Best office phone systems for small businesses UK 2021

Find the best possible phone system for your small business today. Compare suppliers, receive free quotes, save time, and money

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:
  • Bryn Glover

Interested in finding the best, most suitable office phone system for your business? With more cost effective options than ever and improvements in technology, small businesses are able to improve their communications and scale their operations.

But, with a crowded market, and suppliers all looking to grab your attention, how can you be sure you’re picking the best phone system for your office?

Thankfully, Startups can help with this process.

By using our phone systems comparison tool, you can compare the top UK phone suppliers in minutes, completely free of charge – which could save your business both time and money when finding the best-suited solution.

If you’re still unsure about the benefits an office phone system could offer your business, read on below.

Does your phone system need to support 5 or more people? It's especially important to choose the right communication solution from the start when supporting larger teams — it can be much harder and more expensive to scale your business or change systems later if you don't! Make the right choice from the beginning by making the most of our free communication solutions comparison tool.

Best office phone systems

Below, we’ve selected the best office phone systems for small businesses; all the models we’ve selected can be integrated with your existing IT network and are fully flexible.

Our top picks for the best office phone systems are:

Office phoneBest forCostFeatures
Cisco SPA 504GAll-rounder - for staff with multiple needsfrom £29 refurbished
from £74 new
High-quality microphone and built in speaker
Orchid XL220Sales - staff making a number of callsfrom £24Caller ID and extensive redial options
Polycom VVX 301/311Entry - good all-rounder with less quality than othersfrom £66Supports Skype for Business and Office 365
Avaya 1408 DigitalEntry - good for basic office usagefrom £18 used
from £48 refurbished
from £90 new
Wall mount or desktop options
Yealink SIP-T21PRemote workers - good for people making a lot of callsfrom £50HD voice, Codec, speaker, handset

If you have the information you need, then you might want to compare office phone systems straight away. To find out more about the phones listed above, read on for more detail.

Cisco SPA 504G

Cisco SPA 504G







  • From £29 refurbished
  • From £74 new

Key features:

  • Built in speaker phone and high quality microphone
  • Can support up to four phone lines
  • Connects directly to an internet telephone service provider or to an IP PBX
  • Dual switched ethernet ports for connecting a computer behind the phone, reducing cabling costs

Orchid XL220








  • Between £24 and £40

Key features:

  • Displays caller numbers and can redial the last 10 numbers
  • Ideal for conference calls
  • Line powered, no batteries or mains required
  • Full duplex speakerphone with five metre range

Is your whole team not always working from the office? Then you'll need a virtual, cloud-based and/or portable phone system which 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.

Polycom VVX 301/311







  • From £66

Key features:

  • Facility to support Skype for Business and Office 365
  • All updates and maintenance are carried out over the internet
  • Easy to set up and to use, with a highly intuitive interface that means staff will be up to speed in no time
  • Incredible voice clarity for a high quality customer experience

Avaya 1408 Digital Telephone







  • From £18 used
  • From £48 refurbished
  • From £90 new

Key features:

  • Reversible wedge stand for desktop and wall-mount use
  • Two way speakerphone
  • Three line appearance/feature key buttons – with dual LED’s
  • Ergonomic hearing aid compatible handset

Yealink SIP-T21P








  • Between £50 and £55

Key features:

  • HD Voice: HD Codec, HD speaker, HD handset
  • Wall mountable
  • Full Duplex speakerphone
  • Five line data display

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How to use an office phone system

As your business grows, and you take on more and more staff, you’ll need to make sure your telephone systems are suitably equipped to grow alongside you.

After all, if your company’s phones can’t support your staff, then how can they even begin to support your current customers and suppliers? Let alone find new business.

However, the process of working out what’s the most suitable solution for your small firm can be easier said than done.

This is why the first step in finding the best office phone systems for your business, is understanding exactly how they work – and how they differ from your standard home phone.

So, first things first, having a business phone system means you don’t need to have a multitude of single-line phones, but rather, you can have multiple lines coming into the one phone.

And while the phone type, included features and system size, will all vary by suppliers and models, the basic inner workings of office phone systems are generally the same – so it pays to know what exactly these are and what they mean.

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

For standard multiline phones, typically eight to 10 phone lines are connected to each phone unit and can be answered individually.

