Many small businesses make the mistake of leaving their office phone system as an afterthought. They stick with what they know, or take the cheapest option in a bid to cut costs. After all, who even makes calls anymore?
You may be surprised to find out that when a customer has an issue or a complicated enquiry, they still prefer to make a call.
A telephone system for a small business will incorporate multi-line phones, VoIP technology and many user friendly features to increase efficiency. These types of systems are sometimes referred to as a key system.
We’ve rounded up some of the best small business phone systems on the market, to save you both time and money.
What's on this page?
- 01 | Small business phone system providers: overview
- 02 | Traditional (PBX) vs. VoIP
- 03 | What phone system does my business need?
- 04 | Best small business phone providers
- 05 | Best small business phone systems
- 06 | Home office phone systems
- 07 | Small business phone system costs
- 08 | Next steps
Small business phone system providers: overview
UK businesses have a great selection of phone system providers to choose from. Here’s a quick look at how they compare:
|Supplier||Est.||Services Offered||Core Benefits|
|8x8||1987||VoIP, Call Centre Software, Unified Communications||Unlimited Calling Zone, Simple Administration, Multi-Channel Compatibility, HD Voice|
|BT||1969||VoIP, Unified Communications||Mobile Twinning, Multi-Level Auto Attendant, Integrated Voicemail|
|4Com||1999||PBX, VoIP||Custom Solutions, Smart Computer Telephony Integration, Call Reporting|
|Mitel||1973||VoIP, Unified Communications, Cloud hosted PBX||High-Definition Audio, Advanced Desk Phones, Unified Messaging|
|Lily Comms||2009||VoIP, Unified Communications||Cost Savings, Custom Solutions, World Class Support|
|Cisco||1984||VoIP, Cloud hosted PBX, Unified Communications||Advanced Mobility, Feature Rich Handsets, Enhanced Collaboration|
Traditional PBX vs. VoIP: what's the difference?
The ‘best business phone system' will vary from business to business. This isn’t surprising, when you think about it. If you don't expect many calls, and will have someone office-based throughout the day, then buying the most high-tech phone system might be a waste of time.
Equally, it’s important to think long term. Sure, your business might be small right now, but what about next year? Or in five years?. You may all be office-based at the moment, but will you want to work from home in the future? Your office telephone system should facilitate rather than hinder these advances.
That’s where VoIP systems come in. They allow your business to move away from traditional in-house business phone lines. With VoIP, employees can communicate better than ever from their smartphones. With the right system and a good internet connection, businesses can lower their costs and benefit from all the features of traditional systems.
But what is the difference between traditional office telephone systems and VoIP? Let’s take a look.
If you already know which kind you need, click the corresponding button above to collect personalised quotes for that type of phone system.
1. Traditional phone systems (PBX )
If you’re thinking about buying a traditional phone system, you will need a phone for each employee. If you have a small business with only a handful of employees, you can even use a home phone system.
If you’ll need lots of extensions, then you will need to look at a PBX or ‘Private Branch Exchange’. This will co-ordinate all incoming and outgoing calls, helping to make transfers and manage voicemail on different extensions.
A PBX used to be an on-premises wall-mounted box that each phone line plugged into. Nowadays, these can be virtual as well, offering the same functionality as traditional hardware.
Unlike a physical, premises-based business telephone system, VoIP phone systems work by transmitting the phone audio over the internet. It is important to make sure that your VoIP phones don't all use the same connection for the internet. Otherwise, you risk garbled or dropped calls if multiple people are online at once.
The number of lines you need for a VolP phone system depends on how many people will use the system at the same time.
For example, a two person organisation will be likely to only need two lines. A 10 person organisation will generally need five to seven lines, and a 100 person organisation could only need 20.
VoIP systems also have hosted (cloud-based) and non-hosted versions.
So what’s the difference between business IP phone systems and VOIP ones?
