Phone Service for Small Business: 7 Things To Consider Before You Get Your Business Phone Service

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Today, it’s no longer necessary for all employees in a small business to work together in the same office. If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you’re working every day with freelancers, remote employees and overseas stakeholders – at the very least. You need to stay accessible to clients, reach out to employees anytime, anywhere and easily coordinate meetings across locations (locally or overseas).

The easiest and most professional communications solution is to hire a business phone service provider that manages your business’s various functions seamlessly. If you’re in the market for a phone service, make sure you’re getting one that attends to your company’s specific needs while giving you the most value for your money. To put it more simply – save time, save effort, save money. In fact, some even say you should give this process as much thought as you would when shopping for a new car. Here are a few things you might want to consider before you get your business phone service:

 

1. What Is the Goal?

Today, there’s no dearth of choices in the area of business phone service – landlines, mobiles, virtual phones, cloud-based and on-premises Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP for short) and more – each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. You can mix and match elements from different types of phone service options; all you need is a clear answer to a few questions. What do you want from a business phone service? How will it help your employees and clients? How much are you willing to spend?

 

The best way to go about this is to ask your staff what their communication pain points are and how they think it should be resolved. Whether your business receives many phone calls that need to be transferred back and forth or your employees work remotely and video conference regularly, there are plans to suit every need.

 

Maybe you need a full phone system with physical telephones. Maybe you need a virtual phone service that connects mobile devices. Consider a business phone service that can adapt and personalize accordingly. Also remember to take into account the strength of your office’s internet connection so that you can choose a system to work with it most effectively.

2. Will the Plan Fit in the Company’s Budget?

Once you’ve picked the most appropriate phone service for your business, it’s time to calculate costs. The market has everything from basic, low-cost services to high-end virtual platforms and systems, so be sure to do your homework. Remember to factor maintenance and reliability as costs too; they count towards the final price.

3. Will the Phone Service Grow Flexibly with the Business?

Think of how you’d like to grow your company in the next few years. Are you looking to hire more people? Will you start working out of more than one office? Be sure to factor these questions in when choosing a phone plan, since you want to choose a service that can be upgraded easily and with minimal additional investment.

4. Can the Phone Service System Be Easily Managed?

Setting up a business phone service can be a painful process, especially if you need to blend in many different features. Remember – if you’re installing a landline, it needs an effective voicemail system, call forwarding, conference calling and toll-free numbers, just to begin with. It’s a daunting task to set all these up effectively while integrating internet-based communications seamlessly into the mix. You should, however, keep in mind that the longer you take to set up an elaborate calling system, the more time you could lose on communicating with potential clients. The ideal phone service system should be easy to set up quickly and doesn’t require you to call tech support for day-to-day tasks like changing and setting passwords, recording voicemail or accessing the phone directory.

5. Is the Phone Service Well-Known?

Remember – bad phone service will make your business look unprofessional to partners and clients. Not to mention the productivity you will sacrifice because you’re too busy fixing what went wrong. Be sure to choose a reliable phone service that can support your business in the long run. Look for phone service providers that are known for 24/7 live support, especially if your company is operating internationally or round the clock.

6. What Extra Devices Do You Need?

Depending on whether you’re in an office, co-working space or at home, it’s time to think about other devices that can make communications easier and more effective. Here are few extra services you might need, depending on the kind of company you run:

Integrated Device

A digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) phone brings together a number of useful phone technologies including HD audio and video calling, VoIP capacity and more.

Smartphone

If your smartphone is the only device you’re using, there are service providers who merge the features of the desk phone with it.

Extensions

If your company handles heavy sales and service-related calls, you might want to choose a VoIP plan that makes the interaction more productive with extensions like Dropbox, Google Drive and more. Keep in mind the apps your business uses most while making this decision.

Traditional Handsets

If your company is using the traditional desk phone system, you can connect a handset to the existing private branch or virtual network. You can also upgrade to the cloud to offer better service to your customers.

 

In addition, different features can make your phone service that much more effective; for instance, conference calling, call hunt (which automatically forwards the call to someone else if you’re not able to answer) the auto-attendant (which answers the phone for you), call transferring, interoffice instant messaging, call recording, voicemail-to-email, voicemail-to-text, faxing, call monitoring and online meetings.

 

Ensure you choose a plan that combines landline and smartphone technology to give your business the communications experience it needs.

7. What Are the Security and Privacy Risks to Keep in Mind?

This question is important, especially if you’ve chosen cloud-based phone service options. Consider the many attacks and security breaches that can take place and be sure to choose services that offer end-to-end encryption. If the nature of your business calls for it, consult with an external legal or IT team for a full list of dos and don’ts in securing your communications plan. Here are a few security tips you can follow, particularly when setting up VoIP:

 

  • When you buy a new business phone, be sure to set a new and strong password.
  • Enable network access translation (NAT), which provide your devices with a private IP address that can’t be easily accessed by hackers.
  • Close Port 80 (an active HTTP channel which is most often accessed by hackers) with firewall.
  • Be sure to monitor international call records regularly.

 

Remember, hacks to the communication system can cause havoc. Make sure your phone service is using a plan that monitors and prevents any potential security breach.

Mix and Match Your Options

Once you’ve considered your business needs and budget, it’s time to weigh out your options. Here are the most popular business phone services for your company:

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

If you’re running a small office that doesn’t need more than a few phone lines, a VoIP is your most ideal solution. It’s reasonably priced with flexible options, but you should ensure you’re choosing the plan that suits your network bandwidth for the best experience.

 

You can choose the on-premises VoIP system, which houses all equipment within your company. This keeps you in control of everything since it’s maintained by your business’s in-house IT staff. However, it can be more expensive since you have to buy all equipment upfront.

 

Alternatively, you could use the cloud-based VoIP system, which requires no maintenance since the service provider takes care of it. It also expands flexibly with your business, making it easy to add new lines and upgrade to additional features. Keep in mind to choose a reliable and round-the-clock service provider for this service, since maintenance isn’t in your hands.

PBX (Private Branch eXchange)

If your business runs on traditional landlines, the PBX smoothly switches calls between employees and maintains call directories. They’re usually combined with VoIP systems for a more efficient experience.

Virtual Phone Systems

If you work with a large number of remote workers and freelancers, or you’re a sole proprietor, a virtual phone system could suit your needs well. They connect the main phone number to remote workers via mobile and essentially forward calls extensively. Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t a full-fledged phone system.

Wrap-Up

Remember, everything boils down to just one thing: the business. Keep your employees’ and customers’ needs in mind and choose a service provider that caters to them without pinching the wallet too hard. Finally, ensure that the phone plan offers round-the-clock maintenance support and grows along with your business. Now that you have an idea of what to consider and a list of commonly-used small business phone provider choices, it’s time to jump in.

 

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