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What are the best Cisco phones for small businesses?

Choosing a phone system is a key business investment. Learn more about the benefits of Cisco phones here

Founded in California in 1984, Cisco has grown to become a global leader in IT and communication solutions for a wide range of businesses. In the 2017 financial year, Cisco had 72,900 employees globally, and has six offices in the UK.

Cisco solutions are used by more than 95% of Fortune 500 companies. These are the top 500 companies in the US.

Great communication methods are a necessity for businesses of any size, and with a small business, being able to stay in contact with, and respond to, customers and staff, is especially essential.

This article will focus on Cisco IP phones.

Internet protocol (IP) phones use an internet connection for the phone call, sending the voice communication as data. As VoIP calls only require the internet – which your business will have already – they’re essentially free, as you’re not paying any more for them.

They offer a scalable system for you as a small business owner, whether you’re entering into the world of IP phones for the first time, or if you’re looking to upgrade your current system.

Offering integrated phone systems, online collaboration platforms and other communication tools, Cisco is an ideal phone systems provider for start-ups. Read on to find out why.

In this article, we’ll cover:

If you’re ready to compare quotes for phone systems now, just head to the top of the page and complete the form.

What is a Cisco IP phone?

So at this stage you’re probably wondering: what is an IP phone? Well, in this section we’ll break it down for you.

Phones rely on connecting two or more devices together, so that you can communicate with other team members, customers or anyone else your business needs to contact.

A traditional phone system would use a communication line to do this physically – hence the term ‘landline phone’. This type of phone connects through to a switchboard.

What sets an IP phone apart is that this communication is relayed via the internet, turning voice calls into data that can be transmitted digitally through an internet connection.

An IP phone can be audio-only or it can have a video function too.

While learning and researching more about phone systems, you’re likely to come across some key terms frequently. Below, we’ll outline them and provide some more details.

PBX – Private Branch Exchange refers to the connected system of phones used in your business on a private network. (Find out more detail in our guide to what is pbx?)

IP – Internet Protocol relates to how the phone call data is sent. IP phones use the internet to send and receive data for the phone call.

VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol is another way of describing the above. It clearly highlights how the voice data is sent over the internet to use and make calls with this type of phone. (Find out more detail in our guide to what is VoIP?)

Telephony – A general term used to describe the using or working of phones.

Enterprise-grade – This phrase is used if a phone can be added into existing IT or communications infrastructure easily and with clear support.

Cisco IP phones were first developed in 1997.

How to choose a Cisco IP phone system

When it comes to choosing an IP phone, there are a dizzying array of options available. Cisco offer a range of phone systems too, so just how should you go about picking a Cisco phone system for your small business?

Why is it needed?

The first factor you should consider is why does your business need an IP phone system? By focusing on this criteria to begin with, you have a key point from which to navigate the rest of the selection process.

To help you reach this, think about which challenges your business is facing with your current phone system, and what you’d like communication to look like in your company in the future.

How much will it cost?

Another factor likely to be high priority for many small business owners is price. Knowing how much of your company’s funds allow for new purchases is essential, and this is none more so crucial than with phone systems, which are a considerable investment.

The cost of the devices should be taken into consideration, along with which hosting platform you intend to use and its fees.

A hosting platform is where the data is stored on the cloud. This is usually the easiest and most cost-effective option for small businesses that are likely not to have the funds or expertise to manage it on-site.

Plus, potential costs for maintenance and service should be estimated so that you don’t fall short, should you need these.

It’s also worthwhile to think about the charges and phone time lost (if applicable) for your business if you’re changing or upgrading your phone system.

Now that we’ve covered those top level factors, it’s time to drill down into the specifics. These centre around phone usage, as well as key features and functions that your business may require.

How frequently will you use the phone?

If your business only makes calls from time to time, then a low-level model with basic features is likely to be what you need.

Alternatively, if your company relies heavily on connecting via phone conversations, then a higher end phone system with more advanced settings will be able to keep up with the demands of your business activity.

Where is your business located?

While the phones themselves won’t change, it’s useful to consider how your company works and where team members are located.

If you operate a business in an office or if you run a company remotely, the type of phone you choose is likely to be determined by its features, which will differ depending on your business’ needs.

Plus, internet connectivity is key to using IP and VoIP phones, so it’s worthwhile checking your broadband connection has the necessary signal strength. As with a bad connection, the phones won’t be of much use.

Which phone features does your business need?

