Your business will reach a point where running everything from your personal mobile phone isn’t a reasonable solution, but that doesn’t mean you’ll need to jump into a full-on business phone system with both feet. So, what are your options for a phone system as a small business owner?
Depending on the type of business that you’re running, you may find that a single-line corded phone system (landline) is the best option for your business, especially if you don’t have several employees that need to have a dedicated line for their own purposes.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to scale your business and grow quickly, a voice over internet protocol, or voice over IP (VoIP) system may be the best. VoIP technology uses the internet instead of traditional phone lines, and can help a business grow very fast, since there is no need to have a bunch of physical phone lines installed. In fact, businesses don’t even need to install a phone, as calls can be made virtually through a connected computer, smartphone, or other device. VoIP systems have become the phones of choice for large organizations that need the flexibility of moving phone calls between multiple devices and who need to grow quickly without installing a phone line for every new employee.
So, which phone system is best for your business? Is a traditional, corded phone system the best way to go, or is an internet-connected voice over IP system the best choice for your business? We researched the differences between the two to come up with details and the pros and cons for each. Let’s take a closer look now.
The first thing to understand is the difference between VoIP phone service and traditional landline phone systems.
Landline phones work exactly how we think they do: With wires and connections that carry our calls across the network. Landline phone calls are a bit different today than they were decades ago, though, as our voices are digitized and send across fiberoptic cables. Many home phones still function on the landline system, and small businesses with only one or two lines may be better served by the simpler and sometimes less expensive traditional phone lines.
Voice over IP, or VoIP, may not look any different to its users than a traditional phone system, but the way voices are transmitted to the person on the other side of the phone is completely different. VoIP phone systems take the user’s voice, converts it to a digital signal, and transmits it across the internet. On the other side, that signal is decoded and transformed back into a voice.
VoIP service has gained popularity in recent years because of their flexibility and scalability. Because there’s no need for extra phone cables, large companies can install several phones in offices for their employees using the existing internet connections. Voice over IP also provides a degree of control and centralized management that individual phone lines cannot. In a large organization an IT manager can view and provide oversight for several individual phones from one location and can make changes without plugging and unplugging a single device.
Another big benefit that VoIP provides is the ability to remove the desk phone from the equation all together. Users can make calls from a computer or smartphone using their existing office phone numbers. That flexibility makes it easier for work-from-home organizations or for people who travel frequently. There may also be a move in the future to have the ability to send calls to wearable devices, connected vehicles, and more.
Pros and Cons of Landline Phones
- When you’re dialing 911, responders can much more easily locate your call when you use a landline phone. Mobile phones and VoIP phones may make it difficult to determine the exact location that a call is coming from, which can be compounded if the caller is unable to accurately describe their location
- Landline phones are much harder to hack or compromise than a VoIP system, because of its separation from the internet
- Landline phones are usually available when the power is out, which can make them a valuable communication tool during natural disasters that cause a power outage
- Landline systems can be expensive and cumbersome, due to their need for physical equipment and connections
- Some telecom companies bundle their services, which can make moving away from a landline phone more expensive
- VoIP phone systems tend to be easily scalable and cost less when expanding than traditional landline systems do. This can be very helpful for large and growing businesses that need to add a large number of phones at one time
- VoIP systems are more flexible than their landline counterparts. Users can take their phone numbers with them across a variety of devices, from physical phones with a mobile app to mobile devices to tablets to desktop computers
- VoIP phone systems can also offer more “extras”, like call-waiting, auto attendants, conferencing or conference calling, call recording, video conferencing, call-forwarding, multi-line calls, international calls, long distance service, and more
- VoIP systems tend to be more affordable than landlines. This applies to adding extra lines and to the monthly service charges for each, as well as setup fees
- As we mentioned earlier, VoIP phone systems are connected to the internet, so they’re more easily hacked than a traditional phone line
- Sound quality can suffer with VoIP phone systems, due to the coding and decoding of voices across a digital line. High-speed internet connections tend to help with this, but VoIP service providers vary in their requirements
- Different companies offer proprietary versions of their VoIP software, which can make switching between providers a somewhat painful process
- VoIP providers require internet service to set up their systems, which can mean that business communication will be interrupted if anything changes with internet service
Which Phone System Is Right For Your Business?
Small businesses that only have one or two employees that don’t need their own dedicated lines may be served best by a landline phone system. Landlines won’t require any additional internet or computer equipment to function properly and may be more reliable for your team. Similarly, businesses that are located in remote areas or in places where internet speeds and reliability are spotty may be better served by a landline phone installed and supported by a phone company. Since VoIP require an internet connection, you may experience phone outages in these situations.
Businesses that provide emergency services, or that care for people that may need immediate help should consider a landline phone system as well. If there is a power or internet outage, you’ll need to be able to use your phone in an emergency, which can cause a problem with VoIP systems. You may also want to consider a landline if your business routinely transmits sensitive information via phone calls.
Businesses that are growing quickly and need a large number of phone lines fast should consider a VoIP system. The flexibility and ability to move from one device to another can help relieve some of the pressure that comes with a growing organization. A VoIP system can also integrate with other software platforms that can help your employees streamline and improve their workflows. Software like CRM systems, accounting and ERP applications, and even human resources management software can integrate with VoIP systems to capture information from incoming and outgoing calls to help better serve customers and employees. Some VoiP providers even offer the ability to integrate calls with Google searches and other services.
VoIP systems are also ideal for businesses that operate call centers and have a large number of individuals that are making and receiving calls on a regular basis. Their connection to the internet allows management to more closely monitor call times, call quality, and to listen in on specific calls with no added equipment or effort.
Your business needs should drive the decision to choose one phone option over the other. If you’re spending considerable time and money troubleshooting your on-premises phone system and are missing vital opportunities to provide customer support as a result, it may be time to review your options. VoIP solutions are tempting, because they promise to take your telephone system into the future, as landline service can seem archaic in today’s world. That’s not the whole story, though, because some businesses will find that VoIP calls don’t provide the stability that they need. The last thing you want is to be wrestling with a ton of advanced features when all you really want to do is field incoming calls. New technology can be scary and stressful, but a new phone system can take your business from fielding calls on a cell phone to running handling multiple customer calls at a time.