Compare Business Phone Systems

Learn how our experts identify and compare the essential factors of business phone systems to find the best option for you. From value and features to support and integration, we research everything you need to know to make a decision.
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Key systems, private branch exchange (PBX), hosted PBX, Voice Over IP (VoIP), hosted VoIP…all the different kinds of business phone systems can be confusing and intimidating, but they don’t have to be.

A business telephone system is simply a multi-line telephone system that allows employees to communicate with each other and the outside world. These days there are two major methods of providing this service, on premises and hosted (cloud-based).

With on premises systems the hardware for switching and managing the calls and features are located and maintained at the business. These systems usually require a higher up front and maintenance costs because of this. With hosted business phone systems, the client usually does not incur any hardware or setup fees beyond the cost of the phones themselves. You just connect a given phone to the Internet and your provider maintains the system off-site.

These days, most business phone system providers have expanded their offerings to include integration with the everyday computer applications the employees are already using (Gmail, Outlook, Salesforce, etc.) and mobile apps as well as desktop and online clients to allow access, control and communication from virtually anywhere.

How we Compare Business Phone Systems

Value - 30%
Features - 30%
Reliability - 20%
Support - 10%
Integration - 10%

Value Compared

Cost. Contract. Equipment. Scalability.

Here we're not so much asking what it costs, as what you are getting for your money. Companies that locate the system hardware at the business site can cost big up front and in maintenance. You'll also probably need someone on staff with the know how to handle problems. These systems, however, can sometimes end up costing less in the long run. Hosted PBX and VoIP are generally a lot cheaper up front, the kind of system where you just plug the phone into the Internet and go. There's usually no installation fee and no other up front cost except the phones (which you can sometimes rent or finance from the provider themselves). 

Beyond this is the monthly service fees themselves. How does the company charge you? Do you have to sign a contract or is it a pay-as-you-go service? If you do need a contract how long is it and are you able to cancel? Does the provider charge you on use or flat rate? How many lines can you add and at what cost?

You need to examine the fine print because an included feature in one plan might be an add on item in another. Some features that often incur an extra charge are toll free numbers, additional fax lines, vanity numbers, unlimited calling outside the US and Canada, and mobile softphone.

We prefer companies that offer transparent and honest pricing up front and not a lot of asterisks. 

Business Phone Systems with the Best Value:  Nextiva ValueeVoice® Value
IntermediaRingCentralNextivaAvayaDigiumESIAT&TCiscoSamsungToshiba
Free Trial/Demo
Activation CostFreeFree$12-$29$20$50
Installation FeeFreeFreeFree$8-$15$20$49.99
Warranty1 Year1-3 YearsLifetime90 Days1 Year1 Year3 Years
Price$3.99-$99.99$24.99-$44.99$19.95-$29.95$20 - $375$100

Features Compared

This is the core of the business phone service. What cool features can you give me? Obviously all the major players include the standard system features of voicemail, caller ID call blocking, call forwarding and music on hold. Other in-demand features companies can provide include:

  • Softphone
  • ​Voicemail to email
  • Voicemail to text
  • Call reports
  • Auto attendant
  • All page/Intercom
  • Custom messages
  • Custom music on hold
  • Conference calling
  • Integrated SMS
  • eFax
  • Web Conferencing/Online Meeting
  • Call recording
  • HD Voice calls

Mobility

A lot of business phone providers now offer the ability to interface the system with computers and smart devices. You can have the ability to access and administer your phone system from a proprietary desktop client or online portal. This also integrates contacts and  corporate directories, allows access to voicemail online, and facilitates communication through instant messages, SMS, video conferencing, etc. 

Companies also offer mobile apps for smart devices that do varying degrees of the above, as well as allow the employee to appear as if he is using his office phone through the app.

Business Phone Systems with the Best Features:  RingCentral FeatureseVoice® FeaturesOnebox Features
IntermediaRingCentralNextivaAvayaDigiumESIAT&TCiscoSamsungToshiba
Business SMS
3-Way Calling
Conference Bridge
Do not Disturb
Call Park
Caller ID Blocking
Unlimited Calling
Unlimited Conferencing
Unlimited Internet Fax
Instant Messaging
Online Meeting
Call Log Report
Documents Sharing
Voicemail System
Call Waiting
Unified Communications
Toll-free minutes 200 minutes1000-10,000 minutes1,000 - 10, 000 minutes1,000 minutes
Number of Users (Maximum) 10002000150 10004- 50 1,000 512 1,000
Desk Phones
Cordless Phones
Receptionist Phone
Conference Phone
IP Phone
Softphone

Reliability Compared

We measure reliability in uptime percentages, this effectively tells you the time a web hosted phone system is up and operational. Most companies worth their salt will advertise an uptime of 99, decimal point, followed by a series of 9s. This translates into how long your phone system could go completely offline in a given month (30 days). A 99% uptime equals 7 hours and 12 minutes downtime per month. 99.999% is 26 seconds downtime per month.

Many business phone system providers offer a service level agreement (SLA). Not so much an actual guarantee, as it would be impossible for any provider to foresee what can go wrong and offer a rock solid guarantee that (in the case of 99.999%) their service will go down no longer than 26 seconds every month. It’s more a guarantee that you will be eligible for compensation if these criteria aren’t met.

Business Phone Systems with the Best Reliability:  Intermedia ReliabilityToshiba Reliability

Support Compared

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:

  • 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 Systems with the Best Support:  Intermedia SupportRingCentral Support

Integration Compared

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.

Business Phone Systems with the Best Integration:  Nextiva IntegrationOnebox IntegrationAvaya Integration
IntermediaRingCentralNextivaAvayaDigiumESIAT&TCiscoSamsungToshiba
eAgent Integration
ACT! Integration
Outlook and Skype for Business
Net Suite
SugarCRM
Desk.com

Full Business Phone Systems Comparison

ValueFeaturesReliabilitySupportIntegration
eVoice®10.010.09.09.08.0
Onebox®8.010.09.09.010.0
Intermedia Business Phone System8.09.010.010.09.5
RingCentral Business Phone System8.010.08.510.09.5
Nextiva Business Phone System10.08.08.58.510.0
Avaya Business Phone System7.010.08.08.010.0
Digium Business Phone System7.09.09.08.09.5
ESI Business Phone System7.09.08.09.09.0
AT&T Business Phone System7.08.09.09.08.0
Cisco Business Phone System7.08.09.09.08.0
Samsung Business Phone System7.08.09.08.08.0
Toshiba Business Phone System7.010.010.08.00.0
Sideline Business Phone System0.00.00.00.00.0
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