The speed of how the world does business is gaining momentum day by day, and nobody knows this better than small business owners. Now, more than ever, your phone system has to be economical, nimble, scalable and feature rich to deliver the functionality you need to compete in today’s global marketplace.
Today’s phone systems aim to integrate, or unify, all of your communications. Messaging, conferencing, email, contact management, interoffice communication and more are accessed through a single platform. With multitudes of hosted options available, deploying such a system can be accomplished in less time than it would take to connect a standard phone line – and at much less cost.
Criteria to Consider When Choosing an Office Phone System
Any business equipment or infrastructure purchase should be prefaced by a rationale. What will it do for me? How will it make my life easier? What’s my ROI, if indeed that is possible?
When you go through the process of deciding what type of phone system is right for your business, you likely have a few mandates:
- It must be affordable
- It should support enough lines for your current needs and be capable of expanding
- The manufacturer must be reliable and have a good record of customer service
- Call quality and integrity should be the best possible
- Hardware should be built to last and ergonomically designed
- Features should meet all your business needs, such as conferencing, on-hold music, call recording, voicemail and auto attendant functionality
Beyond this, you can choose from wired or wireless, headsets, speaker phones, video phones or phones that have the ability to integrate into your computer operating system. No matter how complex your telephony needs might be, make a list of the “must haves” and the “nice to haves” and explore your options with these in mind.
Your budget will no doubt dictate what is possible, but you might be surprised at what is well within reach. Consider also that your office phone system purchase is an investment into your company’s future. You will probably do just fine without it, but the opportunity to become more efficient, more engaged and better connected is a compelling argument in its favour.
Choosing the Right Phone System Can Help Your Business Grow
Does your office have a sales force in the field? Do you have a call centre or help desk? How many lines do you need? How many extensions? How much of your business is conducted outside of the office? Do you require a mobile solution? Do you need to be in touch with your colleagues throughout the day? Does call quality matter?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are probably in need of a solution that can grow with you; a phone system that you can add onto if the need arises, and maybe one that offers integration with your existing technology. A system that saves you money on top of all this is just the icing on the cake.
If you are considering purchasing a new office phone system or upgrading your existing one, take some time to think about your current needs, but also consider where you think your business might be in five, ten years or more. Investing in a lot of technology that may become obsolete or that you might outgrow doesn’t make good business sense. But is there a future-proof solution?
VoIP: The New Face of Telephony
Office phone system hardware isn’t the only thing that has changed in the telecom landscape. Gone are the legacy PBX phone systems that used to require an investment in the realm of tens of thousands of dollars – phone systems designed for enterprise and priced accordingly.
With wider availability of broadband internet, better reliability and an increasingly high standard of quality and stability, more and more savvy global businesses are turning to voice over IP (VoIP) enabled services for their telecom. They see unified communications as an investment in their company’s future, a way to not only connect to their customers in a more meaningful way but to unite their workforce as well. Vendors such as Microsoft, Cisco and Skype are leading the pack in what has become a telephony revolution of sorts, one that has changed our collective minds about how we connect with the world and how we do business.
One of the most attractive aspects of VoIP is rooted in its economy. Your telephony infrastructure is limited to desktop phones, handsets and headsets. Best of all, VoIP is compatible with other office phone hardware so you don’t even have to repurchase unless you really want to.
To that end, there are many companies that specialize in IP phones and headsets – hardware especially made to support VoIP functionality. They may look like your average phone hardware, but they boast powerful features such as background noise cancelling and automatic EQ adjustment for clearer calls.
Scalable from one user to as many as you will ever need, VoIP supports your future growth.
Some of the things you can expect with a VoIP office phone system include:
- Softphones, allowing your users to use their computer or device as a phone
- Make and receive company calls from any device
- Video conferencing
- Web conferencing
- Automated attendant
- A variety of messaging options, including voicemail to email, text, IM or phone
- Integration with your company’s contact management databases
- Centralized software/firmware updating and admin functions
To sum up, the advantages to having a VoIP system include:
- Lower cost of communications
- No toll calls: pay one price for global calling
- Wide range of features
- Integration with current phone systems and productivity software
- Seamless deployment through most ISP’s
- Total scalability
- Help your business run more efficiently
- Connect your workforce
- Encourage productivity
With so many compelling arguments in favour of a VoIP office phone system, the only thing left to decide is who your ideal service provider might be.
Finding the Right VoIP Provider
As with any product or service, there are many solutions to choose from. Some may work for others but not necessarily for you, so you need to consider how you like to do business and then decide whether your service provider is able to deliver.
