Business Phone Service Buyer Guide

Learn about business phone features, brand qualities and more...

By Sheila Shanker
Updated: May 12, 2011

Are you in the market to purchase a new phone system for your business? Many small businesses plan to acquire a new system to save money, take advantage of new technology, and be able to communicate better internally and with customers. Below are some items that should help you in making your decision:

Costs – Decide on a budget to spend with your phone system, including equipment and monthly service. Consider costs of any upgrades or of adding new employees or offices. Don’t think too short-term or you’re likely to miss the big picture and to spend more than planned in the long run. Note that technology costs have been decreasing, and you may be able to afford a system now that was out of your range just a few years ago.

Features – Write down phone features that you would like to have, such as easy conferencing or the ability to conduct video phone conversations. Maybe you require special technical features, such as using your current PBX system, caller ID, or maybe you’re concerned about 911 services and you want to make sure that your service provider supports it. Typical business phone features popular with small businesses are voice mail, multiple phone lines, call forwarding, call return, do-not-disturb button, and redial capability.

Easy scalability -- Plan for changes and future growth. Be sure that the phone system you select can be moved around, changed or added to, as required in the case of hiring new employees or opening new offices in different locations. Many small businesses have been selecting “VoIP,” voice over Internet protocol, which offers much easier and more flexible setup than your local phone company. Adding a new phone can be done by technically-minded business owners or the IT professional, bypassing the phone company wiring and delays.

Security – Ask about security of calls, especially if you’re considering VoIP phone service, although tapping phone lines can be done with regular phone services as well.  Hackers can use your phone line to make lots of expensive calls, or they can listen to confidential conversations that may hurt your business. Hackers could also get access to your entire network, if you’re not protected by firewalls and other security measures.

Quality -- Consider the quality of the phone system and its reliability. You don’t want to go through a phone installation and then realize that the phone cannot be used as you planned and quality of calls is not up to par. Test the system before you buy it, and make sure that quality doesn’t decrease if you have two people talking or twenty. Be sure to purchase a well-respected brand equipment, such as Cisco, which will be around for many years.

Overall, the idea is to get the best possible system for your business and you may be surprised to the options you have these days at very affordable cost.

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