The best three small business phone systems
|Virtual Phone System|
|Free Trial||But It offers a 30-Day, Money back|
|24/7 Customer support|
|Ease of use||Very Easy||Very Easy||Easy|
|Best For||Small to Medium Business - Internet Business - Home based Business||Small to Medium Business - Internet Business - Home based Business||Small to Medium Business - Internet Business - Home based Business|
|Read Complete Review||RingCentral Review||Grasshopper Phone Review||eVoice Review|
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#Small_Business Phone Systems – What You Need to Know before buying a Virtual Phone Number?
In any business, time is money. Any time lost through poor communication systems is a loss of money. Whether it’s dropped calls, expensive hardware or a lack of mobile accessibility that is causing you bother, you could be damaging the relationship between you and your customers. If it’s seamless communication you need, a virtual phone system could be for you.
What is a Virtual Phone Number?
When you hear the term for the first time, it would seem like it’s a pretty high tech way of getting a phone service. The concept behind this technology is actually pretty easy to understand. Simply put, it is nothing more than a phone number that can be used to forward incoming calls to another phone number – like the one you already have.
You can think of it in these terms. Instead of signing up for a new account in a phone company with a new handset and a bunch of other hardware, you will still be using your existing phone – landline or cellphone, it doesn’t matter. Any calls made will just be forwarded to it.
This is ideal for a startup business simply because you don’t incur any additional expense when you set it up or when you cancel the service. It is a lot cheaper and ultimately more practical for any new business that’s trying to make a market presence.
This one of a kind phone service is hosted by a service company that receives all your calls and routes them to your phone. You will be provided with a toll free number that will definitely look legit and professional – not some fly by night number.
You will have to record the messages that you’ll submit to the service company. These recordings will be used for the phone tree that callers will hear when they dial your designated number. Of course, you will have to specify the menu options that the callers will have to press.
What are Its Uses?
There are several uses for these phone numbers. The most common ones are the following:
- You can give remote office workers a phone number of their own.
- Cat You can get a local phone number, something that local customers can easily identify.
- dog You can save on long distance call charges, which usually makes your monthly phone bill skyrocket.
Let’s say you outsourced part of your operations to an expert in the field who lives in another state. Some customers or business associates may want to ask questions that only that employee can answer. You can subscribe to this new system and assign a number to that remote employee, and people will never know they were calling someone who does his work from miles away.
Callers won’t be charged long distance charges. If they get charged for calling your number, then they will easily know that they called a number that was outside their coverage area. That is not a favorable point for your business in the eyes of customers.
You can also use a virtual phone number to create the impression of a local presence of your business. Let’s say that your target market is somewhere in New York City. What you need is a local 212 number. You can get that number and make it look like you have an office in the Big Apple.
Eventually, when your business has grown, you can put up an office right there. Well, that way you can test the viability of your market in a certain location without having to incur the costs of setting up shop in the local area.
Do I Use a VPBX or the Good Old VoIP Box?
Note that you can still use your VoIP Box with virtual phone systems. Everyone knows that a VoIP system is a good alternative to a hard wired or even a wireless phone system. You can make calls using the internet using a VoIP box instead of routing calls via the public switched telephone network.
VOIP is definitely the cheaper option, and a lot of startup business owners take advantage of this phone technology. Just remember that you can use a virtual phone number to route calls made either through VoIP or through the standard PSTN that has been in use since the telephone was invented.
Who Will Benefit from small business phone service?
Small business owners are not the only ones who can benefit from using virtual phone systems. Students, business owners, home users who want to keep their numbers private, sales agents and other professionals who are usually on the go, and other advanced users can take advantage of this new technology.
