Whether your company is a two-person operation or a large organization, having a dependable phone system is essential for conducting business. Like any critical component of your business, setting up an affordable and useful phone system requires smart planning and pointed questions about what you want from your system before you buy it. To help you figure that out, here are some questions you should ask yourself when shopping for an affordable phone system.
How Many Employees Do I Have?
If your business has two employees, and both of you work from home, you may only need to buy supplemental smartphones to keep your work and personal lives separate. If your business has many employees at an office, shop or warehouse, then you should consider a more robust, centralized phone system. Packages will vary in price across vendors, but most will likely charge a per-employee fee when your system is installed.
Are My Employees on the Phone Often?
An employee’s role within the company may determine how often he or she will need to be on the phone. For example, your sales staff will likely be on the phone more often than your marketing team. The number of employees and how often they are on the phone will ultimately affect the minutes used, which is normally a factor in the price of most phone systems. You’ll also need to forecast how many employees you hope to add in the future. If you are expecting your staff to grow over the next few years, you’ll want to make sure your phone system can scale accordingly.
Which Type of Phone System Should I Acquire?
The type of phone system you should buy will likely be determined by your company’s size. Generally speaking, companies that are sized towards the lower end (i.e. 10 to 40 employees) might benefit from a Key System Unit (KSU) system, while larger companies with over 40 employees might be better-suited to a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system.
With some exceptions, KSU systems are generally comprised of phones tied to one base phone with multiple “keys,” and employees can contact each other by simply pressing a relevant key. If your company is larger, you’ll likely have to opt for a PBX system. PBX installations require large cabinets with hardware to be installed, but they can be scaled rapidly for added users and are easily programmable.
Pricing and installation will vary from vendor to vendor, and some will offer “hybrid” systems with overlapping functionality. An average price per employee for a KSU installation starts at roughly $300, while PBX installations begin at $800; however, adding new users to an existing PBX system is less expensive.
Another alternative is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), in which each handset is essentially a small computer that plugs into an internet connection. VoIP systems are easier to use and less expensive upon setup, but they can become pricier over time when additional headsets are needed.
When considering any of these systems, you need to determine how long you plan to use your phone lines and how portable you might need them to be.
What If I Don’t Need a Traditional Phone System for My Company?
There are a variety of alternatives to a traditional phone system. Perhaps your company telecommutes or works on the road quite often. If so, it may be beneficial for you to issue company smartphones for your employees. There are multiple inexpensive alternatives to a traditional phone system, including:
- Smartphones: This a good option for telecommuting or on-the-road employees. It’s also especially good for businesses that operate from home.
- Google Voice: You can set this up with a Gmail account, and you will receive a local number where all calls will be routed. The calls can be forwarded to multiple phone lines, and you can even schedules times when you choose to not receive calls. It also sends transcripts of voicemail as text messages and allows you send replies in text as well. In addition to all of this, it’s free to use in the U.S. and Canada.
- Skype: This VoIP service offers free video and voice calling, as well as instant messaging and file sharing. For a monthly fee, subscribers get access to mobile and landline calls, text messaging and Skype’s Wi-Fi Public Hotspot feature.
Once you evaluate your business needs when it comes to a phone system, you will start to better understand how your company communicates. The least expensive option may not be the right choice, but there are always alternatives to help you find the best phone system for your business.