Vonage is by far one of the most recognizable VoIP solutions for small business. With a long history of being on the forefront of telephony innovation, they offer good value on basic packages, with no long-term commitment required. Service is deployed by connecting their hardware directly to your internet connection. Advantages include the ability to keep your existing number and area code, and you won’t need an on-site installation to get started. Deploys over your existing internet connection and can manage anything from simple to complex configurations. Integrates with Salesforce to allow your team to access a centralized database of contacts, customers or leads, and offers several plans that can be customized to your very specific needs.
BT offers up to eight lines per broadband connection, with the ability to scale up to one hundred lines. Each line comes with an “inclusive geographic phone number”, great for dealing with customers in regions where proximity may make a difference. One of the limitations to the BT service is that it requires the purchase of BT broadband and a BT phone line, which carries an extra installation fee. For companies who are already BT customers, this might be an ideal situation and an easy switch. Others, however, may want to keep shopping around.
RingCentral is a cloud-based communication and collaborative platform that is partnered with many of the top providers – including BT and Vonage. They have been on the VoIP scene since 1999, positioning them as a pioneer in this realm. Along with all the usual capabilities you would expect with a VoIP system, they provide a collaborative workspace in which your team can thrive. Real-time messaging, shared calendars, task management, chat, file and media sharing keep your inbox clear and your workforce focused on the task at hand. Compatibility is generally good across a range of technologies, though some phone systems will require an analogue adaptor in order to connect. They recommend purchasing their hardware as they do not provide guaranteed support for devices from other manufacturers.
Lily Comms is one of the UK’s newest VoIP solutions, but they have made a significant mark on the telecom market. They specialize in custom solutions for small to medium businesses, allowing their customers to choose the features and plans that best meet their needs. Their VoIP system is called Horizon, and it takes advantage of cloud technology to provide the foundations for their business offerings. They don’t sell hardware, though their service is compatible with most vendors. Not recommended for large or enterprise level businesses, they are focused wholly on small to medium sized business and start-ups that require an all-in-one solution.
Single Number Reach
It could be that your office is simple enough to warrant one or two lines, or perhaps you and your colleagues prefer to use mobile phones. This could be due to your business operating simultaneously at different sites, or perhaps you don’t have a business headquarters at all. This is not such a stretch in 2016: many businesses function with personnel that are located all over the world. With single number reach, as long as each worker has an internet connection, they are reachable through your company’s central number. There is no special equipment to purchase and no hardware or software to install.
Single number reach (SNR) allows your workforce to use their own phones, as calls are routed through a central VoIP enabled virtual number. Incoming calls are transferred to the appropriate personnel, and the incoming caller is none the wiser.
Making the transition to single number reach supports your business’ professional image while allowing you to channel your funds into more productive avenues. Some other advantages to single number reach include:
- Fewer missed calls
- Fewer calls gone to voice mail
- Increased productivity
- Better response both internally and externally
- Eliminate call interruptions
Single number reach is a component of many unified communications systems, and is offered by many different providers.
Things to Know About VoIP Office Phone Systems
While the cost savings might be attractive, you might think that switching to a VoIP protocol for your telephony may not be the right answer for you, at least not right now. However, consider that in the near future, you may actually find some of its key features to be indispensable to your business functions.
VoIP takes your voice data and translates it into digital data streams which are then sent in ‘packets’ over an internet connection. As the technology becomes more and more advanced, call quality is on the rise and annoying glitches like call drops, call echo and call latency have been greatly reduced.
You may use your existing phone system with your new VoIP system, but would also need to have a computer present and the appropriate software installed. Alternately, you could decide to purchase VoIP phones or other devices to make and receive calls – in which case you would not require a computer to run the operating system.
With a VoIP office phone system, you are essentially routing all your calls and communications through the internet. If you are in an area where the internet is unreliable, or if there is no broadband available, you might want to consider other options.
How EC-MSP Can Help
EC-MSP is a UK-based IT consultancy, specializing in technology solutions for businesses. Known for our professionalism, our passion for what we do and how easy we are to work with, you’ll never find another IT company that will give you the straight goods like we will. Our mission is to be your partner in success, providing you with options that will help you grow your business, not to mention the friendliest, most humble customer service in London, if we do say so ourselves. If you have any questions about how EC-MSP can help launch your business to the next level with VoIP, single number reach or unified communications, call today or drop us a line. We’d love to chat about your office phone system, and help you discover new avenues to small business success.