The Top 7 Small Business Phone Systems in Canada

Our meticulous research has put the best phone systems for small businesses to the test, and has revealed that RingCentral is the top system that you can currently get your hands on. However, in a market ripe with choice, choosing a telephone system that suits your small business like a glove can be a tough shout to make.

When you’re setting up the building blocks of your small business, avoiding hidden and hefty costs is vital, as well as investing in a system that integrates seamlessly into your software infrastructure. The golden solution to all these hurdles? Investing in a high-quality cloud-based phone system.

To help you navigate through all the options, we review the seven best phone systems, comparing them on the factors that matter most to small businesses so you can be confident you’re investing in the solution for you. For even more personalised help, why not try our free quote-finding tool to get tailored quotes from the top phone systems for small businesses?


The top 7 small business phone systems

As a small business looking for a new office phone system, you’re really spoilt for choice. Here are our top picks for the small business phone systems on the market today.

The 7 best small business phone systems are:

Swipe right to see more
0 out of 0

RingCentral Premium

8×8 X2

Dialpad

Ooma Office Pro

Google Voice Standard

Net2Phone Business Lite

GoTo Connect Standard

Expert Rating
4.7
Expert Rating
4.6
Expert Rating
4.6
Expert Rating
4.4
Expert Rating
4.4
Expert Rating
4.3
Expert Rating
4.2
Price

$39.99 per user, per month

Price

$30 per user, per month

Price

$20 per user, per month

Price

$24.95 per user, per month

Price

$10 per user, per month

Price

$29.99 per user, per month

Price

$42 per user, per month

Domestic Calls

1000 inclusive inbound minutes 2000 outbound minutes per user

Domestic Calls

Unlimited

Domestic Calls

Unlimited

Domestic Calls

Unlimited

Domestic Calls

Unlimited

Domestic Calls

Unlimited

Domestic Calls

Unlimited

International Calls

N/A

International Calls

Unlimited to 14 countries

International Calls

N/A

International Calls

N/A

International Calls

Free calls to the US from any country

International Calls

Unlimited to 40 countries

International Calls

Free international calling to 50+ countries

Key Features
  • Onboarding support
  • 90+ platforms to integrate with
  • Call queue
  • Ring groups
  • Web conferencing
  • Internal live chat
Key Features
  • Onboarding support
  • Call queue
  • Ring groups
  • Analytics
  • Customisable call routing
  • Call recording
Key Features
  • Onboarding support
  • Call queue
  • Ring groups
  • Call recording
  • Analytics
  • Call transcripts
Key Features
  • Email and Workspace integrations
  • Call recording
  • Customizable call routing
  • Analytics

 

Key Features
  • Analytics
  • Customisable call routing
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • User permissions
  • Password rules
Key Features
  • Unlimited Calling to Canada, the US, and 40+ other countries
  • Web Phone and Mobile app
  • Complimentary phone rental (On 3 and 5 year contracts)
Key Features
  • Auto Attendant Recorded Greetings
  • Customizable Dial Plans
  • Ring Groups
  • Call Queues
  • Multi-Site Compatible
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Want to find out what makes them so great? Read on for our reviews of each of these small business office phone systems, including prices, features, and more.

RingCentral – Premium

Best Small Business Phone System for External Connections

RingCentral logo
RingCentral
4.6
Pricing $24.99 - $64.99
Quick overview

As your business grows, the last thing you’d want is to outgrow your unified communications system and have to invest more money. RingCentral is great at helping you avoid this issue, scoring a 4.9/5 in our scalability analysis. With a Premium or Ultimate subscription, you can integrate RingCentral with 96+ CRM integrations and use all the management and inbound communication features you might possibly need.

RingCentral also scores a perfect 5/5 for customer support, which tells you it's a dependable provider that will help you navigate your way through a VoIP SOS.

The downside is that you need to sign up for either of RingCentral's most lucrative subscriptions (Premium or Ultimate) to access the most functional version of RingCentral. For this reason, RingCentral doesn’t score as highly for price in our research (3.5/5). If you’re looking to tighten your unified communications belt, we’d recommend considering GoToConnect or Net2Phone Canada, which score 4.3/5 and 4/5 for price, respectively.

