Our working lives and how businesses communicate has undergone massive change over the past couple of years. Reflecting this change, there’s now a daunting level of choice when it comes to Internet Protocol (IP) phone systems and VoIP phone providers.
Nowadays, typing ‘IP phone’ into Google will present you with sponsored links and targeted advertising, which makes it difficult to choose the right IP phone.
As no two service providers have the same offerings, we’ve explored the best VoIP phone systems for your small business. This enables you to get a full understanding of the different IP phone systems available. With setup easier than ever, and significant cost savings to be made, every business should embrace modern IP telephone technology.
Why you should choose an IP phone for your business
Benefits of using VoIP phones for a small business include:
Cost savings: This is a key benefit for businesses of all sizes, as an IP telephone is more cost-effective than a conventional phone. Since IP telephony connects calls over the internet, businesses using IP phones save money on long distance calls. For businesses who make overseas calls, additional savings are made. For small and mid-sized businesses, savings can be around 50%.
Setup time: As a small business operating in unprecedented times, downtime is not an option. Installation is quick and within a few hours, your system can be up and running.
Remote working: The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that companies need to be flexible. In the era of remote working, cloud-based tools are crucial for internal and customer-facing business processes. IP technology enables you to easily port a phone number to a new location, as phone numbers are not tied to specific devices. IP phones are simple to use and training for employees is quick and minimal.
Integration: The best VoIP services allow easy integration with existing software and third-party providers.
What to consider when choosing an IP phone system for business
IP phone systems are simple to install but there are areas to consider. Businesses will need to ensure there is a reliable broadband connection, a router, and a PBX server for internal call handling. You will need to then select your IP phone model and perhaps VoIP headsets.
- Users: How many and where are they based?
- Features: What does your business need? Some features will be included with your subscription, while others can be added. Caller ID, call forwarding and waiting are some of the ones offered as standard, but there are add-ons including virtual assistant, conferencing and call recording. You might think about which are ‘must haves’ and which are ‘nice to haves’.
- Third-party applications: What does your business use, as these will need to be integrated. Think about your CRM system and other apps your employees use.
- Budget: What savings are you looking to make? Consider current telephone bills, line rental and other communication software expenses. There’s direct and indirect savings to be made. With taxes, repair and maintenance fees, providers usually roll these costs into subscription plans. Indirect savings are difficult to quantify, but important to consider, such as remote working savings.
Step 1: Search IP providers
As no two VoIP services are the same, we’ve taken a look at the best IP services. Look at your checklist to see what features you would like. It is the variety of features, such as call answering, messaging, and video conferencing, that really enables you to add value to your organization. Advanced calling features, such as automatic call routing, can also be added.
You will also need to consider which providers work with other apps you already use. Whether it’s Salesforce, Google Workspace, Dropbox, Hubspot, Zendesk or another product, ensure that your VoIP provider integrates with your chosen apps.
Step 2: Shortlist IP providers
Security is always a concern for small businesses, so in addition to a robust encryption framework, advanced security options like multi-factor authentication and secure data access should be considered.
Customer support is important, especially during setup when third-party integrations might encounter problems. Dedicated 24/7 customer support could be attractive.
Take time to read reviews. We’ve reviewed some of the best IP providers including 8x8 X Series, Dialpad, RingCentral, Ooma, Nextiva and GoToConnect and consider their pricing, features, customer support and security. Some providers offer free trials, ensuring you can try before you buy.
Step 3: Select an IP provider
Once selected, aside from the hardware and software in your package, take into consideration costs for installation, maintenance and support. Like any business purchase, take time to read the terms and conditions, including cancellation fees, return policies and usage limits. Some providers offer fixed-term contracts while others feature flexible rolling contracts. Check whether or not the contract will auto renew.
IP systems for the modern small business tend to be easy to use, but like any new technology, some employees may need more support than others. Therefore, it is worth considering what level of training and support is included as standard.
Finding the right IP phone solution for your small business is a personal choice, but there are benefits for small businesses of all sizes. There is no absolute ‘best’ provider when it comes to small business IP phones, as no two companies are the same. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a best IP system for your small business. With more and more small organizations choosing IP for cost savings and remote working benefits, there’s plenty of choice on the market.
Just like any other tech buy, the most important part of choosing the right IP phone solution is to do your homework, read reviews and speak to other similar businesses. Our website contains links to a selection of the best IP phone providers.
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Amanda Akien started her career in tech journalism, before jumping into the marketing world. Now she is back to her roots writing tech articles on topics including cybersecurity, tech skills and automation for UK and US audiences. Her work can be found in The Guardian and TechRadar Pro.