Best business telephone systems
Think you can do without an office phone? Think again. Business phone systems are a must for any start-up. Read our top picks to find the right one for you
Business telephone providers have a range of products and services that can significantly improve the operation of your small business.
In this guide, we’ve rounded up a range of phone system that are best for small businesses. So whether you’re looking for the best budget phone for your business, or a phone system with smart features for your start-up, we’ve got you covered.
For a quick overview, check out the table below, which profiles the top telephone systems for small businesses. We’ve rated each phone out of five and highlighted its key features and which type of start-up it suits.
Scroll down to read our reviews for a closer look at each of the phones. We provide more detail on the features, as well as pros and cons, of each phone.
Finally, we round up by answering some of the top questions that many small business owners tend to have when choosing a telephone system.
If you’re ready to compare quotes and speak with business telephone system providers, simply complete the form at the top of the page – it’s easy, free and quick.
|Phone system||Rating||Type||1||BT Converse 2300||4.5||Best for practical small businesses||Read review||2||Cisco SPA 525G2||4.25||Best business phone system with smartphone features||Read review|
|3||Cisco Small Business SPA 504G VoIP Phone||4||Best for space-conscious small businesses||Read review|
BT Converse 2300
Best for practical small businesses
The BT Converse 2300 comes in black or white. It has a crystal clear LCD display which can double up as your clock, along with user-friendly navigation buttons just under the display. The BT Converse 2300 is compatible with PBX and ready to use with a headset.
Startups who are home-based will be especially pleased with this phone, as it’s still suitable for domestic use. Overall, this is a great option for small businesses looking for a cost-effective phone system, without compromising on quality.
This phone has all the features most small businesses need (like caller ID and one-touch memory), without overcomplicating things with options you may never use (like Bluetooth), at an affordable price.
The main ones are:
- Caller ID – See the name or number of the person calling
- One-touch memory – Quickly dial your favourite numbers (up to 10)
- Hands free – Complete other tasks while you talk, with the option of connecting a headset
- On-hook dialing – Only pick up when they do
- Mute – Stay professional, and have two conversations at once
- Number directory – Store up to 100 numbers
- Call log – Retrace the last 50 numbers who called you
- Redial – Easily call back the last 10 numbers who tried to reach you
- Mountable – Create space by mounting the device on your wall or desk
- Energy Efficient Mode – Send the parts you are not using to sleep
- Induction coupler – Compatible for those with hearing aids
Cisco SPA 525G2
Best business phone system with smartphone features
This is the industry’s first integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth IP phone, so you can use it like a hands-free device linked to your mobile. The 3.2-inch colour LCD screen offers a user experience that is hard to beat, and you can opt for a PBX or VoIP service.
For any business owners who work from multiple locations, you’ll be able to use a single number from wherever you are, and the phone will store and automatically reconnect to different Wi-Fi accounts.
The Cisco SPA 525G2 supports both SIP and leading third-party control platforms, and uses industry-leading VoIP technology from Cisco.
As well as the main office phone features (like voicemail, caller ID and Wi-Fi), this office phone stands out for its:
- Colour display – Play videos or surveillance footage from your phone
- Bluetooth – Pair with your personal mobile phone
- 5-line IP – Get enhanced connectivity
- Wideband audio – Have calls with HD clarity
- Dedicated buttons – Make shortcuts for your most commonly used features
- Network compatibility – Make adding or removing phones a walk in the park
Cisco Small Business SPA 504G VoIP Phone
Best for space-conscious small businesses
For start-ups that are looking for a more advanced business phone system at an affordable price, the Cisco Small Business SPA 504G VoIP phone is an ideal choice. This IP phone offers the following features:
- Multiple phone lines – it offers four lines
- Suitable for home or office use – can be used at your premises or your home office
- Power over Ethernet (PoE) power supply – no additional power lines are required
- Dual switched ethernet ports – connect a computer directly behind the phone
- Display – monochrome display screen with backlight
- Multiple connection options – connect directly to either an internet telephone service provider or to an IP PBX
- Wideband audio – provides high-quality sound
Both the PoE supply and dual ethernet ports help to reduce the amount and cost of cabling your phone system.
What is the difference between VoIP and SIP?
- Although VoIP and SIP both support IP (or Internet-based) calls, they aren’t the same thing.
- VoIP simply means making calls over the internet.
- SIP, on the other hand, has a much larger scope. It’s a specific protocol that’s used to enable a range of multimedia sessions, which include VoIP calls.
What is PBX?
PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. This means:
- You can use outside lines for making external calls
- Your internal telephone numbers can also be connected to a public telephone network or VoIP provider.
- PBX phone systems are increasingly similar to VoIP phones. They often have IP points added, so you can host the phone system for your business within the cloud.
Which features do business telephone systems need?
Think about what your budget is and what your small business requires from a phone system. Some features to consider include:
- Automated call forwarding – Automatically transfer calls to your business phone to a different number at any location. This can be very useful if you’re expecting an important call to your business, but are out of the office or even on holiday.
- Dashboard – This allows you to manage your office phone system from one central resource or programme, with access for all team members, dependant on what their needs are. Some dashboards also allow you to integrate all your communication channels, so you have control over your voicemails, emails, SMS and fax messages at one touch point.
- Speed-dialling – Store the numbers your team members call the most frequently and easily call them with a one-button dial.
- Answering machine – This may be a standard answer machine system. Or your business might require the ability to convert voicemails into a readable email that gets sent straight to your inbox. It allows you to sort and scan through missed calls and voicemails at a quicker rate than simply listening to each message individually.
- Conference calling – This feature enables your team to speak to people off-site easily. Conference calls can be popular for team meetings with off-site staff members or for calls between your sales team and relevant clients, for example.
- Video calls – If you work remotely, or want to speak to suppliers and providers without the expense of arranging an in-person meeting, a business phone system with a video calling feature is ideal.
The most basic telephone systems will tend to focus on the most common needs (like speed-dialling and an easy-to-use dashboard), whilst more sophisticated models may be able to do everything on the list.
How to choose a business telephone system
There’s a lot to consider when deciding which business telephone system is best for your start-up. We outline some of the key questions below:
- What features will work for you? – Most small businesses don’t have the luxury of IT departments to help with their technological woes. Maybe you have complicated needs, or perhaps it makes sense to keep things simple.
- What is your current setup? – Because VoIP requires less equipment and installation, it often helps businesses cut costs. But of course, this can depend on the current infrastructure of where you work. You could already be set up with PBX.
- Are you growing? – Traditionally, PBX systems come with specific telephones. This could mean that to change the phone system, you would need to buy all new equipment too. But not always – be sure to check with the provider.
- How is your internet quality? – Since VoIP systems run over the internet, even distance calls can be crystal clear. But if you live in an area where the signal is poor or unreliable, PBX may offer the most peace of mind.
- How mobile are you? – If you or your staff spend a lot of time working remotely, hosted (or cloud) phone providers will help to keep you connected.
- What type of calls does your business make? For example, consider if your business makes predominantly local, national or international calls. Similarly, assess if they’re mainly inbound or outbound calls, as well as other types.
- Where will your phones be located? For example, reception phones that handle multiple calls and desk phones for a single staff member will have different requirements because of their location.
- What type of phone system will your business use? This could be a landline, a multi-line system or business mobiles. It may be a combination of these types, or all three.