What is a telephone system?
We may think we know what a telephone system is, but as is the case with most technology, there’s actually a lot more to it.
The most basic and most familiar phone system is a traditional phone system. This usually consists of one telephone line, and one or two handsets – that’s it.
But if the question you’re asking is “what is a business telephone system?”, then that’s when things start getting a little complicated.
There are actually several different types of business telephone system. These vary in the way they work, and in terms of the features they offer.
While a traditional phone system consists of two main components (a telephone line and a handset), business telephone systems boast additional elements that make them more suitable to professional life.
These elements may include:
- Additional phone lines
- Basic software
- A PBX (private branch exchange)
- An internet connection (IP)
- Advanced software
In the next section, we go into detail about the different phone systems available, and how each of the elements above will help your business succeed.
What are the different business phone systems?
Thankfully, an office telephone system isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are different types of phone systems that are suited for different business sizes and set-ups. Take a look at the table below.
|Multi-line telephone system||PBX telephone system||VoIP telephone system|
Very small to small businesses
Small, medium, and large businesses
Low to mid
Mid to high
Low to high
Business telephone systems – the lowdown
Multi-line phone system
A multi-line phone system is the next step up from a traditional phone system. It’s a system that allows you to have multiple phone lines, thus easing up the competition on each individual line. Every employee or department is allocated their own phone number, which rings through to the department handset.
Alternatively, you can have the system set up so every number filters through to the same handset. A dedicated employee then picks up the call, and forwards the caller to the right extension number.
Read more: Multi-line phone systems for businesses
PBX telephone systems
A PBX telephone system is very similar to a multi-line phone system. The only difference is that call handling is automated, rather than manual. Callers phone in, and are greeted by an automated attendant who talks them through the department options. The caller then presses the number that coincides with the required department, and the PBX connects the call to the right line.
You can connect a PBX unit to the internet, which allows for basic software integration. You’ll be able to look at data such as call volume, call length, and how often a certain customer calls.
Read more: What is a PBX telephone system?
VoIP Telephone systems
VoIP telephone systems, also known as IP PBX telephone systems, use the internet to send and receive phone calls. You can host a VoIP system remotely (via the cloud), or on-premise (providing you have the right hardware installed).
It’s worth bearing in mind that there is a significant difference in the setup price of an on-premise VoIP system compared to a cloud-based VoIP system. This is because a cloud-based VoIP system requires far less hardware or installation assistance.
Read more: VoIP business phone features
Why do I need a business telephone system?
Here’s why a business phone system is better than a traditional phone system – no matter the size of your business.
1. Build healthy customer relationships
Each of the business telephone systems featured in the previous section will help you to build healthy customer relationships. But how?
2. Increase mobility
Businesses are no longer static. Employees are out on the road, as well as in the office – and luckily, business phone systems are designed to facilitate this.
3. Improve internal communications
Effective internal communication with your employees is just as important as effective external communication with clients.
4. Increase productivity
Phone systems automate certain processes, and provide data that can make operations more efficient.
Invest in the best office telephone system for your business – top tips!
There's a lot more to investing in the right phone system than simply thinking about your present day requirements.
Where is your business going?
As a business owner, you may be looking to keep costs down with a multi-line phone system – and that’s great. But what are your growth objectives?
A multi-line phone system has limited call management and expansion capabilities, which may not make it cost-effective in the long run.
A PBX phone system is expensive to install, but offers more call management features, decent expansion capabilities, and the potential to connect to the internet.
A VoIP phone system offers heaps of call management systems, and can be as small or as scalable as you need.
Would you prefer a hosted or self-hosted phone system?
Due to the simple nature of a multi-line phone system, expanding it and maintaining it shouldn’t put too much strain on a small business.
PBX and on-premise VoIP systems are far more complex, and will require an in-house or contracted tech expert to properly maintain it – whether that’s updating the phone system software, or adding new lines and handsets.
Hosted phone systems require the least maintenance. This is because your supplier performs much of the maintenance for you, remotely.
Cloud-based VoIP is currently the only hosted phone system available. A small monthly fee covers the cost of the maintenance, and works out far more cost-effective than contracting a tech expert.
What features would you like from your phone system?
If you’re looking for more lines, basic call management, plus some data insight, think about a PBX system.
If you’re looking for all the above, plus more, consider a VoIP system.
Which supplier should I use?
Check supplier credentials on review sites such as TrustPilot and G2Crowd, just to make sure they have a healthy number of satisfied customers.
And always read the contract – you don’t want to be tied into something long term, especially if you’re looking to upgrade your phone system fairly swiftly. VoIP providers often offer short-term or monthly rolling contracts for your convenience.
How much does a telephone system cost?
How long is a piece of string? The cost of a telephone system depends on a number of things, including
- Installation costs
- Hardware costs (e.g PBX, cables, router)
- Number of handsets
- Number of lines
- Maintenance costs
The best way to find out how much a phone system will cost is to receive quotes directly from a supplier. Discuss your requirements with a member of the sales team, and they’ll be able to provide you with a tailored quote.
You can also receive quotes quickly and easily, simply by filling in our form. Once you’ve provided some basic information, the best suppliers for your requirements will be in touch.