What is the best phone system for a business?

Sip Trunks Botswana , Hosted PBX Botswana , Virtual Numbers Botswana

Out of all the questions that any business owner tries to find the answer to online, this is one of the most frequent. We also notice that most frequent answers include offers from business VoIP providers or other users sharing their experience.

Finding a reliable VoIP provider is an important part of the equation, but what most forget to say is that even more important than that is to identify the business phone system you need, according to the needs, characteristics and budget of your company. In this article we will do just that – take various types of services and configurations and show you why they could or could not work well for your business.

Hosted PBX with IP Phones

How it works

The Phone system (PBX) resides on your provider’s servers and the connection to it is made using IP Phones. These are business phones that are connected directly to the Internet and are built specifically for VoIP technology and VoIP features.

PROs

  • Medium monthly charges – the price per user starts at around $15.00/month
  • Medium initial investment in equipment – the price of an IP Phone starts at around $120
  • Highest quality thanks to IP Phones and HD voice, as well as maximum use of VoIP business features
  • No costs for servers necessary to host the phone system
  • No costs for PBX administration as it is handled by the provider
  • Scalable – can add or remove users at any time

This is the most recommended setup for the majority of businesses thanks to its balance between medium costs and best performance and call quality.

CONs

  • If most of your employees are working from laptops connecting via wireless to the network, you might require additional network work to run Ethernet cables to each desk
  • Investment in IP phones might be high especially for large deployments
  • No control over the general setup of the PBX (just features access), which means that you have to trust your VoIP Provider with the security and stability of your business phone system
  • More difficult to use and carry for travelling business people because they require a physical connection

Recommendations

  • If your local network allows it, use IP Phones that connect with PoE (Power over Ethernet) to avoid more cable work.
  • Don’t go for the cheapest or top of the line IP Phones unless they are right for you. More on choosing the right IP Phone in our dedicated article.

Hosted PBX with desktop or Smartphone apps

How it works

The Phone system (PBX) resides on your provider’s servers and the connection to it is made using desktop/ mobile Softphones. They are software applications that are configured and act just like an IP Phone, enabling the user to receive and place calls using a PC, laptop or Smartphone.

PROs

  • Medium monthly charges – the price per user starts around $15.00/month
  • Low initial investment – the cost of a software license starts at around $5.00 for a mobile app and $30, plus there are many free VoIP applications
  • No costs for servers necessary to host the phone system
  • No costs for PBX administration as it is handled by the provider
  • Scalable – can add or remove users at any time
  • Easy to use for business travelers as it can be connected right away everywhere where there’s an Internet connection
  • No additional wiring in the office

CONs

  • Lower call quality because of the lack of high compression codecs
  • Impossibility to use some features, such as Busy Lamp Field (BLF) or Intercom
  • No control over the general setup of the PBX (just features access), which means that you have to trust your VoIP Provider with the security and stability of your business phone system
  • You will not be able to receive or make calls if the computer or phone is not on
  • Using the VoIP service on a 4G network might use up your mobile data plan

Recommendations

  • The licensed software offer a higher call quality and provide more features than the free ones (for example with some of the free features you cannot transfer calls or have a 3-way call)
  • Configure additional features for when your computer is not on, such as Call Forwarding, to avoid missing calls

Hosted PBX with ATAs

How it works

This setup is also hosted on the business VoIP provider’s side, using Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs) to allow a regular phone to connect to the Internet.

PROs

  • Medium monthly charges – the price per user starts at around $15.00/month
  • Medium investment – the cost of an ATA with 2 ports starts at around $70
  • No costs for servers necessary to host the phone system
  • No costs for PBX administration as it is handled by the provider

CONs

  • Additional wiring in the office is necessary as the ATAs connect between the modem/ router and the phone
  • Lower call quality
  • Impossibility to use some features, such as Busy Lamp Field (BLF) or Intercom
  • No control over the general setup of the PBX (just features access), which means that you have to trust your VoIP Provider with the security and stability of your business phone system

Recommendations

  • An ATA is limited to the number of ports it includes (each port connects one phone), thus it is indicated that you purchase equipment with more ports that you initially need, so another investment is avoided in case more employees are added.

Own PBX & SIP Trunking

How it works

Your entire business phone system is managed and hosted by your company, whether the PBX is hardware of software based. Just like a Hosted PBX, it can be used with IP Phones, Softphones and ATAs. In order to connect the PBX to the public network, you require SIP Trunking services from a business phone service provider.

PROs

  • Low monthly charges – the price per SIP Trunk starts at around $10.00/month
  • Control over your entire PBX settings, as well as security features
  • Highest quality if used with IP Phones

CONs

  • High initial investment in equipment – a PBX device or PBX software costs no less than a few hundred dollars
  • Very high maintenance costs: server hosting, permanent personnel for maintaining and troubleshooting the phone system
  • Higher risks of outages and security breaches; established VoIP carriers have redundant networks in place, so that when one server goes down another takes over, as well as complex layers of security to protect the network from being attacked
  • Not easily scalable, as PBX hardware support a maximum number of users, and PBX licenses are issued per edition, which also depends on the number of users

Recommendations

  • Ensure that your IT team is ready and qualified to take on the project of installing and maintaining an IP PBX, or hire an IT services company
  • Upgrade or update your internal network to provide the best environment and protection for your office phone system(i.e. firewalls, QoS set up properly)

Virtual Numbers forwarded to cell phones

How it works

The entire phone system is made out of Local Virtual Numbers which are forwarded to existing cell phone numbers.

PROs

  • Very low monthly charges – you can get a Virtual Number for as little as $2.00/month, plus the forwarding charges (2 to 5 cents a minute)
  • No maintenance costs
  • No additional hardware or wiring required
  • Fast an easy setup (all you need to do is provide the number where the calls should be directed to).

CONs

  • This setup does not allow you to make calls from your Virtual Numbers, which means that you will be using minutes from your cell phone plans, as well as calling back clients from a number they do not know as yours
  • No advanced features you can use, such as an IVR system
  • Usually a Virtual Phone Number comes with one phone line (channel) included, and a cell phone line cannot support more than one call (plus Call Waiting) at a time; if you wish to allow multiple calls coming in at the same time, this setup will not work for your business.

Recommendations

  • If you really want to go with a forwarding system, it is better to get a Hosted PBX and have its extensions forwarded to cell phones. This will provide you with a professional image (you can set up IVR greetings and options, Hunt Groups, etc.) , and will spare you the costs of forwarding, as you can use the minutes included in your Hosted PBX package. In addition, you can set up features like Direct Inward System Access (DISA) to allow your employees to call using the Hosted PBX plan from their cell phones using a PIN number.
  • Best phone system for a business bottom from AstraQom Botswana