10 Landline Replacement Options to Consider

In 2004, 90 percent of U.S. households had landline phones, and just 5 percent had only cell phones, according to Forbes. (1) Then home phone alternatives began to increase in popularity. A decade later, landline use had fallen to 60 percent, while cell phone use was up to 40 percent. By 2017, landlines had dwindled to a minority, with 50.8 percent of homes and apartments having cell phones, 45.9 percent having landlines, and 39 percent having both, a U.S. government study for the Centers for Disease Control found.(2)

But businesses are lagging behind this trend. Twenty-five percent of business calls are continuing to come from landlines,(3) and many businesses are still using landlines, according to Invoca.(4)

However, businesses are catching up to homes, with 75 percent of corporations planning to switch to unified communications systems that encompass mobile phones, according to IDC research.(5) If your company is thinking of replacing your landline, you need to know which options are available. Here’s a look at the top ten landline replacement options and landline alternatives for 2019 available to businesses.

Article Contents

1. Cell Phones

2. VoIP

3. Call Park and Forward

4. On-premise Traditional PBX

5. Hosted Traditional PBX

6. On-premise IP PBX

7. Hosted IP PBX

8. Virtual Office Services

9. Auto Attendants

10. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Choosing the Option That’s Right for You

1. Cell Phones

For small businesses with no employees or a small number of employees in 2019, a cellular phone may serve as a viable alternative to a home landline.

Advantages

  • Most people already have smartphones, so your existing service can often be used for business at no additional cost.
  • Cell phones are simple and easy to use.
  • Smartphone apps allow you to add functionality to your phone.
  • You can use your cell phone to run your business from anywhere.
  • You can allow employees to bring their own devices from home to work to cut costs.
  • You can employ remote workers who use their own smartphones.

Disadvantages

  • Cell phone contracts are more expensive.
  • Your connection and sound quality depend on your carrier and the weather.
  • Your carrier contract may have monthly minutes of limitations.
  • Your smartphone may have more limited functionality, memory, and storage space than other options.
  • Your business and personal information may become a target for hackers.
  • Your business security may be compromised by vulnerabilities on your employees’ phones.
  • Separating your business and personal phone expenses for tax purposes can be complex.

2. VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is one of today’s most popular wireless alternatives to landlines. VoIP uses an Internet connection to carry voice signals. A familiar VoIP service is Microsoft’s Skype. Some VoIP services such as Skype are software apps that work on a smartphone or PC. Others rely on external hardware. VoIP services come in both free and premium varieties.

Advantages

  • VoIP is the least expensive landline alternative.
  • VoIP can be used over a stationary PC as well as a mobile device.
  • VoIP can be used to integrate voice communications with other communications channels and software applications.
  • VoIP is easy to install and use.

Disadvantages

  • VoIP calling won’t work if your electricity is out.
  • VoIP reliability depends on the reliability of your carrier.
  • VoIP services can vary significantly in sound quality, with some setups suffering from sound latency lags.
  • Some VoIP systems can only communicate with others using the same operating system and app.
  • VoIP can’t be used to dial 911.

3. Call Parking and Forwarding (Find Me Follow Me)

Call parking is an option that lets you keep your home landline number. With basic all parking, your number no longer actually rings your phone, but instead, the caller hears a recorded message. You can also have calls forwarded from your home landline number to another number, such as a cell phone, a feature also known as find me. A find me service is often combined with a follow me service, which allows you to be reached at more than one different number.

Advantages

  • Call parking allows you to keep your home landline number.
  • Call parking can be inexpensive if you don’t need to answer calls frequently.
  • Call parking can be useful if you travel frequently or if you’re moving your business or personal location.
  • Follow me can be useful if you use multiple phones at different locations.

Disadvantages

  • Overage fees can get expensive if you receive a high volume of calls.
  • Call parking limits the functionality of your communications system.

4. On-premise Traditional PBX

A private branch exchange (PBX) service is a phone system that provides your company with an internal phone network that can interact with a public switched telephone network (PSTN). A PBX system connects PSTN calls to your internal phone system, enabling many calls to be handled through a limited number of lines. With an on-premise traditional PBX, your system’s hardware is located at your business location.

Advantages

  • Traditional PBX calling systems are generally more reliable than a cell phone or VoIP services.
  • Your phone system can include full business phone functionality, including features such as call waiting, call forwarding, group conferencing, and call recording.
  • You can control how you configure and customize your system.
  • PBX systems let you dial 911.

Disadvantages

Costs are significant for installation, equipment rental, and monthly fees.

  • If you expand to the point where you need to handle more calls than your system is designed for, you need to install new lines.
  • Your local IT team must be trained on how to maintain and repair your PBX system.