Strengths

Free 15-day trial available

Businesses with more than 100 users on the system will be offered discounted prices

Integrates with a range of CRM and productivity software

Weaknesses

The cheapest plan (‘Essentials’) only includes 100 toll-free minutes - fewer than competitors

The Essentials plan is only available to businesses with fewer than 21 system users

Pricing
PlanPrice (per user, per month billed annually)
Essentials $19.99
Standard $27.99
Premium $34.99
Ultimate $49.99

How much does RingCentral Premium cost?

PlanStarting price (per user, per month)
Essentials

$24.99

Standard

$29.99 

Premium

$39.99

Ultimate

$54.99 

What kind of small business features does RingCentral Premium offer?

  • Software integrations: at the Premium and Ultimate subscriptions, you can sync your phone system with over 90 CRM platforms, with key helpdesk integrations like Salesforce and Zendesk, analytics, and other platforms like Slack, WhatsApp, and Facebook. This makes your customer service muscle stronger, and allows you to instantly draw on customer-specific data to provide a frustration-free experience.
  • Onboarding support: available to RingCentral Premium subscribers
  • Scalability: RingCentral has an impressive offer for scalability, equipping you with all the right tools – call queue, ring groups, web conferencing tools, internal live chat, and pretty much all the management features you could ever need as a small business! It also includes multi-factor authentication, password rules, compliance certifications and encryption, which will help shield your operation as you continue to scale up.

How does RingCentral Premium compare to other VoIP providers for small businesses?

Factoring in price, integrability, features, and customer support, our in-depth research has awarded RingCentral a great 4.7/5 rating for its value as a system for small businesses. With access to key features like call queue and ring groups, you can easily take on a large number of callers and glam up your operation. Because of this, we’ve awarded RingCentral a 4.1/5 rating for features – the second highest score in this category out of all the providers we’ve looked at!

What’s even more impressive is that, compared to competitors like Vonage and Dialpad, RingCentral races ahead for customer service features in our research, scoring a 5/5 rating in this category. So, you can be confident you’ll have a whole dashboard of nifty features to power your small business.

8×8– X2

Best small business phone system for scalability

8x8 X2
4.6
Pricing $19- 195 per user, per month
Quick overview

Chosen by over 2.5 million users, 8x8 has a proven track record of success – according to Forrester Consulting, clients that opted for 8x8 reported a 158% growth in ROI! Known for its customisable drag-and-drop dashboards and intelligent coaching and collaboration tools, 8x8 offers a wide menu of subscription options that will allow you to gradually – or rapidly – scale up your small business.

The scalable building blocks that 8x8 offers are robust and diverse. With features like ring groups and call queue offered at its X2 subscription plan, your small business will easily be able to deal with large volumes of callers. What’s more, with web conferencing and internal live chat integrations with a wide range of platforms including Telegram and Slack, your team will be able to work remotely, giving you more flexibility and reduced costs.

Strengths

Boasts some of the most generous customer support in the VoIP-verse

Unlimited inbound and outbound minutes to 48 countries

Offers real-time dashboards and wide range of seamless integrations

Weaknesses

Niftiest features not available for X2 subscribers

Free trial only gives you insight into the Express subscription

Unclear if Customer Success Managers (onboarding support) come at an extra cost

How much does 8×8 X2 cost?

Plan

Starting price (per user, per month)
Express

$19

X2

$30 

X4

$55

X6

$125

X7

$150

X8

$195

What kind of small business features does 8×8 X2 offer?

  • Software integrations: integrable with CRM, Helpdesk, Web Conferencing, external and internal live chats, email, and more, starting at the X2 subscription. This makes 8×8 a powerful tool your team can leverage to personalise customer experience and work quickly by avoiding having to hop back and forth between different communication channels.
  • Onboarding support: provided through 8×8’s Customer Success Managers, although it’s unclear whether this comes at an additional cost.
  • Scalability: 8×8 X2 allows you to sync your internal communications, as it’s compatible with platforms like Slack, Telegram, and Teams, so you and your team can work remotely. It’s also equipped with call queue, ring groups, analytics, customisable call routing, and call recording, all of which allows you to handle large numbers of callers, and gather data to optimise your small business mojo.

