Reliable business communications systems are vital to your company’s operations and growth. Being able to connect with customers is one of your most basic needs! But today’s business phone system options are anything but basic. If you’re still using a premises-based hard line phone system, you probably also have a patchwork of mobile devices to supplement your old technology. You could be getting better service, better performance, and an overall better deal by upgrading your business phone systems.
Why shop for a new business phone system?
Most businesses think about replacing or upgrading their phone systems when they are moving to a new location or expanding their existing space. It’s understandable to consider replacement during such a move: many older premises-based phone systems can cost more to move and set up in a new location than it costs to buy a new system. But you shouldn’t wait until you’re relocating to consider upgrading your business phone systems. Ask yourself:
- Is your current system NOT doing something you need it to in your business, like intuitively find staff members to help your customers and unify your communications (voicemail, email, and cell phone) into one system?
- Is it hard for your customers or employees to use?
- Is the current system costly to maintain or work on?
- Is the current phone system unreliable? (more than two or 3 breakdowns per year?)
- Is it hard to find replacement parts or replacement handsets?
- Is it increasingly hard to find technicians to work on your phone system?
- Is your current system hard to train your employees to use?
If you answered yes to more than two of these, then it might be time to upgrade—even if you’re not expanding or moving your business.
What kinds of business phone system options are available?
Now that you’ve decided to proceed, the next thing to consider is what’s available and how to shop for the right system. For small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs)—that is, businesses with 1 to 250 employees—there are essentially two ways systems are being sold. “premises-based” systems use hardware and software that exists at your business; “cloud-based” systems are software driven, using shared hardware at a data center operated by a service provider.
Which is better depends on your individual needs, of course, but without doing a complete Ben Franklin comparison, some general facts can give you some idea of which would likely be more appropriate. Premises-based systems have advantages if you’re interested in customized applications that work with your phone system, such as voicemail to texting, brand-specific web and smartphone applications, click-to-call features, and more. Premises-based systems will also do a better job with advanced inbound call center functions and call queue monitoring features (such as live monitoring of your phone calls, time on hold, and agent answer times). These systems typically offer economically advantageous TOC (total cost of ownership) if you have at least 125 handsets at a single location.
On the other hand, cloud-based phone systems require very little infrastructure at each business location, which makes it easier for you to set up and maintain multiple business locations. The monthly per-user cost for hosting is usually slightly less than the cost of phone lines needed for premises-based systems and typically has a TOC advantage for businesses with fewer than 125 handsets in a single location. Software upgrades and enhancements, maintenance, and repair are typically covered in your monthly user fees, making cloud-based solutions more convenient and predictable. It’s not necessary for handsets to be uniform, so as the system gets older or the business grows, you can purchase newer handsets and use them alongside the original handsets without concern.
The phone system itself operates in a data center with redundant power, voice, and internet connections, which helps ensure business continuity and security for all of its customers. Lastly, it’s a little easier to grow your business with cloud-based systems because typically, you just add a handset, and you’re off and running. Premises-based systems, on the other hand, are sometimes built with a fixed number of handsets or phone lines that can be used and require professional installation for each new user. Cloud systems can be much more flexible in programming and customizations for an SMB, but not all cloud providers offer customizations—so shopping for the right provider is important.
How do I choose and implement a new system?
The first thing to keep in mind is that there’s nothing scary about either solution. Both function well for businesses. Although the cloud technology has only been widely used since 2008 or so, it’s well established and standardized. Analog and subsequent digital phone lines have been around for nearly 100 years, a proven track record of reliability, but their use and operation is more susceptible to local power and equipment failures.
Make a list of your top five priorities, and shop based on those criteria. It’s easy to get sidetracked by details and gadgets your business may never use. Real-world, everyday considerations are far more important than having features you can’t get your employees to utilize. Here are some examples:
- Price to buy or implement
- Monthly ongoing expenses (which can be much different between premises and cloud systems)
- Ongoing maintenance costs and availability
- Local support and servicing. Pick the organization that seems eager and ready to help you.
- Need for off-premises handsets (teleworkers) or multiple locations
- Unified communications needs (voicemail to email, business calls forward to your cell phone)
- Ease of training and use (for ongoing business and new employees in the future)
- What can be changed? For example, how hard or easy is it to move workers to different offices or to home offices?
- What will your business look like in five years? Ten years? Will the system you purchase grow easily with you?
Dymin Systems is proud to offer affordable, worry-free premises-based and cloud-based business phone systems in the greater Des Moines, Iowa, area for all kinds of SMBs. (Hospitality and telemarketing applications will require specific specialized consultation; contact a voice specialist to discuss your company’s needs and goals.)
We offer a full range of communications and IT support services for business to help choose, purchase, implement, and maintain the communications technology that works best for your organization. Plus, our 24/7 remote and on-site business support gives you the advantages of in-house IT and communications professionals without the expense. Contact us today to talk about communications options for your organization!