5. Hosted Traditional PBX

A hosted traditional PBX system is similar to an on-premise traditional PBX system. The main difference is that the PBX hardware is located and managed off-site by a provider.

Advantages

  • Like traditional PBX systems, hosted traditional PBX systems are more reliable than a cell phone or VoIP service.
  • Hosted traditional PBX systems support a full range of business phone features.
  • Your provider handles support for you.
  • You can dial 911.

Disadvantages

  • Costs are significant for installation, equipment rental, monthly fees, and support.
  • Your customization options may be limited.

6. On-premise IP PBX

IP PBX systems use computer networks to handle VoIP calls. On-premise IP PBX systems use on-site equipment that may include phones specially designed to handle IP calls, known as IP phones, which can possess functionality similar to traditional office phones.

Advantages

  • Costs are lower than traditional PBX.
  • You can keep your current phone provider.
  • On-premise IP PBX provides reliability, with the ability to set up your system to continue making phone calls even if your Internet connection goes down.
  • You can configure and customize your PBX setup.
  • Your phones have a full range of office phone functionality.
  • You can add as many lines as you need by purchasing additional IP phones.
  • Installation, training, and support are handled by your IP PBX provider.

Disadvantages

  • Equipment and support costs are expensive.
  • Loss of electrical power can knock out your phone system unless your provider configures your system to avoid this problem.
  • You are dependent on your provider for installation and maintenance, which can be slow.
  • You may not be able to dial 911.

7. Hosted IP PBX

A hosted IP PBX system is an IP PBX system where your PBX equipment is hosted off-site by a cloud-based service provider. Your provider handles support and maintenance. Costs are scaled to call volume.

Advantages

  • Equipment and set-up costs are lower than on-premise IP PBX, with no additional costs for maintenance.
  • Technology upgrades and new features added by your provider are included.
  • If your Internet connection goes down, your provider can still route your calls to mobile phones or a voicemail system.

Disadvantages

  • Provider reliability may depend on your provider’s financial stability and operational quality of service.
  • Your provider may raise your fees or charge cancellation fees.
  • Call reliability and quality depends on your Internet connection.
  • Loss of your Internet connection can result in loss of your phone service unless you have your system specially configured to avoid this.
  • Customization options may be limited.
  • You are responsible for staff training.
  • You may not be able to dial 911.

8. Virtual Office and Office Business Center Services

Virtual office and office business center (executive suite) services are geared towards small businesses that do not rent traditional office space. Some of them provide professional phone receptionist services, with calls answered for you by a remotely-located receptionist.

Advantages

  • Virtual offices and office business centers significantly lower the costs of office rental as well as phone services.
  • You can have your phones answered by professional receptionists or customer service representatives.

Disadvantages

  • Your calls aren’t handled by your own staff.
  • The number of calls you can handle at one time is limited.
  • Your call-handling functionality is limited by the options your provider offers.

9. Auto Attendants

An auto attendant is an automated phone answering system that answers calls and routes them to the requested extension, where the call can be handled by a live person or a voicemail box. They can play music or a recorded message while a caller is waiting to be connected. Auto attendants are also known as automated attendants, auto receptionists, virtual receptionists, and other names.

Advantages

  • Auto attendants are inexpensive.
  • Auto attendants lower the labor and cost of hiring traditional receptionists.

Disadvantages

  • Auto attendants can only route calls.

10. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Interactive voice response (IVR) is an artificial intelligence application similar to services such as Siri and Alexa. When a call comes in, it plays a recorded voice message or menu for a caller to gather information. Based on their input, the IVR system will then take appropriate actions, such as routing their call to a live person, routing it to a recorded message or voicemail, or prompting them to enter additional information. IVR systems are typically used to handle frequently-asked questions. For instance, a bank or credit card provider might use an IVR to provide customers with their current account information.

Advantages

  • IVR systems are inexpensive.
  • IVR systems lower the labor and cost of hiring traditional receptionists.
  • IVR systems can speed up handling of frequently-asked questions and enable you to handle more service calls.

Disadvantages

  • IVR systems lack the flexibility of live attendants.
  • Being limited to automated options can annoy customers.

Choosing the Option That’s Right for You

Which of these landline replacement options is best depends on the specifics of your situation. Here are some questions to consider when evaluating your landline phone options:

  • What is my company’s communications budget?
  • How many phone calls does my business handle per day?
  • How many phone lines does my business need?
  • What do I need my phone service to be able to do?
  • Do I need any customized features?
  • Do I need my company’s phone equipment to be on-premise?
  • Do I have the staff to handle support and maintenance on-premise?
  • Do any of the types of calls my business handles lend themselves to automation?

Answering these types of questions will help you narrow down which option is best for your business for 2019 and beyond.

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