How does 8×8 X2 compare to other VoIP providers for small businesses?

Awarded a 4.6/5 overall rating by our independent researchers, who’ve put 8×8 X2’s features, pricing, and customer support to the test, we believe it stands out due to its flexibility of choice. Whether your small business needs a comprehensive, savvy system or you just want the essentials, 8×8 can tick off the boxes on your small business phone system checklist. 

Although we’ve given 8×8 a 2.5/5 for its pricing, placing it far behind Google Voicw and GoTo's 5/5 rating in this category, you can consider the extra couple of quid you’re putting down on the table a worthy investment, thanks to 8×8’s broad range of features. Nevertheless, we have awarded 8×8 a stellar 5/5 rating for its generous customer support and security, which is unrivalled by all other providers featured here.

Dialpad – Pro

Best small business phone system for conversational AI

Dialpad logo
Dialpad Pro
4.6
Pricing $20 - bespoke
Quick overview

With one foot in the present and another in the future, Dialpad is known for its innovative use of conversational AI. Known as Dialpad Ai, this function accurately transcribes your phone calls in real-time, flags whether or not the conversation features happy or frustrated customers, automates post-call summaries, and enables you to create notes with tips and advice that appear on screen when certain keywords or phrases are spoken on call. You can also choose to turn off this feature for more confidential conversations.

Strengths

Great customer support, including a user forum, knowledge base, and live chat

Superb customer reputation, with an aggregated review score of 4.4

Offers the best range of features, right after 8x8

Weaknesses

Not very easy to scale, scoring 3.3 in our scalability analysis

Doesn’t have an uptime guarantee at the Pro subscription level

How much does Dialpad Pro cost?

PlanStarting price (per user, per month)
Standard

$20

Pro

$30

Enterprise

Bespoke

What kind of small business features does Dialpad Pro offer?

  • Software integrations: Dialpad is syncable with CRM, helpdesk, web conferencing, email, workspace, internal live chat and SSO, giving you access to platforms like Salesforce, Zendesk, Hubspot, G Suite, and Slack. However, it does miss out on external live chat and analytics integrations, and its own API. Overall, it does have a pretty limited offer of syncable platforms, particularly on the CRM front, as your menu only includes three possible CRM platforms.
  • Onboarding support: available to Dialpad Pro subscribers.
  • Scalability: with access to call queue, ring groups, and a variety of management features like call recording, analytics, and call transcripts, Dialpad Pro offers a good range of tools you can rely on to build up your business. You can also use internal live chat and web conferencing to slash costs, as you can keep your operation remote. However, its security measures do miss out on multi-factor authentication and password rules, making it less secure than other providers like Google Voice and 8×8.

How does Dialpad Pro compare to other VoIP providers for small businesses?

Our thorough research has looked closely at how suitable Dialpad Pro is for small businesses, and has awarded it an overall 4.6/5 rating.  Dialpad Pro is nifty and futuristic thanks to its conversational AI, which allows you to do a lot of things hands free and focus your attention on other tasks as you work on making your small business succeed. Although it misses out on some crucial external connections (2.3/5 in our research) , we awarded it a great 4/5 rating for its customer support, ranking above other providers like Nuacom, GoToConnect, and bOnline in this category.

Did You Know?

Companies are migrating to the cloud. 70% of contact centres operate on the cloud, with 44% being fully migrated.

Ooma – Office Pro

Best small business phone system for affordability

ooma logo
Ooma Office Pro
4.4
Pricing $24.95 - 34.95 per user, per month
Quick overview

One of the priorities for small businesses who are on the hunt for a new telephone system is to find an affordable option. Ooma is just that. For the affordable price of $29.99 per user per month, you get access to Ooma's scalable features and generous customer support. This is why we've awarded it a 5/5 for price in our research. Focusing on its customer support, we also like Ooma because you're offered a user forum, a knowledge base, live chat, phoneline, 24/7 live support, and 99.999% uptime guarantee. This gives you peace of mind as a small business owner as outage time will not translate into a massive money loss since Ooma will be there to speedily support you.

