When they were first adopted commercially in the late 1990s, VoIP services were hailed immediately for their many advantages over traditional phone services – including their flexibility, scalability, and cost.
Since its early days, the technology underpinning VoIP services has developed markedly and today, there are a host of cloud and hosted solutions that have revolutionized the business communication space.
Certainly, the benefits provided by VoIP and IP phone systems have been welcomed over the last twelve months in particular, as the COVID-19 pandemic made workplace collaboration increasingly difficult. With many in-person meetings canceled to allow for new social distancing rules, VoIP services have allowed colleagues and clients to remain in contact whether they continue to work from business premises or their home office.
When exploring business phone systems, it is important to make a distinction between VoIP hardware and services. While the hardware refers to the handsets themselves, VoIP service providers actually deal with the establishment and routing of calls over a high-speed internet connection.
Many of these providers also provide additional telephony features, the kind that transform a VoIP solution into a unified communications (UC) offering with instant messaging, presence, and other functions that will prove particularly useful for small businesses. Although residential VoIP systems are available, this article will focus specifically on commercial offerings aimed at the corporate sector.
Businesses certainly have a lot of choice when it comes to the VoIP service market today. Some of the biggest players include Aircall, Avaya, Vonage, and RingCentral, in addition to well-known tech firms like Microsoft and Google. These companies may list their solutions as VoIP services, business phone systems, or cloud phone systems but all these terms essentially mean the same thing - using a broadband internet connection to make a voice call instead of a regular (or analog) phone line.
A great all-rounder for businesses, regardless of industry, RingCentral Office is a cloud-based PBX platform that includes all the features that modern organizations have come to expect from their VoIP system: video software, collaboration tools, and even AI capabilities.
All the core features are included, such as an auto-attendant system, a company directory, call forwarding and handling, and multiple extensions. A 99.999% uptime SLA also means that businesses can have peace of mind that any disruptions to their communications network are going to be infrequent affairs.
There is also a range of pricing plans to choose from, starting with the Essentials plan for $19.99 a month. Designed for small to medium-sized businesses, RingCentral Office Essentials includes unlimited voice and video calling, a free local and toll-free number, and 1500 toll-free minutes but the limit of 20 users is unlikely to be enough for some firms.
Fortunately, RingCentral’s plans for larger businesses are where the solution really comes into its own. The Standard plan comes with no limits on user numbers for $24.99 a month, while the Premium offering also comes with automatic call recording, real-time analytics, and integrations with popular CRM tools like Salesforce, Zendesk, and more for $34.99.
For organizations that need the most advanced VoIP solutions, the Ultimate package, priced at $49.999 a month, also comes with device status reports and unlimited storage. Whatever plan businesses plump for, the scalability of RingCentral Office is one of its most important benefits. With APIs available in the backend, this is a VoIP solution that can be scaled and customized accordingly into a full-scale unified communications solution as well as a cloud contact center.
- Read our full RingCentral Office review.
Affordably priced and with a couple of different plans to choose from, Ooma Office is a great choice for smaller firms or businesses that have a sizable number of remote workers. The basic plan costs $19.95 per user, per month and comes with a mobile app, a virtual receptionist, call-forwarding functionality, and a host of other features. Ooma Office Pro, which costs $24.95 per user, per month, adds video conferencing tools, voicemail transcription, and a number of other useful business features.
Interestingly, Ooma has recently entered the home security space and the way that its VoIP service integrates with this offering could interest workers that split their time between the home and the office. Using Ooma Telo as a security hub, the company offers a broad range of security options, including audible alarms, motion sensors, and instant alerts. For workers that want to benefit from VoIP communication and robust home security, Ooma’s service may be just what’s needed.
For businesses that aren’t interested in the added security functionality, Ooma still provides a reliable VoIP service. The offering is particularly useful for companies with remote workers, with both the mobile and desktop apps allowing workers to make and receive unlimited calls within the US using their business number.
Another particularly handy feature is Ring Groups, which allows organizations to group extensions together so they all ring simultaneously. The call is then simply transferred to whichever employee answers first. Although the fact that video conferencing only comes with the more expensive pro plan may disappoint some businesses, Ooma Office still represents a great choice for firms that may not need the flashiest VoIP solution.
- Read our full Ooma Office review.
With all of the VoIP solutions featured in this guide, there is a multitude of different features on offer, depending on the particular pricing plan that businesses decide to go for. What makes GoToConnect so impressive is the sheer number of features available, with the platform offering businesses more than 100 calling, collaboration, and mobile features and tools, as well as several video conferencing services.
All of the general features, including custom call routing, team-based call distribution, as well as time-based and geolocation routing, are included, and customers also have access to personal meeting rooms.
Advertising itself as a UCaaS solution, businesses don’t need to install any new equipment and GoToConnect will handle all maintenance and upgrades. That being said, the company does recommend that customers have a business-standard router, an Ethernet switch capable of Quality of Service, and a firewall configured to allow access to HTTP, HTTPS, and UDP traffic on their network.