The main two categories that will benefit from virtual phone system are:
- The Basic User:
Basic users of this type of phone system are those who usually need to forward their calls as well as their voicemails. They can get a virtual phone number so they can keep a separate number for personal use (their original phone number) and another number (the virtual one) for their professional practice. Doctors, technicians, engineers, lawyers, journalists and others will benefit from this basic service. They have the following basic features:
Cheaper Plan Prices: Basic users benefit from cheaper plan prices. Since all they ever needed was a number that can forward calls and voicemail, they don’t need to pay extra for any features that they don’t really need. They get less clutter on their phone service account, thus they don’t really have to spend as much.
With a virtual number, it is easier to keep an eye on the minutes that are allocated to you in your phone plan. You can figure out just how many minutes you need each month for your professional calls. Your phone usage can be recorded either on a daily or a weekly basis. Note that virtual phone account plans usually have plenty of minutes included in them – but you should still watch out for overages since they do happen at times.
Easy Account Management:
- Mobile Users:
People who are on the go will benefit from virtual phone systems. These professionals can still use their smartphones, or their soft phones – if they prefer those, and save a good deal of money. You can check your next month’s phone bill and see how much you saved using this new phone system.
Here are some of the ways mobile users can benefit from using this type of service:
1. These users can save a lot of minutes on their cell phones. There will be plenty of times when you don’t need to use your regular cell phone minutes when you make calls throughout the day. Calls to and from customers or clients won’t be charged against your regular cell phone minutes but they will be charged on your virtual minutes via the virtual phone. Note that these virtual minutes are much cheaper compared to the costs incurred when using the minutes on your cellphone.
2. You can also save minutes and costs when you make international calls. Professionals who tend to travel a few times out of the country know how expensive international coverage rates are. It is the long distance charges that usually show up at the end of the month that haunt you. With the virtual minutes in your account, you can save on long distance charges. All you need is a shared data network or a WiFi hot spot, which is provided free in coffees shops and elsewhere, and you can route the call via your virtual number.
Features of a Virtual Phone System – A Closer Inspection
You have now learned a good deal about virtual phone systems and some of the benefits that you can get out of them. In this section of the discussion, we’ll go over the details of each feature.
- Feature #1 – Multiple Service Levels:
Just like traditional phone services, virtual phone service providers also offer different service levels. You can start with the most basic service and sign up for that without any questions. As you go along and whenever your needs grow, you can sign up for the next tier of service. You can even work your way up the service tiers depending on your needs.
- Feature #2 – Single Year Contracts:
This feature is an advantage of virtual phone service companies over traditional phone service providers. You know the drill – your cellphone or landline service provider will usually sign you up for a service contract that will require your patronage for years on end.
Some contract terms extend for two years while others sign you up for the service for three, sometimes even more depending on the features you sign up for. If you cancel the contract prematurely, then you have to pay a termination fee.
You don’t have to do that with a virtual phone service company. You can get a virtual number and sign up for service for only one year.
- Feature #3 – Call Forwarding:
No need to discuss this at length since it was already mentioned earlier. However, remember that you will also get an 800 number when you sign up.
- Feature #4 – Caller Menus:
This was also mentioned earlier. Customers can create their own custom greetings and caller menu options, which can provide a professional impression for your leads and current customers. Just remember to keep the advanced phone tree feature simple since some customers get frustrated if there is a complex menu system that they have to navigate just to talk to you. Besides, all calls are routed to the same number anyway.
- Feature #5 – Call Scheduling:
There are several ways to how this feature works. The first method is that a call will be routed to a series of phone numbers until someone picks up and answers the call. You get to assign which numbers get called first.
The other call scheduling method goes this way – you get to schedule which phone will answer the calls depending on the time of the day. This works well if you have employees who work different shifts. You can schedule calls to be answered by the employee working in each shift. You can even record a message telling the caller that no employees are on board to answer the call, and you can also provide your business or working hours.
Just like any phone service, virtual phone systems also have a lot of other extra features. These features include the following:
1. Mobile app
4. Professional sound on hold.
4. A name directory
5. Conference calls
6. Call screening
7. Professional greetings
9. Unlimited extensions
10. Local numbers
11. Toll free numbers
Note that the extras will vary with each service provider. These services are scalable depending on your needs. That means you don’t need to sign up for every feature. You can set up a communications infrastructure that definitely looks and functions professionally at a fraction of the cost.
