It used to be that small business phone systems had to be handled through the regular telephone company, making startup costs high and additional lines prohibitively expensive. But Internet phone systems (known as VoIP, or voice over Internet protocol) have changed all that, and are one of the web-based solutions that can save small businesses the most money while providing them with a wealth of options. There are two basic options to choose from: cloud business phone systems and premises-based Internet phones. Here are the answers to the questions you’re probably asking about your choices.
What Is the Difference?
With a cloud business phone system, your VoIP system will connected to a host via your regular Internet connection. A premises-based solution, on the other hand, requires that you keep hardware onsite somewhere (such as a server room or closet). Other than that, the basic technology and how it’s used are the same.
Which One Costs Less?
If your main goal is to get started with a minimal investment, then a cheap cloud business phone system is likely your best bet. Hoisted VoIP services typically only carry a monthly cost, or have a very low setup fee. Onsite VoIP systems, on the other hand, require you to buy equipment that can be expensive. However, you probably won’t need to pay an additional monthly fee. This means that at some point (say above 15 employees, though it will depend on the provider and services you choose), it becomes more cost effective to buy your own equipment rather than choose a hosted solution. Keep in mind, though, that this will place an additional IT burden on your in-house team.
Which Provides More Options?
Some providers will offer more through their premises-based solutions than their hosted systems, but it’s difficult to make accurate generalizations on this topic because providers vary widely in quality. For this reason, it’s important to make a list of company priorities and then find a provider that can fulfill all those goals for an affordable price. Consider factors such as how many lines you’ll need, whether you want media-rich calling, if you use mobile forwarding, etc. You may also be able to find a hosting company who integrates Internet phone services with other cloud-based solutions that increase organizational efficiency.
What other questions do you have about VoIP phone systems? Ask or share your expertise in the comments.