Best Business Phone System Providers of 2018 [Buyer's Guide]
Key phone systems, hosted PBX, VoIP. We compare and review the Best Business Phone Systems services available today.
Business phone systems are multi-line telephone services that allow business employees to communicate both internally and externally. Typically, these systems are meant for businesses that handle a large volume of calls, and thus may require integration between multiple types of devices to assist in managing the load.
Business phone systems are for any size business that wants the functionality and features of a centralized and integrated phone system as opposed to dealing with individual lines provided by the phone company, which could be costly.
When selecting a business phone system, take care to consider the specific array of features that can be tailored to a given business’s needs. These can include maximum user numbers, custom hold music, conference calling, smart phone integration, and voicemail-to-email to name a few. If choosing VoIP, take into consideration if you want to host the system on-premises or have it hosted by the service provider.
When purchasing a business phone system, first verify a given company’s time in business to ensure it is historically reliable. If reported up-time is less than 99.9%, then another company should be considered. Furthermore, in the case of an outage, make certain that the systems are in place to handle such an event. 24-hour phone support, for instance, is a must. By addressing these questions first, there’s less likely to be disappointment later.
Top 6 Companies
- Our #1 Choice - Top Rated Business Phone Systems
- Starts as low as $19.99
- Unlimited Calls/Fax/SMS/Conferencing
- Includes 100+ Premium Features
- Advanced Technology
- No Set-up or Activation Fees
- Risk Free - 30-Day Money Back Guarantee
- Ooma Office is just $19.95 per user, per month
- 30 Day Risk-Free Return Policy
- 24/7 dedicated customer support
- Free long distance in the U.S. and Canada
- Excellent call quality and easy installation
- PC Mag VoIP Business Choice winner 5 years in a row
- Multitude of Office Features, including virtual receptionist, extension dialing, conference bridge, music when on hold
- Free Toll-Free Number with 500 toll-free minutes
- Recommended by Costco as best Busines Phone System
- Intermedia has served more than 1.5 million happy customers
- Last year, the company won PC Magazine Editor’s Choice
- Rich, enterprise-grade calling features
- Easy to manage and scale
- 24/7 support and a 99.999% uptime SLA
- Prices start at $19.97/user/month for teams
- 24/7 USA Based Customer Support
- No Setup Fees, No Contracts, No Cancellation Fees
- HD quality by leveraging Tier 1 carrier networks
- Features: Over 60+ Premium Call Freatures included. Some of the most popular ones are: Auto-Attendant (IVR), Ring-Groups, Follow Me, Texting & Voicemail to Email, Message/Music on Hold and Online Faxing
- Free 30-Day Trial
- Free Demo
- Live Chat Assistance
- No Downtime
- Cloud-based Unified Communication
- NextOS Online Portal
How We Compare Business Phone Systems
This is the core of the business phone service. Major players feature a huge variety of phone, web-based, mobile, and cloud applications and integrations. We initially look at the options for phone set up. This incudes whether or not the company allow you to set up toll-free numbers for your customers to call, if they allow for vanity numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS, and if they allow you to set up international numbers that are forwarded domestically enabling those outside the country to call without incurring international rates. We'll also consider the myriad calling features a company offers. This includes variations of phone, video, SMS, mobile, and fax options. Administrative controls refers to the system's ability to record call logs and conversations. Finally, we'll also look at whether the provider offers live receptionists as a service.
