This is part one in a two-part series. You can read part two here.

Keeping ahead of the bills is one of the more challenging aspects of running a small business or practice.

You want your company and employees to have all the things they need to succeed, but if there are more affordable options, this is definitely the time to be digging them up and taking advantage. With so many phone solutions available today, it can be really confusing trying to figure out which one is best for your company, which is why we’ve put together this two-part guide to finding affordable phone solutions for your business or practice.

Before you start your search, ask yourself these questions:

Am I looking for a long-term or short-term solution? An affordable phone solution might not necessarily be the solution you intend to keep for the life of your business. This is important to keep in mind when choosing from the many systems available today. If you know your system will only be temporary because you expect your company to grow rapidly or move in the near future, choosing a solution that can be easily discontinued is a must.

How many calls do I expect? Every business is different — some get dozens or even hundreds of calls a day and others only a few. When you expect hundreds of calls, you need phone equipment that can support enough lines to have operators answering each one, but a few calls could be handled with a single cell phone. This is one place where call quality can make a huge difference, too. A few leads means you have to convert a higher percentage to stay in business, so you have to present a better first impression.

Who will be answering my phone? Whether you intend to have a receptionist or answering service picking up the phone or prefer to let the system handle the phone answering on its own matters. Some systems aren’t set up to handle human input, so keep this in mind while looking for your phone solution. Many will specify up front which options are available, but it’s always good to ask since these system options aren’t always easy to understand.

Where do most of my employees work? If most of your employees work in the same building, a more traditional system might be in order, but if they’re spread to the far corners or you run a virtual office you’ll have to look for something much more inventive. If you’re just on the go now and then or you have an occasional telecommuter, call forwarding can ensure calls make it directly from the intended desk phone to cell phone. Even so, it may still be more affordable to use a system designed for virtual offices if your staff is limited in number.

In part one of this two-part series, we discussed several questions you should ask yourself before diving into the wide world of modern phone solutions. Now that you have a much better idea of what characteristics your system needs, we can get into the nitty-gritty of today’s affordable phone systems in part two.