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The 12 best small business phone systems for 2023

Bill Yackey

Senior Product Marketing Manager, UCaaS

4 Small business phone systems header
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For small business owners, one of the most important pieces of equipment or software is your virtual office phone system. You’re probably going to be using it every day, and if you choose the right one, it can give you a big competitive advantage.

After all, every business needs, well, business communications. Being accessible to clients, suppliers, and employees is a must-have—and it’s something that small businesses can do just as well, if not better, than large enterprises.

If you’re using the right small business phone system, that is. So, how do you choose the right one? What advantages do different telephone systems and service providers offer?

In this post, we’ll break down what to look for in a hosted phone system (while keeping budget considerations in mind), where you might be able to compromise, and what features you probably shouldn’t skimp on when picking telephone systems.

What is a phone system for a small business, exactly?

First, let’s look at what a phone for small businesses actually is. And no, it’s not just your cell phone.

Technically, phone systems for small businesses are telephony solutions that allow your company to make and receive outbound and inbound business calls (at a very basic level). When it comes to elevating the audio experience to the next level, you may also turn to wireless audiophile headphones, especially when using small business phone systems. But beyond that, you’ll also probably need something that lets you transfer and forward calls to, say, your personal cell phone.

Types of business phone system options available to you

If you’re like most small businesses, you’ll probably choose between two main types: a business VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system that uses softphones or IP phone systems, or a PBX system (private branch exchange) that uses traditional telephone lines.

  • VoIP phone system: The more advanced—and hands-of—option. It uses your internet connection for phone calls, you can pay as you go without much (or any) upfront investment, and it’s easy to set up. These usually come with “softphone” apps that you can use on Android or iOS mobile phones (and even other mobile devices like iPads).

    You might also come across phone systems that describe themselves as “unified communications” platforms. This is a newer term, and usually these types of phone systems come with other communications channels too, like SMS and instant messaging for businesses.

  • PBX systems: The more investment-heavy option. Typically you need to buy more hardware up front and you’d need to pay an IT person to come in and help you with changes like adding users or updating voicemail settings. (Some PBX systems have evolved and are better about this, but generally a PBX system will require more work.

It’s important to keep in mind that a phone system for business is about more than just the ways you place calls, or the devices you use to do so. They’re all about connecting your business with clients or customers, as well as partners, remote employees, and anyone who happens to be abroad for the month.

In other words, they’re the very foundation that a modern communications-based business is built on.

🗒️ You don't have to be a CIO to shop smart like one

Grab the CIO Buyer's Guide, (written by our own CIO, who's done a lot of phone system shopping in her time!), which will walk you through what features to look for, nuances to pay attention to when comparing providers, and more!

9 features to look for when shopping for a small business phone system

Business phone solutions are becoming more sophisticated all the time. It’s a good idea to be aware of the kinds of features and bonus functionalities that you could be taking advantage of before you start the search for your new small business phone service provider.

These are nine of the most important and helpful features that will improve the way your small business runs.

1. Call forwarding to your mobile phone

If you’re not always at your desk and usually taking calls from your cell phone, then a call forwarding service is one of the top features you’ll need. Some providers let you add cell phone numbers or colleagues' numbers with just a few clicks, which will automatically forward missed calls to those other departments or phone numbers:

Screenshot of adding a call forwarding number from Dialpad’s online dashboard.

Adding a call forwarding number takes just a few clicks in Dialpad's online dashboard.

Let’s say that your employee is sick for the week, but was meant to be taking important calls. All you’d need to do is adjust the routing settings, and those calls would be sent directly to the phone line of someone who’s available in the business.

2. Easy call transfer (and call routing)

Again, if you run a small business, you’re probably busy and stretched way too thin. Which means you can’t possibly answer every single call you get. This is where a call transfer option would come in handy, because it'll let you (or your office manager) transfer a call to the right person with the click of a button.

A good small business phone system solution should come with this feature included, and it should be easy to use, even if you don't have an IT team.

3. The ability to keep your existing business phone number (how do I turn my phone into a business line?)

Unless you’re starting a brand new business from scratch, you’ll need the ability to port over your existing business phone number to maintain continuity. Why? Because the last thing you want is to make your customers and suppliers update your phone number that they already have saved in their contact list.