Interestingly, unlike most VoIP service providers, GoToConnect does not charge businesses more for additional features. Instead, the company’s pricing plan varies based on how many employees a business has. Prices range from $29.95 per user, per month for customers with between one and four users, to as little as $19.95 per user, per month for businesses with between 50 and 99 users. All pricing plans come with access to the majority of GoToConnect’s tools, and bespoke pricing plans are available for businesses with more than 100 members of staff.
Among the available features are Cloud PBX, custom hold music, call management, advanced ring strategies, and one-click screen sharing. Of course, more features do mean a greater potential for things to go wrong, but GoToConnect also offers extensive email and call support should any issues arise.
- Read our full GoToConnect review
Software has changed the nature of telephone communications in many offices and this is particularly evident when using Dialpad. The VoIP solution is cost-effective and well-designed and is particularly suited to businesses that have workflows favorable to using softphones – software applications that are installed on internet-connected devices in order to make phone calls.
The company’s VoIP offering, actually called Dialpad Talk, uses cloud calling and AI to boost employee productivity and flexibility. Members of staff can work from anywhere and use any device for their business conversations, and AI-powered voice intelligence can be used to automating note-taking and detect customer sentiments during a call.
User setup is straightforward as Dialpad comes with one central administrator portal that makes it easy to add new users, assign them phone numbers, connect them with office suites like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365, and establish their permissions. The whole process should only take a few minutes and either a desktop interface or smartphone app can be used to manage user profiles day-to-day.
While remote working has certainly become more common of late, Dialpad remains compatible with many desk-based phones, and the company has also partnered with Jabra and Poly to integrate functionality with a number of headsets.
Price-wise, Dialpad Talk is extremely competitive. The Standard plan costs $15 a month (when billed annually), the Pro plan will set businesses back $25 a month, while the Enterprise plan is billed on a more bespoke basis. Like the Pro plan, the Enterprise version offers local number support in over 50 countries, but it also includes integration with the identity management platform Okta.
- Read our full Dialpad review
Telecoms giant AT&T may be one of the older players in the communication space but that hasn’t stopped it from adopting the most up-to-date developments in the VoIP market. In particular, what makes AT&T Business so unique is the way that it integrates with legacy systems. AT&T Collaborate supports prebuilt integration with approximately 30 external services, including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft 365, and various Salesforce offerings, and existing analog office phones can continue to be used.
Although new registrations are no longer being taken for AT&T Collaborate, AT&T Office@Hand is a flexible cloud-based solution delivering voice, fax, and text messaging options, as well as audio and video conferencing features. The solution is cloud-based and comes with three pricing plans.
The Standard Edition starts at $25.40 per user, per month and includes unlimited internet faxing, 1000 toll-free minutes per month, and allows unlimited user numbers. The Premium Edition, meanwhile, costs $36.25 per user, per month and also comes with Salesforce integration and 200 HD video seats. Prices for the Enterprise Edition vary but all customers will receive 10,000 toll-free minutes a month.
While AT&T does allow businesses to use their own hardware for the Office@Hand service, providing it is compatible, the company will not be able to provide help desk support. Instructions will be provided on how to configure the equipment but that is unlikely to completely prevent difficulties from arising, so it’s a good idea for businesses to employ experts during the installation process.
Once installation and configuration are out of the way, however, AT&T Business is simplicity personified. Each employee is given their own unique extension and direct-dial number for voice, fax, and text messaging.
Perhaps the first thing to notice about the 8x8 X Series is its price tag. For an enterprise-standard VoIP service, its base offering is very affordable, which is ideal for any organization that feels like it is currently spending too much on its communication tools.
The 8x8 Express Plan starts from just $12 per user, per month and comes with unlimited video conferencing, chat, calling, and SMS messages across the US and Canada and a bespoke app to manage all your business communications. As a sweetener, the plan also comes with a one-month free trial, plus three months of Wix Unlimited so small businesses can get started with their website building plans as well.
For businesses that need more features than those on offer with the Express plan, the X Series X2 plan provides unlimited calling within 14 countries, video and audio conferencing, SMS, MMS and Teams chat functionality, and various enterprise integrations, including Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Outlook, NetSuite, Salesforce and ZenDesk, for $24.
The X Series X4 plan, meanwhile, adds unlimited calling within 47 countries, call quality reporting, and supervisor analytics. Additional plans are designed to cater for voice-focused contact centers and multichannel associates.
It is worth noting that the 8x8 x series does not offer a bargain basement service – and higher-level plans can come at a significant cost. Aside from the great affordability provided by 8x8's more basic plans, all the company's solutions also make great collaboration tools. A universal team messaging application allows businesses to collaborate internally as well as with clients and vendors and includes extensive interoperability with third–party solutions.
- Read our full 8x8 X Series review.
Microsoft’s many digital solutions are already commonplace in offices all over the world and the company now has a cloud telephony service to add to its portfolio. Microsoft 365 Business Voice lets organizations make calls from any device to anywhere in the world, leveraging the company’s cloud services to ensure high levels of reliability and good audio quality.
