7 Best office phone systems for small businesses UK 2021

Office phone systems are integral to a productive office environment. Our expert team has done the research and put together a list of the top seven best phone systems for UK business, to help you make a confident choice for your company's office.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:

Our research has identified the Cisco CP-8861 as the best office phone system thanks to its excellent voice quality, high levels of security and voice encryption, and how well it lends itself to teams that include remote and hybrid working. But is this the right choice for your business?

Office phone systems are key to effective communication across your business, whether that be internally or externally. They can play a vital role in acquiring and retaining customers, so you can't settle for less than excellent audio quality, clear concise directory options, and effective alerts to ensure important calls – and sales opportunities – aren’t missed.

Getting set up can be quick once you've found the best system for your business. Our comparison tool can speed up the process even more by matching you with bespoke quotes from the leading UK providers, saving you hours of researching time.

With many businesses are returning to the office after a lengthy period of working remotely as a result of the pandemic, now is the perfect time to shop around for the best office phone system for your business needs.

So let us help. Use our comparison tool above, or read on to learn more about which system will be the best fit for your requirements. We’ve researched and analyzed the market in search of the best office phone systems for different types of small businesses to help you make a choice with confidence.

cisco-8845
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Best office phone systems summarised

Office phoneBest forCostFeatures
Cisco CP-8861Remote workers who want additional security to keep calls secureFrom £300Seamlessly move active mobile calls over to the CP-8861 handset
Yealink SIP-T21PSmall office users dealing with limited callsFrom £38HD Audio
Grandstream GXP 2170SMEs dealing with high call volumesFrom £122Supports 12 lines - great for large call volumes
Polycom VVX 301Small, entry-level businesses seeking affordability£65 to £105Polycom Acoustic clarity - eliminates background noise
Polycom VVX 600Established businesses – ideal for execs and managers£200 to £300Conferencing via an internal USB camera
Avaya J139An entry-level phone for small businesses looking to improve productivity From £84Quick access functions for simplified control
Cisco 8845 IP PhoneSMEs requiring HD video communications From £240HD 720p bi-directional video camera
You can compare leading UK office phone systems using our custom built comparison tool

Pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021

 

Best office phone systems

Below, we’ve selected the best office phone systems for small businesses, judging them on several factors including ease of use, cost, and additional features. All the models we’ve selected can be fully integrated with your existing IT network.

Already feel confident in your knowledge of the best products available? Then maybe your best option is to compare quotes from office phone system providers right away, to save time.

Just fill out a few simple questions for our phone systems comparison tool, and you'll receive further information only from the providers most suited to your business needs.

Cisco CP-8861

best-office-phone-systems

Cisco offers some of the best VoIP phone systems around, including the CP-8861. This model is fitted with five programmable lines, wifi support, Bluetooth connectivity, and a super-fast charging USB port.

Typical cost:

New – £360
Used – £206

All pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021

Pros:

Ease of use

Excellent voice quality

Highly secure – uses voice encryption 

Integration with personal mobile devices

Move active mobile calls over to the CP-8861 handset

Cons:

Costly considering it comes without HD video 


Yealink SIP-T21P

office-phone-systems

This entry-level IP desktop phone supports two VoIP accounts, and is the best option on this list in terms of value for money. It’s also compatible with a host of leading IP PBX providers, including Alcatel.

Typical cost:

New – £45 (Inc VAT)
Used – £30

All pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021 

Pros:

Affordable 

HD Audio 

5-line LCD display (great functionality)  

Supports two IP accounts 

Built-in phone directory

PoE Technology (no need for a power supply)  

Cons:

No USB port 

No additional security (e.g. voice encryption) 

Is your whole team not always working from the office?

Then you'll need a virtual, cloud-based, and/or portable phone system that offers location-flexibility and easy accessibility. Tell us what your business needs so we can match you with the best providers of these phone system products.


Grandstream GXP 2170

grandstream-gxp

The Grandstream GXP 2170 is a high-end IP phone that delivers a lot for its price compared to other competitors. With 48 customizable keys and HD voice quality, this unit will suit any system, and is the perfect device for receptionists, administrators, and those in sales.

Typical cost:

New – £122
Used – Varies

All pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021 

Pros:

4.3” LCD display and 48 programmable softkeys

HD voice quality

Integrated Bluetooth

LCD display and HD audio

Up to 6 separate IP accounts

5-way conferencing and hot-desking call options

Cons:

Not compatible with Skype for Business


Polycom VVX 301

polycom-vvx-301

The VVX 301 is no longer manufactured – however, its iconic status as one of the best entry-level IP phone systems ever produced means it’s worth purchasing used, or even new via Amazon. You’ll struggle to find a cheaper VoIP phone with all of the VVX 301's features.

Typical cost:

New – £65 to £105
Used – £37

All pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021 

Pros:

HD Voice 

Six call lines (programmable) 

Two ethernet 10/100 ports

Backlit 208×104 pixel screen

Polycom Acoustic Clarity

Cons:

No video calling 

No Bluetooth connectivity

Did You Know?

The number of corporate VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) subscribers worldwide reached an estimated 204.8 billion in 2020. If you want to compare the best business phone line providers who offer VoIP, check out our latest review.


Polycom VVX 600

polycom vvx 600

If you want a mid-range VoIP phone system that offers an abundance of smart features to suit the needs of your small to medium-sized business, look no further than the VVX 600.

