Choosing the right type of phone system for your SME

by | Jan 13, 2020

Todd Carothers, CRO, CounterPath looks at the factors to consider when picking a small business phone system

Throughout your working day, how many business calls do you make and receive on your personal mobile? How many conference calls, video calls and webinars do you participate in across your tablet, laptop or other devices? I wager it’s a lot. So much so that if a fire were to break out in your office right now, your traditional wired deskphone wouldn’t make the cut of items to grab in a hurry.

The way small businesses now communicate, both internally and externally, has changed radically in recent years and will only continue to evolve. Once the sole ‘user experience’, the deskphone has been replaced by a host of new user experiences tailored to specific tasks, environments and methods of working, each of which is built primarily for a specific device. In addition, many of these new phone services are also available as part of the wider subscription economy that’s taken the world by storm over the past few years.

As such, many small businesses find themselves overwhelmed by the range of phone system options before them. So how do you cut through the noise and choose the right system for your needs when you receive the dreaded ‘ISDN is being switched off in your area, it’s time to upgrade your phone system…’ call?

Making the right call

First, businesses must have a firm grasp of their purpose, the spread of their team and the all important budget, among other deciding factors. Only by drilling into this and understanding their own needs will they find a phone system that empowers their operating model. 

Before any decisions can be made, a budget must first be agreed. Depending on the type of phone system, businesses may occur single costs on equipment, installation, license fees and more, or a series of recurring or monthly costs, all of which are further affected by the size of their business and the number of employees. Only once this is agreed can they begin to build a phone system that fits the bill.

The next step is to choose between a landline, provided by traditional copper wiring, or a VoIP connection, which is solely available via an internet connection. More and more businesses are adopting VoIP systems due to the ease of set up, compared to installation and maintenance time needed to service a copper line. While there are dozens of benefits to a VoIP connection, more cautious businesses may still cling to their traditional wired system. For those that don’t need to be tied to their desks, virtual systems are a viable alternative. They offer call forwarding options – either to a home or mobile phone – without the extensive features offered by VoIP or traditional solutions.

If a business does opt for a VoIP connection, it must then decide where it is hosted: on-premises or in the cloud? On-premises solutions are more robust and offer businesses the peace of mind that they’re in control of their own security, albeit with the responsibility to maintain and upgrade that system. Cloud-hosted solutions, on the other hand, relieve businesses of having to manage, upgrade or monitor their systems, granting them more time to focus on mission critical activities. Ultimately, this decision comes down to security preferences.

Small businesses must also consider how feature-rich their solution must be. Gone are the days of advanced call features only being available to large businesses with finance and resources to spare, as many providers now offer various voicemail features, call screening, forwarding and recording, as well as intricate notification preferences. Businesses need a clear view of their internal structure and external communication channels, and would be wise to select the features that serve them, rather than adapting how they communicate to the services they have chosen.

Informing their choice of features is a business’s approach to collaboration, mobility and remote working. With a range of rich collaboration tools available – from instant messaging to conferencing – as well as many providers offering app alternatives that allow users to use their business line while remote working, businesses of all sizes can find the tools best suited to their needs.

There are countless routes to success for small businesses looking to upgrade their phone systems. To ensure they don’t drown in the details, over or underestimate their phone needs, or wind up with a solution that’s not fit for purpose, decision makers would be wise to lean on the advice of a trusted provider that can guide them through their phone system choice. The advice and expertise of a partner will help businesses find the right solution with the right features for the right price, without costly trial and error.

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