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Best business telephone systems 2023: Phone plans to suit your staff, clients and customers

Give your customers and workforce an efficient and productive way to keep in touch, with the best business VoIP and PABX-based phone systems

The best business telephone systems give customers a way to contact you easily, let clients engage with you flexibly, and allow your staff to communicate efficiently and productively. The technology of business communication may have evolved at warp speed in recent years, but those basic needs haven’t changed.

Today’s business phone systems use IP-based technologies to do the things that landlines and switchboard operators used to do. Technologies such as VoIP (voice-over internet protocol) and PABX (private automatic branch exchange) let you make and manage calls using barely any equipment or manual input, and costs are dramatically lower than that of using landlines. It’s good to know that at least one thing is getting cheaper.

But with a wide range of options available, which modern telephone system is right for your business? Small businesses and startups will be looking for minimal setup costs and wide compatibility with existing software and devices, while sales teams may want features such as call monitoring, analytics and multi-line support.

In this article, we’ll explain the options currently available. Read on for our guide to choosing the best phone system for your business, or skip down the page for our mini reviews of the best business telephone systems currently available.

Best business telephone system: At a glance

Best phone system for a growing business8×8Compare prices
Best value business telephone system
Yay.comCompare prices
Best phone system for small businessesRingCentralCompare prices

How to choose the best business telephone system for you

Can I stick with my landline phone system?

Not for long. The UK’s landline network will be switched off in 2025, taking ISDN with it. If your business hasn’t yet found its ideal IP-based phone system, now’s the time to start looking. 

What’s the difference between a VoIP, PABX and IP PBX system?

VoIP and PABX/PBX are often used interchangeably when describing a modern digital business telephone system, but the acronyms refer to two different technologies that work together to provide the functions you previously attained from landlines and multi-line telephone systems.

VoIP is the technology for transmitting call data (voice, video and so on), while PABX receives calls through a central exchange and assigns them to the right destination, using IP technology to do the job instantly and accurately. It’s the modern digital equivalent of traditional switchboard operators.

PBX is often used interchangeably with PABX, but we’ll use PABX to make it clear that we mean the new, automated version of the technology with no need for an operator or receptionist. “IP PBX” is sometimes used instead of PABX.

It may all appear to be acronym soup – but you don’t have to get hung up on their differences. Some systems are advertised as VoIP, some as PABX, some as PBX, some as IP PBX. In most cases, they’re PABX systems that transmit calls via VoIP. It all means phone calls over the internet.


Do I have to buy equipment for a new business telephone system?

No. Most of our recommended business telephone systems are hosted in the cloud, with calls taken and managed via an app. The provider handles all the VoIP and PABX equipment and configuration, including server, storage and exchange, so you don’t have to provide any on-premises equipment other than a reliable broadband connection and mobile devices. This males them ideal for a small business, startup or company whose workforce is based remotely.

Cloud-hosted phone systems come in quite a range. Some offer minimal functionality for very low costs, while more sophisticated systems provide all the features you’d expect from a traditional office phone system, including voicemail, call forwarding and automatic responses. Some even include customisable virtual receptionists and full CRM integration, all hosted securely in the provider’s server.

What if I want to keep my existing on-premises setup?

Not all modern business phone systems are based in the cloud. Many work with your existing equipment, and some offer a hybrid approach. So if you’re an established organisation with long-trusted (and invested) kit and workflows, don’t worry – you can still use your CRM, your desk phones, your receptionist, and even your local server. Just make sure the system you choose is compatible with them.

However, if you’re a small business or startup without an existing on-premise setup, or you have lots of people working remotely using their own devices, then a scalable cloud-based VoIP PABX will be the best business phone system for you.

Can I still have a multi-line business phone system?

Yes, but the term “multi-line” is pretty much redundant now. It’s a throwback to the days of physical phone lines, and they’re about to cease existing completely.

Instead of having multiple phone lines coming into your private exchange, VoIP-based PABX phone systems support multiple simultaneous calls. Even budget providers offer unlimited lines for inbound and outbound phone calls, without the need for expensive equipment or a receptionist.

However, not all VoIP systems can handle multiple simultaneous calls as capably as you may need. If many users connect to the same VoIP call, it can garble the connection or even cut off people altogether. When choosing the right VoIP system for you, it’s important to determine how many people you expect to be using it at the same time.

READ NEXT: What is VoIP?

What should I consider when choosing a business phone plan?

If you’re just starting out, a fully hosted VoIP-based PABX phone system that lets you run all calls and other communication functions through mobile apps will be all you need. But if you’re a more established business, you’ll need to make sure that your PABX plan and provider integrate well with your existing communications infrastructure.

