Expert Insights for Phone System Buyers

By Robin Wilding
Updated: July 08, 2011

So you've decided to buy a phone system for your office—good, you're going to need to call people eventually. Buying a phone system is like buying a corsage for your prom date, it shouldn't be too big or too small. You should also heed the following advice gathered from experts in the business with decades of experience in business phone systems.

  1. Bundle...Carefully
    Phone system sales companies love to bundle their systems—it is not always for your benefit. Pay attention to what they are bundling, specifically what the costs of the equipment and service would be separate. Beware of bundles where the phone system equipment is given away for free. Evaluate what type of service-level agreements you actually need, and buy accordingly—not just whatever is bundled.
  2. Compatibility
    The most important compatibility issue you should prepare for is with your existing voicemail system—don't assume it will be compatible with the new system. To prepare for this, as you shop around give a list of existing equipment (voicemail, faxes, computers, etc) to your short-listed vendors and ask if there will be any compatibility issues. Then get it in writing. 
  3. Expandability/Shrinkability
    While those in the market for hosted or managed phone systems are looking for expandability and collapsibility—likely so are you. Consider whether you will need to expand or shrink your phone system in the future, then ask your vendors what your options would be. Ask what their upgrade rollout plan is for the future, and if you will be part of it. 
  4. Ask About Hidden Costs
    Phone system vendors hide costs (especially with bundles and “free” stuff), often. Be sure to ask about all the costs associated with business phone systems: installation fees, other startup costs, equipment fees, service agreement costs, cost of phones, servers, switches, power adaptors, interface cards, PBX, and IP access connection. 
  5. Existing Equipment Use
    Many companies will expressly inform you that you can use your existing equipment. However, ask them if their quality of service, and service agreements will be guaranteed, in writing.
  6. Multiple Locations
    Consider your multiple locations, which includes remote offices and telecommuting home workers. If they have different equipment from the main office, will it be compatible with your new phone system? If not how much will it cost for the company to deploy (and possibly manage) at multiple locations. Will their system support analog phones, whether at remote locations or not?
  7. Negotiate
    Yes, you can negotiate. Often suppliers will negotiate with providing discounts on service contracts or small free elements. 
  8. Additional Wiring
    In the beginning ask for more wiring than you need; it will slightly increase your costs but can ensure continuity throughout service and upgrades.  
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