What to Consider When Buying a Small Business Phone System

Written by admin on December 5th, 2010

Some of the most well known small business phone systems in the United States include these manufacturers:

Avaya phone systems – Partner ACS, Avaya IP OfficeNortel phone systems –
Norstar CICS, Norstar MICS, Nortel BCM
Others include Panasonic, Toshiba CTX/CIX, Samsung, Mitel and NEC.


It is important to research each manufacturer to learn which small business phone systems will be best for you. However, there are many other factors and phone system fundamentals that need to be understood in order to make a knowledgeable decision. With this knowledge you should be aware of the essential parts of a phone system and be able to apply that information to your decision.


3 Easy Parts – Stations, Lines, and Voicemail


These are the basics that you should know when evaluating all small business phone systems. If your phone installer is thorough, he or she should help you understand each of these elements:

How many telephone stations are needed at the business?
How many incoming telephone lines does your business need?
Does your business need voicemail?


How many telephone stations are needed?

A telephone station is a physical telephone that is connected to a small business phone system.  Telephone stations normally have designated extension numbers which allow you to call other stations in the system by dialing its extension number. This type of call is referred to as an “intercom” call. For example, if an employee’s telephone station had an extension number of 10, then you would be able to dial 10 on your telephone station and reach that employee’s phone.


Figuring out how many telephone stations need to be incorporated into a small business phone system is simple. You just need to know how many employees will require constant access to a telephone. Office or cubicle workers typically need direct telephone access at their desk. However, common areas such as break rooms and lobbies may only require one phone for general use. Other forms of phone stations may include a speakerphone in a conference room, a fax machine and a credit card machine with a modem.


How many telephone lines does my business need?

Before you answer this question you need to know what a telephone line is. A telephone line permits your business to receive and make phone calls. Each line has a designated phone number(s) that allows other people outside of the office to call your business. Telephone lines are supplied by your service provider and are directly connected to a telephone or small business phone system at your place of business. The three types of telephone lines that you will come across include analog, digital, and VoIP.


The number of lines you need at your business is based on call volume. Typical small business phone systems begin at 2 or 3 phone lines. If you notice that customers are beginning to complain that your lines are frequently busy, then it might be wise to add another one. Avaya and Norstar small business phone systems begin with arrangements of 3 or 4 lines for every 8 phone stations, so you can also base your conclusion on this common ratio. You can always easily add or subtract lines which can relieve the pressure to commit to a certain number.


Do I need voicemail integrated with my small business phone system?

Your service provider may offer voicemail integration on each telephone line, which means that multiple people have to share a voice mailbox. For example, if you have 3 telephone lines then you only receive 3 voice mailboxes. This, of course, isn’t the best situation if you have many people in the office and each has their own messages. Every person sharing a voice mailbox would have to listen to all of the messages and figure out which one is theirs. This would not only waste time but also retracts privacy from each individual. If you integrate a voicemail system with your small business phone system, then each person will receive an individual mailbox assigned to their extension. This minimizes time wasted listening to a shared voicemail and allows employees to record personal greetings and listen to only their messages.


So, the question is, do you need voicemail integrated with my small business phone system? The answer to this question is ‘yes’ if everyone needs their own mailbox. However, the answer is ‘no’ if the entire business can share a mailbox. If you choose not to integrate voicemail into your system, the situation would be similar to handling an answering machine.


Now that you understand the basics of small business phone systems, you should be able to make an educated decision regarding the right system for your business. Make sure you research the many manufacturers available and ask your phone installer questions when you don’t understand any aspect of the process.

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