Although its price point is very alluring, the downside is that you are compromising on external connections. With Ooma Office Pro, you miss out on CRM, Helpdesk, Web Conferencing, External and Internal live chat, analytics, API, and SSO software integrations. Therefore, if you're looking for a Swiss army knife for external connections, we'd recommend looking at RingCentral instead.

Strengths

Generous offering of customer support features

Affordable price point

Weaknesses

Very limited offering of external connections

Poor security features

How much does Ooma Office Pro cost?

PlanPrice (per user, per month)

Ooma Office

$24.95

Ooma Office Pro

$29.99

Ooma Office Pro Plus

$34.95

What kind of small business features does Ooma Office Pro offer?

  • Software integrations: very thing offering of software integrations. You can only access email (Gmail and Outlook) and workspace (Google Workspace and Microsoft 365) integrations.
  • Onboarding support: none on offer
  • Scalability: unlimited user limit, ring groups, thin offering of management features (only call recording, customisable call routing, and analytics and reporting available), doesn't offer multi-factor authentication, password rules, or user permissions for security features

How does Ooma Office Pro compare to other VoIP providers for small businesses?

Scoring an overall 4.4/5 and a perfect 5/5 for price in our research, Ooma Office Pro stands out from the crowd due to its very alluring affordability. For just $29.99 per user, per month (billed annually), you can access a very generous range of inbound communication and customer support features. Although Ooma's price score is definitely very impressive, keep in mind this stellar 5/5 score is equialized by Dialpad Pro, Google Voice, and Net2Phone. However, what sets it apart is its more competitive price point and better customer support.

However, where Ooma Office Pro falls behind the rest is in security features. Scoring a very poor 1/5 for security in our research, Ooma Office Pro doesn't offer multi-factor authentication, password rules, and user permission. If security is your main concern as a small business, we'd recommend looking at Google Voice standard or 8×8 X2.

Get quotes from the best phone systems for your small business

Google Voice – Standard

Best small business phone system for Google Users

Google Voice Standard
4.4
Pricing $10 - 30
Quick overview

Chosen by companies like Dow Jones and ZPG, Google Voice is a top player for clients who are already big fans of Google in their workspace. Using Google AI within multiple aspects of its operation, from blocking spam to transcribing voicemails, Google Voice is known for its robust security features and its seamless integration with all other things Google.

Although our research has given Google Voice a 2.8/5 rating for external connections and 2.6/5 for features, which does put it far behind other providers like 8x8 and RingCentral, if you’re already happy with all the Google products that businesses use, the setup will be fairly straightforward and painless.

Strengths

Fantastic for Google users

Top-rated security features

Weaknesses

Difficult to integrate with other non-Google systems

Customer support is quite restricted compared to other providers

Limited range of available features

How much does Google Voice Standard cost?

PlanStarting price (per user, per month)
Starter

$10

Standard

$20

Premier

$30

What kind of small business features does Google Voice Standard offer?

  • Software integrations: although you can sync Google Voice with CRM and helpdesk platforms like Zoho, Copper, Pipedrive, Salesforce, and Hubspot, you’ll have to use flagship Google products for email, web conferencing, and workspace capabilities.
  • Onboarding support: not available to Google Voice Standard subscribers.
  • Scalability: although Google Voice offers the bare minimum of management features — just analytics and customisable call routing — it does have pretty much every single security feature you’d need to feel confident your operation is properly protected. It also includes web conferencing and internal live chat if you’re happy to use Google Meet and Google Chat. Therefore, what it lacks in management features is made up for in terms of security, but keep in mind that this isn’t a golden solution to scale up your business.

How does Google Voice Standard compare to other VoIP providers for small businesses?

Our researchers have put the key features offered by Google Voice for small business to the test and have given it a 4.4/5 rating. Whilst it’s a great option for Google users, its limited offer of features gives it a 2.6/5 rating in this category. In terms of features, it matches Nuacom, but lags far behind others like RingCentral and 8×8. However, what it does excel at is security, which is the reason we gave it an excellent 5/5 rating in this category. No other provider equals Google Voice in security, except for 8×8.

Net2Phone – Business Lite

Best for International Calling

Net2Phone Canada
4.3
Pricing $29.99 - 134.99
Quick overview

All the systems we discuss here provide unlimited Canada calls at no extra cost – but what about calls to other countries? Most systems charge extra fees for them, but Net2Phone stands out because it comes with unlimited calling to more than 40 countries. This means speaking to clients and teams across the world is completely free, allowing you to maintain and expand your international reach.

