Cisco's phone systems are among the best for enterprises because they are available as on-premises or cloud-hosted solutions and can support thousands of employees. All of Cisco's unified communication systems can be configured specifically with the calling, mobility and collaboration features each business wants.
In addition to being some of the best for enterprises, Cisco's Business Edition 6000 systems are among our top contenders for the best on-premises phone systems.
- Best for: Enterprise and on-premises
- Phone service: VoIP
- Hosting: On-premises and cloud
- Costs: On-premises systems cost $600 to $1,300 per user; cloud systems cost $12 to $35 per user per month.
- Mobile app: iOS and Android devices
- Support: Phone, email and live chat
Cisco offers a variety of on-premises phone systems that can support thousands of employees. The solutions we looked at specifically are part of the Business Edition 6000 line.
The Cisco BE6000 is a set of purpose-built, all-in-one VoIP solutions designed for businesses with 25 to 1,000 employees. The systems start as basically a blank canvas, with each business being able to pick and choose the features and tools to add.
Businesses have the choice of several different servers, which vary in the number of users they support, how many devices can be connected to them and how many applications can be added in. Various applications that can be built into each system are those for mobility, voicemail and automated attendants, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and other collaboration tools. In addition, some of the systems allow for contact center services.
These systems are an excellent choice for large organizations because they can be used by a sizable number of employees. In addition to supporting up to 1,000 workers, the BE6000 systems support up to 100 call center users. Additionally, the system can be used by organizations that have up to 50 different locations.
Businesses that have more than 1,000 employees can deploy some of Cisco's other unified communications systems, which can be used by tens of thousands of employees. Among the features the system and its add-on applications include are voice and video calls, voicemail, voicemail-to-email, voicemail transcription services, videoconferencing, paging, and a presence tool that shows which employees are busy and which are available for calls and messaging.
The Cisco Jabber application can be added to the system and allows for voice and video calls from iOS and Android devices, as well as Mac and Windows computers. The app also lets users access the presence feature, instant messaging, voicemail messages, desktop sharing and conferencing.
Cisco Spark is a cloud-hosted unified communications system that allows voice and video calling, messaging, and online meetings. Spark is designed to work on a variety of devices. The service enables voice and video communications via mobile phones, desktop phones, computers, and room-based systems. With this system, your contact list and call history sync across all of your devices.
Spark's meeting component allows users to easily schedule or join a meeting at a main office, a branch office, remotely from home or on the road, or from a room-based video system. Every meeting has audio, video and web conferencing capabilities.
When conducing a meeting, users can move back and forth among different devices. For example, you can start a meeting on your mobile phone and easily continue from a videoconferencing room. When the user enters the room, they tap their phone and all of the information immediately transfers to the room's system without interruption. If they need to leave the room at any point, they can tap their phone again and everything transfers back to the mobile device.
The messaging application lets users prepare, share and work on content together. This can be done one-on-one or in group settings. In addition, integrated messaging, meetings and calls can be initiated with just a click of the mouse. The system also supports interactive drawing. Users can draw together and share a virtual whiteboard from any touchscreen device. With the Cisco mobile app, users can access their voicemail, make voice and video calls, and seamlessly move between devices during a call.
Other features the Spark system offers includes anytime screen sharing, up to 5GB of file sharing, single sign-on, organization-wide analytics and metrics, and end-to-end encryption. The system also integrates with a variety of other programs, including Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, Zendesk, Github, and Zapier.
The on-premises Business Edition 6000 system and the cloud-hosted Spark solution have different price structures. The on-premises system has large one-time costs, while the Spark system has small recurring fees.
As many other phone system providers do, Cisco works with local resellers throughout the country who sell and install the systems on its behalf. That means the pricing we were quoted might not be what the reseller your business works with charges. In addition, how many employees are using the system and the features you want it to include can impact the price quotes you receive.
For our purposes, we asked for pricing for a business with about 150 users. For the on-premises system, we were given price estimates of one-time charges that start at about $600 per user. This is just for the basic service without any of the added applications built in. For every added component, we were told to expect the price to increase by about $100 per user. For a system that includes everything Cisco offers, we were given pricing estimates of about $1,300 per user.
There are also installation and training costs to consider. To have the system professionally installed and training conducted by the reseller who worked with us, we were told to expect costs to be between 15% and 25% of the total per-user fees.
The cloud-hosted Spark system has monthly fees of $12 to $35 per user. The costs vary by which features are included and how many people can be in a web or video meeting at one time. Cisco offers businesses a 20% discount if they pay for an entire year of service in advance.
In addition to the service plan costs, SIP trunking services need to be factored in. The SIP trunking is what allows calls to be made and received. Those monthly costs were not provided to us in the quote.
The other additional cost to consider, for either hosting option, is IP phones. Cisco offers a wide selection of desktop phones, which range from $150 for a simple break-room phone to $600 for a top-of-the-line executive phone.
It is important to remember that, since the pricing we were quoted was based on our specific requirements and given by a reseller, the costs your business is quoted may be different. We would encourage all businesses to contact the local dealer Cisco refers them to early on in their research process to get specific price quotes for their exact needs.
We found Cisco's support to be a little underwhelming when we contacted it posing a business owner interested in its various phone systems. When we initially called the company, the representative we spoke to wasn't able to provide us with very much information.
Rather than answering our questions, he said we would need to speak with a phone system specialist. He then spent 10 minutes collecting our contact information and asking us questions about our business. Unfortunately, he didn't transfer us to a specialist when he was done. Instead, he said one of Cisco’s resellers in our area would contact us in the next four or five days.
Our call, however, wasn't returned for several weeks, and when it was, it was from a reseller located thousands of miles away from us. The good news is that the reseller did apologize for the mix-up and said he would answer any questions we had about the systems.
During our call, he provided us tons of details on the on-premises and cloud-hosted systems. He talked about how each works and what they include and gave us pricing estimates.
He then followed up by email to make sure we had all of the information we needed. We were impressed by his thoroughness and his willingness to spend so much time with us, even though he was a consultant located far away from us and likely wouldn't be the one to actually work with us in the future.
For users, Cisco provides technical support via phone, email and live chat. In addition, the Cisco website is filled with product information, user guides and videos.
Despite our displeasure with the initial service we received from Cisco, we were more than happy with the support the reseller provided. However, we can't guarantee other resellers offer the same high level of service. Similarly with pricing, we would encourage businesses to spend some time speaking with the reseller they are referred to in order to get a better idea of the type of support they can expect.
To read reviews of other phone system providers, or simply learn more about business phone systems, check out our business phone systems buying guide.