Best Business VoIP
Doing business today requires always-on communication, making finding the best VoIP phone system critically important for organizations of all sizes. It may have been "good enough" in the past to return phone calls when workers got back to their desks, but today's customers expect more.
This can be a challenge for small businesses who don't have the cash to purchase expensive VoIP systems. I've done the research to provide you with these choices as the best VoIP system options on the market.
A VoIP phone system is one that allows spoken communication to occur over the Internet with digital transmission as opposed to the analog transmission that occurs with traditional phones. There are a variety of benefits of this mode of signal transmission: not only are the sound and reception much clearer than with an analog system, but costs are reduced and the slowdown between responses is minimal even across great distances.
Getting Value from the Best VoIP Service for Business
Unless you are a telecommunications professional, it can be nearly impossible for small business owners to select the best VoIP phone system for their business without extensive research but you're in luck! I've done the research for you and detailed out everything you need to know to find the best VoIP phone systems for your business.
A VoIP phone system is one that allows spoken communication to occur over the Internet with digital transmission as opposed to the analog transmission that occurs with traditional phones.
While nearly all of the providers are reliable, there are various features and benefits to your business that will help make your decision much easier. The adoption rates for VoIP systems are poised to nearly double in the next few years, making this the ideal time to invest in this growing and money-saving technology.
Best VoIP for Small Business - Key Factors
I reviewed a number of factors when looking at VoIP phone system providers such as:
- Data quality
- Service levels
- Length of contracts
- Number of minutes or contacts permitted
- Key plan features
- Overall network reliability
- Network reputation and user reviews
- On-boarding and training
- System cost
Best Business VoIP - What to Consider
By taking these factors into account when you are looking for suitable business VoIP providers, you can boost the chances of finding the right plan and provider at an affordable price. Businesses in the U.S. are not the only ones taking advantage of the options that VoIP telephony affords, Europe is also taking advantage of this new tech with growth rates as high as 39% while Finland leads the world's growth with 61% growth rates in 2015.
After extensive research into a range of different telecommunications options and after reading hundreds of business VoIP reviews, there were a few standouts that I wanted to share with you.
1. Bandwidth Limits
Since VoIP systems operate over your broadband connection, your bandwidth and Internet speeds will affect your VOIP system and how well it functions. Check your Internet speeds before ordering. You may find you need to upgrade first, depending on how your current bandwidth levels and usage.
2. Hardware Requirements
Many services supply you with a standard setup package, but every business is different. Be sure to carefully review your current and near future needs with your sales team thoroughly before finalizing your order. You may find that there are pieces of hardware that you can do without, saving you money on your overall system. You will need to get some software, though, for what is called a "softphone," and may need a headset with microphone to connect to your computer.
IP phones can be a little pricey, but many of the best VoIP providers will offer discounted phones as part of their startup package.Analog phones can be used in some areas of your business for internal communications, allowing you to cut your costs down further.
3. The Time and Cost of Switching
Be sure to share all the details of your business needs with your VoIP provider to ensure that they have a full understanding of your particular needs.Your configuration depends largely on the equipment used, your connectivity, the size of the system needed, and the various options that are available such as additional training or advanced software. You also need to ensure that your computer business infrastructure can handle the added data load that these Internet-based phones will place on your wiring.
Your employees will need to be trained on how to use the new equipment and software, and you'll likely need training documentation created as well. One option would be to consider installing one of the new VoIP phones in your conference room first for training purposes, allowing employees to practice and get accustomed to the new functionality before deploying it company-wide.
4. Vulnerable to Hacking
VoIP systems can be hacked as they utilize the Internet for their connectivity. This means that a hacker could potentially listen in on your calls or use up your calling minutes for international calls if you buy them. To ensure this is not apt to be a problem, talk to your VOIP company to determine that the security measures they put in place are adequate to protect you.
The best VoIP for small business providers have robust security protocols that include encryption and dedicated resources to keep your business systems safe.
5. Power Outages
Your VoIP system is dependent on your Internet connection, so a massive power outage will knock out your phones. This is a good reason to have a landline as a backup. Even when power fails, an ordinary landline will usually continue to operate as it has a separate power system. The top VoIP phone systems providers will offer you advice for business continuity - or how to keep your business running from any location in the event of an emergency such as an extended power outage, physical or virtual attack.