Factors to Consider
When choosing a virtual phone service provider, you should first consider several important factors. Note that each company tends to have certain specializations, which you should definitely look into. Here are some key factors that you should bear in mind when making your choice.
- 1. The Type of Business You are Operating: You should not only consider the type of business, but you should also consider the size of your business. Virtual phone systems have packages that work best with small business and there are higher plans that work best with larger scale operations.
- 2. Consider Package Simplicity: Some plan packages are too complex for some people. If you don’t mind working with complex technicalities, then go for it. But people usually prefer simpler interfaces when installing a new phone system.
- 3. The Number of Extensions You Need: Some businesses need different extensions. This feature will be more helpful to multifaceted businesses and those that have more employees.
- 4. Customer Service: The level of customer service from a phone company can make or break any deal. Find out how easy it is to reach their customer service representatives. Do you have to wait long in a queue just to talk to a rep?
- 5. Price: Of course, getting a virtual number is definitely cheaper. But you can still drive the cost down by carefully selecting the provider. Some offer discounts and other perks that you can take advantage of.
- 6. Automated Call Distribution: The big downside to having a complex call tree is that some of your customers can get tossed around from one employee to the next. You can lose customers that way. Virtual phone systems usually have a good ACD system so that every call gets routed and answered with very few, if any, calls getting bounced around from one department to another.
- 7. Emergency Rerouting: Let’s say the phone service goes down in one area where you have employees working for you. Everyone there just lost their ability to receive and answer calls. With one call to the service company, you can set up virtual phone systems for another group of employees who can take over for the mean time.
These are some of the factors that you should consider when choosing a virtual phone system provider.
These are some of the factors that you should consider when choosing a virtual phone system provider.
Pros and Cons of Small Business Phone Systems
Not convinced? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of business telephone systems:
Here are some advantages of using phone systems for businesses:
1- Limited Hardware Requirements
are compatible with the likes of office desk phones, smartphones (including BYOD smartphones), fax machines and generally any other landline or cellular device.
Virtually no special hardware is needed for cloud-based phone systems, which is a win-win situation. Firstly, you don’t have to dish out any money for expensive hardware, which, in turn, means a small business phone system is quite cost efficient to set up. Now that itself is music to the ears of all business owners.
As if that wasn’t enough, thanks to little use of bespoke hardware, the cloud-based systems have an increased turn-up speed. From a customer’s point of view, this is very beneficial as when you receive the hardware, it is installed and ready to go. You won’t have to wait on IT staff or PBX employees to configure anything. However, as you would expect, there is a short adjustment period when using this new software system. This is no different for any top of the range software, no matter how simple or complex it is, you must get become accustomed to it first.
2- Subscription Model
The majority of cloud-based PBXs on the market offer a monthly subscription package. Customers can avail themselves of a range of practical features through each plan, such as call queues and parking, shared lines, intercom features and the ability to forward calls. But that’s not all, these packages can also include online collaboration, a meeting feature, internet faxing and many more beneficial features that can support you and your small business phone system.
Speaking of support, you will also have a technical team by your side. Another benefit is that infrastructure-related work such as system maintenance is included in the package. This is a feature that PBX users would generally have to pay additional for.
You may not need all these features, so choose the right plan and just pay for what you need. Usually, customers will have to pay a set monthly rate per user of anywhere between $25 to $45. Now, this will depend greatly on the package and provider you select. The great things is, there are no hidden costs. The package clearly identifies everything you will pay for, and the bill is straightforward and simple to understand.
3- Full Mobile Compatibility
What makes virtual PBX systems perfect for an active business setting, is their mobile compatibility. In this day and age, a significant number of employees will use their personal mobile devices for company use, in such an engaged environment.
