The Best Small-Business Phone Systems


Did you know that 65% of people still reach for the phone to contact a business?¹ That means you need the right phone system. But don’t stress—we’ve found the best phones for all kinds of small businesses.

Did you know that you don’t have to go through a provider to find the best small-business phone system? Too often, small-business owners get roped into choosing a system based on what a provider offers, or you might be subject to other limitations that don’t put you and your customers first. Business.org looks at small-business telephone systems based on the needs of your unique business—whether it’s a home-based operation, a service-based business, or a startup that relies on remote workers.

We looked at the most important things you need to make your business a success: price, features, service and reliability, ease of use, flexibility, and more. Then we identified what types of phone systems are the best match for different types of businesses. We even made provider recommendations so you can make your choice based on what fits your business best.

Compare the best small-business phone systems

Best forTypeMax phonesPreferred provider(s)Buy now
Panasonic 2-Handset Landline TelephoneHome-based businessesTraditional3Frontier, AT&T, VerizonCheck Price
AT&T 2-Line Corded TelephoneHome-based businessesTraditional, VoIP1AT&TCheck Price
Cisco SPA 303 3-Line IP PhoneBusinesses on a budgetVoIP25+VonageCheck Price
Yealink SIP T23G Professional Gigabit IP PhoneBusinesses on a budgetVoIP, virtual10+VerizonCheck Price
Mitel 5330e IP PhoneCustomer service and sales businessVoIPUnlimitedFrontierCheck Price
Panasonic Small Office Business Phone SystemCustomer service and sales businessTraditional, VoIP24Frontier, AT&T, VerizonCheck Price
RCA ViSys 4-Line Expandable SystemExpanding a small businessTraditional, VoIP16AT&TCheck Price
Avaya IP Office Phone SystemExpanding a small businessVoIP6Nextiva, TelcoCheck Price
Polycom Soundstation2 Expandable Conference PhoneBusinesses with remote workersTraditional1Ring CentralCheck Price
Logitech P710e Mobile Conferencing SpeakerphoneBusinesses with remote workersVirtual1N/ACheck Price

Types of small-business phone systems

It’s easy to think a phone is a phone is a phone. But in today’s technological communications landscape, it’s likely that even Alexander Graham Bell would be overwhelmed. To help cut through some of the clutter, here’s a breakdown of the most common types of small-business phone systems.

Traditional

This is the one our friend Alexander would be most familiar with. Traditional phone systems use a phone jack (that’s usually in the wall) to connect the phone to a phone service, and the phone sits on your desk ready for action. In small business, traditional phone systems are also called PBX (private branch exchange) phone systems.

PBX phone hardware can come with single or multiple lines and typically use a customary handset. Most also have options to add a headset. And if you get hosted PBX, you’ll have the same flexibility as VoIP. If you want a hosted or virtual PBX phone system, make sure you pick the right hardware. It doesn’t work with an analog phone line, as it needs to connect to the phone provider using an IP (Internet Protocol) network.

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Strengths

  • Handles hundreds of lines
  • Doesn’t require an internet connection
  • Offers on-site or hosted options
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Weaknesses

  • Costs a lot to upgrade or reconfigure
  • Comes with expensive monthly phone line costs
  • Requires ongoing maintenance and service

VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems are the most common telephone systems used in business today. VoIP systems share a lot of features with traditional PBX phone systems, but they come in at a lot cheaper prices. VoIP refers to the way calls are made—using a high-speed internet connection instead of a conventional phone line. You can also use a business VoIP system with customary hardware or opt to answer calls using computers, which saves you the cost and hassle of installing phones.

Even though VoIP phone systems can be a good choice for any business, they’re our favorite for smaller businesses because of how flexible they are. With IP phones, it’s easy to add new users and expand features as your business grows. It’s also easy to downsize, if needed. And the overall cost for smaller operations is more affordable with VoIP service.

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Strengths

  • Offers flexible configuration
  • Integrates voice and conferencing services
  • Maintains affordable pricing
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Weaknesses

  • Usually requires professional installation
  • Relies on an internet connection
  • Suffers from voice quality issues

Virtual

Virtual sounds like something from the future, but it’s actually an updated version of traditional PBX systems. A virtual phone system uses cloud technology and works well with mobile phones. That makes it ideal for businesses that need to keep employees connected to customers on the go.

But virtual doesn’t mean “mobile only.” You can have a cloud-based phone system that works with traditional handsets, computers, or mobile phones. Because virtual phone systems are so versatile, it’s important to have a clear picture of what you need—and what you don’t. Small-business owners can get dazzled by the features and flexibility and end up taking on more than they need in a virtual phone system.

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Strengths

  • Provides versatile payment structures
  • Supports flexibility for remote employees
  • Is compatible with mobile phones
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Weaknesses

  • Offers pricey usage charges
  • Can have glitchy call quality based on internet signal strength

The best small-business phone systems

We’ve grouped the best phone system solutions for small businesses based on business needs. Our top picks are below.

Best for home-based small businesses

Running a small business from your home comes with unique challenges. You often end up balancing household and family needs with the demands of your business. But the right phone system can help with the balancing act. These home office phones are packed with features for your business plus extras that make working from home easier. Things like cordless phones, noise reduction, cell phone sync, speakerphones, and conferencing make it easier for you to juggle the demands of a home-based business without missing a call.

