The 11 best phone systems for small business

Choosing the right phone system is crucial for small businesses in the UK, impacting productivity and customer relations. This guide delves into 11 leading small business phone systems, examining their features in detail, alongside hardware requirements, pricing, and customer feedback. Read on for our expert insight into choosing the right phone system for your SME – no matter your specific needs, there will be a suitable solution in this list.

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1. BT Cloud Voice

BT Cloud Voice is a flexible VoIP solution that supports remote work by enabling calls from any internet-connected device. Key features include voicemail, direct dial numbers, call forwarding, hunt groups, and the ability to manage calls through a desktop or mobile app. Additional functionalities include conferencing capabilities and integration with existing IT infrastructure for streamlined operations.

Hardware: Requires IP phones compatible with SIP protocols and a reliable internet connection. BT provides options for leasing or purchasing hardware directly.

Cost: Pricing is tailored based on business needs and scale.

Customer Reviews: Users value its reliable service and responsive customer support, though some find the initial setup complex.

Why we loved it: BT Cloud Voice stands out for its robust integration capabilities with existing IT infrastructures, making it a seamless fit for businesses looking to merge their communications into their current systems. The quality of customer service is consistently praised, highlighting BT’s commitment to supporting its clients.

Considerations before you buy: The setup process can be complex, and businesses might need to invest time and potentially additional support during the initial configuration. It’s also tailored pricing, so businesses should be clear about their requirements to get an accurate quote.

2. RingCentral Office

This all-encompassing system offers voice communications, fax, text messaging, video meetings, and conferencing. It supports integration with major business apps like Salesforce, Microsoft 365, and Google Workspace, enhancing productivity. RingCentral also provides advanced call handling options, including multi-level IVR, call screening, and analytics for monitoring call quality and volume.

Hardware: Compatible with a wide range of SIP-enabled desk and conference phones. Mobile and desktop apps are also available for users preferring softphones.

Cost: Starts at approximately £7.99 per user per month for the basic plan.

Customer Reviews: Many commend its comprehensive features and easy integration, although costs can escalate as more features are added.

Why we loved it: The all-in-one nature of RingCentral Office offers comprehensive communication tools that integrate easily with major software platforms. Its flexibility and scalability make it ideal for businesses expecting to grow or adapt quickly to changing needs.

Considerations before you buy: Pricing can increase significantly with the addition of features and users. Small businesses should evaluate what they need to avoid paying for unnecessary functionalities.

3. 8×8 X Series

Offers unified communications with voice, chat, and video conferencing solutions. Advanced features include auto-attendant, call analytics, and customizable user extensions. The system supports international calling and number porting, which are advantageous for businesses with global clients.

Hardware: Works with standard SIP-compatible phones and provides a robust app for desktop and mobile use.

Cost: Plans start at around £10 per user per month.

Customer Reviews: Appreciated for functionality and support, albeit some mention occasional service disruptions.

Why we loved it: The 8×8 X Series excels in providing a unified platform for voice, chat, and video that supports a global client base with its international calling features. The call analytics feature is a boon for businesses looking to gain deeper insights into their communication patterns.

Considerations before you buy: Some users have reported occasional service disruptions. It’s vital to consider the potential impact of such interruptions on your operations before committing.

4. Vonage Business

Vonage’s system is designed for ease of use and comes packed with features such as plug-and-play functionality, enhanced call forwarding, and dynamic caller ID. It also supports a wide range of CRM integrations, which facilitate personalised customer interactions and data-driven decision-making.

Hardware: Primarily cloud-based; compatible with most SIP hardware and offers apps for mobile and desktop environments.

Cost: Monthly plans begin at £12 per user.

Customer Reviews: Generally praised for its user-friendliness and effective customer support, with some reports of issues with billing.

Why we loved it: Vonage Business offers a user-friendly interface and robust CRM integration, making it an excellent choice for businesses that rely heavily on customer interactions. The plug-and-play functionality ensures that even the least tech-savvy users can handle setup and daily operations smoothly.

Considerations before you buy: There have been some concerns regarding billing practices; it’s advisable to clarify all potential fees and charges before signing up.

