How To Purchase an Office Phone System

By Sheila Shanker
Updated: July 05, 2011

Purchasing a new office phone system can be daunting with all the choices available in the marketplace. If you own a small business, you want a system that works with current setup with minimum confusion and headaches, while providing you with solutions for your needs. Besides regular phone services, you may also select from a wide variety of communication systems based on Internet connections, also known as "Voice Over Internet Protocol" or VoIP.

Below are some steps you should take to purchase the best phone solution for your firm:

Make a list of your needs

Many small business owners are not fully aware of all their needs and making a written list of requirements can help a lot in focusing on specific business requirements. Maybe you need easy-to-use conferencing services or cheaper long distance or off-shore phone services. Ask your receptionist and other employees their opinions and comments regarding the new purchase—don't assume that you know it all. You can even include your IT professional in giving you ideas for the new phone systems. He/she may be aware of technical issues that may not be apparent to anybody else.

Set up a realistic budget

With small businesses, every cent counts, and in the case of acquiring a new phone service, this is not an exception. Figure out how much you can spend upfront and on a monthly basis to get a realistic budget for your phone purchase. Having a cost range can also help you in focusing on only certain systems and not get distracted by others. Review systems first at the lower end of your budget and only then go up, following your list of needs. You may be surprised as how much is available for free when using VoIP systems, including long-distance calls, call forwarding and other advanced features.

Ask for referrals

Word-of-mouth is the best advertising to any phone system. Ask your neighbors or colleagues for opinions on the system you may be interested on--you will get honest information, not sales pitches. Be sure to request referrals from firms similar to yours and ask for opinions not only on the phone system, but also on the service provider or vendor. You want to buy a well-known equipment from a reputable vendor, so that if you have any problems, it will be there to assist you. A familiar system will assure you that it’s used by many firms and any problems have been resolved in earlier versions. Don’t forget to ask for opinions online on user’s forums. You may get off-the-wall responses, but also good information about phone services available.

Acquiring a new phone system can be a bit stressful, but many small businesses have been doing it, taking advantage of new technologies and setups. Before making a major purchase, test the system to be sure it works in your office and in your situation, including all features. Don't forget to get warranties and any free trial periods if offered.

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