Panasonic 2-Handset Landline Telephone

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Strengths

  • Bluetooth sync with smartphones
  • Mobile app
  • Digital answering system
  • Built-in baby monitor
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Weaknesses

  • Landline required
  • Only one phone line
  • Complicated programming

AT&T 2-Line Corded Telephone

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Strengths

  • 3-party conferencing
  • VoIP compatibility
  • Easy programming
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Weaknesses

  • Glitchy microphone
  • No call transfer function
  • Corded handset

Best phone systems for home-based small businesses

Phone systemTypeRecommended provider(s)Buy now
Panasonic 2-Handset Landline TelephoneTraditionalFrontier, AT&T, VerizonCheck Price
AT&T 2-Line Corded TelephoneTraditional, VoIPAT&TCheck Price

Best for small businesses on a budget

Making your dreams a reality takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears—and money. We know that many small businesses have to watch every penny. But being budget-conscious doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality or features. We like these small-business phone system solutions because they deliver reliable performance without draining your business bank account or sacrificing a reputable brand name. Both of our top picks come in under $100 per phone.

Cisco SPA 303 3-Line IP Phone

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Strengths

  • Affordable prices
  • Integration with Cisco’s productivity-enhancing features
  • Speakerphone, caller ID, conferencing, and password encryption
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Weaknesses

  • Poor noise-canceling ability
  • Tricky installation
  • No backlight on the screen

Yealink SIP T23G Professional Gigabit IP Phone

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Strengths

  • Intuitive user interface
  • Crisp call quality
  • Quick, easy setup
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Weaknesses

  • No included power adapter
  • No call transfer ability
  • Few programmable buttons

Best budget phone systems

Phone systemTypeRecommended provider(s)Buy now
Cisco SPA 303 3-Line IP PhoneVoIPVonageCheck Price
Yealink SIP T23G Professional Gigabit IP PhoneVoIPOoma OfficeCheck Price

Best for customer service and sales businesses

Reputation is everything when you’re running a small business, so you need a phone system that helps you take care of customers quickly, smoothly, and dependably. You may need hands-free operation, multi-line phones, and a digital answering system to keep your customers happy instead of frustrated. We’ve picked the phone systems below because of their multiple features designed to support a customer service or sales environment.

Mitel 5330e IP Phone

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Strengths

  • Hands-free operation
  • Customizable settings
  • One-touch access to web browsing and contact lists
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Weaknesses

  • Expensive cost
  • Licensing requirement for expansion
  • Possible incompatibility with other Mitel models

Panasonic Small Office Business Phone System

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Strengths

  • Easy installation
  • Up to 60 individual mailboxes and 24 extensions
  • Custom on-hold music and messaging available
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Weaknesses

  • High price
  • Auto attendant unit sold separately
  • Only three incoming phone lines

Best phone systems for customer service and sales

Phone systemsTypeRecommended provider(s)Buy now
Mitel 5330e IP PhoneVoIPFrontierCheck Price
Panasonic Small Office Business Phone SystemTraditional, VoIPFrontier, AT&T, VerizonCheck Price

Best for expanding your small business

When your small business is growing, it can be hard to scale equipment and services to meet fluctuating needs. Whether you currently have one employee or ten, being able to move quickly when your business changes is crucial to successful expansion. That’s why the phone systems we recommend for expanding businesses work for both small and medium-sized businesses. Best of all, they can expand with your business. We looked for systems that are adaptable, compatible, and—most of all—affordable.

RCA ViSys 4-Line Expandable System

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Strengths

  • Up to 16-device system
  • Call transfer/intercom function
  • 2-year warranty
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Weaknesses

  • Corded headset
  • Phone jack requirement
  • Caller ID issues

Avaya IP Office Phone System

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Pros

  • Four-phone bundle
  • Traditional, IP, or hybrid operation
  • Two fax lines
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Cons

  • Expensive price tag
  • Complicated setup

Best phone systems for growing businesses

Phone systemTypeRecommended provider(s)Buy now
RCA ViSys 4-Line Expandable SystemTraditional, VoIPAT&TCheck Price
Avaya IP Office Phone SystemTraditional, VoIPNextiva, TelcoCheck Price

Best for small businesses with remote workers

These days you don’t even need a dedicated office to operate a small business. Many businesses and startups rely on remote workers. This can mean that you bring on the best employees no matter where they live—or that your team is on the go and needs to stay connected during and between client meetings. You may also be dealing with some workers that use desk phones and others that use mobile phones. We’ve found the best communications tools to make collaborating easier no matter how your remote office works.

Polycom SoundStation2 Expandable Conference Phone

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Strengths

  • Dynamic noise reduction up to ten feet
  • Great sound clarity
  • Easy installation
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Weaknesses

  • Analog phone line only
  • Iffy customer service

Logitech P710e Mobile Conferencing Speakerphone

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Strengths

  • Smartphone, laptop, or tablet compatibility
  • 15 hours of talk time
  • Small, portable size
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Weaknesses

  • Sound quality issues
  • No phone charging options
  • Inconsistent Bluetooth connection

Best conference phone systems

Phone systemTypeRecommended provider(s)Buy now
Polycom SoundStation2 Expandable Conference PhoneTraditionalRing CentralCheck Price
Logitech P710e Mobile Conferencing SpeakerphoneVirtualN/ACheck Price

You are a business owner, and that means you’re the master of your own destiny. You should also be the master of your phone system. Don’t let a provider dictate (and limit) your small-business phone system options. Find the phone that works for you and then match it with a provider. We’ve put our research and expertise to work for you to save you the headache of sorting through all the options. Use this guide to help navigate the phone system waters—and once you’ve found what you like, we’re here to help you figure out the best business VoIP providers too.

 

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources

  1. Invoca, “Call Intelligence Index ʼ16