5. O2 Just Call Me

Provides a streamlined conferencing solution where participants can join calls using mobile numbers without the need for traditional dial-in details. It supports up to 20 participants and includes features like call scheduling and integration with calendar apps to improve meeting management.

Hardware: No specific hardware requirements; the service operates fully through mobile devices.

Cost: Available for a monthly fee of £5 per user.

Customer Reviews: Users enjoy its simplicity and direct approach, though it lacks advanced telephony features.

Why we loved it: Its simplicity is key; O2 Just Call Me eliminates the hassle of traditional conference calls by allowing participants to join via mobile numbers. This feature is particularly useful for teams frequently on the move.

Considerations before you buy: The service lacks advanced features found in more comprehensive systems, so it might not suffice for businesses needing detailed call management tools.

6. Virgin Media Business

This service combines VoIP with high-speed broadband. Features include voicemail to email, call diversion, mobile twinning, and a user-friendly web portal for managing calls and settings. The package also includes collaborative tools for messaging and file sharing.

Hardware: Requires VoIP-compatible phones; Virgin Media offers a selection of hardware for purchase or lease.

Cost: Prices are customised to meet specific business requirements.

Customer Reviews: Known for reliable connectivity and excellent customer service; however, some customers consider it pricey.

Why we loved it: Combining VoIP services with high-speed broadband, Virgin Media Business is perfect for businesses looking for a bundle that simplifies billing and vendor relationships. The quality of connectivity and customer service is highly regarded.

Considerations before you buy: Pricing is generally on the higher side, making it important for small businesses to evaluate the cost against the value provided.

7. Mitel MiCloud Connect

Cloud-based system offering seamless integration with CRM systems and mobile apps, facilitating remote work and business management. It includes comprehensive call routing, conferencing, and collaboration tools, along with analytics to track usage patterns.

Hardware: Supports a range of Mitel’s proprietary phones and conference units, as well as a desktop application.

Cost: Pricing starts at around £15 per user per month.

Customer Reviews: Highly rated for support and features, though there is a learning curve associated with its use.

Why we loved it: MiCloud Connect shines with its extensive range of features and CRM integration, making it suitable for businesses that prioritize efficiency and scalability. The mobile app enhances remote work capabilities, allowing staff to stay connected anywhere.

Considerations before you buy: The system has a notable learning curve. Potential buyers should consider the training time required to fully leverage the system.

8. Avaya Cloud Office

Enables management of phone calls, video conferencing, and messaging within one platform. It is scalable, making it suitable for growing businesses, and includes extensive customizability with APIs for bespoke integrations.

Hardware: Compatible with Avaya’s own range of desk phones and conference devices, as well as third-party SIP devices.

Cost: Plans start from about £15 per user per month.

Customer Reviews: Positive remarks often cite its robust feature set and flexibility, though setup complexity can be an issue.

Why we loved it: Avaya Cloud Office provides a reliable and scalable solution that supports a wide range of communication needs, from phone calls to video conferencing and messaging. Its customization capabilities allow businesses to tailor the system to their specific needs.

Considerations before you buy: The complexity of setup and customization might require additional IT support, which could be a hurdle for smaller businesses without dedicated IT staff.

9. Gamma Horizon

A comprehensive cloud-hosted phone system with call recording, auto-attendant, call queuing, and detailed call history reports. It also offers a mobile app for managing communications on the go, enhancing accessibility and productivity.

Hardware: Compatible with standard SIP phones and can be used with Gamma’s softphone app.

Cost: Custom pricing depending on the business requirements.

Customer Reviews: Noted for excellent customer service and reliability, though costs may be a barrier for smaller entities.

Why we loved it: Gamma Horizon offers a robust cloud-hosted system that is highly praised for its excellent customer service and reliable uptime, essential for businesses that cannot afford communication interruptions.

Considerations before you buy: While it offers great service, the cost can be prohibitive for smaller operations or those just starting out.