Net2Phone can also give you virtual phone numbers and dial tones in over 50 countries. So, if you’d like to establish a presence in places like Europe or Asia, your contact options are easily taken care of. We’re also quite impressed by Net2Phone’s international presence as its offices and data centers around the globe hosts more than 33 billion international minutes every year – so we’d say it’s a pretty safe bet if you’ve got plans to expand internationally in the coming years!

Strengths

Net2Phone will supply you with free upgraded desk phones when you switch to the system

The company provides free, 24/7 customer support via phone or email

The system is very user friendly, and includes a simple management console that makes it easy to make changes to your system

Weaknesses

Doesn’t come with audio conferencing or team messaging

Very limited software integrations compared to competitors

Doesn’t offer call flip, barge, or whisper and is limited in management features

How much does Net2Phone Business Lite cost?

PlanStarting price (per user, per month)

Business Lite

$29.99

Business Select

$39.99

Business Premier

$49.99

Call Centre

$59.99

Starter Kit$134.99 per month

What kind of small business features does Net2Phone Business Lite offer?

  • Software integrations: overall, Net2Phone Business Lite has slim pickings when it comes to software integrations. Subscribers only get access to an API.
  • Onboarding support: this is offered to Net2Phone Business Lite subscribers.
  • Scalability: our researchers gave Net2Phone a 4.1/5 for scalability thanks to a rich offer of customer support (only misses out on 24/7 live support), call queue, ring groups, and a low user limit of 6 users. Keep in mind it doesn't score higher because it misses out on important management features like call monitoring, call-flow designer, and analytics and reporting.

How does Net2Phone Business Lite compare to other VoIP providers for small businesses?

Scoring a stellar 5/5 for price in our research, one of the reasons we love Net2Phone Business Lite is because of its competitive price. However, there are other providers who are just as competitive because they all occupy the same top spot, including 8×8, Ooma, and Google Voice. So, while not unique, it’s still a really safe bet if you want something that won’t stretch out your wallet. Having said that, Net2Phone Business Lite is far from perfect. Our research gave it a measly 1.5/5  for external connections because of the limited menu of systems you can sync it with. It also scores a 2.9/5 for features and security, placing it behind others like Dialpad Pro, RingCentral Premium, and 8×8 X2.

GoToConnected – Standard

Best small business phone system for value for money

GoTo logo
GoToConnect Standard
4.2
Pricing $31.20 - $37.70
Quick overview

Promising a seamless onboarding process using which you can get your cloud phone system working within a day, GoToConnect is a safe option if you’re looking to get value for your money. Featuring a streamlined admin portal, you can easily configure call flows with a drag-and-drop dial plan editor, and comb through call analytics to identify which team or agent needs improvement.

On top of this, for just $37.70 per user, per month, you’ll be able to wield all the inbound communication features you might need as a small business, including call queue and ring groups – an offer that no other provider offers at a more competitive price point.

Strengths

Access to all the inbound communication features your small business might need

Free international calling to 50+ countries and unlimited domestic inbound and outbound minutes

Video conferencing and internal live chat included

Weaknesses

Analytics and workspace integrations unavailable

Limited number of compatible external platforms compared to other providers

Not the most comprehensive customer support

How much does GoToConnect Standard cost?

PlanStarting price (per user, per month)
Basic

$31.20

Standard

$37.70

Premium

$50.70

What kind of small business features does GoToConnect Standard offer?

  • Software integrations: GoToConnect is compatible with CRM, helpdesk, web conferencing, internal live chat, email, and SSO platforms, and has an open API. But the menu of the platforms you can sync GoToConnect with is less generous than other providers, missing Office 365, Hubspot, and Bullhorn.
  • Onboarding support: available on GoToConnect Standard
  • Scalability: with an unlimited user limit, ring group, call queue, analytics, call recording, and customisable call routing, GoToConnect Standard gives you the features that will help you piece together the bricks of your scaling small business. What’s more, GoToConnect also gives you access to internal live chat and web conferencing, which can help keep your business working remotely and cost-effectively.