The effortlessness and accessibility of establishing virtual PBX systems is what separates the good from the brilliant. The virtual PBX systems at the top of the market have a huge focus on the employees. They provide mobile apps that give access to all (or most of) the PBX’s features, which is perfect for on the go employees. On top of that, a number of systems include private text messaging services for the business, using a virtual phone number. Paging is also possible with PBX systems.
4- Remote, Redundant Housing and Systems
Any virtual phone system will generally have a lot of hardware, which may be prone to attack. These attacks can be natural or by human entry, but ultimately, hardware may have limited security, which leaves them vulnerable. Take an on-premise PBX system for example. A natural cause such as a fire or flood, a hardware problem such as a power failure or perhaps even a thief stealing your hardware. All of these could potentially wipe out your operation in one incident. Regardless of the lasting damage done, such incidents can stall business and induce serious problems.
Virtual PBXs solve many of the physical security problems that on-premise PBXs pose. This is because they have been designed with physical security in mind, from fireproof housing, redundant power systems, to 24/7 visual monitoring system and biometric entry control. Major cloud-based PBX provides generally have more than one data center, which constantly back one another up. On the odd occasion that one goes out of operation, you can be assured that your service will continue to flow – uninterrupted.
5- Enterprise-Grade Data Security
Another significant aspect for any business is data security. In essence, on-premise systems depend on the technical support team behind them. If businesses don’t have professional IT staff at hand, their cyber dense system will most likely be compromised. Cloud phone systems, on the other hand, deal with the data security themselves, they utilize top-of-the-range encryption to put up a wall between sensitive company data and hackers.
6- Easy, Nontechnical Administration
Cloud phone systems don’t require complex hardware or software to support them, which makes them much simpler to administer in comparison to on-premise systems. Without this complicated on-site software, troubleshooting, updates and any other changes are all taken care of by virtual PBX provider staff. So much so, the leading cloud based phone systems claim that any ordinary employee, like an office manager, is easily capable of managing and maintaining virtual PBXs, it’s that simple.
For a small business phone system with minimal IT support staff, this simple administration process removes any need for hiring expensive, so called, professionals to manage their virtual PBX. As for all businesses, big or small, virtual PBX will locate valuable IT resources, which are more useful elsewhere, and make them available to you.
7- Instantaneous, Worldwide Reach
Whether you have company employees or client contractors next door or on the other side of the world, you can depend on cloud based phone systems to communicate with them. These systems integrate smoothly with mobile networks and provide instant access to communicate, which is a massive bonus. You can have a small number of employees located all around the world, and give the impression that you are a large firm with global representatives. Clients, current and future, or whoever may call your main office line, will never know they are communicating with someone that is halfway around the world. That is the beauty of a virtual phone number.
8- Easy to Switch Office Locations
As you can imagine, moving from A to B with a virtual PBX system is fairly straightforward. Whether you wish to expand, downgrade or move into offices, you will have no interruption in services as you do so. Since there is no any specific hardware, and virtual PBX systems are completely mobile compatible, changeover is simple.
On the other hand, with on-premise PBX, change can inevitably cause interruption and downtime. Depending on how lengthy and when this downtime occurs, there can be a number of impacts on such business.
Here are some disadvantages of using phone systems for businesses:
1- Potential for Higher Ongoing Costs After Initial Turn-up
The main disadvantage of virtual PBX systems is the ongoing subscription costs after the initial setup. This all depends on the size, usage, equipment and other aspects, but ultimately, businesses can pay more to maintain virtual PBX systems as opposed to an in-house PBX.
With that being said, this is probably only the case for companies that aren’t planning to move their offices any time soon, since the price of installing on-premise PBX systems in new offices can be quite significant. Any business that believes their communications will expand with time should seriously consider whether or not to go with on-premise PBX systems, since any additional hardware can be very pricey.
2- May Depend on Internet Signal Strength
A number of cloud based phone systems utilize local and wireless internet connections; hence the quality of calls is very dependent on the connection quality.
