A smiling woman with a headset places a call over a small business phone system.

Choosing the Right Phone System for Your Business

Phone Systems for Small Business: What Does Your Business Need?

Even in the modern era of Internet communication, plenty of business still gets done over the phone. Enterprises of all sizes and in all industries need working phone systems to take calls, get back to customers, and enable collaboration between employees.

Just like other tools and business systems, the kind of phone system your business uses – and what that phone service includes – can make a massive difference in the efficiency and profitability of your company. Today, we’ll break down the different types of phone services for small businesses, then explore what you should look for in a small business telephone system.

What is a Small Business Phone System?

Think of a small business phone system as a unified communications network. It's not only a few landlines and answering machines (although any good phone system will include these, of course). A phone system for small businesses is an interconnected platform that ties all of a business's phone-related tools and operations together.

Depending on what your business needs and your preferences as a business owner or manager, your enterprise's phone system can be self-run or managed. A self-run phone service essentially includes phone and machine setup, then leaves you to run the various software tools and tackle troubleshooting.

On the other hand, a managed phone system for small businesses outsources technical work, monitoring, and other tasks to a trusted third party. Managed phone systems can be beneficial for organizations that don’t want to have to pay for the upfront costs or labor to maintain their phone lines and associated tools in exchange for an ongoing subscription or contract fee.

In either case, your business can benefit from a dedicated phone system for a variety of reasons:

  • Your phone system allows you to receive calls from many customers simultaneously and reliably communicate with prospects
  • A good phone system will also help your employees collaborate with each other through a channel other than using email or physically walking to each other’s offices
  • Your phone system can automatically take messages from customers outside of business hours

Types of Phone Services for Small Business

Business phone services can be found in a few broad types. Let’s take a closer look at those types to determine which is best for most businesses and their needs.

Key System Units

Key system units, or “KSUs,” are basic phone systems that operate with a central switching unit. The switching unit determines which line each phone call is routed through. At its simplest level, think of a key system unit as a typical office routing phone system. It gets the job done, but it doesn't have much flexibility and isn't ideal for businesses with lots of workers or a company that takes lots of customer phone calls throughout the day.

Private Branch Exchange Systems

Private branch exchange systems. or "PBXs." are used by small to medium-sized businesses. These systems work through the Internet and use a centralized phone network. With a PBX, your business can easily take multiple calls at the same time and access extra features or tools. PBX phone systems are preferred by some businesses because they have dedicated power supplies, so they are more reliable than KSU systems.

Voice over Internet Protocol Systems

These days, many businesses opt to use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems. These modern phone systems leverage the latest cloud technology and your business’s existing Internet connection to receive calls and route them to their intended recipients.

VoIP systems are advantageous since you just need an Internet connection, and they can use the same kind of computing or Internet equipment that is already on-premises. Since you don’t need to buy or maintain separate equipment for a VoIP phone system, it’s oftentimes more cost-effective than alternatives.

Of course, you do need a stable, fast Internet connection to make a VoIP phone system work. That’s why many of the best business Internet providers package voice services alongside Internet service.

What to Look for in a Small Business Telephone System

What exactly a small business phone system offers in terms of advanced features is just as important as its overall type. While your business’s exact needs might vary, here’s what we recommend you look for in a new managed phone service.

Automation Tools

Automation tools can make the lives of your employees easier and help your business get new customers even when no one is “at the phones.” For example, automated attendants can greet new callers and tell them what department they should dial for or how to reach one of your employees by pressing the right number keys. Many small businesses, including medical practices, use automated attendants frequently to excellent effect.

Similarly, business phone announcements and other prerecorded greetings can automatically play when someone calls your enterprise. This can help improve the customer experience. No one likes to listen to ringing sounds constantly while they’re on hold – automatic messages break up the monotony and reassure waiting customers that you care about their business.

Call Forwarding

Call forwarding is another highly important feature to look for in a great new small business phone system. In a nutshell, call forwarding reroutes incoming calls sent to your previous phone number to your new VoIP phone number or device, all without requiring the caller to do anything.

This can be beneficial in many situations. For instance, imagine a case where you get a new business phone number but haven’t had the chance to tell all your existing clients. The right business phone system can make the transition a breeze for you and your clients alike.

Logs and Analytics

The more information you know about your customers or callers, the better you can tailor your business to their needs. That’s why the top small business phone systems offer call analytics and logging tools.

Call logging tools record the important details about a new call, like caller ID, the date and time of the call, and so on. Call analytics tools then take that data and present it in meaningful patterns for you to act upon.

Say that you learn your business gets a lot of last-minute calls at 5:30 PM, half an hour after you close your doors. Now that you know this, you might consider extending your business hours by an hour or so to give callers the chance to speak to a real person before closing up shop at the end of every business day.

Call Recording

Don’t forget to look for call recording functionality in a new phone system for your business. Many VoIP phone systems let you save phone call audio files on the cloud and then use that conversation later on if needed.

Recorded calls can be used to:

  • Train new employees
  • Protect your business from lawsuits
  • And more

Phone Security

Security is a big deal in the modern digital age. That’s why you should make sure any phone system you decide on for your business has adequate security resources and systems. Part of this involves recording and logging calls, but you’ll also want security features to prevent digital bad actors from accessing your computer systems via phone calls.

Managed phone services can often provide simultaneous Internet and phone security screening, monitoring, and other services. This safeguards your business from common digital threats, such as malware, phishing phone calls (like a fake medical practice calling your employees to ask for personal information), and more.


In addition to the other features and services mentioned above, the right phone system for your business should have inherent scalability.

Put simply, your phone system needs to be able to grow and expand with your enterprise as it gets new customers and becomes more popular. If, for instance, your customer base doubles in a month and you need another phone line for a new salesperson or support employee, your phone system should be able to incorporate that new phone line seamlessly and without hassle.

Scalability in your phone system will help you take on new business quickly and smoothly, making the process easier for your new customers and maximizing the profits you can expect in the earliest, most important days of a new client relationship. Scalability only becomes more important as your business grows and as your requirements for an in-depth, comprehensive phone system become larger.


All in all, you want a business phone system that has all the bells and whistles in every major feature you might need to serve your customers. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to pick and choose.

With Shentel Business, you can take advantage of cloud-hosted VoIP phone service. Our cost-effective and digital solution empowers your business to tackle problems, connect with customers and prospects, and much more. Our efficient hosted voice services are perfect for small businesses with just a handful of lines or larger companies with thousands of lines spread across several brick-and-mortar locations. Add security features like robocall blocking, and Shentel Business’s hosted voice services are the complete package.

We also offer business Internet solutions, so you can get best-in-class Internet and voice services for your business at the same time. Want to learn more? Get in touch with us today or request a consultation to see how we can serve your business.