Traditionally, businesses wanting a business phone system needed a four-line, landline-based phone service with an expensive private branch exchange (PBX). However, voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) was a game-changer for small companies, offering low-cost cloud alternatives to conventional multiline phone systems.
Increasingly, professionals find that VoIP systems provide the best business phone service compared to pricier PBX systems. Plus, upgrading your four-line phone services can save you up to 70% when choosing a VoIP provider like RingCentral. It’s easy to port your number, and you’re not limited to only four lines.
4-Line Phone System vs VoIP: Affordability
Cloud-based phone systems use your existing internet connection and don’t require an office landline. This allows VoIP phone services to offer flexible plans starting around $25 per user, per month. Your monthly fee includes setup, hardware, service, and maintenance expenses. On the other hand, four-line services can cost more than $100 for a base unit plus monthly service fees and accessory expenses.
VoIP systems also offer more value than landlines. To illustrate this point, we chose two customer favorites, RingCentral and Verizon, to compare hidden costs businesses should expect above monthly subscriptions for four-line phone systems versus multiline VoIP phones. In addition, RingCentral offers feature-rich cloud calling, whereas Verizon provides traditional phone services with one to four lines.
4-Line Phone Systems vs VoIP Affordability at a Glance
4-Line Landline (Verizon)
$119 per month*
$19.99 to $49.99 per user, per month**
Phones and PBX hardware
Domestic Call Rates
From 5 cents per minute, depending on the country
From 3 cents per minute, depending on the country
*Pricing based on cost of preferred voice package ($59 per month) plus the cost of three additional lines ($20 per month). Verizon also requires a two-year commitment that auto-renews. Other local taxes may apply.
**RingCentral data based on pricing for two or more users and annual payment.
What Is a 4-Line Phone System?
A four-line phone system uses traditional landline infrastructure, with four analog (landline) copper wire phone lines running into your office building. You can connect multiple phones and give employees their own extensions. However, you can only make or receive up to four phone calls at the same time.
How Much Does a 4-Line System Cost?
A multiline phone system can cost between $100 and $600 per month, plus an additional fee for each handset. Along with service, setup, and maintenance charges, this can make four-line phone services nearly three times more expensive than business VoIP phone systems. Furthermore, many phone providers are phasing out the older landline technology in favor of VoIP, making it tougher to find competitive pricing.
What Is a PBX Multiline Phone System?
A private branch exchange is an office telephone network that supports multiple phone lines so employees can make internal and external calls. Analog PBX systems allow you to host eight to 32 phone lines, making it great for expanding businesses. A PBX phone network is expensive, costing $300 to several thousand dollars. The infrastructure also requires maintenance.
As a result, larger corporations typically deploy extensive PBX systems. However, many VoIP providers offer internet-protocol (IP) PBX systems using cloud-based technologies, giving small business owners an affordable, multiline alternative.
What Is a VoIP System?
A VoIP phone system uses your internet connection to make and receive calls. It doesn’t use conventional phone lines or limit you to one location. Like a landline system, each employee gets a handset and a unique phone number or extension. You can also bring your own device (BYOD) or answer calls from anywhere with internet service.
Companies choose multiline VoIP phones because you’re not limited to a certain number of phone lines or extensions. Nor do you need to upgrade infrastructure or hardware when your business expands. Instead, you can add or delete lines and extensions via your web-based or mobile dashboard.
VoIP pricing plans vary by provider, and you may pay per user or line with monthly fees ranging from $12 to $75 per line. Many companies realize substantial savings because VoIP services work on all devices and don’t require expensive infrastructure or complex installation expenses.
When to Use a 4-Line Phone System
4-Line Phone System Pros
4-Line Phone System Cons
Easy to set up
Limited to 4 lines
No text messaging or team chat
Compatible with many types of desk phones or headsets
Only works in one location
Although VoIP call quality and reliability have greatly improved in recent years, locations with poor or spotty internet services may experience problems. In this case, four-line phone systems may be a better choice.
Before making a decision, complete a speed and bandwidth test on your internet and speak with your provider about upgrading your services. Often, the cost of premium internet services is still cheaper than buying an analog multiline system.
When to Use a VoIP Service
Can use on any device with an internet connection
Quality depends on internet connection
Video, text, and team chat features
Won’t work with all desk phones
Integrates with CRM software
May include many features you don’t need
As high-speed internet access (HSIA) becomes more common, many small business owners switch to VoIP multiline systems. It offers more features than four-line services, like intelligent call routing, monitoring, and handling functions. VoIP phone systems also provide collaboration tools and support text messaging by giving you one dashboard to see all conversations.
