Cisco Blogs

Top 6 Considerations When Buying a Phone System

December 8, 2010 - 3 Comments

Today, phones provide more than just a dial tone, and we’ve come to expect them to do a lot more for us. No longer are we satisfied with phones that simply make and receive calls. We expect our phones to allow us to communicate in multiple ways—video, data, and instant messaging, for example. Is your phone system meeting your needs as your business grows?

A VoIP phone system offers a lot of benefits and takes advantage of the data network you’re already using. If you’re thinking about upgrading to an IP-based or internet phone system, here are some things to consider:

1. Plan ahead: Before you can start researching IP-based phone systems, you need to have a clear understanding of the features and capabilities your business and employees need. Do you need an auto attendant, voice mail, call forwarding, or “follow me” capabilities? Knowing the features you currently use most and are likely to use in the future will help determine which phone system will best meet your company’s needs.

2. Back-up land line and Internet connection. Having one network for voice as well as data saves you time and money, but you can’t afford to have your business come to a screeching halt if there’s a system failure or power outage. For that reason, you should have a regular phone line and a backup broadband connection.

3. Session Initiation Protocol support. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a signaling protocol used for controlling communication sessions over IP. SIP-based VoIP phone systems can give you additional functionality, such as providing the ability for multi-user conference calls and enabling click-to-chat on web pages. This increases the value and usefulness of your phone system, and allows you to serve customers better.

4. Flexibility. Small businesses are dynamic—constantly on the move. You need a phone system that allows your employees to be productive no matter where work takes them.  Features like single number reach allow employees to program their phone to forward calls to the number that’s best for them (such as a cell phone or home phone).  Remote workers need access to the same professional voice tools as your headquarters employees.  Future branches of your business need to seamlessly integrate into your phone system

5. Sound quality. We’ve all been on a call with bad sound quality. It’s frustrating at best and unproductive at worst. Good call quality is essential to your business. Make sure to test the sound quality of the phone systems you’re considering before committing to a system that fails at the basics.

6. Scalability. As your business grows, you want a phone system that can grow with you as you bring new employees on board or add a credit card terminal, for example. Being able to expand your phone system—instead of having to invest in a new one—will save you plenty.

Have you purchased a VoIP-based phone system? What were your key considerations? Share them here!

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  1. I get so frustrated by # 2. My company offers network admin help to our web design customers because often we are the only "geeks" they trust. More often than not who ever initially set up their Internet and phone lines used the same provider. Just last week I got a frantic phone call about the Internet being down. I asked them to check the phone... also down. It turns out a freak accident took out their large providers service for several days. Several days of NO email & NO phone service. Luckily that provider had phone forwarding services and we were able to monitor their collective email from our office & fwd important ones to various cell phones. Suffice it to say that particular client is now a fan of using different providers. Great list!

    • Thanks so much. Like everything else it's important to have tech partners you trust!

  2. Simple and helpful tut.