In terms of pricing, Microsoft 365 Business Voice works out to be very affordable - particularly if subscribers are already paying for Microsoft 365. In that case, the standard Business Voice plan is purchased as an add-on to the existing Microsoft 365 subscription (that includes Teams) at a cost of $20 per user, per month. It includes a cloud-based phone system with advanced features such as call transfer, multi-level auto attendants, and call queues, as well as 24/7 customer support.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of Microsoft 365 Business Voice is the way that it integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Teams. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teams has become increasingly important to businesses and many will no doubt appreciate the ease with which 365 Business Voice connects to the platform. Setup is quick and it is easy to view upcoming Teams meetings and connect to discussions via your VoIP handset with Business Voice installed.
The major drawback for users of Microsoft 365 Business Voice is that it comes with a user limit of 300, which makes the service suitable for small to medium-sized businesses (SMB) only. Nevertheless, if that’s not an issue, then Microsoft 365 Business Voice represents a great option, particularly for firms that already rely on a number of other Microsoft solutions.
Acquired by remote access solutions provider LogMeIn in 2018, Grasshopper delivers a great VoIP service for smaller firms, particularly those that may not have the financial resources to invest in additional hardware. With Grasshopper, businesses simply gain access to a PBX software instance that connects extensions to existing phone numbers. Businesses only need a functioning phone number, existing handsets (which includes cell phones), and a reliable internet connection.
But while the requirements for Grasshopper are slight, the number of features on offer are also somewhat limited. There is no analytics here, nor the kind of advanced features needed to support call centers or VoIP desktop phones. Customers do gain access to an unlimited number of business calls and texts, call forwarding options, and 24/7 support but beyond that, there’s not much to say about the Grasshopper solution.
Fortunately, the pricing is very favorable, with Solo-tier starting at $26 a month for one number and three extensions. The Partner tier, on the other hand, is $44 per month for three numbers and six extensions, whole the Small Business tier costs $80 each month and comes with up to five numbers and an unlimited number of extensions. Unlike most VoIP providers, Grasshopper’s prices aren’t charged on a per-user basis. These are all-in monthly costs, which means small businesses could face a significantly smaller bill.
Aside from the price, the ease of setup is another bonus of the Grasshopper solution, with users simply selecting their service level and choosing their numbers before the service is ready to go. There’s also a desktop, iOS, and Android app for easy management of Grasshopper’s features.
1-VoIP offers both residential and business VoIP solutions, with its business offering proving particularly useful for companies on a budget. For $14.97 per extension, per month, companies gain access to HD call quality and more than 40 features across 1-VoIP’s metered plan. With this plan, customers only pay for what they use, facing an additional charge of 2 cents per minute for any calls made.
All features are included with each business plan, with extension-to-extension calling, digital call forwarding, and cell phone redirection available at no extra cost. Other useful features include the use of an auto attendant to make sure callers are redirected to the correct department, and custom pre-recorded announcements that can be adapted for each particular recipient.
One of the most useful aspects of the 1-VoIP solution is its integration with the third-party anti-spam service Nomorobo. So far, this solution has been used by organizations to block more than 2 billion automated spam calls. The service is flexible, allowing companies to toggle the feature on and off, and businesses can report new spam numbers to the service for review. The service is also continuously monitored so calls from essential services like schools and pharmacies are always permitted.
A few frustrating aspects of the 1-VoIP service have been pointed out by users, particularly in terms of the setup and configuration. Finding the right settings for international calling can be challenging, for example, and there’s not much in the way of integration with CRM solutions. Nevertheless, 1-VoIP is a good choice for businesses that want a fairly standard VoIP solution that will prevent telemarketers from pestering their employees.
- Read our full 1-VoIP review.
Styled as a “modern, work-from-anywhere” solution, Phone.com offers several plans and flexible pricing packages that are sure to appeal to small and medium-sized businesses. Setup is straightforward, with customers simply asked to select their users and choose their phone numbers, with local, toll-free, and vanity numbers available, alongside the option of retaining their current number.
One of the benefits of using Phone.com is that it will work across any handset. While some VoIP business solutions only work with smartphones, Phone.com supports physical desk phones too, and a web administration portal helps individuals manage the platform. In addition, software upgrades and new features are pushed to customers on a regular basis, so they can rest assured that their unified communications solution is always up to date.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of Phone.com’s VoIP offering, however, is that it gives customers the option of deploying real-life human support in their telephone communications. For an additional fee, Phone.com offers customers the use of live attendants to answer and transfer calls. Similarly, human transcription services are also available, charged at $0.25 per voicemail. Other features, including all those you’d expect from a VoIP solution, such as video conferencing, document sharing, and number porting, are also included.
In terms of negatives, some businesses may be disappointed with the number of features that are only available to Plus and Pro users, and the number of third-party integrations is somewhat limited when compared with other VoIP services. Still, mobile-first businesses will appreciate the simplicity and affordability of Phone.com and the option of accessing live attendants is a nice bonus.
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