In short, IP uses a private data network to carry conversations over distance. VOIP uses a public data network. If you don’t have a private network, you’ll need to opt for VOIP. So long as it’s installed properly, you shouldn’t notice a difference in quality.
How to find the right match for your business
Hopefully you now have a clearer understanding of traditional and VoIP systems, and which you are likely to need.
10 questions to ask yourself when looking for a phone system:
Ask yourself these questions when looking for a business telephone system to help narrow down your options:
- How many lines do you need?
- How many extensions are required?
- What features would you like on your system?
- How many line provider sockets do you need?
- Can your telephone system expand with growth?
- Will you require call forwarding to mobile devices, and their integration into your system?
- Will you require call redirection to staff members who work from home?
- Do you wish to have a high-speed data network installed, which is able to use wireless technology?
- Is there a need for your business to be able to integrate the phone system with the IT used?
- Will you need to be able to identify customer details and dial numbers from a computer? This is called Computer Telephony Integration (CTI)
- How much are you looking to pay for line rental?
Keep your answers to these questions in mind as we take a look at the best suppliers for the job.
If you’re still unsure which type of system will work for you, don’t worry. This short online form will walk you through some basic questions and match you with quotes that are right for your business.
Small business phone system providers
Read our reviews of the best business phone system providers, or skip straight to the best small business phone systems.
4Com pride themselves on tailoring their services to each individual business. They know that when it comes to small businesses, a one size fits all approach just doesn’t work. 4Com will work closely with you to improve business efficiency and reduce costs. Their services have won them recognition as one of the Top 1,000 companies to inspire Britain. Get Phone System Quotes
How 4Com can benefit your small business:
✓ Computer telephony integration (CTI)
Enabling your computer and phone system to work alongside each other. This allows you to, for example, see incoming caller information, and therefore provide a more personal customer service experience.
✓ Call recording facility as standard
Making it easy to provide staff training and monitor performance.
✓ Call reporting
Analyse how customers transfer through your system, and where there are ‘blockages’.
Choosing a business telephone system for your small business can be a tricky business in itself. But it would be hard to find a supplier more innovative than 8x8. Their cost-effective, industry leading technology has won them a host of high-profile awards, including the Tolly award for Superior Voice Quality. With a high-profile client list (including McDonalds and NetSuite), you'd be in good company. Get Phone System Quotes
How 8x8 can benefit your small business:
✓ Go global
Virtual office editions support calls to and from up to 45 countries.
✓ Work from anywhere
Feature-rich mobile and desktop apps make working remotely feel far from remote.
✓ Highly responsive customer service team
To aid setup and easily troubleshoot issues.
BT offer an excellent selection of cloud-based VoIP and on-premises PBX small business phone systems. Businesses that are constantly on the move also have the option of BT One Phone Office. As its name suggests, this option gives you the best of a landline and a mobile, all in one mobile phone. BT have unrivalled industry experience and know-how, and are a very reliable supplier choice. Get Phone System Quotes
How BT can benefit your small business:
✓ Dedicated project manager
Someone who will come to know your business needs inside out, and can even visit your office to make recommendations.
✓ Access to 4G and over five million BT Wi-fi hotspots
Working outside of the office couldn’t be simpler.
✓ Plug ‘n’ play options available
So you can get up and running in no time.
A leading business phone systems provider, Mitel power two billion connections every day. They cater for businesses with one to 2,500+ employees, in industries ranging from healthcare to hospitality. They recognise the need for office telephone systems that make life simpler, and technologies that can adapt to the changing dynamics of a business. Get Phone System Quotes
How Mitel can benefit your small business:
✓ Everything in one place
That means your desk and mobile phones, instant messaging, voicemail, web conferencing etc. together in one, integrated system.
✓ Specialists in call centre solutions
Don’t risk aggravating potential and existing customers with a frustrating call. Mitel work to give your customers the best experience possible.
✓ Facilitate mobility
Hot-desking and remote working needn’t have an impact on your team’s performance. Mitel’s solutions take this into account.