While deciding which Cisco phone is best for your business, there are a number of questions to think about in terms of features and functions. These include:

  • Audio-only or video – will it be enough to connect via voice calls only, or do your team members need to see each other? Video is useful if you need to show products to customers or demonstrate work to other team members.
  • Bluetooth connectivity – are you looking for a phone system that can connect with other devices via Bluetooth? This could be necessary if your company operates a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy.
  • Greyscale or colour display – will the phone’s display screen need to be in colour or will a greyscale be suitable? Think about this in terms of visual design, as well as accessibility requirements.
  • Security features – does your company need a phone system that offers advanced security, or will standard settings – such as voicemail inbox pin numbers – suffice?
  • Energy consumption – are you concerned about how much energy the phone uses, from either a cost-saving or environmental perspective (or both)?

It’s important to note that Cisco phones aren’t available from the company directly. Instead, the phones are available through official partners.

What are the benefits of Cisco phones for small businesses?

The potential benefits to your business by choosing a Cisco IP phone can be broken down into two parts: the benefits of the IP phone itself, and the benefits of choosing Cisco in particular.

Why Cisco?

  • It’s an established brand, with a global authority on creating the communication solutions for all sizes of business
  • Cisco has extensive experience developing IP phones – as mentioned above, it was the first and has been doing so for more than 20 years
  • The products are developed with collaboration in mind, and are full of features to increase connectivity and teamwork within your business

Why Cisco IP phones?

  • While Cisco phones sit at a higher price point than similar products, they’re ideal for businesses looking for a reliable system that can be used for the long-term
  • Reduce costs on international calls and IT expenditure
  • Clear, high-quality audio that sounds more realistic

Compare Cisco phones

You’ve learned more about Cisco, its products and how choosing this supplier could transform your small business’ phone communication requirements. Following on from this, take a look at the top three Cisco phones for small business, which are profiled below.

Cisco SPA303

Ideal for businesses looking for their first IP phone, the SPA303 offers an affordable and accessible solution. It has standard functions included, such as a speakerphone, as well as voicemail and conference call capabilities.

Additionally, the SPA303 has extensive function buttons, such as transfer, mute, hold and redial, that go beyond the basic entry-level models.

Feature Benefit
  • Can be used with a hosted IP or an IP PBX
  • HD voice and wideband audio
  • Easy to install
  • Offers flexibility and choices for phone connection
  • Clear, high quality sound for an enhanced call experience
  • Disruption to business kept to a minimum

Cisco SPA525G

This product is suitable for small businesses looking to upgrade a current phone system, or for those that require a system that can handle more intensive use. The SPA525G from Cisco is a versatile phone, suitable for a range of working environments.

In addition to the standard functions, such as voicemail, caller ID, and three-way conference calling, the SPA525G has five programmable buttons. Plus, its phone directory has the capacity to store 300 names and numbers.

Feature Benefit
  • Wi-Fi connectivity and Bluetooth support
  • Colour display screen
  • Up to five lines can be supported
  • Enhanced communication options from one product
  • Offer a more real-to-life experience
  • Extended line options for relevant teams

Cisco 6000S

The Cisco 6000S phone package is perfect for larger businesses that require high-performance phone communications, such as a call centre or a recruitment company. This phone package is an ideal choice for businesses that make and receive calls on a large scale.

Jabber messaging and limited third-party applications are available too. Support is offered through Cisco’s Contact Center Express.

Feature Benefit
  • Capacity for up to 150 users
  • Connect up to 300 devices
  • Collaboration applications are already loaded onto the phone
  • Suitable for larger or growing businesses
  • Matches the high performance capacity required for phone-centred businesses
  • Time-saving installation process

In a nutshell

We’ve covered a lot of details about Cisco IP phones and advice on how to choose the best phone for your business. While there is a great deal of information provided, here are the key points to remember:

  • Cisco is one of the leading IT and phone communications providers globally
  • Cisco phones are only available from official partners and not direct from the company
  • IP phones use the internet to connect devices and transmit voice calls as data
  • Think about why your business needs an IP phone, as well as which particular functions and features, to help you make your decision
  • Cisco phones can benefit your business in terms of cost, time and connectivity
  • You can speak to suppliers by completing the form at the top of the page

What are the next steps?

In this article, we aimed to provide you with everything you need to know about Cisco phones, including a detailed explanation, as well as advice on how to choose the right product for your business. So what’s next?

The next step is to find, and speak with, suppliers. How? We can help with this too – just go to the top of the page and fill out the form to compare quotes now.

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Scarlett Cook
Scarlett Cook

Scarlett writes about a wide range of topics on the site, from business security to digital marketing and EPOS systems. She can also be found writing about diversity and sustainability in business, as well as managing the Just Started profiles.

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