With a poor standard of connection, it can be very hard to conduct a voice conversation, never mind a video call. Sending large amounts of data through internet fax can also be challenging. If the connection drops completely, any phone stations not connected to cellular networks will temporarily be unavailable. This, especially, is a major concern for companies that mostly communicate outside of mobile phones.
3- Usage Charges Can Surprise
While a number of cloud based phone systems will provide unlimited subscription plans that include unlimited texts calls and data every month, a lot of systems will charge a flat rate. These flat rates can vary. You may receive 100 or 1,000 minutes from a particular provider. However, if you exceed these set rates, you will be billed for every minute you go over this set rate. It is often best to go for unlimited to avoid a bill scare at the end of the month. Even if you are on a budget, opting for this limited call plan and going over your set rate can land you with a shocking bill to pay.
These extra charges can cause a whole host of problems for worldwide businesses, with clients all over the world. Such as a U.S.-based account, and support team that has manufacturing based in cheap labor markets. Any prospering business owner will need to at least plan out their budget and expected usage rate to decide which subscription plan will be the best fit.
4- Potential for Vendor Lock-in Period
A number of cloud based phone system providers require lock-in products for new customers, which are like cell phone contracts, whereas, other vendors provide discounts for long term bulk payments. For example, a 20% discount for subscriptions that are paid a year in advance. In either case, there is an obligation or a bonus to stick with said vendor, which actually increases the customer’s risk of staying with the same low standard service for years on end.
With that being said, it’s much simpler to switch cloud based phone system providers after completing a lock-in period or said subscription, compared to switching to an on-premise vendor. As moving to an on premise provider would costs thousands of dollars for equipment. Staff would also have to be retrained for the new communications system and there would be a waiting period for hardware to arrive.
How to Make the Switch to a Cloud Based Phone System
Moving to a cloud based phone system is not a grueling task. In fact, if you have previous experience with installing an on-premise PBX, prepare to be amazed at how great a well maintained virtual PBX performs.
With that being said, the market is full of virtual PBXs which vary massively in performance, and quality in general. It’s vital that you take time to do you research on as many providers as possible, so you can make an informed decision on which would be best for your company. After all, your business can’t run on any old system, it needs to be adaptable and seamless in communication.
I’ve put together a number of questions and considerations for you to eliminate any potential choices you have. At the end, you should have only the best providers for you, remaining. Feel free to apply any more specific factors yourself:
Number of users:How many employees do you anticipate to be using your system? Do you expect this number to grow with time? If this is the case, look for cloud phone system that offer discounts for larger user bases.
Toll-free number:Does your company provide a free to call number, whether it is the U.S or international? How many do you have? How often is it used? If your business needs a number of call free lines, you should consider providers that offer a number of free to call lines with a substantial allowance. Along with cheap rates for any time spent over the limit of the threshold, if it isn’t already unlimited.
- Call Management: How significant are your call management needs? For example, how many call groups do you have? Are there departments or any such classifications? Do you need simple access to call logs? Do you need to park or screen calls? Are shared lines, paging or intercom capabilities a necessity? Make sure to play close attention to each provider’s call management complexity, and ensure it fits your needs.
- Meeting and Collaboration Requirements: In today’s business world, remote collaboration is a must. Check out virtual PBX providers that provide full collaborative suites, either in unlimited or significant packages. They need to include business SMS, internet faxing, video conferencing, mobile accessibility, screen sharing for presentations and so on.
- Hardware Needs: If any problems arise with your hardware, will they be fixed? Do you need to rent phones? This can be a viable option for short periods of time, and save money on buying an actual phone. Business’ with flexible desktop and phone requirements should consider phone rental agreements that a number of virtual PBX providers offer.
- Software Accessibility: Will your company be using other cloud-based software systems like Box, Dropbox, Salesforce or the like? Search for any cone cloud phone system that will integrate with these services to improve specific cloud PBX features, whether it be collaborative tools or internet fax.
#Small_Business Phone System – What You Need to Know before buying a Virtual Phone Number?