Business phone systems

Business phones: buyer's checklist

Guide

If you're thinking of buying a new phone system for your business or upgrading to a different service, you should assess your needs carefully. You will want to think about your:

  • infrastructure
  • scalability
  • user needs
  • acceptance and training
  • network compatibility
  • long-term implications
  • potential for productivity enhancements

You will also want to bear in mind that changes are expected in the coming years which will see the traditional UK 'copper wire' telephone network closed by 2025 and effectively replaced by digital services. Read more about the future of fixed telephone services.

9 questions to ask before buying a new business phone system

Consider these specific questions in your decision-making process:

  • Do you need a full phone system with physical telephones or could you get by with virtual phone service? Compare the different types of business phone systems.
  • If you need actual telephones, how big does your system need to be? How many lines and extensions will you need? One line for every four or five extensions should be enough depending on how telephone-intensive your business is. Do you need the lines connected to your main business number, or is direct dial-in to individual extensions a better option?
  • Think about how your business needs are likely to change. How many employees do you expect to have in the future? Is your business seasonal? If you have few permanent staff, you may need to add extra extensions at peak times.
  • How do you want to manage calls, faxes and emails? You may need a separate fax line as well as the capacity for connecting to the internet. Could you benefit from a unified messaging system? See computer telephony integration (CTI).
  • What features and capabilities would you like your system to have? Do you need basic telephony functions or are your needs more complex?
  • Do you want to route your calls over landlines or use the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connection? See advantages and disadvantages of VoIP.
  • Are mobile data services important to you? If so, you will need to consider a suitable option. Your network service provider will be able to help you make this choice. Read about the advantages and disadvantages of mobile phones in business.
  • What type of individual handsets will you need? Cordless units let you move between different departments or around a site, while hands-free units allow employees to type and write while on the phone. Some phones have microphones and speakers for conference calls.
  • Think about your phone number. Should you buy an easy-to-remember number? Should you buy numbers with 0800, 0870, 0845 and 09 prefixes? These can decrease or, in the case of 09 prefixes, increase the cost to your customer of calling you. Non-geographic numbers can also help small, locally run businesses achieve a national identity.

After considering your business phone system requirements, you will also have to choose the right telecom supplier for your business.