6. Remote Connections
Many VoIP providers are able to connect seamlessly to smartphones, tablets and laptops but not all of them. If you need this capability, be sure that the VoIP phone system you select can provide you with the details you need to test remote connection options. You also want to check to see how easily the system can be expanded to add new phone numbers as employees are added to your business. Costs will vary between companies when adding new phones.
7. Access Anywhere
One of the key benefits of VoIP phones is that your employees will be able to access their voicemail and receive phone and video calls regardless of their physical location. Today's employees enjoy the opportunity to work from home or other remote locations, and VoIP systems provide that flexibility. This can be a key benefit that you offer to new employees joining your staff.
Always-on access to key employees benefits your business, as well as your customers because they can always get in touch with the right person to answer their questions no matter what time of the day it is.
The Best VoIP for Small Business
Here is a closer look at these top companies and the VoIP systems that they offer.
- Range of plans for greater flexibility
- No contract
- Unlimited calls and internet faxing for Canada and USA
- Two server locations to ensure that your service is not interrupted
- Excellent levels of customer support
- Provider charges on a per user basis
The phone systems offered by RingCentral work with a variety of phones including traditional, phones for VoIP systems and mobile phones. The RingCentral system also works with headsets connected directly to computers, providing companies with a system that allows nearly anyone to make or receive calls. Among their many available features, you can find:
- Call forwarding
- Call screening
- Music while on hold
- Conference calling
- Notifications of missed calls
- Auto receptionists and more
Businesses can also take advantage of online account management options to set up extensions, control mobile devices, view call logs and set up voicemail.
Plans are available that provide a limited number of minutes, and you can even limit how many people may join a meeting to 4, 25 or even 50. A RingCentral VoIP phone system can handle any business size from 1 employee up to 500 or more. Systems can be integrated with Salesforce, Zendesk or Desk.com and service is available within the United States only.
- Services that are ideal for small- to medium-size businesses
- No activation fees
- No contract is necessary
- Wide range of plans available
- Discounts offered for a higher number of extensions
- Using advanced features requires a higher level plan
- No service level agreement to back up claims of 99.9 percent reliability
Nextiva specializes in offering services to small businesses, but their offerings are robust enough to handle businesses of nearly any size. Their services include options such as unlimited calling, free local and toll-free numbers, conference calling, unified messaging, voicemail, on-hold messaging, silent monitoring capabilities and more.
Nextiva also provides a mobile app that enables employees to take advantage of their system's video, voice and instant messaging functions even when they're not in the office.
Information such as emails, voice mails and saved conference calls are stored in the cloud so that they can be accessed anytime and from any location. Because the system operates entirely from the cloud, it can be set up in minutes. Nextiva appeals to many businesses as it is highly scalable: there are no contracts involved, no hidden fees, and customers can cancel at any time.
Vonage Business Review
- Offers 24/7 support
- Over 40 mission-critical features
- Experience support personnel
- Easy setup
- Advanced features require additional investments
Vonage Business is one of the best VoIP for business options for a variety of reasons: they offer a reliable and reasonably-priced service that many businesses utilize to improve their long-term communication strategies. Business leaders find that using cheap business VoIP can provide their workers with a simple solution for a modern problem: staying in touch while they're out of the office. From mobile apps and a virtual receptionist to desktop plugins that support a variety of platforms, Vonage Business is a VoIP system that will help provide your business with the professional communications that you need to succeed.
- Flexible and varied plans
- Ability to host virtual meetings
- Select nearly any phone number
- Service cancellations can be pricey
8x8 is another leading cloud-based VoIP system service in the US. They offer business phone services, unified communications and contact center solutions, along with seamless mobile applications that allow you to communicate in your business network whether you have one office or many.
8x8 also boasts a high level of security and reliability. They meet stringent security standards as stipulated by the HIPAA, FISMA and PCI and can provide your business with the cost-effective competitive edge that great communications can bring.