How does GoToConnect Standard compare to other VoIP providers for small businesses?

After combing through all the information available on GoToConnect, our researchers have given it a 4.2/5 overall rating. Although its customer support score of 3.4/5 lags a bit behind that of RingCentral and Vonage, the features you can access for what you pay for your Standard subscription gives you greater value for your money than those systems would. GoToConnect also gives you free international calling to 50+ countries, making it a great softphone option for businesses who need this sort of offering.

Did You Know?

Customers want a connected experience. 72% of customers expect all agents to have the same information about them. This is why having a unified communications system that allows you to quickly retrieve client information is crucial!

How did we compare the best phone systems for small businesses?

Our team of independent researchers has conducted an in-depth dive into seven of the most used and best rated phone system suppliers on the market. Prioritising all the possible features that small businesses might need from a VoIP phone system, we’ve narrowed it down to the top seven providers and their best subscription models for small businesses. They shine through because of their onboarding and management features, and their ready-made integrations that can help you strengthen your operation.

We’ve also aggregated customer reviews from platforms like Trustpilot and Capterra to assure you that our knowledge is not only robust on paper, but also in practice. Regardless of which choice you make to meet the demands of your small business, our research-backed recommendations will match you with the most suitable players in the VoIP market.

How to choose the right phone system for your small business?

When making the crucial choice of which VoIP phone system to bring into your small business, there are a couple of key features that can help you make your decision less stressful and complicated. You can consider:

  • Money: as is the case for a lot of things in business, money can be an inevitable pain point. Therefore, it’s important to prioritise options that charge low up-front monthly fees, offer inclusive domestic minutes, provide multiple communication channels (so you don’t have to pay extra to get these from other providers), and provide solid customer support, so you can avoid losing money during a potential phone downtime.
  • Compatibility with your software infrastructure: when you’re entering the VoIP-verse, the last thing you want to do is spending aeons switching back and forth between all the software platforms you use to run your business. Therefore, choosing a provider that’s like a Swiss army knife when it comes to integrations is key. Look out for ready-made integrations for things like CRM, workspace, email, web conferencing, internal messaging, and external messaging platforms.
  • Scalability: as a business, you can be burdened by extra costs in the long-term if you outgrow an important software system, forcing you to upgrade to a different provider. Therefore, you’ll need a VoIP system that can grow as fast as your business can. Key indicators for this will be providers that let you onboard an unlimited number of users, and come with call queues, ring groups, a good array of management features, and things that allow you to run your operation remotely, like internal messaging and video conferencing. Security will also be key here as this shields your business from risks as you expand.
Verdict

Even though you’re spoilt for choice with eight great VoIP providers out there, our top-rated recommendations are RingCentral Premium and 8×8 X2 . Whether they’re the right choice for your small business is, of course, up to you. But we believe they offer affordable packages and come with modern unified communications features, and they’re more flexible and easy to use both remotely and in the office – all points to consider if you’re a small business!

Do know, however, that you’re not alone in decrypting all the options and jargon in the VoIP-verse. That’s why we want to help you cut through the noise, and find the right small business phone system for you easily and quickly.

Whether you’re feeling ready to make a choice or you’d still like to ask more questions to providers, you can fill in our quick and free comparison tool to fast-forward you into adopting your new small business phone system. Simply answer a few questions about your team’s needs, and we’ll match you up with the phone system providers you should know about. They’ll be in touch with free, tailored, no-obligation quotes and answers to your questions.

FAQs

What is the best phone system for a small business?
Based on our in-depth research, we’ve found that the best options out there for small businesses are RingCentral Premium and 8×8 X2. They’re relatively affordable, come with unified communications features, and they’re more flexible and easy to use both remotely and in the office – all points to consider if you’re a small business! If you want to learn more, scroll up and read our reviews of Vonage and 8×8.
What is the best phone system for an office?
When choosing what type of phone system to adopt, you have a bunch of different providers to explore – but the first hurdle you need to clear is whether your phone system will be VoIP or PBX. We recommend hopping onboard a VoIP phone as it allows you to easily keep your operation remote, flexible, and adaptable, and most importantly, cheap. In fact, if you want to think about it in another way, VoIP systems provide your business with the key functionality offered by PBX systems anyway, so you wouldn’t be missing out on anything by making a transition to VoIP. Then, which provider you choose should depend on the size of your business and what your specific needs are! You can read our review above for specific recommendations for small business.
How much does a small business phone system cost?
A small business phone system doesn’t need to cost you a fortune! Depending on what you’re looking for and the anatomy of your small business, a VoIP phone system can cost anywhere from $29.99 per user, per month all the way up to $39.95 per user, per month.
How do I set up a small business phone system?
Setting up a small business phone system isn’t meant to be hard. Overall, there are four steps that you need to follow to have a fully operational VoIP phone system:

  1. Choose a provider that works for you and suits your small business needs, and activate your account based on the specific instructions you’re given.
  2. Set up IP phones: if you choose to use IP desk phones, you’ll next need to set these up. It’s as easy as attaching your handset to the base of your IP phone using the cord provided. Plug your ethernet cable into your phone’s WAN port, and the other end into your router. As a side note, keep in mind you don’t need a desk phone if you are installing a VoIP system – you can still access and use on devices including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  3. Transfer your existing toll-free number: if you have an existing toll-free phone number, you can port this into your new business phone system.
  4. Customise your phone system: every business is different, so there’ll naturally be features that you’ll prioritise above others. As an administrator, you can change and set up business phone system settings and assign users and extensions based on their job description.
Traditional PBX vs. VoIP: what’s the difference?
The long and the short of it is this: a traditional PBX system uses the landline to make and receive calls, while a VoIP system uses the internet.

Both phone systems allow you to receive multiple calls at the same time, but while a PBX uses a digital on-premise switchboard to branch calls off to different handsets, a VoIP system uses an online server. Let's take a closer look:

VoIP systemsVoIP phone systems

VoIP phone systems work by transmitting phone audio over the internet. They come in two varieties: on-premise VoIP, and hosted VoIP (also known as cloud-based VoIP).

With on-premise VoIP, the system is hosted on your own servers. You'll need all the right hardware for this, and you'll need to pay someone with the right expertise to build and maintain the system.

By contrast, a hosted VoIP system lives on your system supplier's servers, and is managed and maintained by your supplier, not you. Over and above all other kinds of phone system, we recommend hosted VoIP to small businesses. This is because it's affordable, it's easy to install, and it tends to come with sophisticated call and UC features for your team to benefit from. That's why most of the systems we review on this page are cloud-based VoIP systems.

Another benefit of a VoIP system is that it can be accessed from anywhere. Most come with an app that your team can download onto a device of their choice, and use to make calls and access the system features – meaning you don't even need to buy desk phones if you're on a budget. If you do choose to, though, you should look for IP phones: these are VoIP-compatible desk phones.

Traditional PBX systemsTraditional phone systems

If you're not ready to upgrade to VoIP, a traditional landline phone system may be suitable for very small businesses with a handful of employees. All you need is one line in and a couple of phones, so that more than one employee can pick up the phone if it rings.

If you tend to receive lots of calls, having one phone line could be holding you back. This is where a PBX system comes in.

A PBX phone system turns your traditional phone system into a multi-line system by giving you the option of adding extensions that lead to each phone. Once a call comes in, the PBX auto attendant directs the caller to the right extension number, freeing up the phone line for another call to come in.

The features of a landline PBX phone system are basic compared to those available with VoIP – which is one of the reasons why we recommend VoIP instead – but you'll still be able to coordinate incoming and outgoing calls, make call transfers, and manage voicemail.

Of course, PBX is flexible in the sense that it can be used with VoIP as well as the landline. In fact, many suppliers give you the option to create an IP PBX system. This uses SIP trunking to connect a traditional phone system to the internet, meaning you can make calls over the internet and benefit from VoIP functionality, in addition to making calls using the traditional landline.

Written by:

Fernanda is a Mexican-born Expert Market writer, specialising in providing in-depth insights about business software to help businesses of all shapes and sizes thrive. From VoIP systems to project management software, she’s passionate about helping businesses find the tools and methods that will help give them an edge over their competitors. Fernanda has ample journalistic experience, having written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to cryptocurrency.