Choosing a phone system is not usually the first thing on a new small business owner’s mind. Even after your office is established and operational, your small business’ phone system will likely function so smoothly that it will fade into the background.
But what do you do when you need to install a new small phone system or replace an existing phone system? Do you know the choices available to you and what every option means? Small business phone systems can seem confusing, but knowing the basics can help you buy the phone system that’s just right for your business.
The first thing to remember is that there are four basic types of commercial phone systems to choose from. The first, Private Branch Exchange (also known as PBX) systems, are known to most of us as the huge and confusing cabinets with dedicated operators. Luckily, there are smaller-scale PBX systems for your small business. Since many office workers are familiar with PBX systems, which are becoming more affordable every year, this is often the best choice for small businesses.
Another very popular option for small to mid-size businesses is the key system. This type of phone system consists of a key system unit that controls all of the other phones in the business. The KSU controls the features and functions of each phone, such as voicemail, and ensures that one line is never in use by more than one user at a time.
The key system allows in-system phones to dial each other directly via extension and lets the operator of the KSU supervise the operation of the entire system to ensure that all users’ needs are met. The key system is also very expandable with new software.
These two types of phone systems have become very similar as technology has progressed. Features that were once available only on PBX systems are now readily available on systems that are referred to as key systems. Phone systems that share features of PBX and key systems are often called hybrids and offer the most features with the most expandability.
For very small businesses of two to 10 employees, a KSU-less system may be the most appropriate choice. A KSU-less system features phones that each contain the KSU-type technology so that they can provide the functions and features that key systems provide, but without the central unit.
One of the largest benefits to the KSU-less system is that it is not permanently wired into the building like other types of phone systems. Since the technology is contained in the phones, there is no complicated equipment to move when your business moves to a new building.
A newer technology in the small business phone system realm is voice over internet protocol, or VoIP. VoIP Phone systems send voice calls over a broadband connection rather than phone lines. VoIP technology can facilitate your small business phone needs for a much lower cost and higher quality than traditional phone systems.
The type of phone system that you choose for your small business depends on your needs and expectations. The easiest way to see if a small business phone system is appropriate for you is to try it out. Just picking up the phones and pressing buttons can give you a feel for how the system operates. Make sure that features are easy to access and understand.
Any time you purchase a new system for your small business phone needs, remember to think of how your business will grow in the future. Ask the installer to give you much more wiring than you need currently to avoid having to pay for pricey future rewiring.
Keep your staff in mind. If you have a large staff, a KSU-less system probably will not be adequate for your needs; you will need to invest in a PBX or hybrid. Luckily, the prices of these sophisticated phone systems are coming down every year. If you time your purchase to coincide with the end of the quarter (when sales reps are hungry for sales), you may be able to get a new small business phone system for much less than you expect. Having the right phone system for your small business can make a huge difference in the way that you and your staff interact with each other and with your customers.