- Award-winning customer service
- Plans for up to 1,000 users
- Comprehensive phone and email support
- Helpful online resources
- Warranty length is limited to 1 year
- No live chat support
ShoreTel's VoIP phone system offers a variety of nice collaborative features, such as a cloud-based option as well as an on-premise phone system. This flexibility means the solution is a good option for a range of different business models and sizes. Cloud-based systems are becoming highly favored as they allow employees to communicate with customers and vendors on their terms -- and whether or not the employee is physically in the office.
ShoreTel is a larger and more flexible system than some of the other business VoIP reviews I've done, as it will support up to 1,000 users. This provides mid-size businesses with some growing room that some of the other options may not offer. However, their online customer support and lack of DECT phones push them further down the list of best VoIP for small business options.
What is the Best Business VoIP Service?
Although no one can say one particular system is best for every application, it appears that RingCentral beats out the others in a few key areas. Nextiva does not require any contracts and all pricing is upfront, unlike some of their competitors. Any of the VoIP phone systems that we reviewed would provide your business with significant value; what is important is working closely with your vendor to determine exactly the services and solutions that you need to keep your business systems running the way you need them to run.
Challenges to Finding the Best VoIP System for Small Business
When you're not able to work directly with the vendor, there's a possibility that you will receive poor information secondhand or from third-party installation vendors. It is always advisable that you work directly with your salesperson as they are the best individual to help you understand your needs and what will provide your business with the phones, software and solutions that will keep you moving forward and allow you to provide the best possible service to your customers.
There are also VoIP system vendors who are not as knowledgeable as others about the particular systems. These are highly technical systems, and there are a wide variety of options on the market today. If your salesperson does not seem to know the answers to your questions, you might consider asking them to find a technician or engineer who has a better grasp on the systems overall. If that fails, you can always decide to interview additional VoIP phone system providers until you find one that you feel comfortable with -- who understands your business and the various solutions that will work for you.
Savings When You Select the Best Business VoIP
Many of the best VoIP for small business providers offer a 30-day free trial, and all of them are cloud-based. Not having to sign a contract provides you with the liberty to test drive the system without being concerned about long-term costs or penalties; secure in the knowledge that you can always back out if it does not quite match your needs.
VoIP is becoming more popular every year, with businesses saying that they saved up to 90% of their telecom charges when they switched.
Advice for Finding the Best Business VoIP
Buying business VOIP often contains some degree of trial and error because you often are not fully sure of what you need, or of the quality of service the company will provide. Take your time as you and your team review the various options, taking notes on the way that your various departments utilize their phone systems and what type of additional functionality they would appreciate having available.
Want to explore the topic further? Here are some tips from our expert guides to help you dig deep:
- Which options are really necessary with a Business VoIP system? Companies that offer VoIP systems are adding a lot of options to their packages. Don't allow an unscrupulous business VoIP provider sell you on a system that doesn't meet your needs or has more functionality than you truly need.
- Do you know how VoIP systems can help your business? There are huge benefits to moving in this direction: from disaster recovery, to cost savings to providing more flexibility for your employees to work away from the office or during non-standard business hours. The current trends reveal that most businesses will end up switching to VoIP to reap the variety of benefits that this newer technology offers. Before placing an order for extra phones or add-ons that don't make sense for your business, be sure you're asking all the right questions.
- Does VoIP offer some really must-have features that every business should not be without? The options that are now available in business VoIP systems are becoming more numerous. Some of the key features and functionality for VoIP systems includes the ability to add hunt groups -- or a group of phones that are tied together and can ring as a team. This is a great option for customer service, where you want to be sure that the customer's question is always answered as quickly as possible and it isn't as important that a particular individual answers the phone.
- Is VoIP really a better system than a traditional analog phone system? Staying with a standard phone system in your business, when compared to what VOIP can offer, is almost like dial-up Internet compared to high-speed Internet. Why stay with the old when the new has so much more to offer? Find out how VoIP is better in more ways than just the price. The current trends reveal that most businesses will end up switching to VoIP to reap the variety of benefits that this newer technology offers.
Best Business VoIP Recap
With an increasing number of options available when it comes to both VoIP plans and providers, I knew that doing the research is even more important to ensure that you have the resources that you need to make a good decision for your business.
