What to look for when choosing a business phone system

The easiest way to lose a customer is with a bad phone system. A user-friendly and easy to use phone system is vital to any business. However, there are several providers who claim to be the best. Unfortunately, most providers are just monopolies with overpriced service and no customer support.

The traditional landline from the major U.S. telephone companies have become outdated.  Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is a much better option with great sound quality and a multitude of business-friendly features. Leo Laport of the “Tech Guy” radio show on the Premiere Radio Networks says that “in the event of a disaster, landlines are good because the phone line is carrying its own power and you can still make a call if the power is out.” Tech Guy Labs However, this issue is mitigated because nearly everyone has a cellphone.

It has been my experience that you want to avoid getting your business phone service through any of the major telephone companies or internet service providers (ISP). The large telecommunications companies are typically regional monopolies. The first completion that these companies have received in decades has come from recent players like Verizon’s FIOS and Google’s fiber Internet. Your ISP will attempt to sell you phone service when you purchase a high-speed internet package. I recommend avoiding your ISP’s phone service if that provider is Time Warner, Comcast, or Cox.

We chose a VOIP phone system by RingCentral for our organization. (Link) There are several of these types of VOIP providers that can work great for your business. Here are the things that you will want to ask before choosing a provider:

• What does the service cost per user? Can I have shared lines for phones that are rarely used? Most of these business VOIP providers charge by the user, not by the telephone number.

• Does the plan allow you to terminate the agreement? Cox Business will attempt to make you pay the remaining contracted amount even if you move to a new location Cox does not service.

• What is the recommended internet speed you will need for your location? Do I need to adjust my network router settings? What are the minimum system requirements?

• Can I transfer my existing phone numbers? Do I “own” my number? Can I keep my toll-free or local number if I choose to cancel?

• How long does the service take to activate and go live with my entire office?

• What’s involved in setting up my phone system? Ask the sales representative to let you trial the product and demo the administrative features.

• What additional hardware do I need? Do I need special phones or a router to make this work? Amazon has good deals on VOIP phones. Link to Amazon.  We chose the Cisco SPA525G2 5-Line IP Phone because of the price and the ability to connect to our network over Wi-Fi.

• How many minutes are included with my account and can I make International calls?

• How do I retrieve my voice, fax, and text messages?

• How do I set up my greeting, voicemail greetings, extensions, etc.?

• Does the service have a mobile app and Desktop interface?

• Does the service have a conferencing feature and can you use it with people outside of the company?

• Does the service work with my other applications like Office 365, Salesforce®, Zendesk®, Oracle® and Sales Cloud?

USA RingCentral Office - Get All the Features You Need in One All-Inclusive Cloud Phone System

DIY Network Rack.

Do you have a wiry mess under your desk? We have a cornucopia of network routers, wireless routers, external hard drives, each with its own power converter box and power strips with long cables and cords running everywhere. Also, as a safety concern, these long wires and cords are an attractive target for the curious hands of small children.

There is a simple solution to this mess of wires: making your own home network rack. I made the pictured network rack for less than $20.00. This idea was taken from a corporate network rack. Those tend to be surprisingly neat and organized, even though they hold, as you can imagine, a much larger volume of wires and cables.

Supply list: 1. Wire shelf & 2. Zip ties

First, go to your local big box home improvement store and find the Wire Shelving Accessories in the Storage and Organization Section. I used the two-foot wire shelf pictured below.


rack - Copy Network Rack 1 - Copy


I liked the one on the right above because it can stand on its own or could be mounted on the wall. If you want to  spend less than $5.00,  you can always go with a simple but strong wire deck.   Also, pick up a pack of zip ties. I prefer black, if they have that color.

Second, untangle your mess of wires and devices. Lay these things out on the shelving in an arrangement that looks neat and organized. Zip tie all boxes, power strips to the wire shelving. Zip tie the power cords so that you can plug in the routers, hard drives, etc.

Third, connect everything back and test it to make sure it works, zip tie all the network cables and other loose cords and cables. If you want you can hang your network rack on the wall or under your desk using some simple hangers. But note that you will want to make sure there is good airflow so that the devices do not get too hot.

IMG_3897 DIY Home Network Rack