It should be simple to port your existing number. Less work for your clients because they don’t need to update the number they’ve saved for you, and less work for you because you don’t have to spend time changing the numbers displayed on your website or other portals.

4. Cloud-based capabilities and compatibility with your mobile device

A cloud phone system is essentially a phone system that isn’t tied to one location or office. With a cloud phone system, you can make calls from anywhere, it usually comes with a mobile and desktop app, and any software updates will automatically be installed without IT help.

This “easy to use-ness” in terms of setup and admin is a big advantage of using a cloud-based phone system because you can easily do things like add a new user or new hire to your phone system—yourself.

Screenshot of adding and managing phone numbers from Dialpad's online dashboard

If you want unlimited flexibility and functionality, you’ll definitely want a phone solution that’s cloud-based and plays nice with mobile devices and handsets. That’s pretty much a non-negotiable.

5. Caller ID

This is a basic one to have. Everyone screens incoming calls nowadays—no one wants to pick up a telemarketer’s call. Your phone system should give you the option to display the specific caller ID you want to show when calling a prospect or customer from your cell phone:

Choosing a caller ID to display when making a work call from one's personal cell phone using Dialpad's app.

Dialpad lets you choose which caller ID to display when making a work call from your personal cell phone.

Customizing the way you appear to the people you call gives you more utility and flexibility from your business phone system.

That’s particularly helpful if you’re someone who places a lot of calls at work. You get to set the tone before your recipient even picks up the phone, based on whether you’re appearing as Firstname Lastname, Mx Lastname, or a nickname.

6. In-call security and encryption

If your calls involve discussion of sensitive data and information, then you’ll want some level of security. Ideally, you want enterprise-grade security levels—always check with your provider to see what their security features are like.

7. Visual voicemail

If you’re a busy person and miss phone calls sometimes or can’t always find time to listen to all your voicemails, you’ll want this.

Visual voicemail is basically a feature that transcribes your voicemails to text, which means you can read them at any time (like during a meeting) instead of having to playback voicemails out loud.

Dialpad Ai uses Ai and machine learning to transcribe not only your calls in real-time (more accurately than almost all competitors out there), but also your voicemails—and even gives you the option to follow up and forward voicemails too:

Screenshot of Dialpad Ai transcribing a voicemail message in real time

9. SMS text messaging and internal team messaging

Ah, texting. Everyone does it today, and some people even prefer texting to calling. Can’t blame them—it’s super convenient.

If you work with clients or prospects who also prefer texting (or you yourself would rather text), then look for a business phone provider that offers business SMS messaging and team messaging capabilities from the app where other communications like calls and conferences already take place.

Dialpad also offers team messaging (from the same app you make phone calls and host video meetings!). You have the option to message someone directly or talk to a group of people through Channels, which is a topic-based messaging function within the Dialpad app.

Unique to Channels is a feature called the Sidebar, which is an always-on audio “room” that’s automatically assigned to each channel upon creation:

Screenshot of Dialpad’s Discord-esque Sidebar feature acting as a temporary audio chat room

When you create a new channel, a Sidebar is automatically created as well, which you can access just above the chat log. So, next time you just need to “take something offline” or have a sidebar, you can jump into one of these rooms to talk as opposed to setting up a meeting down the road. This will help your team to quickly resolve issues and provide a common area to talk about specific topics.

The 12 best small business phone systems on the market

Below we’ve ranked our top choices for business communication platforms ideal for small businesses based on a combination of how robust / feature-rich they are, and how much you’re getting for the price. For fairness, we’ll compare the least expensive tier for each phone system provider:

1. Dialpad: Truly unified communications platform for small businesses with the most advanced built-in Ai features

Screenshot of a group conference call happening in Dialpad's desktop app

Dialpad is an Ai-powered cloud-based business communications platform that has a built-in phone system. And it's designed for small businesses (and even enterprise-level organizations) that need an easy-to-use, deploy-from-anywhere phone system.