With the right VoIP plan and provider, you can benefit from affordable, reliable and more personal communication with vendors and customers - both internal and external. Ready to super-charge your communications strategy? Check out our overviews of the
Check out our overviews of the Best Business Phone Systems and Best Conference Call Services. Together, these technology innovations will help your business save money, provide better service to your customers and make life easier on your employees -- as they're able to work from any physical location instead of being tied to the office phone.
Best Business VoIP FAQs
What is the difference between personal and business VoIP?
Personal and business VoIP have many similarities and a few key differences. Both have the same basic features and services like good sound quality, call forwarding, call waiting, low cost and increased portability. However, certain providers optimize their services for either businesses or individual use. VoIP services that focus on businesses offer things like new employee coaching tools and door buzzer intercom capabilities that individuals don't need. Plus, some providers may offer deals specific to businesses. If you are looking for VoIP for your business make sure you explore all the features that are offered by different providers. However, if you have a very small business, individual VoIP service might be all you need.
Why is VoIP cheaper than other telecommunications?
VoIP (or voice over IP) is an IP telephony system which means it is a telecommunications technology that transfers data digitally using IP addresses. VoIP is an alternative to traditional phone service and can be used within a closed network or over the internet. VoIP tends to be cheaper because it doesn't have many of the fees associated with traditional phone lines like maintenance costs and fees that cover the phone company's compliance with industry rules and regulations. For VoIP, there is no physical network infrastructure accepting your own computers and servers do there is no maintenance.
How has it evolved?
Previously, VOIP was restricted to computer-to-computer calling - not ideal for companies seeking a professional service for their employees. In addition, VOIP has now progressed to being available through traditional-style handsets allowing calls to be transferred – not just across the office, but to offices and colleagues around the globe – plus all the normal office functions for your VOIP phone.
What are the benefits of having a VOIP phone?
Many. Your company number is completely transportable – no need to change a familiar and well-known phone number. You could be travelling on the other side of the world and still receive calls from your clients at local rates to them. Just plug in your phone to a power outlet as usual and start making and receiving calls.
Are there any downsides?
Think of it like your wireless service. As long as you have a decent bandwidth (see recommendations in table below), you'll likely have excellent clarity and service, but with occasional incidents of dropped calls or poor call quality. You'll also be paying for incoming calls, but some services offer unlimited incoming calls for as little as $6 per month. The best advice is to ensure thorough research on a supplier's track record before signing on the dotted line.
Is VOIP a good option for my company?
In the changing face of business, VOIP can add greater flexibility to your workforce. You could have a New York City head office with a local phone number, but outsource your staff to Tennessee – with the same NYC phone number – and save on office rent and salaries. VOIP also gives the option of working from home for some roles; studies show that employee efficiency actually increases when working at home. If a valued and trusted colleague has to move across the country for personal reasons, you can choose to keep them, thereby retaining valued staff members which is a cost saving in itself.
Should VOIP completely replace the existing landlines?
One argument against replacing all landlines is that VOIP is dependent on both a reliable internet connection and electrical power. Corded telephones, on the other hand, receive their power through the phone line and usually would work when the electrical grid is out during an emergency.
What are the start-up costs?
The cost of the hardware varies, with wholesalers offering corded, 9-line VOIP phones from $160. Phones can go up to $700 for the total song and dance video phones, and there are cordless wifi options too, from $150 to $1200 depending on the model, ideal for frequent business travelers - no need to find a physical router to plug into.
What about the ongoing charges?
This will depend on the size of your business and what packages you choose. However as a guide, small businesses can expect to pay between $10 and $30 per month for contracts with 100 to 1000 minutes, including local number, unlimited user extensions, international dialing, call queuing and other features you'd expect to find in an office landline system. Bigger businesses should anticipate monthly bills of $25 per extension for high-volume call roles, e.g. call-center staff or telephone sales.
What speed bandwidth is required?
This depends on the number of concurrent calls you want to make. The table below shows the minimum bandwidth required to make calls from a standard account, as well as recommended speeds for optimal performance. Most internet providers will price packages in terms of maximum speeds, to check your computer's actual upload and download speeds use a speed test website.