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What is RingCentral? The best VoIP service, explained

We live in the era of online work, and at the center of that is digital communication. Whether you do your job from home (or another location outside) or you work in an office environment, team coordination is an essential part of any workflow, and having the wrong communication tools can jam things up and hamper productivity. VoIP services like RingCentral solve this problem, offering a streamlined and complete communications suite for phone, video calls, conferencing, and more, with flexible plans tailor-made to meet the needs and challenges of businesses operating in the digital age. Here’s everything you need to know about RingCentral and how it can help your company.

What is RingCentral?

RingCentral is a Voice over Internet Protocol service. At its most basic, VoIP is a protocol that allows users to make telephone calls over an internet connection rather than a traditional landline. That sounds simple, but RingCentral is actually much more than that. Its Message, Video, and Phone (MVP) plans offer complete communications and team management solutions tailored for businesses large and small, and are designed to fully optimize team projects and workflow in a world that grows more internet-connected every day.

Many companies rely on Voice over IP services and you have a lot of platforms to choose from today, but RingCentral has long been at the top of our list of the best VoIP services due to its great set of features, ease of use, reliable service, and cost-effective plans. With RingCentral, you can set up and assign business numbers (including international, toll-free, and even vanity numbers), manage team SMS messaging, share files, hold audio and video conferences, manage customer communications such as voicemails, and more. RingCentral basically works as an all-in-one communications suite, offering a much more efficient, cost-effective, and streamlined solution than using and paying for a bunch of separate services at once.

You can customize your RingCentral plan to the specific needs and size of your business, which is another benefit over “one size fits all” services. RingCentral also offers extensive integration with productivity and industry-specific third-party platforms like Zendesk and Slack (to name just two examples of many). Setting up your VoIP service with RingCentral is simple, too — the company boasts that you’ll have your system up and running in minutes rather than days — and being able to manage everything from a single admin panel makes it easy to use.

Is RingCentral free to use?

RingCentral offers a few different services and its pricing structure varies depending on what you need and the size of your business. Its flagship product, the MVP plans, are paid. However, the company offers a 30-day free trial period for new subscribers with some restrictions. The trial service is limited to five users and two desktop phone lines, as well as up to 50 minutes of domestic calls per user. The free RingCentral trial also does not include SMS messaging. Nonetheless, this is a great way to take RingCentral MVP for a test drive and decide if it’s a good fit for your business before you have to spend any capital.

There are four MVP tiers: Essentials, Standard, Premium, and Ultimate. After your 30-day free trial period ends, pricing for these RingCentral MVP plans ranges from $20 to $50 depending on how many people will be using your plan and whether you opt to pay monthly or annually. Yearly subscriptions net you the best price, and the per-person cost scales down as your user base increases. You get a discount for two users or more, and then another discount for 100 users or more. Note that the Essentials plan is only available for up to 20 people, and you’ll need at least two users (and the annual subscription) to get the best price.

The four RingCentral MVP tiers offer a nice range of features, so it’s relatively easy to choose the right plan for your business so you’re not roped into paying for things you won’t use. You can tailor your plan to your specific needs, adding extras such as additional phone numbers. Aside from its MVP VoIP free trial, RingCentral also offers a free service in its RingCentral Video platform. This is a cost-free (and more full-featured) alternative to video services such as Zoom — but more on that later.

What devices support RingCentral?

RingCentral works as both a cloud Voice over IP service and an integrated phone service, which means you can use it both online via the RingCentral app and with compatible VoIP phones. VoIP phones look like traditional handsets, the likes of which you’d see in most businesses and call centers, but instead of operating over a landline, these devices make calls using the internet as explained above. Once hooked up, they offer the same standard functions as a landline phone, but with all the extra features unique to your RingCentral MVP service. RingCentral VoIP phones have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, large touch displays, and built-in cameras for making video calls, to name just a few enhancements you get over basic landline phones.

To manage all of your communications and unlock all the functions of RingCentral MVP, you’ll have to use the included software. You can download and install RingCentral apps on Windows and Mac computers as well as Android and iOS mobile devices. This allows you to hold video calls and meetings, access voicemail transcriptions, and access advanced features like quality-of-service reports and customer call analytics if your plan includes those features. RingCentral also integrates with workflow apps including Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, and Slack, as well as industry-specific third-party platforms such as Salesforce, Zendesk, and Canvas.

What’s the difference between RingCentral and Zoom?

“Zoom” is a name that many, many people suddenly found themselves familiar with in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic pushed millions out of classrooms and offices and forced them to do their work and studies from home. Many turned to Zoom for video calls, business meetings, and even for taking classes online. Yet even as the restrictions were lifted and things started opening back up, video conferencing stuck around, and it’s become a staple for doing business online.

Nonetheless, anybody who has used Zoom — and there’s a good chance you’re among that number — is all too familiar with its limitations. It’s important to bear in mind that Zoom is a relatively simple video calling platform, whereas RingCentral MVP is a full-fledged all-in-one service for video calls, conferences, phone, text messaging, and more. But in late 2020, RingCentral rolled out a free video chat service of its own to compete with Zoom. RingCentral Video is separate from RingCentral MVP and is ideal for professionals looking for a Zoom alternative as well as for existing RingCentral customers. Best of all? The standard RingCentral Video Pro plan doesn’t cost you a dime.

RingCentral Video Pro allows you to host video calls with up to 100 users at a time with no limits on the number of meetings you can hold. The Pro plan also lets you share project files with your colleagues and store recorded meetings for up to seven days, and guests can instantly hop into meetings without having to install any software. RingCentral Video Pro can integrate with popular workflow apps including Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft 365 as well. If you want some upgrades, there’s the paid RingCentral Video Pro Plus plan. For $12 per user per month, you can host meetings with up to 200 participants, get a full year of cloud video and audio storage, integrate with business apps including Salesforce, and gain access to more advanced web API applications.

The free RingCentral Video Pro plan doesn’t require a credit card or any obligation to sign up, so you might want to give that one a spin and then decide if the extras that you get with the Pro Plus tier are worth the monthly subscription fee. As far as how RingCentral and Zoom compare, we think that RingCentral is the clear overall winner for business applications, while Zoom is better-suited for casual users who only need basic video chat. RingCentral Video is also the better option if you’re already using (or planning to sign up for) a RingCentral MVP plan, as it keeps everything integrated into a single platform, and you can use RingCentral Video to chat with users who aren’t on your MVP plan.

Who should use RingCentral?

In short, any business owners or team managers looking to streamline their communications and better coordinate with their colleagues and/or employees should be using the best VoIP service — and that’s RingCentral. Unifying all of your company’s communications into a single system is a lot more convenient than dealing with a bunch of separate apps and services, and it could reduce your overhead in the long term if you’re currently paying for stuff you don’t need or if disorganized communications are slowing down your workflow (and therefore likely costing you money).

RingCentral is ideal for businesses of just about any type and any size, too, from small brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce outlets to large call centers and multi-story offices. RingCentral MVP plans are very flexible and competitively priced as well, so don’t think that this VoIP suite is only for big businesses involving large teams with dozens or hundreds of people. Efficient and streamlined communication is vital for any enterprise doing business in the 21st century, especially in our modern digital age of telecommunications and online work. Wherever you happen to be in your entrepreneurial journey, RingCentral can meet you there.

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Lucas Coll
Deals and News Writer
Lucas Coll has been a freelance writer for almost a decade and has penned articles on tech, video games, travel, cars, and…
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