoughtful consideration. Consider these points before electing for one:
Age of your existing system: The typical phone system lasts between six to eight years, although with developments in technology it's necessary to re-evaluate systems every few years. Depending on the age of your existing phone system, you may be due for an immediate upgrade.
Advanced features: Older systems may not have all the capabilities as newer ones like unified voicemail and messaging.
Consider the size of your business: Small businesses with just a few employees may not need to upgrade their systems if their existing phone meets the workforce needs. Larger enterprises, however with employees dispersed across multiple locations may find it absolutely necessary to have a fully updated and capable phone system.
What is a cloud-based phone system?
A cloud-based phone system (also known as internet phone system) operates with technology and networks that are stored on an external date center and delivered via the web. The beauty of a cloud-based phone system is that it eliminates the need for complex or costly hardware within your office. While this technology is relatively new, there have been great advances in the workplace as a result of it. Prior to the development of VoIP, the vast majority operated on a public switched telephone networks (PSTN) which consisted of a copper wire network.
Customers remark the many advantages of a cloud-based phone system including:
- Simple setup - since the system doesn't require the tradition wire routing, it's much simpler and faster to setup in your business.
- Cost and time savings.
- Advanced features like the ability to add additional extensions, call forwarding, voicemail, and other features not necessarily available with physical phone options.
- Remote capabilities which allow you to connect your mobile phone with cloud phone systems.