Lily Comms specialise in providing affordable and efficient small business phone systems. In fact, a recent customer survey found that 86% of customers saved money when they switched to Lily. They’ve worked alongside high-profile clients including NHS, Lidl, Specsavers and Citroen. Get Phone System Quotes
How Lily Comms can benefit your small business:
✓ Save money
Lily Comms has a proven track record of saving customers money.
✓ They guarantee the latest technology
Lily’s partner firm, Ericsson-LG, reportedly spend four times as much on research and development than their nearest competitor. You can be sure that every solution will be cutting-edge.
✓ Dedicated account manager
Lily Comms pride themselves on being the ‘friendly expert’. Your dedicated account manager will work with you to find the best option.
Established in the U.S. Cisco have been leaders in the business telecoms industry for over 30 years. They produce a number of tailored small business telephone systems and handsets. Stay ahead of competitors with the latest communications solutions, including cloud-hosted software. Get Phone System Quotes
How Cisco can benefit your small business:
✓ No phone? No problem
Cisco software allows you to make and receive calls from a computer or tablet.
Solutions that unify your communications, rather than making them more complex.
✓ Build relationships
High quality video links allow you to connect with clients and suppliers and like never before.
Best small business phone system
As a small business looking for a new office phone system, you’re really spoilt for choice. This is our pick of the top 10 small business phone systems on the market today.
Top 10 small business telephone systems comparison
- Mitel 6865 SIP Phone
- Panasonic KX-TES824 Telephone System Bundle
- Polycom VVX 301/311
- Mitel Aastra 632 DECT
- Orchid DX900 Small Business Telephone System
- Orchid PBX 416+
- Elite Telecom - Hosted Small Business Telephone System
- Cisco SPA 504G Phone
- Grandstream GXV3140 Skype Phone (no PC required)
- Orchid 206 PBX
Mitel 6865 SIP Phone
The Mitel 6865 is a great all-rounder. It offers a lot of flexibility to any business, whether at home or in the office. It’s a great option for a growing business, and can support up to 24 lines when connected to an expansion module.
✓ Unrivalled audio - HD technology delivers enhanced performance and voice clarity
✓ High quality speakerphone
✓ Multilingual support options available
✓ Eco-friendly design that seeks to maximise efficiency
Panasonic KX-TES824 telephone system bundle
The Panasonic KX-TES824 is a hybrid office telephone system that can support up to 24 extensions. This makes it perfect for a growing small business. Handy features include Caller ID and Voice Message Delivery when a line is busy. This price is for the telephone system itself, which comes complete with three exchange lines and eight extensions as standard.
✓ Geared towards small and medium sized businesses
✓ Maximum of eight lines with 24 extensions
✓ Auto attendant, as well as call barring, diverting, management, voicemail and conference call
✓ Bundles include a Panasonic KXT7730 system phone and 2 x Panasonic KXT7750 system phones
✓ Caller line identification for increased efficiency and optional voice processing integration
Polycom VVX 301/311
This system was designed with call centre and cubicle workers in mind. This is a six line phone system that is ideal for both small and medium sized businesses. It's an affordable and simple system which promises to improve efficiency and productivity.
✓ Easy to set up and to use, with a highly intuitive interface that means staff will be up to speed in no time
✓ Facility to support Skype for Business and Office 365
✓ Incredible voice clarity for a high quality customer experience
✓ All updates and maintenance are carried out over the internet
Mitel Aastra 632 DECT
This is a wireless handset that is well-suited to industrial environments. It is dust and jet water protected, making it great for outdoor sites. It’s really easy to clean and complies with high hygiene requirements. This makes it ideally suited to the healthcare sector, too.
✓ Ambient noise filter to maintain call quality in louder environments
✓ Ability to program an emergency call key - perfect for healthcare or security professions
✓ Headset and bluetooth facilities
Think a wireless business phone will be the best option for you? Take a look at the other great cordless phone systems that we recommend.
