How to Choose a Phone System for Your Business
I’ve worked for several major telecommunications companies in more than one country selling phone solutions to small and medium sized businesses. Now, I run my own business. In this post, I’ll provide tips for choosing a phone system for your business, based on my experience in this industry.
To start, it’s important to note that the term ‘small business’ is often a poorly defined concept. It can cover everything from a one-man operation to companies with up to 250 employees. Regardless of the size of your business, you should be able to answer these two questions prior to signing up for a new phone system.
Do You Need a Fixed, Mobile, or Combined Solution?
Mobile phones have become prevalent in the past 25 years, in many cases replaced fixed telephone infrastructure. This trend is called Fixed to Mobile Substitution (FMS).
Fixed phone services are usually VoIP (Voice over IP) based, and are typically more expensive than cellular equivalents. However, fixed phone solutions may offer features that you can’t get in a mobile service. These include advances call routing, ‘follow me’ phone numbers (a phone number that users can “log in” to wherever they are), office teleconferencing, and other notable benefits.
On the other hand, mobile solutions have become necessary for almost every type of business. Most modern cellphones offer productivity apps, email access, and standard business software like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. These additions can enable you to work on-the-go, which isn’t possible with fixed phone services.
Now that we’ve reviewed fixed and mobile solutions, it’s still important to remember that this decision doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.” Most likely, you could benefit from both fixed and mobile solutions. Ultimately, you’ll need to consider the nature of your business. For instance, how often do you engage with customers via telephone? If you use it frequently, fixed systems should be at least part of your end solution.
Do You Know the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)?
It’s pivotal that you understand the total cost of ownership (TCO) of any telephone investment you make. It can be easy to take the word of a salesperson or focus on the upfront cost, but there could be long-term cost ramifications of your decision.
To avoid making uninformed decisions, consider the administration and maintenance sides of your purchase. They are often key to the overall cost you’ll be paying. For instance, ask yourself about the fixed infrastructure costs, or what hours of the day will be covered. Also, you should determine if the service agreement contains Service Level Agreements on the time taken to attend your site to fix an issue. These ongoing costs can often be 25 to 35 percent of the cost of your investment and are paid per year. For a standard implementation, which might last 10 years, you’ll likely pay 200 to 300 percent of the cost of the initial investment in service fees – before you make a call!
To help you develop your understanding of TCO, consider asking an expert for help. Take advantage of pre sales information, and ensure that you’re fully up-to-date on the provider’s current offers. In addition, don’t forget to ask questions pertaining to your business’s flexibility to grow. An offer might fit your present needs, but you should always consider your business’s future.
In Conclusion: You’ll Need a Reason Not to Choose a Mobile Solution
The nature of any technology, including small business phone systems, is that it must recognize the ever-rising need for flexibility and mobility requirements among small businesses, without coming in at an unsustainable cost.
Having used advanced PBX solutions, VoIP solutions and Mobile, my personal preference is mobile. Mobile call quality is improving all the time. Plus, since your team will require a cellphone anyways, there should be a major reason to duplicate the purchase and maintenance cost with fixed infrastructure. Unless the reason to incur those extra fixed expenses is extremely clear you from the nature of your business, mobile is probably the right solution for you.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.