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How Much Does a Multi-Line Phone System Cost?

Any office with two or more employees benefits from applications that increase productivity, privacy, and professionalism. Modern office phone systems go far beyond the standard voicemail, call waiting, and caller ID features to include automated attendant, advanced call routing and tracking features, music on hold, call transfer, and call forwarding, for starters.

How Many Lines Should I Buy for My Multi-line Business Phone System?

As multi-line phone systems may support anywhere from two lines to 2,000, size is a major factor in determining the appropriate type of business phone system needed. Keep the following in mind when purchasing a system:
  • Lines: Count a line for every two users as a starting point; businesses with high call volumes may want to opt for more.
  • Extensions: Factor in one extension per employee, plus one each for any credit card lines, fax machines, courtesy phones, or other equipment.

Multi-Line Phone System Options

After gaining an idea of your needs, take time to compare existing vendors.
  • Key Systems: In key systems, size is referred to as a combination of lines and extensions. For example, a 4 x 16 system supports up to four lines and 16 extensions. The key system unit, or KSU, is a central control device that manages call features. Key-based phone systems are best for companies with five to 40 employees.
  • KSU-less: A KSU-less phone is essentially a self-contained desktop phone that accommodates multiple lines and extensions. Although limited to a more standard feature set, this simple configuration is easy to use and install, making it a great fit for businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
  • PBX: Most Private Branch Exchanges, or PBXs, use the term “ports” to indicate the maximum number of possible connections to the system, including lines, extensions, and any accessories such as voicemail or automated attendants. Unless you’re looking to upgrade or integrate an old system, most business consumers will likely consider a digital version of PBX, called IP PBX. Being the most costly system to set-up, PBX is most appropriate for companies with more than 40 employees.
  • VoIP: VoIP, or Voice-Over Internet Protocol, is a voice configuration applicable to any of the above phone system types. Essentially an Internet-based phone line, VoIP uses bandwidth to stream voice data over the Internet. The biggest advantages are simplicity of set-up and savings on long distance calls. The main disadvantage is loss of access to phone features if the Internet connection is lost. In addition, shared bandwidth between voice data and regular Internet data necessitates a speedy connection.

KSU-less Phone System

Sample cost for an AT&T SB67118 four-line phone system for small business which includes one corded four-line desk set and four cordless handsets, an extendable range repeater and:
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Auto attendant
  • 100 name/number phonebook
  • 3-party conferencing
  • Remote access
  • Lighted display
  • Push-to-talk intercom
  • Call transfer
  • Memo recording up to 100 minutes
  • and much more
Cost: New around $630 to $750

Key Phone System

Sample cost for an AT&T Syn248 SB35020 key system with five included desk sets, central call router, adapters, cords, Ethernet LAN cables and:
  • Four line x 24 extension system
  • Auto attendant
  • Dial-by-name
  • Customizable on-hold messages
  • Web-based administration
  • Inbound call routing
  • Caller ID
  • and much more
Cost: New around $1,300 to $1,700

PBX Phone System

PBX systems include a central cabinet ($500 to $2,500)phones ($200 to $800 each), and a data plan. Overall cost estimate is between $750 and $1200 per employee for companies with fewer than 100 employees.

VoIP Phone System

Vonage small business plan with 1500 minutes of long distance to Canada, U.S., and Puerto Rico is $40 per month (3.9 cents/min after the initial 1500), and service involves an installation fee (sometimes bundled or included with initial sign up and contract), purchase or rental of equipment (phones can cost $100 to $800 depending on screen size, features, and brand).

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