ChooseWhat Newsletter

How To: Set Up a Business Phone System

ChooseWhat Newsletter

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VoIP for BusinessA quality business phone system will make your business' internal and external communications much more efficient and professional.

A business phone system is made up of multiple interconnected telephones with professional features, such as call forwarding, call holding, call transfer, and much more. A business phone system could be as simple as two cell phones or as complex as 500 interconnected phones across offices in many different locations.

Advantages of a Business Phone System:

  • Allows your company to promote one main phone number, under which multiple phone lines can be linked. A caller will be able to contact one number and be routed to the appropriate person, no matter where the employee may be.

  • Provides a professional communications image coupled with sophisticated call routing features, which will make external and internal communication much more efficient.

  • Can be set up in a matter of minutes for as little as $10 a month. Despite what you may think, a business phone system can be inexpensive and easy to set up. 

Before you set up your business phone system, you should:

  • Estimate your minute usage.

    The prices of many business phone systems are tiered by monthly minute usage. Evaluating your usage before you buy will empower you to select the right service for your needs.

  • Decide how many lines or extensions you will need.

    The price of many business phone systems is also determined by the number of lines or extensions you require. Phone lines provide actual connectivity service to individual devices, while extensions operate as central routing numbers that point a call down particular lines to a specific individual or location. You may already have enough phone lines from existing home, mobile, or office phones, or you may require both a line and extension solution.

  • Get Internet service.

    To use a Business VoIP system or virtual PBX, either of which we recommend, you'll need a reliable Internet connection. With a virtual PBX, you manage your call-routing settings and messages in an online interface. With a Business VoIP system, your phone line relies on your Internet connection to make calls.

Which Business Phone System is right for you?

The type of business phone system you choose depends on whether or not you have existing hardware. These are our recommended options based on your business:

  1. You do not have existing phones / lines and need a system that includes hardware, extensions, call routing, and a business phone number.

    >>  Business VoIP: A complete business phone system that comes ready to use out of the box ready with minimal set up required.

  2. You have existing phones / lines and want to unify them under one central number.

    >>  Virtual PBX: A service that includes a central business phone number, call routing, and an online interface to manage calls.

Note: While you could sign up for a traditional phone service from providers like AT&T or Verizon, we don't recommend that option for the business owner just starting out. Those services tend to incur costly equipment and setup fees and are typically not worth the time and money involved. The options below will give you a reliable business phone system at a much better value.

Business VoIP

Phone system for officeA Business VoIP service uses VoIP phone lines (the same technology as Vonage) and also gives you desktop telephones to use with these lines that plug directly into the Internet. They also include a virtual PBX service that provides you with call forwarding and call management features. Because Business VoIP services rely on an Internet connection, they allow you to bypass traditional geographic constraints associated with providers like AT&T or Verizon.

Business VoIP services charge per user per month (usually around $25 to $40), plus the cost of the phones (around $99 each). With most Business VoIP services, the price decreases per user as you add more users. Your VoIP phones come preconfigured so that you can just plug them into the Internet and use them immediately.

 Main Advantages of Business VoIP:

  • No additional hardware, like a phone box, is required
  • Cheaper to set up than a traditional landline phone service from AT&T or Verizon
  • Preconfigured phones are mailed directly to you
  • Setup only requires plugging phones directly into an Internet connection
  • Easy to add users / lines

The only disadvantage with a Business VoIP system is that you may be subject to service outages since VoIP relies on the Internet to function properly. However, these outages are few and far between.

To select a Business VoIP service, first determine how many phones and lines you need to purchase. Then identify the bandwidth of your Internet connection. Most cable modem service providers offer a minimum of 1000 kbps, or roughly 10 times the bandwidth required to place a single VoIP call. Using that information, click our link below and select a service.

Compare the top Business VoIP services and sign up for a free trial.

Virtual PBX

get pbx systemsVirtual PBX services allow businesses to receive calls on one main number and route calls to multiple phone lines without the purchase of any additional hardware. They do not provide actual phone connectivity service, but rather route calls to one another from pre-existing lines. The system also may include features like corporate voicemail, smartphone apps, caller ID, conference calling, and call transferring.

A virtual PBX service is basically Google Voice for business. The service provider gives you a number that, when called, rings an auto attendant. You determine what the auto attendant tells the caller (e.g. "Press one for Bill, two for Bob, or three for Sales") and it then forwards the caller to any designated number. Virtual PBX services start at $10 to $15 for 300 minutes per month.

Main Advantages of Virtual PBX:

  • No expensive hardware required
  • Central number makes it easy to receive and route calls
  • Set up easily in about 30 minutes
  • Easy to manage call settings with web interface
  • Extensive FAQs and tutorials available

The one disadvantage of using a virtual PBX is the difficulty of adding more lines for new employees without existing phones. In order to add additional phone lines for more users, you must use a phone service other than the virtual PBX service (such as a traditional phone service like AT&T or a Business VoIP service). Conversely, a Business VoIP service makes it extremely easy to add additional lines to your plan, and it is the better choice if you anticipate your business growing quickly.

The monthly costs of a virtual PBX are roughly:

  • $10-$15 for 300 minutes per month,
  • $20-$40 for 1000 minutes per month,
  • $75-$100 for 2500 minutes per month.

To sign up for a virtual PBX service, first gauge how many extensions and minutes you will need. You should already have a business phone number to port into your new system. If not, set up a phone number. Once you have all those elements, sign up for a free trial and test the system.

Compare top virtual PBX services and sign up for a free trial.

Friendly Tips

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  • Sign up for multiple free trials of virtual PBX services. Many virtual PBX providers offer free trials that take mere minutes to set up. Take advantage of these offers by creating accounts with multiple vendors to discover which interface and service you like the best. After you’ve decided on an option, simply delete the accounts you no longer need.
  • Start with the most basic plan. If you are unsure about the number of phone minutes you need per month, start with a basic plan and upgrade to higher level plans as necessary. Almost all providers can seamlessly transition your account from plan to plan.