Here are a few more things to consider…

  • Business phone features – The best VoIP-based PABX plans include all the features you’d want from a business telephone system, such as call transfer, call waiting, automatic call forwarding, and even a virtual receptionist. The best plans let you customise their voices and even add your company and staff names to the message.
  • Workflow integrations – Your PABX plan should include integration with the communication tools and CRM platforms that your business is already committed to, such as Zoho, Salesforce or Slack. Discuss these requirements with your shortlisted providers before signing up, and use a free trial to test the integrations if you can.
  • Customer support – Does your chosen PABX provider offer support during setup or if you run into trouble, and is it easy to access 24/7?
  • Setup and support – Most hosted PABX systems are very easy to set up, and support should be available 24/7. With medium- and higher-level plans, you may need to speak to someone at the provider when setting up rather than just diving straight in; but this does at least give you the opportunity to discuss your particular needs.
  • Call types – As you’d hoppe, all VoIP-based PABX plans include voice calls, but there’s usually far more besides including internet fax, chat and conference calls as well as video.
  • Bundled calls – Many cheaper PABX plans include a certain number of minutes for free, usually 100, before you have to pay. If your volume of calls is high, it will make more financial sense to pay for a higher plan that includes lots more minutes, as well as international calls.

Read on for our recommended best business telephone plans for small businesses, startups and growing firms. All the prices we quote are rounded up to include VAT, which often isn’t displayed on the providers’ own websites.

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The best business telephone systems you can buy in 2023

1. 8×8: Best telephone system for a growing business

Price when reviewed: From £10 (per user, per month) | Check prices at 8×8 

Every one of 8×8’s three VoIP-based hosted PABX plans is a fully featured business communications system, for a fraction of the price that you would have had to pay in the analogue days. Even the entry-level Express plan includes mobile, desktop and web apps, voicemail, hold music, team messaging, a basic auto attendant and HD audio and videoconferencing, plus unlimited free UK calls. It’s everything a small business could need.

As your business grows from small to not-so-small, an upgrade to 8×8 X2 (£19 per user, per month) gives you unlimited users (Express only supports five), advanced telephony features such as presence detection and document sharing, unlimited voice calls to 14 countries, and an impressive range of integrations that includes Salesforce, Slack and Zoho. It’s an ideal option for a fast-growing organisation with a widely distributed workforce that wants to stay in touch in multiple ways.

8×8’s top tier, X4, is quite a leap in price at £47 per user, per month, and is best suited to sales teams who need receptionist tools and want to monitor calls. For most other small to medium-sized businesses, Express or X2 offer much better value.

Read our full 8×8 review for details

Key specs – Call types: Voice, video, conference, chat, internet fax; Hosting: Cloud; Features include: Free UK calls, auto attendant, analytics, monitoring, recording, CRM integrations

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2. Best value telephone system for a solo or micro business

Price when reviewed: From £5.39 (per user, per month) | Check prices at 

Yay’s Starting Out plan is easily the best-value IP-based business phone system you’ll find. For less than £6/mth, this fully hosted system gives you your own number, voicemail, hold music and 100 minutes of calls that you can make through your browser, mobile app or compatible desk phone. After the 100 minutes, charges remain low, at 1p/min to UK landlines and 9p/min to UK mobiles. You can add more numbers for £2.15/mth, and port numbers if they’re already held elsewhere.

Moving up the price scale, Yay’s Flying High plan remains good value at £16.79 per user, per month. This gives you additional bundled minutes plus video calling, IVR menus, voicemail transcription and integration with tools including Zoho, HubSpot, Microsoft and Google.

Read our full review for details

Key specs – Call types: Voice, video, SMS, incoming fax; Hosting: Cloud; Features include: Free local number, IVR, call monitoring, voicemail transcription

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3. RingCentral MVP: Best business telephone system for startups

Price: From £8 (per user, per month) | Check prices at RingCentral 

For £15 per user, per month, the Standard tier from RingCentral MVP (Message, Video, Phone) is the receptionist you always wanted but could never afford. The synthesised voice is much more welcoming than many automated receptionists, and integrates your company and staff names to give a professional first impression of your brand – even if your business is just you in your spare room.

You don’t get the virtual receptionist with the Essentials plan (£8 per user, per month), but you do get an excellent phone system with voicemail, messaging, 100 bundled minutes, call logs and apps. At the other end of the scale, Premium (£20 per user, per month) adds voicemail transcription, analytics and CRM integrations, plus the unlimited audioconferencing and HD video meetings included with Standard.

Read our full RingCentral review for details

Key specs – Call types: Voice, video, messaging; Hosting: Cloud; Features include: Automatic call recording, transcription, IVR menus, auto receptionist

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4. Sipgate: Best phone system for businesses that only need voice

Price when reviewed: From £13 (per user, per month) | Check prices at at Sipgate

With third-party tools such as Zoom and Slack meeting the videoconferencing and messaging needs of many firms, business phone provider Sipgate is smart to focus on voice alone. This simplicity keeps costs low, with three tiers (S, L and XL) costing £13, £18 and £23 per user, per month respectively for a minimum of two users.

All plans include a free local number, call groups, and visual- and time-based routing, and they’re really quick and easy to set up. The “L” package is the best fit for growing businesses, thanks to the addition of advanced PABX features including CRM integrations, call queuing, IVR (interactive voice response) and busy lamps, which let your team pick up colleagues’ unanswered calls. You can add additional numbers for a fee, and port any numbers you already use.

Read our full Sipgate review for details

Key specs – Call types: Voice, conference, fax; Hosting: Cloud; Features include: Free local number, call groups, IVR, call queuing

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