4-Line Phone System vs VoIP: Call Features
Four-line phone systems function as a standard phone service, allowing you to transfer calls, place customers on hold, and identify incoming callers. To get a feature-rich system, you need to invest in PBX infrastructure, which gives you access to more functionality. In both cases, your multiline service works on conventional desk phones and headsets.
However, VoIP phone services are known for an expansive list of features and the ability to take calls on any device, from any location. Like four-line plans, you get hold options, caller ID, and can transfer calls. But small businesses also benefit from features such as:
- Advanced call routing: Set up an auto-attendant or interactive voice response (IVR) system to send callers to specific departments or employees, or let them choose a destination from your company directory.
- Voicemail options: VoIP plans offer standard voicemail along with voicemail-to-email via audio files or transcribed messages, or transcribe your voicemail and have it sent to your mobile phone by text.
- Integrations: As a cloud-based service, VoIP technologies can integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) or help desk software, giving you access to client data and advanced analytics.
- Collaboration tools: Share screens, host whiteboarding sessions, or connect remote teams during a video call using your VoIP small business phone system.
4-Line Phone System vs VoIP: Call Quality & Reliability
Previously, four-line services had an edge because they’re not dependent on high-quality internet services. But improvements in internet speeds and technology innovation among VoIP service providers closed this gap.
Since a landline phone system uses your phone lines, it’s not affected by a power or internet outage. The quality remains the same regardless of other online activities, like streaming videos or downloading files.
VoIP services rely on a strong internet connection, meaning if your internet service or electricity that powers your modem and router go out, so does your VoIP system. Fortunately, you can automatically route calls to a mobile phone or another backup number during an outage. As long as you have a reliable high-speed internet connection, your call quality will be similar to four-line systems.
4-Line Phone System vs VoIP: Long Distance & International Calls
While it’s common for both landlines and VoIP to include unlimited domestic calling in their plans, international call rates are significantly cheaper with VoIP. This is because your voice is transmitted as data over the internet, rather than over the copper lines.
In our comparison of RingCentral and Verizon, international calls on Verizon’s landlines were often almost 30% higher per minute for comparable destinations.
Another advantage of VoIP technology is that you can often get cheaper international rates by purchasing an international phone number. RingCentral, for example, offers international numbers for over 70 countries.
4-Line Phone System vs VoIP: Ease of Use
With most four-line phone systems, setup entails connecting the central PBX console with up to four analog phone lines. You can handle administration tasks from the console’s screen and use your desk phone’s keypad to manage calls. Once installed, a multiline phone system is simple to use.
Leading VoIP platforms like RingCentral are managed with web-based interfaces that are intuitive and user-friendly. Most services offer an online portal or dashboard to quickly set up your phone system, access contact data, or manage calls. While most programs are easy to set up, personalizing your system’s features, like different phone numbers, call groups, or an IVR system, can be tricky.
How We Evaluated 4-Line Phone Systems vs VoIP
Connecting with clients is a vital component of all small businesses. And delivering excellent experiences starts with the first call customers make to your company. To assess four-line phone systems versus VoIP, we considered how your services affect business workflows and customer experiences while reviewing plans and pricing.
When comparing four-line and VoIP technology, we evaluated:
- Price: The overall cost of each service, including fees, hardware, and upkeep.
- Call quality and reliability: Stability of connections and likelihood of dropped calls.
- Ease of use: How easy it is to set up, use, and maintain the VoIP or landline system.
- Basic features: Availability of essential functions like call forwarding, caller ID, and call hold options.
- Advanced features: Tools that support intelligent routing, call handling, and collaboration.
Based on these criteria, VoIP systems are the best choice for most small businesses. Switching to multiline VoIP services gives you access to advanced analytics, allowing you to improve customer experiences and support a remote workforce.
Conventional systems can’t provide text messaging or video calls, which are essential for today’s business owners. However, if your location lacks high-speed internet access, then a four-line phone system may be the better choice.
While some corporations rely on legacy PBX systems, many small business owners turn to VoIP services to add multiple lines and extensions.
VoIP phone service providers like RingCentral offer intuitive dashboards and intelligent features at a fraction of the cost of a four-line phone system. You can add as many lines as you need, and the setup is simple. Get started by signing up for a free trial of RingCentral.