Dialpad also comes with a major advantage over other competitors: It’s a cloud-native, true UCaaS solution where all your communication channels, maintenance, support, and upgrades are all handled within one company. Its contact center solution? Built in-house. It's Ai? Built in-house. That means never having to wait for external companies to make changes or get technical support—that’s all best handled within Dialpad’s phone system for small businesses.


  • Easy administration and scalability: No IT at the office? No IT at all? No problem. Dialpad is easy for admins to set up and manage with minimal help. You can add and set up new small business phones and users in minutes—without hiring an expensive IT consultant.

  • High call quality: Because of Dialpad's global voice network and unique dual-cloud architecture, it ensures a level of call quality from pretty much anywhere in the world.

  • HD conference calls—with video: High quality audio and video capabilities to make your virtual meetings more productive.

  • SMS and instant messaging: Text people both internally and externally from your Dialpad account. If the person you're texting doesn't have the Dialpad app, no sweat! They'll just receive your message as an SMS.

  • Cloud-based mobility: Stay connected with any device from anywhere. Unlike many other platforms that only let you join calls from a browser, Dialpad is browser-based, meaning you can do anything in a browser—just like you'd do in the app:

Screenshot of a video call happening in a web browser using Dialpad
  • Call waiting

  • Worldwide customer support: 24/7 live chat support and 24/5 phone support on the Dialpad Pro plan—around the world, not just in the US.

  • Integrations: Even with the Standard plan, you can integrate Dialpad with Microsoft 365 or Google Calendar, which makes for easier scheduling.

  • Portability: Keep all your original numbers when you move to Dialpad.

  • Awesome hold music options (or go custom):

Choosing Rick Astley as hold music from Dialpad's dashboard
  • An integrated contact center solution with features like IVR, queuing, recording, and analytics.

  • Auto attendant: Dialpad's virtual receptionist handles and directs calls in real time according to your settings.

  • Local numbers: Help build your brand’s profile by assigning local phone numbers.

  • Voicemail: Audio and visual voicemail options keep you up to date with missed calls.

  • Call transfer: Multi-line call forwarding, transfers, or routing according to your needs.

Screenshot of Dialpad's call transfer feature


Standard plan at $15/mo/user, Pro plan at $25/mo/user. Sign up for the free trial to get set up with a virtual phone number on one of the best business phone systems!

Security features:

  • Helps you stay HIPAA-compliant, SOC2® Type II, and GDPR-compliant

  • Member of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) Security, Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR)

  • Customizable retention policy

  • Admins control access to data

  • Data ownership and reporting

  • Enterprise-level encryption on calls and data stored in the cloud

But hey, don't just take our word for it. See what other happy small business customers think about Dialpad on G2:

Screenshot of a G2 review of Dialpad

Looking for the best small business phone system?

With Dialpad, you get not just phone calls, but also video meetings and messaging. Test-drive it with a 14-day free trial! Signup takes just a few minutes, and you'll get set up with a virtual phone number!) Or, take a self-guided tour to play around with it on your own first!

2. RingCentral MVP: Good unified communications solution for small businesses not interested in integrations

RingCentral is a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution that offers a wide range of tools. Unfortunately, the basic plan doesn't offer any integrations, video conferencing, or real-time transcription—so consider how important these features are to your business in your decision-making process.

Its MVP product comes with:

  • Desktop and mobile apps

  • Local, 1-800, and vanity numbers

  • Voicemail to email and visual voicemail

  • Cloud PBX

  • Collaboration

  • Voicemail and greetings

  • Business SMS and MMS

  • Integrations

  • Internet fax


RingCentral starts at $19.99 per user per month.¹


See how Dialpad stacks up against RingCentral!

3. 8x8 Express: Entry-level small business phone system with all the basics

**Note: As of April 2022, 8x8 has essentially given up on building its own contact center solution and is now reselling Genesys' product.

8x8 offers a single platform for cloud contact centers as well as audio, video, and text messaging solutions.

Some customers, though, have complained that there’s no ability to automate the deployment of the business phone app, which makes it a bit time-consuming to set up. The interface is also not the greatest and is hard to use.

Another interesting thing about “long-established” phone system providers like 8x8 is that yes, they have been around for a long time and position themselves as leaders, but the flip side of that is these leaders’ telephony infrastructure tends to be outdated, which can result in poor call quality and reliability. Just something to look out for if you’re considering these options.