These are typically displayed as lines, such as “Line 1” “Line 2” and “Line 3” on each phone extension in the office. Multiline phones are usually supported by a receptionist, and are now considered a more old-fashioned option.

In contrast, a private branch exchange system (PBX) is an automatic phone system that larger businesses often use, that is also becoming more and more popular with smaller start-ups.

The system uses an automated directory to funnel callers where they need to go, so there’s no need for a central receptionist.

You have likely used these before when you’ve called companies and been requested to “Press 1” or another key for certain features, functions or types of support.

While the PBX system is still incredibly popular, most modern office phone systems are now based on voice over internet protocol (VoIP).

A VoIP phone takes analog audio signals and converts them into digital ones, transmitting your voice through the web and allowing you and your employees to make essentially free calls – even over a long distance or internationally.

The key difference between PBX and VoIP is that in the event of a power outage, and no internet, a PBX phone system usually has an uninterruptible power supply, and uses the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

This means that calls can still be made.

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

Types of office phone system

Multiline phone systems

Multi-line phone system

If your office has a multiline phone system, each employee that has 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, telephone directory, advertisement, and on each employee business card if required.

When receiving an incoming call, the phone will ring and a light will blink. However, if your employee is busy or the line is already in use, the caller will get a busy signal or the call will go straight through to their voicemail.

However, there is an option to create a ‘rollover’ system in which you only publish one phone number and incoming calls occupy lines in descending order.

For example, if your business had three phones lines, but two customers were calling you, the first would ring through to ‘Line 1’ and the second to ‘Line 2’.

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

For more prices, reviews and tips, take a look at our dedicated guide on multi-line phone systems

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, within your business, they can then can 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 include one additional number – such as 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 office phone systems on the market.

Using your business’s internet connection to host calls rather than through traditional analog signals, VoIP allows for both video and voice chat.

As as 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 or tablet.

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 – as a loss in internet connection would render your phones useless should you only use VoIP.

You can read more about some of the best services for small business in our guide to the best UK VoIP providers

Do you already have a telephone system?

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Used office phone systems

One major positive of buying an office phone system for your small business, is that not everything has to be new – with most trusted suppliers also selling used and refurbished products.

While most people are naturally tentative when it comes to buying second hand goods, an important point to remember is that just because something is sold as ‘used’, doesn’t mean that it has actually been used that much.

In some cases, businesses have bought an office phone system and simply changed their minds and returned everything after a couple of days – even though there is nothing actually faulty or wrong.

These returned devices can’t be legally be resold as ‘new’, but they may never have actually been used.

There is, however, a big difference in products sold as ‘used’ or ‘refurbished’.

What’s the difference between used and refurbished?

While refurbished phones have often been used, the term ‘used’ has a more specific meaning in this instance.

Used phones are sold ‘as-in’, namely, they’re sold in the exact same condition that they were disposed off/returned as by their previous owners.

It’s very important to note, that used phones are not tested or fixed and will come with no guarantee, and as a result will be sold at a very, very cheap price in comparison to something brand new.

So remember, caveat emptor, or, buyer beware!

In contrast, a refurbished phone has been tested, repaired if necessary, and cleaned.

As a result, a refurbished phone should function the same as a brand new model, and importantly, a refurbished phone will come with a warranty.

When browsing used and refurbished phones, however, it’s important to remember that these two terms don’t adhere to any form of standard – so said products will vary in quality from one seller to another.

As mentioned above, most trusted and reputable suppliers, both big and small, will sell used and refurbished phone systems in good faith.

However, there will always be some independent businesses and online fraudsters that will attempt to rip you off by deliberately selling you faulty goods – so be vigilant.

If you want a complete guarantee that you’re using a reputable supplier, then simply complete the webform at the top of the page and we’ll put you in touch with a range of trusted businesses so you can shop with confidence.

Compare the best office phone systems

The information on this page should help you to understand office phone systems and how they can help your small business.For more information on products and services though, you should speak to suppliers – we can help with this process.

To speak to suppliers today, you simply need to complete our quote finder tool. Once this is done, we can put you in touch with up to four top UK providers that can offer you the best deals possible.This comparison process is free, quick and easy, and it could save you both time and

Do you already have a telephone system?

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Bryn Glover
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