10. Wildix

Aimed at SMEs, this system supports voice, video, and messaging all through a browser-based interface, eliminating the need for separate apps or software. It includes features like WebRTC for direct communication via web browsers, geolocation, and integration with business tools for CRM.

Hardware: No traditional phone hardware required; fully operational through PCs and mobile devices using web access.

Cost: Starts at around £20 per user per month.

Customer Reviews: Lauded for its innovation and ease of use, though it comes at a higher price point.

Why we loved it: Wildix is perfect for SMEs looking for innovative, web-based communication solutions that support voice, video, and messaging without requiring additional software installations. Its use of WebRTC technology for direct browser communication is a standout feature.

Considerations before you buy: The system is relatively expensive, which might be a significant consideration for businesses with tight budgets.

11. Elevate

Offers an integrated approach with mobile and desktop apps, supporting features like call handling, voicemail management, extension dialling, and real-time collaboration tools. It is designed to provide a seamless communication experience across different devices.

Hardware: Mainly software-based, compatible with most SIP-supported devices for users preferring physical phones.

Cost: Typically around £10 per user per month.

Customer Reviews: Praised for its integration capabilities and cost-effectiveness, with some minor issues related to technical glitches.

Why we loved it: Elevate provides excellent integration capabilities with both mobile and desktop apps, offering a seamless user experience. The system is praised for its straightforward functionality and the ability to improve team collaboration.

Considerations before you buy: Some users have experienced technical glitches, so it’s worth considering the potential need for occasional troubleshooting support.

FAQ – Small business phone systems

What is a small business phone system?

Small business phone systems are a telecommunications solution designed to handle the specific communication needs of small businesses, including voice calls, video calls, messaging, and sometimes fax services. These systems can be based on traditional landline services, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), or cloud-based platforms that offer additional flexibility and features.

How do VoIP phone systems work for small business?

VoIP phone systems work by converting voice calls into digital signals that are transmitted over the internet. For small businesses, VoIP offers the advantage of lower operational costs, improved accessibility, and enhanced scalability compared to traditional phone lines. Users can make and receive calls using broadband internet connections, and the system can be integrated with mobiles, laptops, or dedicated VoIP handsets.

What are the main benefits of using a cloud-based phone system?

Cloud-based phone systems offer several benefits, including:

Scalability: Easily add or remove users as your business changes.
Cost-effectiveness: Reduce or eliminate the need for physical phone systems and maintenance.
Mobility: Access your phone system features from anywhere, ideal for remote or hybrid work environments.
Advanced features: Benefit from features like auto-attendants, call forwarding, call analytics, and integration with other business tools.

What should I consider when choosing a phone system for my small business?

When choosing between small business phone systems, consider:

Cost: Evaluate the upfront and ongoing costs of the system.
Features: Determine which features are essential for your business operations.
Ease of use: Consider the learning curve for using the system.
Scalability: Ensure the system can grow with your business.
Customer support: Check for the availability and quality of customer support services.
Hardware requirements: Understand what, if any, hardware is required and the associated costs.

How much does a small business phone system cost?

The cost can vary widely depending on the type of system, the number of users, and the features included. Basic VoIP systems might start as low as £10 per user per month, while more advanced systems with additional features could cost £20 or more per user per month. Always consider additional costs for installation, hardware, and maintenance.

Can I use my existing phone numbers with a new VoIP system?

Yes, most VoIP providers offer number porting, which allows you to keep your existing business phone numbers when you switch to their service. There may be a fee for this service, and the process can take several weeks, so it’s important to plan ahead.

What kind of internet connection do I need for small business VoIP phone systems?

A stable and reliable high-speed broadband internet connection is crucial for VoIP systems. The quality of your VoIP service is heavily dependent on your internet speed and bandwidth. Generally, you should have a dedicated internet connection that can handle both your normal business data needs and your VoIP traffic.

Is it difficult to install small business VoIP phone systems?

The complexity of installing a VoIP system can vary. Many cloud-based VoIP systems are relatively easy to set up, often requiring minimal technical skills, with providers offering step-by-step guidance. However, integrating VoIP systems with existing IT infrastructures and advanced setups may require professional installation.

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