In the corporate world, it’s not uncommon for companies to invest heavily in phone systems that route calls, handle voicemails, and ensure employees can get work done wherever they are. But in many cases, those phone systems are complicated, expensive, and need regular maintenance.
For many small businesses, in other words, they just don’t work.
In their place, companies like 8×8, Ooma, and others all offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that aim at simplifying corporate phone systems and reducing the total cost to small businesses.
VoIP phone systems run over the internet instead of traditional phone lines and are generally managed in the cloud, where small businesses can create extensions, manage individual calls, and much more. And best of all, they’re generally much cheaper than their more expensive enterprise-focused alternatives.
If you’re in the market to get a new phone system for your small business, you might find several outstanding solutions. But the next five are the best options you can choose now:
Ooma is a popular phone system that aims at giving you “enterprise-grade” phone systems that are ideal for the small business that wants to “sound more professional.”
Ooma’s system works with internet-ready phones, as well as analog phones and smartphones. If you already have a phone system, you can keep that number and use it with Ooma. You can also use Ooma’s mobile app for Android and iOS and use your current smartphone as your corporate line.
If it’s a more sophisticated phone system you’re after, Ooma offers a variety of features you’d find in bigger, more expensive solutions, including a virtual receptionist that can answer the phone and direct people to the correct extension. You can assign different extensions to a variety of devices and if you want to hold conference calls, Ooma will get it done. You can even configure music-on-hold through the service.
In total, there are more than 35 VoIP phone features you can configure in Ooma.
The Ooma VoIP internet service is available for as little as $19.95 per month, per user. There are no contracts with the offering, so you can sign up and move on to something else whenever you wish.
In the world of small business phone systems, Grasshopper might be the simplest. And that’s precisely why it’s an ideal choice for the sole proprietor, freelancer, or anyone else with one or maybe two phone lines.
Grasshopper is designed to work with your smartphone. Once you sign up, you can either create your own 1-800 number or opt for a local number for your area. When you receive a call, you’ll find that Grasshopper will alert you that it’s a call through the service, allowing you to respond however you wish.
When you place a call in Grasshopper, those you ring will see your Grasshopper number on the Caller ID, even if you’re calling from your phone. And if you want to place or receive calls on your PC, Grasshopper comes with a desktop app that will allow you to do just that.
Grasshopper includes the option to text with your business instead of calling and you can even receive voicemail and faxes that you can have delivered to your inbox.
Grasshopper comes in a variety of plans based on your needs. Its cheapest option is just $26 per month for one number and three extensions. You can also opt for three numbers and six extensions for $44 per month or five numbers and an unlimited number of extensions for $80 per month.
RingCentral is a popular VoIP phone system that can work for both small businesses and larger corporations that want to break away from traditional systems. But surprisingly, RingCentral has been able to keep its price down, making it nicely affordable for small businesses of any size.
RingCentral touts the fact that you can sign up for its service and get your phone system up and running in just “minutes.” In total, the service has more than 50 features you can configure, including the ability to create extensions, use video conferencing for richer communication, facilitate messaging between your team members, and use text messaging for communicating with others.
RingCentral can work on traditional phones that would sit in your office, or you could use it through RingCentral apps on your computer or smartphones. From the service’s control panel, you can create call trees to route calls around your system and set up an online fax system, so you can receive faxes without needing a fax machine. You can create directory listings and establish toll-free numbers and if you want an auto-receptionist to handle and route your calls, it’s available. There’s even an audit trail, so you can see who’s calling whom and when.
Interestingly, RingCentral works with a variety of third-party services, like Box, Dropbox, Google, and Microsoft to boost productivity and connectivity across your organization. And all of the aforementioned video calls you can place through the service offer HD visuals.
RingCentral starts at $20 per month, per user for up to 10 users and 100 toll-free minutes per month. Prices go up to $50 per month per user for an unlimited number of employees and 10,000 toll-free monthly minutes.
If you’re looking for a solution that comes with sophisticated features and is designed for companies that are on the larger side of the “small business” category, 8×8’s Business Phone System is a nice option.
Indeed, 8×8’s Business Phone System is one of the more powerful small business solutions on the market. It comes with a configuration and administration pane and support for unlimited calling in up to 45 countries. It works with both mobile and desktop apps, so you can take calls from your smartphone or PC, and all of its calls are in high-definition, so they should sound quite good.
Like many of its competitors, 8×8’s Business Phone System comes with instant messaging and chat built-in and allows employees to alert others when they’re in the office, remote, or off for the day. With help from visual voicemail, you can access your messages anywhere you are. The service even includes full voice, web, and video conferencing, so you can hold meetings.
One thing you don’t want to overlook in 8×8’s Business Phone System is its Operator Switchboard feature, which allows the system to answer a high volume of calls and route them appropriately throughout your company. And if you’re worried about security, 8×8 says its service supports TLS/SRTP encryption.
Pricing for 8×8’s Business Phone System will vary depending upon your plan. But expect pricing to start at $25 per user per month.
Nextiva is another midrange small business phone system that aims at making it easier for smaller companies with only a handful of employees to get work done. But it also comes with Contact Center and SIP Trunking options that are ideal for medium-sized businesses that have many more employees and need to enhance communication in the office.
Since we’re focusing on small businesses, we’ll focus here on Nextiva’s Office solution for small businesses.
Nextiva Office comes in three flavors — Office Pro, Office Pro Plus, and Office Enterprise. All three offer unlimited calling and virtual faxing and don’t come with any setup fees. When you bump up to Office Pro Plus, however, you get access to conferencing and Nextiva’s mobile app for communicating on your smartphones. If you want the Enterprise version, you’ll add call recording and the option to configure your service with three professional greetings.
When you’re up and running with Nextiva, you’ll find the option to manage your phone service from anywhere and monitor activity to see what your employees are doing on your system. You can keep your existing number with Nextiva or choose either a new local number or a toll-free number. And if you want to move calls from your desktop to your mobile device without ever hanging up, Nextiva will make it happen.
Indeed, Nextiva is designed to be used just about anywhere. In addition to a traditional phone, you can use Nextiva on a computer, tablet, and smartphone. Nextiva even works with Apple Watch, so you can communicate with people from your wrist.
Nextiva said that its service is ideal for mobile-first companies. And if you’re worried about being able to access the service throughout the day, Nextiva says not to worry: it promises 99.999 percent uptime.
Nextiva Office pricing varies greatly depending on the number of users you have and the version you want. Its cheapest plan is $19.95 per user per month.
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