  • Unlimited calling, SMS, and fax

  • Multi-level auto attendant

  • Call recording ability

  • Audio and visual voicemail

  • Caller ID

  • Call forwarding and transfers

  • Analytics

  • Easy admin


Starts at $15 per month per user.²


4. HubSpot: All-in-one business communications and CRM tool for small business sales and marketing teams

HubSpot’s all-in-one CRM tool provides business communication systems using VoIP for your sales, customer service, and marketing teams.

All of HubSpot’s tools are connected through their database. All your call records and customer communications are recorded, auto-logged by contact, and shared across your organization. For sales teams, this also connects to your CPQ tool (configure, price, quote) to track deals, pricing, and more.


  • Direct calling from your HubSpot CRM contact record
  • Autosaved call logs and notes
  • Engagement and contact property data
  • Reporting call metrics


Starts at $45/month for the Starter plan.³

5. Vonage Basic: For small businesses that want “buffet” style pricing

Vonage is another basic VoIP business phone provider that's designed to be a replacement for landline phone systems. That means if you want basic features like call recording and visual voicemail (not to mention business essentials like video calls, conference calling or group calls, or text messaging), you'll need to pay for add-ons.

With a lack of features compared to other more robust small business phone systems on this list, this isn't really a solution that offers much to a business beyond a basic phone system. Learn more about the best Vonage alternatives.)

The Basic plan comes with:


Basic plan is $19.99 per month per line, Premium plan is $29.99 per month per line.⁴


Learn more about Dialpad vs Vonage!

6. Nextiva Business Communication: Entry-level small business phone system for businesses that don’t use texting

Another UCaaS platform, Nextiva's integrations are a bit limited, and one eyebrow-raiser for us was the fact that they included "desktop and mobile app" as a feature under their Basic plan.

For any decent UCaaS platform, a good desktop and mobile app is a must-have. It's table stakes. Not a perk or feature of a plan.

Another note is the Business Communication product don't have SMS/MMS in the Essential plan.


  • HD VoIP

  • Unlimited voice calls (in the US and Canada)

  • Unlimited internet fax

  • Team chat

  • Voicemail

  • Auto attendant


Essential plan starts at $21.95 per user per month, Enterprise plan starts at $32.95 per user per month.⁵


See how Dialpad stacks up against Nextiva!

7. Zoom Phone: Metered and unlimited phone plans for businesses

Zoom made their name as a video conferencing product, and have since branched into telephony software as well. For telephony to work well though, you generally need to have a well-designed global voice network, which takes time and resources. As a relatively new product, call quality might be variable, especially if you're making international calls regularly.

The other difference between Zoom Phone and most other competitors on this list is the pricing model. Instead of unlimited calling on a fixed monthly or annual plan, their minutes are metered on the basic plan.

US & Canada Metered Plan features:

  • All outbound minutes metered
  • Unlimited internal calling
  • Desktop and mobile app
  • Auto attendant / IVR


$120 per user per year (aka. $10 per user per month) on the US & Canada Metered plan, $180 per user per year (aka. $15 per user per month) on the US & Canada Unlimited plan.6

8. VoIP-based small business communications solution with the basics offers solutions using VoIP business phones or adapted analog phones.

But it’s not really suitable for growing businesses and is missing a couple of major features like access controls, permissions, and online voice transmission.


  • Use a business phone number or retain your old number

  • Voice, text messages, and video calling and conferencing options

  • Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) allows you to use analog phones with VoIP office phone systems


Starts at $11.99/mo/user for the most basic plan.7

9. FreeConferenceCall: “Pay what you can” small business phone system

Operating on a “pay what you can” model, FreeConferenceCall can offer a cheap business phone system that suits small groups or companies that need to keep track of every cent.

But as you would expect with a free service, the features are fairly limited when compared to a more robust phone system. (And some businesses feel the use of a “free” service can portray a negative image.)


  • International calls

  • Call recording

  • Video conferencing and screen sharing

  • Remote desktop

  • Broadcast capabilities

  • Radio feature to stream online conferences


Free plan available; highest tier plan is $15/month.8

10. GoTo (formerly GoToConnect) Basic: Small business phone system and web conferencing for remote teams

GoToConnect combines a VoIP phone system with video, audio, and web conferencing.

