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Written by
Katy Ratican
10 Aug 2022
5 minutes

Cisco phone system: The basics of small business PBX

Here's everything to know about the Cisco phone system and whether it's the right choice for small businesses
Cisco phone system PBX

Cisco is one of the most popular names in unified communications (UC) aimed at medium and large enterprises. But the multinational giant also has its Cisco phone system for small businesses.

If you’re considering getting it, here’s everything to know about the Cisco phone system, its pricing, features and what PBX (private branch exchange) means for a small business.

What is the Cisco phone system for small businesses?

Realising that small businesses need solutions designed for their specific needs, Cisco has a phone system exclusively designed for small and medium enterprises. It’s based on its UC platform which was initially targeted at large firms.

The phone system, called UC Manager Express, is an IP PBX that has specialised features that conventional phone systems don’t offer. It’s a reliable business phone system that’s easy to deploy, manage and maintain.

Like any phone solution built for small businesses and early-stage startups, the UC Manager Express minimises communication costs and network management costs, improves productivity and enhances collaboration.

Pricing for Cisco phone system

The small business IP phone from Cisco can cost between $500 and $2500 per device. There’s also employee training associated with the unit, which costs between $50 and $75 per hour. The monthly charges for the Cisco IP phone system are between $25 and $100 per user.

Companies can save on their upfront and monthly costs by signing up for Cisco’s three-year subscription plan. With this, the installation and device costs will be combined with monthly fees

Key features of the Cisco phone system

These are the main features of the Cisco phone system that should interest small and medium enterprises.


A key advantage of Cisco is its wide range of phones for businesses of all sizes. Moreover, like all top-rated VoIP providers, Cisco’s phone system is scalable. It can easily accommodate your needs as your business grows.


Cisco phone system enables mobile and remote workforces to be agile and productive. The system allows calls to be routed to their homes or mobile phones. Users can also easily access the network irrespective of the device they might be using.

Greater collaboration

With a simple interface, the Cisco phone system enhances collaboration between team members. The UC solution enables communication through voice, video, data, instant messenger and mobile applications.

Better customer service

UC systems have multiple modes of interaction. Cisco phone system allows customers to reach you via phone, chat, email or even fax. When your team is always available, it will significantly improve your customer service.

What is PBX for small businesses?

A traditional PBX handles incoming and outgoing calls for a business. This hardware connects to the public phone system and routes calls to their desired extension. It can handle multiple lines at the same time. A conventional PBX includes multiple internal and external phone lines, a server for call routing and switching, and a control console.

An IP PBX can manage everything that a traditional PBX does and deliver more. It can connect and switch calls using VoIP. You can use a softphone which doesn’t require an additional device or use IP phones to make and receive calls.

Since an IP-based PBX doesn’t require any hardware investments, there are no major upfront costs. Plus, there’s little need for maintenance. These make the solution the right fit for small businesses.

Alternatives to the Cisco phone system

While Cisco is known for its UC platform, there are several other options for those looking for cloud PBX solutions.


Mitel’s MiCollab is a collaboration software built for medium and large enterprises. Users don’t have to switch between multiple apps since it gives unified management. Remote-friendly and secure, it empowers teams wherever they might be.


A comparison of Avaya and Cisco shows that both focus on multi-media collaboration. Avaya Spaces is a feature-rich business phone system that’s designed for collaboration through audio, messaging and HD video conferencing. For teams that are globally distributed, this is a viable and immersive solution.


Synonymous with video conferencing and real-time content sharing, Zoom is another option for those looking for Cisco phone system alternatives. With enhanced meeting capabilities that sync with your calendar, Zoom is ideal for video-centric internal and external meetings.

AT&T Office@Hand

Increase productivity from the office or anywhere else through AT&T Office@Hand, another cloud-based alternative to the Cisco phone system. It integrates voice, audio and video conferencing, text messaging and fax. This phone system enables callers to connect with the right person using just one number

Chalkboard: A Cisco alternative for business use

Are you a small business, an early-stage startup or independent creative? If so, the Cisco phone system could be complex, cumbersome and expensive for you. What you need is Chalkboard, a business phone that simplifies VoIP while delivering powerful business tools, while being exceptionally affordable.

Rated among the best second-number apps, Chalkboard gives you a second line for work without having to worry about buying a new device or hardware.

What you want is seamless customer service and that’s what Chalkboard enables through number sharing. Your team members can share their numbers and receive calls from customers or business partners no matter where they are.

While Cisco, Avaya, and others are made for large enterprises with global teams, Chalkboard is created to help small businesses make the most of their available resources. For example, the app gives you advanced messaging and broadcast SMS to engage with your customers and grow your business.

Download Chalkboard today and try it now. It’s the cloud-based phone system you need to grow your small business.

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