Phone Systems for Small Businesses

Setting up your first phone system in your small business–or even upgrading the existing system–can be confusing and a little daunting. You’re not only faced with a variety of options, but–with the nbn™ introducing a new method of making and receiving calls–also unfamiliar terms.

But choosing a new phone system is easier once you know what the different types of phone systems for small businesses are, and what features to look for in a new system. And with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology being the new standard in Australia, a basic understanding of VoIP will also make it easier to understand the need for some features in newer phone systems.

Types of Small Business Phone Systems

  • Standard NBN Business Line – the most basic of phone systems. There’s no PBX, just basic cordless or desktop handsets, connected to one or more VoIP enabled lines. This type of phone system supports minimal features only.
  • Hosted Phone System – also known as a virtual or cloud-based PBX because while it is like a full-fledged PBX system, it requires little in terms of onsite equipment and setup. It can offer all the features you would get from a traditional PBX system, with a few extra features not available on a traditional system. The actual system is hosted in the cloud on the servers of the provider you have signed up with, and it can scale up or down more easily than a regular PBX system. Services can be accessed using handsets or apps on your computer or mobile phone.
  • SIP System – Basic phone lines used to connect SIP enabled PBX phone systems to the telephone network. Adding or removing lines–or channels–is faster than with a traditional PBX setup, and depending on your existing hardware, you might have access to some new features.

What Is a VoIP Phone System?

VoIP technology was first introduced in 1995 and has steadily grown in use and popularity since, especially following the launch of Skype in 2003. However, the speeds offered by dial-up–and later ADSL–never made VoIP a practical option for most businesses due to the low quality of the phone calls. The rollout of the nbn™ and other independent fibre networks has changed this, to such an extent that the old copper network across Australia is gradually being shut down as the nbn™ reaches more areas, and VoIP over the nbn™ has become the standard for phone services in Australia. 

Instead of having a separate phone line and internet connection, everything runs over the same connection. VoIP technology seamlessly converts your voice to a digital signal that is transmitted over the internet and converted back to audio by the VoIP enabled device at the other end. Advancements in the technology mean you are no longer limited to using a service like Skype; you can now make and receive VoIP calls on regular phone handsets too. A VoIP phone system offers all that a traditional phone system offered but is often simpler and more affordable to install and use.

What Do I Need for a VoIP Phone System?

The first thing you need to switch from an old copper network phone system to one using VoIP technology is a suitable nbn™ connection. The more concurrent calls you want to be able to support while also using the internet for other purposes, the higher the maximum attainable speed should be. Commander’s business broadband connection includes unlimited data and a phone line, with 4G backup available for extra piece of mind.

If you are using a standard NBN Business line, you may also need a business modem, and an Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA) if needing to connect more than two phones. For a hosted phone system, you will need to have a LAN switch or router/gateway with sufficient spare ports for each telephone device you want to connect. And if you are switching to a SIP system, you will need to have an IP enabled PBX system and a suitable router. Cordless or desktop handsets are not needed with some VoIP phone systems since the technology also allows calls to be made and received using laptops, desktop computers, or mobile phones. 

What Handsets to Consider

As noted previously, handsets are not always needed with a VoIP phone system, but if you already have handsets–or would like to get handsets–then the type of phone system you opt for could influence compatibility. If you have a physical PBX system that you are planning to use with a SIP system, you will need to check with the supplier if it is compatible. Speak to your phone system provider before investing in new handsets. 

Key Features to Look For

Every business has different needs when it comes to a phone system, so you first need to properly assess what features your current system has that you use, and what features you will need. Most business phone systems come with a standard set of features included, with optional add-on features also available. Key features you should look for include:

  • Auto Receptionist. Even if you have a dedicated receptionist, an auto receptionist feature makes it easier for customers to select the department or person they wish to speak to without going through the receptionist first. This is especially useful for businesses with a high volume of incoming calls.
  • Core Call Features. A basic system should still support the ability to hold, transfer, and forward calls, along with allowing hunt groups to be set up, and a call waiting indicator. Other call features such as sequential and simultaneous ringing are great, but not always essential.
  • Voicemail. Not all systems will offer voicemail support, so look for this if it is needed in your business. Voicemail to Email is a useful enhancement to standard voicemail, allowing anyone to have easy access to voicemail even when they are out of the office.
  • Softphone Support. Hosted phone systems and some SIP systems might support softphones, which allow calls to be made and received using a computer or mobile app. This reduces your dependence on handsets, making it easier to scale your system up or down as needed. With the inclusion of a mobile app, you can make and receive calls as if using the primary business phone number.
  • Call Plans. Many VoIP phone systems include unlimited calls to local, national, and standard mobile numbers. But don’t assume this is included. Always check the Critical Information Summary of any systems and plans you are considering to see what is included.
  • Other Telephone Devices. Lift phones, monitored alarms, standalone fax machines, and EFTPOS devices either don’t work with nbn™ connections, or require a separate line. Always ask what telephone devices or services are not supported.

Get in touch with our Sales team to learn more about each of our phone systems for small businesses.