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Editor’s Note: On Jan. 19, 2017, Avaya filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At this time, we are continuing to recommend it as one of the best small business phone systems. However, we are monitoring the status of the company and if necessary will adjust our best picks as the situation evolves.

Avaya's phone system is an excellent on-premises solution for small businesses because of the options it offers. The on-premises systems are available in several different platforms, each of which can be customized for the specific features and tools a business wants. 

In addition to being one of the best on-premises phone systems, Avaya is among the contenders for best call center phone system, best phone system for enterprises and best phone system for businesses with multiple locations.

The Basics

  • Best for: On-premises, call center, enterprise and multiple locations
  • Phone service: VoIP
  • Hosting: On-premises and cloud
  • Costs: One-time fees of $500 to $550 per user for on-premises systems; $25 per user per month for cloud-hosted systems
  • Support: Phone, email and live chat
  • Mobile app: iOS and Android devices

Multiple Deployment Options

Avaya offers a robust VoIP phone system for small businesses that can be configured specifically for each business. The system we researched in depth was the Office IP platform. This system is designed for businesses with five to 3,000 users.

The Office IP platform can be deployed as an on-premises system or a cloud-hosted solution. Both options have same functionality; however, with the on-premises system, your IT staff is responsible for maintaining it and making any upgrades when necessary. With the cloud-hosted system, Avaya handles all of the maintenance and upgrades.

A nice aspect of the on-premises system is that businesses can configure it for their specific needs. Each system starts with the main platform, a two-rack unit, and then businesses can pick and choose from the different add-ons. Add-ons can include mobility options and call center services. This allows your business to build a system that has exactly what it needs. As a business grows, the equipment can easily add storage, phone lines and new capabilities.

The choice between an on-premises and a cloud-based system is part of what makes Avaya a great option for enterprise businesses and businesses with multiple locations. Since larger businesses have varying needs, having options on how they deploy their phone systems is a huge plus for many organizations.

Avaya is also an enticing option for enterprises because of the large number of employees that can use the service. Businesses that have more employees than the Office IP platform supports can deploy Avaya's Aura platform. This platform can serve up to 250,000 workers, including 2,500 on a single server.

For businesses operating multiple offices or stores, the IP Office platform can easily expand to work in 150 different locations. Avaya's phone system allows businesses to manage each location from a single browser-based interface. In addition, businesses using IP phones can automatically switch their service to one of the other locations should the office they are working in lose power. This helps ensure continuous operation.

Features

Overall, Avaya's business phone systems offer more features and tools than most of its competitors. In total, the system is available in five editions – Basic, Essential, Preferred, Server and Select – that differ in the number of included features.

Among the features available are automated attendants, caller ID, automatic callback, the ability to put calls on hold, on-hold music, the option to transfer calls and toggle between multiple calls at one time, and voicemail and voicemail-to-email. Altogether, Avaya offers more than 600 features and tools.

One module businesses can add to the system is the Avaya Communicator. This allows employees to use their mobile devices or computers to talk on their business lines, make video calls and instant-message with co-workers. A presence feature indicates who is online and available for a meeting.

In addition to choosing the edition with the features it needs, your business can designate which employees have access to which features. Each employee is designated as a basic user, office worker or power user.

Basic users can make and receive calls and have access to most of the standard features, such as the ability to put calls on hold and transfer calls. The office worker designation allows employees to also use the visual voicemail tool, access the corporate directory, and integrate their systems with Microsoft Office and Salesforce.

Power users have total control of the system. This allows them to make and receive calls on their mobile devices over cellular, Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G connections. They can also schedule conference calls and turn their home phones into their office phones.

In addition to its regular phone system features, the Avaya contact center module offers features and tools for businesses with a call center. Among them are the ability for customers to connect with businesses via the phone, email and web chat.

It also has skills-based call routing, interactive voice recordings, call recording, integrations with customer relationship management software, and access to real-time and historical reports. The contact center services also let businesses make telemarketing and outbound campaign calls.

Cost

Since Avaya's phone systems are so customized, pricing is often different for each business. Additionally, Avaya works with local resellers to sell and install the systems, which can affect pricing.

The prices that one of Avaya's local resellers quoted to us were based on a business with 100 total employees and 25 call center seats. For the on-premises system we were looking at, which included the mobility, conference calling and upgraded voicemail modules, the one-time costs were $500 per station. That included basic phones and installation. The call center service had additional one-time costs of $1,200 per user. The prices, however, do not include the monthly cost of bringing a dial tone into the system either via PRI circuits or SPI trunking.

The cloud-hosted system cost $25 to $30 per user per month. That included 500 calling minutes per station. Call center services cost an additional $36 per month per user. However, there is an additional $400 charge per station for phones and installation.

Since the pricing we were quoted was for our specific requirement and by a reseller in our area, the costs of the system for your business would be different. Knowing that Avaya offers such a wide range of system options, we would encourage all businesses to contact Avaya, or a local reseller, early on in their research process to get specific pricing for their exact needs.

Support

While some phone system providers handle all of their sales and support in-house, others, like Avaya, work with resellers in local communities. These resellers work with businesses individually to design and price out packages that best fit their needs. They also handle the installation, training and some support moving forward.

During our research, we first contacted Avaya to learn more about the system. After giving us some basic details, the Avaya representative we spoke with asked for our contact information and said a local reseller in our area would reach out to us to provide more specifics and pricing details.

While we were initially discouraged that we couldn't learn more during that initial call, we were pleased when we heard back from the local reseller that same day. The reseller we spoke with was extremely knowledgeable about the Avaya system and provided us with more than enough detail.

In addition, he followed up by emailing us a 90-page document that described the system in even more detail. The reseller also didn't hesitate to share pricing information with us.

While our interactions with the local reseller left us very comfortable with the service his company would provide, we can't guarantee that Avaya resellers in all communities would offer this same level of support.

Similarly with pricing, it is important to spend some time talking with the reseller Avaya refers you to in order to get an idea of what it would be like to work with them. Since getting the right phone system is such a big decision, businesses should make sure the reseller they are working with is not only going to provide a system that meets all of their needs, but is doing so for a fair price.

Avaya does handle some support issues itself. If users have a problem, the company encourages them to file a help ticket online or launch a live chat session to get assistance.

To read reviews of other phone system providers, or simply learn more about business phone systems, check out our business phone systems buying guide.