But, it offers less responsiveness from customer support and sales than you get with more customer-support-focused providers—and there's no option for multi-line call forwarding.


  • Streamlined support for contact centers

  • Cloud branch exchange

  • International calling

  • Call management system

  • Call routing

  • Caller ID

  • Video conferencing

  • Personal meeting rooms


Starts at $27 per user per month.9

11. Ooma Office Essentials: Phone system for small businesses just looking for core capabilities

Ooma’s small business phone system allows you and your team members to stay in touch, work, and collaborate. But one shortcoming of Ooma is that when you integrate contacts on the mobile app, it changes your caller ID, which makes the experience inconsistent (and lowers the chances of someone picking up your call because they don't recognize your caller ID).


  • Desktop and mobile apps

  • Video conferencing

  • Auto attendant

  • Call forwarding and transfer

  • Virtual extensions

  • Voicemail

  • Call logs

  • Fax online


Starts at $19.95 per month per user.10

12. Grasshopper: Just a small business phone (no messaging or video calling)

Grasshopper is a cloud phone system that markets itself to small businesses. Unlike Dialpad and other providers on this list, it isn't a unified communications platform that combines phone functionality with video calling and other features. If you don't need to have video meetings or need SMS or instant messaging, then this might not be a dealbreaker for you.


  • Voicemail transcription

  • Business texting

  • VoIP / Wi-Fi calls

  • Virtual fax

  • Business phone number

  • Call forwarding and transfers

  • Voicemail


Grasshopper starts at $26 per month.11


See how Dialpad stacks up against Grasshopper!

The benefits of having internet phones for business through a UCaaS provider

So, now we know a bit more about what a business phone line is and what the best business phone lines can do, but why should you go with a unified communications provider? There are a few benefits to taking this approach with your cloud-based business phone line. (Hint: You'll always be connected, you’ll enjoy scalability, flexibility, security, and a fully unified set of tools.)

It integrates with your other software

One big benefit of UCaaS is that instead of using a disparate tool set, having your virtual phone lines in a single platform like Dialpad makes it easy to access all the communication channels you need in one place. Dedicated multi-line phone systems make business communications so much simpler. Your software will come with a wide range of call management features and you’ll be able to integrate with an array of third-party apps and business software alternatives.

With small business telephone systems, you’ll consolidate all of your business communications processes under one roof, including communications tools, call management features, collaboration tools, CRMs, and many more. Plus, you’ll be able to pool data between apps which, in turn, will help you streamline workflows even more.

With a Dialpad business phone line, for example, you’ll have virtual access to a whole marketplace of business applications and third-party software integrations. Dialpad integrates natively with the most popular software providers and apps, including Salesforce, Google Workspace, and Microsoft 365, to enhance the Dialpad user experience and help businesses improve overall productivity.

For example, imagine you’re running a busy contact center. By integrating your digital business phone system with a customer relationship management (CRM) app, you’ll be able to access all of your customer information where you need it, when you need it.

Dialpad, for instance, integrates with CRMs like Salesforce and HubSpot to display customer call logs, voicemails, recordings, and even do live transcription right inside your CRM so you won’t have to constantly flit between different apps:

Screenshot of Dialpad's HubSpot integration with embedded CTI dialer

Business phone lines help businesses stay wireless and connected even if teams aren’t all in the same office. Thanks to cloud communications solutions like Dialpad, you don't need to be tied to a desk phone ever again. Business calls, meetings, and messages can take place from pretty much anywhere in the world with an online phone system. (This is a big reason why cloud communications are rapidly fuelling a post-pandemic rise in remote and flexible working opportunities.)

You’ll be able to use any Internet-enabled device to access your business phone line via the softphone app, so you can talk to your teams, customers, and clients even when you're not in the office.

As I mentioned above, beyond just being able to call, message, and meet on any device, Dialpad is also fully browser-based. That means you can access your business phone system just by going online and logging into a web browser—no downloads needed—and get all the same functions like do not disturb (DND) and customizing business hours that you'd get on the app.

