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Multi-Line Phone Systems Small Businesses Are Leaving Behind

The multi-line phone systems small businesses use can handle several calls at once, distributing incoming calls amongst internal staff with ring patterns, forwarding capabilities and more. So, what’s pushing companies to ditch them?

As it turns out, VoIP solutions can provide all those capabilities – and much more. While multi-line systems were all the rage in past years, VoIP’s more modern functionality is pushing them to the background. Let’s take a look at the shortcomings driving small business owners to make the switch from multi-line phones to business VoIP solutions.

Line Forecasting & Bundling

Multi-line landline phones can juggle several calls at once. That’s perfect for a booming and growing business, right?

Well… sort of.

While multi-line phones can manage several lines at once, they don’t accommodate variable call volumes very well. Landline systems rely on physical infrastructure, requiring managers to determine how many lines to install up front – and installations can be disruptive and costly. When estimating the number of lines they will need, managers must take care: underestimating will lead to missed calls, and overestimating will mean monthly payments for unused equipment.

To further complicate things, landlines are often sold by the bundle rather than individually, so a business may find itself purchasing a package of sixteen lines just to accommodate one new user. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, landline-based businesses with variable call volume often choose to live with the consequences of missing calls during peak hours rather than pay for lines they will seldom use.

The VoIP Solution

VoIP business phone systems address these concerns largely with the flexibility of their digital technology. VoIP service doesn’t rely on physical phone cables; rather, it functions over the internet, allowing for a pay-by-user setup with virtual lines that don’t require installation. This way, businesses can pay for the exact number of lines they need, changing their subscription monthly if need be to accommodate a dynamic staff and call volume.

Further, quality providers work with clients to ensure they only pay for the service they use; businesses should communicate with their providers often to ensure their subscription meets their needs.

Features & Capabilities

Multi-line phones can automatically send incoming calls to an available line or call group, following customizable ring patterns; alternatively, receptionists can field all incoming calls with one multi-line phone. However, these features are built into the phones themselves, barring businesses from making any changes or upgrades without purchasing new equipment.

A multi-line phone system small businesses often use.

Additionally, while custom call handling options increase flexibility, their setup is no easy task – older setups usually require professional help. That means most department reorganization, personnel changes and other structural adjustments require a provider’s assistance (and likely a few days of wait time) to get phone settings to reflect them.

Further, multi-line systems lack most features beyond basic call handling; landline reporting, for instance, is far inferior to internet-based options, and often requires expensive licensing add-ons. Additional features like voicemail transcription and third-party integration are rare and inflexible with multi-line phones.

The VoIP Solution

As VoIP solutions rely on the internet rather than physical lines, they provide all the customizability and call handling capabilities of multi-line systems without the rigidity of landline-based technology. Just as VoIP solutions enable employees to add and remove lines as fits their needs, VoIP PBX service is flexible to accommodate frequent configuration changes. Users can change call groups, ring patterns, forwarding settings and more as easily as one might change the settings on their desktop or smartphone.

Pro tip: VoIP’s independence from physical infrastructure removes physical calling limits – that means providers can offer unlimited incoming calls. Look for a vendor without inbound calling limits to avoid sending callers away with a busy signal.

What’s more, VoIP solutions generally offer more flexibility and advanced features than landline multi-line systems do, enabling precisely customized call handling configurations. For example, managers can program incoming calls to route to multiple people, departments or branches in a specific order if not immediately answered, ultimately sending unanswered calls to a designated voicemail to optimize the chances of addressing all new prospects.

Other advanced features like voicemail transcription, external application integrations and support for remote or multi-location businesses improve customizability and seamless functionality. Better yet, internet-based VoIP enables consistent, easy upgrades to keep office technology up-to-date.

VoIP service is also not limited by location. Calls and routing patterns can take place across multiple locations. That means users can make and answer calls from a laptop, desktop, mobile device or traditional phone – seamlessly transferring between locations when necessary.

Equipment Purchase & Maintenance

One of the most significant drawbacks of multi-line phone systems is that they are provider-specific: companies have to invest in all new equipment when they switch providers.

Additionally, with landline systems, most maintenance is up to the business rather than the provider. Often, upgrades or repairs require a third-party technician’s help, leaving companies with a long wait time, disruptive implementation process and high service bill.

To clarify: multi-line systems expand by adding physical hardware; adding a user may require costly equipment upgrades and licensing. Even changing seating internally can become an issue, as each phone is tied to a wall jack. These physical limitations make it difficult to accommodate remote workers, despite the fact that remote work and flexible scheduling are a growing trend in today’s workforce.

The VoIP Solution

VoIP solutions use industry-standard equipment, making it easier and less costly for businesses to switch vendors. And with hosted VoIP PBX service, providers own most equipment, leaving most repairs, maintenance, upgrades and related costs up to the provider rather than their clients.

VoIP service also tends to require less physical equipment overall; expansions, on-boardings and other changes require simple service changes rather than costly hardware installations. This flexibility – along with the ability to text, use VoIP service on mobile devices and transfer calls between locations – allows businesses to support a remote workforce.

Business VoIP supports texting and remote work

Business Continuity

Since multi-line phones are tied to their location, power outages and other issues can significantly disrupt landline-based businesses; with minimal backup options available, offices are usually condemned to wait the issue out. Otherwise, repairs usually require third-party technicians – and from scheduling labor to finding outdated parts, fixes can be lengthy and disruptive.

The VoIP Solution

Since VoIP is net-connected and free of physical constraints, issues like outages cause minimal problems, especially considering the layers of backups VoIP providers have in place to keep service running smoothly. From backup cloud PBXs to internet fail-overs, many VoIP providers help businesses customize disaster recovery plans. Pair that with proactive Quality of Service monitoring, and many VoIP businesses can boast near-zero downtime.

Replacing Legacy Multi-Line Phones with VoIP

Landline service is no longer the reigning choice for business phone service; VoIP has taken the number one position for its flexibility, advanced capabilities and reliability – all for a lower price tag. In fact, many businesses cut their phone bill in half when they switch from landline to VoIP.

To learn some of the other benefits of making the switch, download our infographic on the top 10 advantages of 4Voice’s business VoIP service.


Amruth Laxman

About the Author

Amruth Laxman

25+ years of telecom experience, specializing in high availability software and systems, I’ve seen the transformative impact they have on businesses. As the founding partner of 4Voice, I deliver customized, reliable phone solutions and can’t wait to share my insights with you in this blog.

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