The two types of VoIP systems to choose between
One of the first considerations when looking at a VoIP phone system for your business is whether it's a fully managed cloud-based service or a system you purchase and host yourself (either in your office or in your private cloud). Most of the leading systems on the market at the moment are cloud-based services, such as Gamma Horizon, Ringcentral, 8x8 (see our reviews later in this guide). The only system we recommend if you're looking to buy and host it yourself is 3CX (again, reviewed later in this post).
What's the difference between a cloud-hosted system and 3CX?
There are several differences between subscribing to a service vs a phone system such as 3CX, namely these are:
- With a cloud-based VoIP system, you have no responsibility for the underlying equipment it runs on. If it needs upgrading or maintenance, that's your provider's responsibility.
- Cloud-based phone systems, generally speaking, are ready to go, yes, you'll want to make some adjustments to get it right for your business, but there's less setup time involved in comparison to owning a system.
- If you buy a system, you'll need to pay for everything separately, such as handsets, SIP trunks, hosting fees, and maintenance. In comparison, you pay a single monthly fee per user with a cloud-based system, which wraps all of the above into one payment. However, we should point out that with that, you lose some flexibility as by having your own system, you can reduce costs by hosting the phone system in your office, and you've also got the freedom to choose a SIP Trunk provider yourself.
- If you opt for a based-phone system, your provider will likely offer you a selection of compatible handsets and associated hardware. While they will probably give you what you need, you won't have the freedom to choose any IP handset on the market. With a system like 3CX, you have unrestricted access to any handset available on the market.
- Another consideration is how comfortable you are transferring your telephone numbers to a cloud-based provider. While it's rare, there are odd occasions where the porting process doesn't go as planned, and if you're moving to one of the very big international players with limited support, trying to solve the issue can be difficult.
- Finally, if you have a phone system in your building rather than in the cloud, internal phone calls won't need to travel up and down your internet connection, reducing congestion and points of failure.
There isn't necessarily a right or wrong when choosing between an onsite system or a cloud-based one; it'll come down to your requirements as a business and how much flexibility you'd like in the future. At T2k, we regularly perform market comparisons for companies looking to move to VoIP or switch from an existing provider. If you are unsure which system or setup to go for, request a comparison quote, and one of the team will be in touch.
Features and functionality
When it comes to features and functionality, you're going to be spoilt for choice, with many of the best systems offering a massive number of options. Here we outline those that we think most businesses will benefit from, so look out for them when selecting your system:
Call routing and management
Arguably the most powerful aspect of VoIP is the ability to introduce advanced call routing and management to minimise time spent transferring people to the right person or department. Getting people to the correct destination more quickly reduces the resources needed to manage calls and improve customers' experience. Here are some features that we think you should look out for:
- Time of day routing - send calls to different destinations depending on the time of day and the day of the week.
- Auto-attendant - these multi-level menu systems can almost remove the need for a receptionist, with callers controlling where they end up.
- Call park and pickup - this feature allows users to take calls on one device, park it (put it on hold), and pick it up on another device.
Whether you operate a call centre or not, having call recording in place can be hugely valuable for various reasons, from training and compliance to dispute resolution. It's not to say everyone should record their calls, but many companies today are looking to, and fortunately, many of the best VoIP systems allow you to.
The buzzword in telecoms at the moment is "Unified Communications", which is the term used to describe communications systems that are more connected to each other. Over the years, as businesses, we've all invested in countless apps and software that do many things, from email and CRM to website live chat and more. Unified Communications aims to bring as much of that under one roof as possible, which should, in theory, improve efficiency and allow your team to do more with the data they have at their disposal. For many companies, simple things like integrating the phone system with their CRM are a huge time saver, so when you look for a new system, look out for this feature and compatibility with the tools you already use.
Once you have your phone system, along with call routing, adding in pre-recorded messages while people wait is a must. You can use music-on-hold to simply play music, but increasingly companies are using it to play pre-recorded marketing or informational messages to their customers. It could be that you're a dental practice and have specific procedures you're taking due to Covid that you would like to communicate, or perhaps you're running an event you want to publicise? Either way, by opting for a phone system that allows you to play something to callers, you unlock many possibilities.
Other notable features and things to look out for
Ok, so those were the main features we suggest you look out for when choosing your VoIP phone system, but there are a few more we wanted to include before we get onto our reviews of the top systems:
- Hunt Groups - great for call centres but smaller teams too
- CLI flexibility - users can choose which number to present when making calls
- Account codes - assign costs to specific departments
- One number anywhere - take your office number with you wherever you are
Reviews of the best VoIP phone systems
We're not going to go into great length in this post about each provider and their phone systems, mainly because we've already written a post that does precisely that: Best business VoIP providers in the UK. However, here is a quite summary of our recent findings, and remember, if you request a comparison quote from us, we'll help you find the best phone system for your business.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for voice over internet protocol, which simply means telephone calls made over the internet.
How much does business VoIP cost?
Cost can vary quite significantly based on your requirements. We recommend that you request a comparison quote for us to find out which provider comes out with the best price.
Can I bring my existing phone numbers with me?
Yes, you can; in most cases, you can "port" your existing telephone numbers over to your new VoIP provider.
Are there any disadvantages?
The only disadvantage is that you become more reliant on your internet connection with VoIP.