Can You Hear Me Now? A Small Business Guide to Finding the Best Office Phone System

What is the best small business phone system out there? We consider the options, looking for the most practical and operational. No frills, just performance.

Effective communication is vital in any business.

In an era where everything has an app, is a traditional small business phone system necessary? If yes, how?

Communicating with clients and customers requires the best small business phone system. Based on the needs of your business, there are various options for buying and setting up a telephone system.

Overall, relying solely on mobile phone packages might not be the best strategy for your business. A well-run, professional business needs some features like voicemail or automated receptionist to present a strong business image and connect clients/customers with whomever they’re trying to reach.

Thankfully, there various kinds of office phone systems that are effective for all types of businesses, such as those operating mainly in one location and those with many employees in the field.

If you’re looking for a small business phone system, it pays to take your time doing some research. Read on so you can find the best phone system for your business.

Office Phone Systems for Small Business: Your Options

To pick the best phone system for small business, you need to first understand the various business phone options available to you. In this section, we’ll look at the three main options: PBX, virtual VoIP systems, and IP PBX.

These options have subdivisions, like the variation between onsite and cloud-based VoIP systems, or between browser-based and app-based virtual systems.

But to keep things simple and help you pick the right small business phone system, let’s look at these options:


PBX phone systems use phone lines. Your business communicates through traditional telephones and your office hosts and maintains the PBX communications server.

PBX technology has been used for ages, and its stability compensates for its bulkiness and lack of flexibility.

Virtual VoIP Phone System

Virtual VoIP systems work without any hardware. You make and receive calls directly on your computer, or via your browser, or provider’s app.

A virtual VoIP phone system is a softphone, meaning that there’s no need for SIP or traditional phones. Your service provider hosts and maintains the servers handling both your inbound and outbound calls.

The only tool you need on your side is a reliable internet connection to handle your call volume.


IP PBX phone systems handle communications through the internet instead of the traditional telephone lines. This is known as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). You or your service provider hosts the communications server.

Your staff will use hard phones with SIP to place calls. While IP PBX phone system systems are becoming more established, they still depend on a reliable internet connection to work.

What to Consider When Picking the Best Small Business Phone System

Here are some things to consider when looking for a small business phone system:

Existing Infrastructure

Want to upgrade your current system? Starting a new business from scratch? These are vital questions to think about.

For example, choosing a pbx system might not be feasible if you already don’t have the infrastructure, as digital has generally replaced analog.

IP PBX phone systems are fairly easier to set up but you still will need to buy equipment and sort out licensing, which may take too long for your liking.

Pick a system with the most seamless transition. This may mean choosing a virtual installation if you’re starting out. Then again, if you’re already equipped with landlines and hard phones, you may not want to swap these resources for a virtual system.

Call Volume

If you consistently handle a large volume of calls (both outbound and inbound), it might be wise to go for a strong analog connection. You can also have a digital option in case there are infrastructural problems.

If you have a very large team, an analog system would take quite some time to set up. But if you opt for a completely virtual system, you might have a problem with reliability.

But if flexibility is a problem, owing to changing seasonal activity, then you should go for virtual.

To add and remove users to your PBX/IP PBX system, you’ll need to buy extra hardware. This might leave you with a surplus.

On the other hand, a virtual business phone system is as easy to adapt and flexible as you want it to be.


Phone system features will vary depending on the kind of office phone system you choose. Most service providers vary their features depend on the kind of plan you buy.

Most office phone systems have a basic set of features, then charge for extra features, either via add-on charges or a high-tier plan.

Features include these:

  • Automated attendant
  • Call queues
  • Call monitoring
  • Conference calling
  • Extension dialing
  • Directory assistance
  • Integration with programs such as Salesforce and Outlook
  • Missed call notifications
  • Interactive voice response
  • Ring groups
  • Local or toll-free number
  • Voicemail
  • Video chat
  • Call reports
  • Call recording
  • Call forwarding/routing
  • Voicemail-to-email
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Voicemail-to-text
  • Internet faxing
  • Call transferring
  • Interoffice instant messaging

Of all the phone systems, VoIP systems are likely to have the widest variety of features compared to landline systems and go for a cheaper price.

Office Space

Work from home? Share a working space? Work on the road?

The beauty of a virtual system is that regardless of where you operate from, your business number can be forwarded to any telephone number on any phone.

If you’re not in the office often, it makes sense to get a virtual number. Each time a prospective customer calls, you won’t miss the call since you can have it forwarded to your mobile phone.

Received a voicemail? No problem. It can be sent to you via email, ensuring that you’re able to read it or listen to it at any time.


Since third-party providers host cloud-based phone systems, you’re basically trusting a stranger to take care of your business communications. For this reason, it’s very important to also research the provider’s capability to maintain an almost perfect service.

You can begin by finding out what their data centers are like.

What redundancy measures are in each data center? Do they make sure that their data centers are in excellent condition? How many centers have they got and where are they placed?

This is vital because if there’s a disaster or something goes amiss in the entire data center or one server, you have the assurance that other centers can pick up the slack.


You’ll need round-clock support if you have no IT staff. Also, consider the various ways through which you can reach support and how fast you can expect a reply.

User reviews can help you find out the most common customer complaints.


Virtual phone systems have inbuilt mobility. But for VoIPs, there are mobile options. For instance, some service providers have cell phone apps that allow the user to make calls through the service.


When looking for the best phone system for small business, you must consider both upfront and recurrent costs.

A PBX system will have hefty upfront costs, for licensing, hardware, and installation. An IP PBX system will be less arduous, based on whether you’re in charge of the infrastructure or not.

These two options also have significant ongoing costs: equipment maintenance, software updates, and replacing outdated hardware, to mention a few. Traditional phones are cheaper than SIP phones, but they’ll need replacing more often (about every 5-7 years).

A virtual system doesn’t require upfront and maintenance costs, but instead charges a monthly subscription per user. VoIP solutions also require adequate bandwidth for all users to comfortably make and receive calls.

You should also take into account the cost of a stable internet connection for both virtual and IP PBX business phones.


Choosing the wrong IT partner can have devastating security implications. But if you pick a reputable hosted service provider, they’ll be able to keep your information secure.

Hosted providers do a better job of securing customers’ data mainly because of the wealth of resources at their disposal. But if your business needs to comply with security rules that require onsite data storage, then a hosted provider may not be the right solution.

Consult a Professional

If you’re still struggling to find the best business phone system, it could be wise to talk to a professional. Maybe your business has no dedicated IT staff, so you’re struggling to understand the technicalities.

Most service providers will gladly guide you through their plan if you contact them. Or you could use a consultant for this task, to evaluate your resources and goals and find a system that takes the two into account.

The Bottom Line

As with picking anything for your small business, it’s important to understand your needs before investing in a new product.

When it comes to choosing the best small business phone system, determining your budget, how flexible your service should be, and how many users will be accommodated is a good starting point to finding the perfect solution for you.

Be sure to explore our blog for more information, inspiration, and advice on running and growing your small business successfully.

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