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Best office phone systems for small businesses

Best office phone system for small businesses

Even as more and more Americans communicate via email and text, an office phone system remains essential for any business looking to sustain a satisfied customer base.

A reliable phone system conveys professionalism and a willingness to make yourself available to customers, who increasingly demand transparency from the companies they do business with. (For example, one food industry survey found 94 percent of surveyed customers were more likely to be loyal to a transparent brand.) Additionally, a well-chosen phone system makes it easier for your employees to collaborate and be productive.

Virtually all businesses used to rely on a hard-wired landline phone system. These days, most businesses have transitioned to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and virtual systems. These systems offer a number of perks including:

  • They can be hosted on premises or on the cloud, which makes them highly customizable.
  • They offer a huge range of features, and the equipment needed to access said features is surprisingly affordable.
  • Cloud-hosted VoIP systems don't necessitate major upfront costs; all they need to run is a reliable internet connection.

If you're in the market for a new VoIP phone system, it's important to do your research. Let's take a look at some of the best office phone systems currently on the market.

7 of the Best Office Phone Systems for Small Businesses

  1. 8X8
    This cloud-based system has earned rave reviews for its reliability, affordability, ease of use, and diversity of features. Its enterprise capabilities include web conferencing, video meetings, music-on-hold, advanced call forwarding, voicemail-to-email, mobile app integration, and more. The Unified Communications Suite makes it easy to manage phone calls, faxes, and contact center services all in one place.
  2. Avaya
    Avaya has grown in popularity thanks to its affordable, customizable, and scalable office phone systems for small offices. The brand's systems support in-office, mobile, remote, and video users, so team members can connect with their coworkers, customers, and other contacts from any device. Speedy call handling, a variety of hosting options, and high-quality audio are all par for the course with these systems.
  3. Cisco
    The Cisco Business Edition 6000S earns great reviews for its ease of use, accessibility, and flexibility. Employees can access the phone system from anywhere that has an internet connection, and the system allows for a broad range of uses including phone and video calls, instant messaging, smartphone and tablet integration, and more. The all-in-one office phone system is designed specifically for companies that have 25 to 1,000 users, so it can grow along with your business.
  4. Grasshopper
    This virtual phone system allows very small businesses to claim a number (whether toll-free, vanity, 800, 844, or with a local area code) while managing the business from anywhere. It's designed so users can enjoy a range of features—including an extension for everyone on the team, voicemail transcription, call forwarding, and business text messages—all from a desk or smartphone and without any investment in new hardware.
  5. Mitel
    Mitel has become one of the biggest names in the small business phone system game. It enables users to connect to customers, coworkers, prospects, and partners using voice and/or video calling. Plus, it offers a long menu of features that can adapt to your company's growing needs, and integrates desk and mobile phones, email, instant messaging, voicemail, and a variety of conferencing capabilities to facilitate communication from anywhere.
  6. Ooma Office
    Ooma has earned acclaim among businesses with fewer than 20 employees for its easy installation and array of features designed to enhance the professional appearance of a small business. These include essential features such as virtual extensions, ring groups, voicemail-to-email, a virtual receptionist, conferencing, smartphone app integration, and music-on-hold—all for approximately $20 per month.
  7. RingCentral
    This cloud-based system caters to businesses with remote workers by connecting business phone lines to team members' mobile and home phones. It also boasts an array of features including audio and video conferencing, team messaging, SMS, and call center capabilities. In addition, Mitel pledges a strong commitment to security and customer support.
Best office phone system for small businesses

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Considerations for Choosing an Office Phone System

Before deciding on the right phone system for your office, it's important to consider the following:

  • Reliability
    This is essential for maintaining employee morale and sustaining customer satisfaction. If calls drop all the time or if the system can't handle multiple calls simultaneously, you risk building resentment and frustration. Reliability is paramount.
  • Affordability
    As a small business, it's important to determine whether a given office phone system fits into your budget. Consider both upfront costs and any monthly or maintenance fees.
  • Ease of use
    Will the new system integrate with your existing software and hardware? Does it have a steep learning curve, or will employees be able to get the hang of it quickly? How many people can access the system, and from how many locations? Will the system continue to accommodate your business if your company grows? Is it easy to clean the phones and otherwise manage day-to-day maintenance? These questions can help determine how the system will fit into your daily operations.
  • Hosting
    Does the system offer on-premises hosting (which allows you to maintain full control over the system's configuration but requires a knowledgeable IT staff for maintenance), cloud hosting (which delegates system maintenance to the provider and requires minimal upfront costs), or a hybrid of both?
  • Features
    Some office phone systems boast hundreds of features, while others offer more basic functionalities. Narrowing down to the most important options depends on your business's particular needs, so think carefully about what is essential and what is not.
  • Security
    This is especially important for cloud-based systems, which should offer data encryption and other measures to secure your business and customer info. Also pay attention to whether the provider guarantees a certain level of support for maintenance, security, and functionality.

There are more office phone systems available to small businesses than ever before. By taking the time to research your options and think carefully about your business's needs, you can identify the system that best serves your company's productivity, customers, and bottom line.

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Laura Newcomer is a writer, editor, and educator with multiple years of experience working in the environmental and personal wellness space. Formerly Senior Editor at the health site Greatist, Laura now lives and works in Pennsylvania. Her writing has been published on Washington Post, TIME Healthland, Greatist, DailyBurn, Lifehacker, and Business Insider, among others. She has taught environmental education to students of all ages in both Pennsylvania and Maine, and prioritizes living an environmentally sustainable lifestyle. She's a big proponent of creating self-sustaining communities and accessible healthy food systems that care for both people and the earth. An avid outdoorswoman, she can often be found hiking, kayaking, backpacking, and tending to her garden.