Typical cost:

New – £200 – £300
Used – £95

All pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021 

Pros:

Operates 16 separate IP accounts 

Built-in Bluetooth support – handle calls via your Bluetooth headset for mobile/tablet 

Polycom HD sound

Dual USB ports

4.3″ LCD touch screen

Cons:

More complex to operate than entry-level IP phones


Avaya J139 IP

avaya

The Avaya J139 IP is ideal for companies looking to improve productivity, offering specific functionality buttons for speed dialing and call forwarding. The phone offers up to four lines, while the customized ringtones are a neat additional feature.

Typical cost:

New – £84
Used – Varies

All pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021 

Pros:

2.8″ backlit screen with high resolution, easy to read

Power over Ethernet (POE), plus two ethernet ports

Four shortcut keys for increased productivity 

Low power consumption 

24 administrative buttons, with Green or Red LEDs for ease of use

Cons:

Four lines mean limited calls can be taken at any one time


Cisco 8845 IP Phone

cisco-8845

Although it's the last to feature on our list, the 8845 is challenging at the top in terms of its ease of use, functionality, features, and HD video communication.

Typical cost:
New – £240
Used – £114

All pricing is correct as of July 29th, 2021 

Pros:

Five programmable lines for five Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) accounts – aka five individual users 

HD 720p bi-directional video camera – amazing video quality 

High resolution 5″ widescreen display – great for video calls  

Mobile phone integration via Bluetooth 

Fixed function keys for increased productivity  

Adjustable ringtones 

Cons:

Not a cost-effective choice of phone system if you won’t be making use of the HD video communications 

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Types of office phone system: choosing the best for your business

As your business grows and you hire more staff, you’ll need to make sure your telephone systems are suitably equipped to cater to your needs.

Working out the most suitable solution for your company can be easier said than done. This is why, when it comes to choosing the best office phone system for your business, the fundamental first step is understanding exactly how each type of office phone system works.

Generally speaking, there are three basic types of office phone systems: multiline, private branch exchange (PBX), and voice over internet protocol (VoIP).

Below, we’ve explained each type of office phone system in greater detail.

Multiline phone systems

Multi-line phone system

If your office has a multiline phone system, each employee with their own individual handset will have their own unique phone number – all served by completely separate phone lines.

As a result, you would need to publish each individual phone number on your website, your telephone directory, any advertising, and on each employee’s business card as required.

With multiline phone systems, when receiving an incoming call, if your employee is busy or the line is already in use, the caller will hear a busy signal or be sent straight through to voicemail. This doesn’t leave the best impression on current or potential clients.

There is, however, an option to create a ‘rollover’ system, in which you publish one phone number and incoming calls occupy lines in descending order. For example, if your business had three phone lines, but two customers were calling you, the first would ring through to ‘Line 1’ and the second to ‘Line 2’. Obviously, the number of lines available to be programmed on your office phone device would affect the ‘rollover’ system.

With multiline phone systems, features such as voicemail, call transferring, and speakerphone are all readily available.

For further information, check out our guide on multi-line phone systems for small businesses. 


Private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems

pbx phones iconograph

A PBX phone system offers all the same features of a multiline phone system, but without any human assistance – eliminating the need for a receptionist to manually transfer calls.

Incoming customer calls go to a central receiving area, where customers are presented with a set of options for which area of the business they wish to contact. For example: “Press one for sales, two for customer services, three for invoices.”

However, should the caller dial one of the extension lines directly, they can bypass this automated central system completely and connect to the extension. For example, if a central number is 020-7180, direct extension numbers can be numbers such as 020-7181 and 020-7182.

Should employees wish to contact other departments or employees internally, they can then just dial the extension number (e.g 182) without using the outside line.

To make an outgoing call on the outside line, most PBX systems require you to include one additional number – let's say, the number 9 – before placing the call.


For more prices, reviews and tips on PBX phone systems, click here.

VoIP phone systems

VoIP phone system layout

VoIP office telephones are the most modern, most popular office phone systems on the market.

Using your business’s internet connection to host calls rather than traditional analog signals, VoIP allows for both video and voice chat. As a result, VoIP systems require very little hardware, with a desktop VoIP phone being able to connect to the internet via an ethernet cable.

Your VoIP office telephone system will be managed via an app from your provider, so you will simply need a VoIP desktop phone for each user.

A big benefit for your business: calls are essentially free, even international ones, once your broadband or mobile data plans are paid for.

Furthermore, VoIP can allow you to make calls to remote staff members via their notebook PCs, tablets, or mobile phones.

However, initial setup for VoIP can be expensive, and calls to other businesses are only free if you’re both using the same provider.

If your business requires a telephone service in an emergency, a combined PBX and VoIP system could be an option – indeed, should you use VoIP on its own, any loss in internet connection could render your phones useless.


Conclusion – you’re now ready to compare the best office phone systems for your business

So there you have it – everything you need to know about the basics of office phone systems, accompanied by our recommendations of the best products currently available in the UK.

For the next step, you’ll want to be sourcing quotes and further information from office phone system providers, to ensure you are making the right decision for your business.

It can be tedious, not to mention time-consuming, to pull together separate quotes and information from different providers. You also don’t want to make the wrong decision based on poor advice, as this could be detrimental to your business operations.

Thankfully, we’ve put together a simple comparison tool to put you in touch with the best office phone system providers in the UK, so you can compare prices accurately.

It takes just a few minutes, and is free to use – and the best part is, it’s been designed by our team of experts, who have over twenty years of experience in the startup industry.

Ross has been writing for Startups since May 2021, specialising in sustainable business and telephone systems. He also runs the successful entrepreneur's section of the website.

He's previously written for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME and is passionate about music, sustainability, and travelling. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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