How to Select the Best Phone System

    If you are like most people, you’ll participate in selecting and implementing a new business phone system only once or twice in your career.  After all, most companies don’t keep a professional “phone system buyer” on staff.  Knowing where to start is half the battle.  We hope these tips will help you get going and guide you as you manage this important project.  We hope that you will consider the ShoreTel Sky solution, but no matter which vendor you eventually choose, these will be important steps steps to getting the best VoIP phone system for your company.

    Getting Started, Places and People

    Understanding the scope of the needed solution is an excellent place to start.  Here are a few questions to begin with:

    • How many locations does your business currently have?
    • Do you plan to add additional office locations over the next few years? If so, how many?
    • Do you have people using the phone who work remotely (telecommuters) and should be connected to the phone system?  If so, how many?
    • How many employees do you currently have?
    • How many do you expect to add in the next year?  Two years?  Five years?
    • Does each employee need a desk phone?  If not, how many desk phones do you currently need?
    • Do you have a front desk attendant or receptionist?  How many?
    • Do you have areas other than workstations that will need phones?  (Include places like kitchens, lobbies, break areas, labs and waiting rooms)?  How many?
    • Do you have conference rooms that need phones? How many?

    Once you’ve answered these questions, you now have an idea of the scope of your project.  Next, it is a good idea to identify the people at your company who will be involved in the process of selecting and implementing your phone system.  Figuring out who will be needed and getting them involved as part of the process will make the project much easier.


    You might ask - who best understands the functions and features needed and wanted from our new system?  Hint: most clients find that at least one person from sales, customer support and IT should be consulted about needed features.  Sometimes it is also a good idea to involve marketing, finance, HR and operations.  You’ll also want to identify the person who best understands the technical infrastructure of your locations.  Of course, you’ll need to know who will need to approve the purchase.

    Now that you’ve outlined the scope of the project and identified your team, it’s time to figure out what you need the system to do.

    Features and Functionality

    Almost all modern business phone systems come with a huge array of features and capabilities.  Some of these are critical to every business, but others are rarely, if ever used.  Your vendor selection will be easier if you know ahead of time which features you must have, would like to have or don’t need.  This list of phone features will give you a good idea what is available.

    There are also some things that modern phone systems can do that you may not have considered.  It is a good idea to think about these advanced or specialized features early on in your process.  If you don’t know what they are, now is a good time to learn more.

    Once you have a good idea of what your business VoIP phone system will need to do.  You’ll need to consider how it will work.


    Network and Infrastructure

    You will need answers to a few technical questions and may require the assistance of your internal IT resources or a trusted consultant.  Here’s what you’ll need to know:

    • What type of cabling is available in each location for both voice and data?

    • What are your data needs?

    • What type of broadband connections are currently available?

    • Do you have existing contracts with our broadband and/or voice providers?  If so, when do they expire?


    Phone System Vendor Selection


    At this point, you’ve done the necessary legwork and are probably ready to speak with some phone service providers.  We’d like to leave you with some helpful questions to ask each one.

    • Do you have VoIP customers like me?  Ask them to identify companies of similar, size, industry and complexity.  Are there case studies, customer testimonials or videos that you can review?

    • What are the initial, monthly and ongoing maintenance and support costs?

    • Will I have to pay for upgrades to the system?

    • How long is the contract?

    • What are the details of your phone system implementation process?  Will someone be provided to help me with the project?

    • Who will support my users if they have questions or problems?

    • Do you have a service level agreement in place?

    • How do you guarantee call quality and availaibility?

    • Do you make your performance and reliability statistics public?

    • What can you tell me about your financials?  How do I know you will be around to support me for the next five to seven years?


    We hope you have found this information helpful.  Once you find a vendor who understands and can support the scope of your project and infrastructure, provides all of the “Must Have” and many of the “Would like to Have” features and can satisfactorily answer the questions above, you can proceed with confidence that you have chosen the best phone system for your organization.




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