Orchid XL220 small business telephone system
Orchid specialise in functional office telephones for small businesses. This is a ‘no frills’, affordable option - perfect for a micro-business that doesn’t expect a high volume of calls. If you work from home, this could be the best phone system for you.
✓ Displays caller numbers and can redial the last 10 numbers
✓ Ideal for conference calls
✓ PBX and Switch compatible
The Orchid PBX416+ has capacity for up to five analogue lines and 16 extensions. It's packed with features ideal for small organisations including call forwarding and line selection for efficient communications.
✓ Supports up to four telephone lines and 16 extensions
✓ Easy installation
✓ Auto attendant and caller ID
✓ Remote programming and call forwarding
✓ Power failure transfer
Elite Telecom - hosted small business telephone system
Elite Telecom hosted phone system
Elite Telecom's hosted office telephone system champions scalability. It’s perfect for home-workers and salespeople. This system removes the need for the hassle associated with hosting your own system. Elite can handle all the call routing and switching for you.
✓ Full access to all the features of a standard PBX for a small monthly cost
✓ Plug-and-play functionality
✓ Feature-rich and added benefits from network services such as call queuing and call recording
✓ Easily scalable
✓ Free DDI, voicemail, and conference calling
✓ All systems come with added disaster recovery
✓ Choice of top brands including Avaya, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba
✓ Mobile and remote working options available
Cisco SPA 504G
Cisco SPA 504G
Another tried and tested , ‘no frills’ phone system. This is a four line VoIP solution at a very reasonable price. It would work well for a smaller business that doesn’t have the need for complex functionality.
✓ Wideband audio for enhanced voice clarity and enhanced speaker quality
✓ Built-in security features
✓ Full duplex speakerphone, headset, message waiting indicator, and dynamic soft keys for phone functions
✓ Built in speaker phone and high quality microphone
Grandstream GXV3140 Skype phone (no PC required)
Grandstream GXV3140 Skype Phone
Grandstream's Skype phone allows you to receive the full benefits of VoIP without any needs for a computer. This can be ideal for many small businesses with communications often taking place online. It is ‘Skype certified’ and comes with Skype software included as standard. This means you can make Skype calls using just your phone handset.
✓ IP multimedia phone with a powerful 4.3 inch colour LCD screen
✓ Built in web browser
✓ Multimedia features enable video calls with high definition wideband voice quality
✓ Fully integrated with external connectivity options
Orchid 206 PBX
Orchid 206 PBX
Orchid 206 PBX system has the capacity for up to two lines and six extensions. It’s ideal for small offices or home businesses. Key features include call transfer and auto attendant.
✓ Suitable for new and starter businesses with two analogue lines that supports up to six extensions/users
✓ Power failure transfer
✓ Direct dial extensions
✓ Key features include an auto attendant with 12 second OGM
✓ Programmable call restriction and call barring
What about the best home business phones?
All of the models listed above are suitable for homes business phones. At the end of the day, it just depends on your preference and your needs.
If your home business phone is to double up as a home phone, take a look at the top 10 cordless models. These are great as both home and business phones, as they leave you free to take calls throughout the house.
Small Business Phone System Costs
For an entire small business telephone system, expect to pay around £170 as a minimum. This will set you up with a full, two line system with up to six extensions.
Higher specification systems can cost up to £1,700. These options have more telephones and extensions with extra user and customer features.
But ultimately it’s very difficult to work out the total price of your telephone system without getting quotes that are tailored to you.
Finding the right phone system for a small office is vital. A lack of space means small businesses often can’t afford to house large, loud and costly on-premises hardware.
Instead many of the hosted systems covered in this guide provide an excellent alternative. By hosting your business phone system externally you can instead keep initial investments to a minimum while affording monthly payments for custom plans and solutions tailored exactly to meet your needs.
Still, with so much choice available, and with so much jargon surrounding the topic of office telephones, it can be hard to know where to start. Fill in this short form to be receive quotes from trustworthy suppliers who can take your needs and turn them into an end-to-end solution.