Some in-demand calling features include:
- Voicemail to Text: Transcribes voicemail messages to text so that they can be read more quickly than listening to an entire message
- Voicemail to Email: Transcribes voicemail messages and then forwards to an email address
- Web Conferencing: Easily share screens to give presentations and demos
- Video Conferencing: Communicate through video
- Conference Calls: Communicate with 3 or more individuals
- Mobile Softphone: Typically in the form of a smartphone app, allows smartphones to leverage the business phone network to receive & place calls
- Online Faxing: Enables sending/receiving faxes online
- Business SMS/MMS: Enables companies to send/receive text messages
- Computer Telephony Integration: Common functions of a CTI include the ability to use a computer for phone control (placing, answering, terminating or transferring calls); to show call information (from caller ID, data entered during the routing process and tracked information like call time); to control the active state (ready, busy, away etc.) and, at the server level, to route calls appropriately
- Auto Attendant: Allows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without the intervention of an operator
- Interactive Voice Response: Allows customers to interact with a company’s host system via a telephone keypad or by speech recognition to complete certain tasks
- Call Logs: records the calls an individual or phone line receives/makes
- Call Recording: records the actual conversation of each call
Some companies will offer live receptionists as a service. When someone calls, they will be directed to the live receptionist before being connected to someone inside the company.
In a shrinking world, business is increasingly being conducting on a 24-hour clock. If you are experiencing technical issues you need to know you can count on your service provider at all times. Some of the things we look at in this area are:
- Free trial
- Live phone support hours
- Live chat hours
- US-based support
- Access to higher level support if issue is not being resolved
- Email support
- Online Support Center
Business phone system providers should be able to offer products integrate with existing business software. Search for a company that offers a wide range of business-software integration options to create a more seamless transition to your new business phone system. Integration of existing business software translates to improved productivity and communication. Some companies offer platforms that can draw all of your contacts from Gmail, Outlook, Office and Skype all together in a master list, or integrate with CRM applications like Salesforce and Zendesk.
Systems refer to the global characteristics relevant to a given company's business phone package. This typically includes the type of connection: Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) uses hardware and software to enable the businesses' employees to talk with each other and the outside world using the internet as the transition medium, Analog uses traditional landlines and is far less prevalent these days. It also includes how the VoIP Public Branch Exchange (PBX) is hosted. Some VoIP services are hosted with the switching equipment on premises in a configuration known as SIP Trunking. This is a process that leverages a company’s existing on-premise PBX but then connects to internet lines rather than traditional landlines. The other, far more popular method of VoIP hosting is cloud-based. Finally, sometimes providers offer a Uptime Percentage Guarantee. Expressed as a percentage, this is often a company guarantees that you can expect the system to be functioning and not out due to internet failure. The industry standard is 99.99%.
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is a category of hardware and software that enables people to use the Internet as the transmission medium for telephone calls. Analog refers to a traditional landline.
Cloud is a great option for businesses that are looking for a quick/easy setup. On-premise requires installation and maintenance although it can allow for further customization and potential long-term savings for larger organizations.
Most business phone system providers offer varying levels of service plans. On the low end you have the basic phone system functions. As you get to the higher priced, enterprise-level offerings, we are increasingly seeing fully integrated, cloud-based packages that offer unlimited storage, security and encryption, and the ability to sync with countless programs and apps. We've surveyed each company's full list of products and rated them according to the following information:
- Price per month
- Pricing structure
- Additional minutes
- Fine print
What's important to know about Business Phone Systems?
What is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (also called Voice over IP, VoIP and IP telephony), is a group of technologies that deliver voice communications and multimedia over your internet connection. Essentially, it uses your high-speed internet connection for your phone service instead of a landline.
What is a PBX?
A Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is a company’s multi-line telephone system for internal and external calls. Traditionally, this would be done either via a system lock-in or a vendor lock-in, but has moved towards delivering phone calls through Internet Protocol. This cancels out the need for constraining the amount of outside telephone lines and internal devices or extensions, resulting in a virtually limitless system.
What is SIP Trunking?
An SIP trunk is a direct connection between a company and an internet telephony service provider. This configuration is easier to maintain and provides services, notably long-distance, at substantial savings over traditional telephony. SIP trunks can also carry instant messages, multimedia conferences, user presence information, Enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) emergency calls, and other real-time communications services.
What is CTI?
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is a common name for a technology that permits computer systems to interact with telephones and other forms of communication, such as email, text messaging, web messaging, live chat, and fax. With CTI, actual telephones are unnecessary, as users make and receive calls directly from their computers.