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What’s The Best VoIP Phone System For Small Businesses?

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VoIP phone systems are becoming all the rage in the corporate world. In the US alone, the number of VoIP business lines grew from 6.2 million to 41.6 million between 2010 and 2018. This trend is expected to continue, with the value of the global VoIP market predicted to skyrocket from £14.5 billion 2018 to £40 billion by 2025. 

Short for Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems, VoIP phone systems are simply a way of transmitting voice calls over IP networks as opposed to traditional landlines. This can offer many advantages to businesses, from scalability and portability to higher call quality and — perhaps most importantly — lower costs, with internet calling cheaper than landline calling. As such, it’s no surprise that VoIP phone systems are particularly popular among small businesses who have less funds available. Around three quarters of small business employees now use VoIP apps to make business calls.  

So, to help small businesses find the right VoIP phone system for their needs, we’ve compared the main options to show which is the best one to go for. For more information on VoIP phone systems, be sure to check out our page on the topic too. 

The main types of VoIP phone system

On-premise IP PBX systems

An IP PBX (private branch exchange) is a traditional phone system using physical telephones that utilises VoIP to make and receive calls. However, rather than using analogue or ISDN connections, it relies on internet connections and SIP Trunking to route calls to and from the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), the traditional phone network. This system is called an on-premise IP PBX system as it is housed and managed internally. 

Pros

  • Lets you manage things yourself 
  • Can be easy to set up if the equipment required is already in place 
  • Enables staff to continue using legacy telephony equipment they are familiar with 
  • Affordable monthly costs  

Cons

  • Requires more up-front spend 
  • Necessitates in-house expertise 
  • Physical telephones can be expensive 

Hosted (Cloud) PBX systems

A hosted PBX is cloud-hosted, with an offsite provider dealing with everything from the functionality and security, to the updates and delivery. Because the system is hosted in the cloud, you don’t need any physical hardware (outside of handsets if you want them), reducing installation and maintenance. Businesses just require broadband access, a router and compatible handsets to get started. 

Pros

  • Barely any hardware required 
  • Apps running in iOS or Android can be an alternative to traditional handsets. 
  • Everything is taken care of for you  
  • No IT team input needed 

Cons

  • Quality broadband is required 
  • Loss of service if your service provider has an outage 
  • Less control over the system

Mobile VoIP applications

You’ll be familiar with everyday consumer mobile VoIP applications like Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime, and there are others that can be utilised for business communications too. Applications like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex could be deemed business grade equivalents and all have apps that run on iOS and Android devices so your business landline can co-exist on your mobile phone. With so many people using these applications nowadays, a growing number of businesses are foregoing more intricate on-premise PBX type systems and migrating to these solutions instead.  

Pros 

  • Simple to set up  
  • Integration of different tools in one place 
  • Easy to use 
  • Can be used on any device at any location and time 
  • Adds the ability for video and chat plus other collaboration features 

Cons 

  • Relies on others using the same app 
  • Less voice functionality than some PBX systems, with limited features like call recording, call queues, hunt / ring groups and call reporting  capabilities meaning there may be the requirement for integration of 3rd party apps 
  • Base offering doesn’t come with default PSTN integration (ability to call real phone numbers). 
  • Premium is more expensive, and licensing is required for this feature. 

The verdict

Here at Callroute, we actually recommend a blended approach via an on-premise PBX and applications such as Microsoft Teams. This allows you to have the familiar feel of a traditional phone system but with added functionality. By integrating telephony with your collaboration platform’s desktop app for video and chat, your business has the ultimate flexibility to communicate with anybody regardless of their preferred communication method.

For Microsoft Teams in particular, the top collaboration platform used by businesses, there are a few options for connecting this application to the PSTN:

Direct Routing – an alternative  to Microsoft’s Calling Plans and Operator Connect

We facilitate integrated PSTN calling with Microsoft Teams through our Direct Routing solution, which involves integrating your existing PBX with Teams and Callroute becoming your PSTN carrier. We have automated the Direct Routing configuration with our user friendly, self-serve portal meaning basic set up can be achieved in minutes instead of days. Callroute also offers a free trial for life plus on-demand flexible pricing. In fact, Callroute’s Direct Routing has many benefits over Microsoft’s Calling Plans and Operator Connect, lsuch as the ability to integrate analogue equipment via on premise FXS gateways, register SIP phones to the service, records calls along with the option to set-up hunt and ringing groups across the connected endpoint estate.  

Direct Routing is the gateway to UC

Perhaps most notably though, Direct Routing is the gateway to Unified Communications, (UC) whereby every communications channel (chat, file sharing, phone calls, video conferencing, email, and more) is integrated within one platform. Fully-functional calling (to and from real phone numbers) is crucial to achieving this, considering so many modern businesses rely on this for external communications in particular.  However, it is typically one one of the most difficult channels to integrate with digital communication tools. Yet, with our Direct Routing solution, we make doing so seamless and inexpensive. All in all, UC has so many benefits for businesses, from improved productivity and enhanced user experience, to simpler access for remote teams to streamlined operations.  

Direct Routing is perfect for businesses of all sizes

What’s more, Callroute can help businesses of all sizes optimise their communications systems via Direct Routing. With flexible capacity to match a company’s particular demands, our customers only pay for the capacity they need when they need it. This makes our solution ideal for both small and large companies as well as businesses who have varying call volumes through seasonal demand (a good example would be Universities during the clearing process) .We have improved all kinds of businesses, from charity The Hope Hub which required a small-scale solution, to Roc Technologies, which now uses over 300 phone numbers through Callroute. For small businesses in particular though, who are looking to support hybrid working in the post-pandemic world and need instantaneous implementation of a UC system, our Direct Routing solution (with rapid deployment) is the perfect way to achieve this.  

If you have any more questions about VoIP phone systems or our Direct Routing solution, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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