And you'll still get all your must-have business phone features like call forwarding/routing

As the old saying goes: Never mix business with pleasure. Using personal phone lines for business isn't great, but many businesses continue to do this because, well, it’s convenient. But there's a better way.

A UCaaS platform with a built-in business digital phone system lets you make calls anytime, anywhere from your business phone line—from any device (even your personal cell phone)—while keeping all of your personal contact information private.

Dialpad protects your conversations from start to finish with built-in enterprise-grade security protocols and encryption. All calls that take place over the business VoIP network and in-transit web requests are encrypted using TLS. Plus, you can control access to certain features according to your departmental needs.

On top of this, enterprise customers can set individual retention policies for the removal, archival, or anonymization of data to protect sensitive information discussed over business phone lines.

How to choose the small business phone system solution that’s more than just a landline

You’ve probably heard this before. There’s no “one right commercial phone system” that’s a perfect fit for every single business.

So, make sure you take all the free trials out there for a test drive!

Make a list of some basic questions to ask on a demo with a service provider, and think about the unique needs of your company. For example:

  1. Do you need physical desk telephones or would you be fine with just a virtual phone system and cell phones?

  2. Do you want to stay old school and use an on-premises system or landline? Or would you prefer a modern VoIP service that is more hands-off and easy-to-use, and lets you focus on running the business?

The better you understand your company’s needs and priorities, the easier it’ll be to find the right match. That’s because you’ll know what you’re looking for, and be able to identify which providers can give you what you need at which prices.

Also, understanding your business’ needs better means you won’t get distracted by nice features that you ultimately don’t need. While it’s great to have bonus features, you don’t want to gain those at the expense of crucial functionalities that your business can’t do without.

How much does a small business phone system cost?

When you’re looking for a phone system for your small business or startup, the biggest question to ask is going to be around budget.

Not just how much you want to spend, but also whether you want to make a large investment up front or pay on a more flexible plan.

If flexibility isn’t important to you, you could get away with an older or more traditional office phone system, but bear in mind that those also tend to require more of an investment from the start.

The small business phone system that lets you bring the office with you

Interested in Dialpad? The $15 per month plan gives you: SMS/MMS messaging in the US and Canada, unlimited calling in the US, Canada, and your home country; and all your essential features for an office phone system for small businesses.

Make sure you choose a business phone system that's a good fit for both your business right now, and also where you want to go in the future, wherever your office may be.

Super advanced features are great and all, but if you have a small team (and no dedicated IT person), then ease of use should rank pretty high on your list of need-to-haves for your phone system.

Need an easy-to-set-up—but still powerful—small business phone system?

Try Dialpad free for 14 days! It only takes a few minutes to get started. Or, take a self-guided interactive tour of the app first!

Frequently asked questions about small business phone systems

What are the differences between a traditional PBX, an IP-PBX, and a cloud-based phone system?

Traditional PBX stands out the most from the other two, since it’s based on hardware rather than cloud-based technology. A traditional PBX (private branch exchange) system is built around the idea of using copper wires and physically connecting them to the system as a whole.

While traditional PBX used to be popular, it’s not used often anymore (and the technology itself has evolved a bit). That’s because the hardware is clunky, expensive to install and maintain, and not very scalable.

All three of these issues are addressed by both IP-PBX and cloud-based phone systems.

Let’s start by looking at IP-PBX. This is basically a more modern version of traditional PBX, except that instead of relying on physical hardware, it links devices to a public switched telephone network (PSTN) using the internet.

With IP-PBX, it’s easy to dial-in remotely. It’s also much easier to scale up, since users no longer have to wait for all that hardware to be installed just so they can use the phone system.

Lastly, we’ll consider cloud-based phone systems. These are generally considered the best business phone systems, since they do everything IP-PBX can do, and then some.

Cloud-based phone systems are the most flexible option. They’re fully internet-based, meaning you can even use them with software pieces like softphones. They often include video calling functionalities that also work via the internet, as well as a whole host of other functionalities.

What are the advantages of a cloud-based phone system for small businesses?

How do cloud VoIP systems help small businesses?

Do business phone system providers provide new business phone numbers?

Do I have to find a service provider for small businesses near me?