Most of today’s modern business phone systems transmit calls as data over the internet rather than over traditional copper landlines. These systems provide cost savings as well as advanced features like text messaging, video conferencing, and more. There are a number of different kinds of services available to meet virtually any business need and budget.
Editor’s note: If you are in the market for a new phone system, use our quiz to help point you in the right direction.
Which Business Phone System Is Best for You?
Top 6 Small Business Phone Services 2020
$19.99-$49.99 per user, per month*
Organizations that want enterprise features such as video conferencing and multisite support
$27.95-$37.95 per user, per month*
Businesses wanting an exceptional, all-around VoIP system with a strong feature set
$17.99-$37.99 per user, per month*
Companies looking for best-in-class collaboration features and guided setup
$26 to $80 per month*
Smaller teams and new startups looking for an affordable, capable virtual phone service
$12-$45 per user, per month
International businesses that want unlimited calling to up to 47 countries
New startups looking for a free, no-frills option
*Plans are on an annual basis for roughly five users. Every solution offers pricing changes as you add more users or choose a monthly plan. Check with each provider for exact pricing information.
How Business Phone Services Work
There are several types of business phone services available on the market. Perhaps the most well-known kind are the services that transmit calls over the national copper landline network that has been in place for many decades. However, with advancements made in internet technology, these are quickly being replaced by internet-based phone systems like voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) and virtual phone systems. These alternatives are more affordable and provide advanced features such as text messaging, call recording, and more, but do require an internet connection.
What to Look for in a Business Phone System
Before buying a business phone service, you must consider your own needs and budget. Do you need a robust phone standalone phone service, or do you just want a business phone number to appear more professional? How many employees do you have? How many of them need their own unique number or extension? Would you use video conferencing and other bonuses?
Voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) services do a lot beyond just calling and texting. In fact, most modern VoIP systems serve as complete business communications suites with video call and team messaging. We encourage you to take a look at our guide on VoIP features for more information.
With that in mind, all systems should meet a certain level of quality. Services should be easy enough to use for workers of all technical skill levels. Additionally, audio quality during calls should be clear and consistent, and all phone systems should be backed by a competent customer service team that is responsive and easy to reach.
You will also want to consider what kind of phone number you need for your organization. If the scope of your business operations is in one community, you may be fine with a number that has a local area code prefix. However, a toll-free number provides several benefits. First, it allows customers to call you at no cost to them. It can also make your company look more established and larger than it may be.
One of the best aspects of today’s business phone systems is that they make it easy to choose between a toll-free, local, and customized vanity number. Check out our guide to business phone numbers for more information.
Can My Network Handle a VoIP Service?
Before you subscribe to an internet-based business phone system, it is worth noting that you will need a fast, reliable internet connection that can support a high call volume. You will want to measure the strength of your own connection. We recommend using our VoIP speed test to check your network before subscribing to a service.
A healthy network makes the difference between a smooth VoIP setup and a choppy one. Check out our guide to VoIP speed tests to fully measure the strength of your network.
VoIP, Virtual Phone & Landline Systems
If you are in the market for a new phone service, you have no shortage of options. In fact, there are so many different kinds of systems to choose from that many customers feel overwhelmed when they start researching. There are three main types of business phone systems: voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP), virtual phone systems, and landline services. These distinct services all have their own advantages and disadvantages.
The first and most popular kind is known as a VoIP service. VoIP systems transmit calls over the internet and also convert those calls to the standard public switched telephone network (PSTN) so that you can make calls to other VoIP phones, landlines, and mobile devices. VoIP systems can either be hosted in the cloud or in a customer’s office. VoIP services do not depend on another number to forward calls from, unlike virtual phone services.VoIP is a popular technology, but learning how it actually works may not be obvious. If you’d like to know more about VoIP, check out our guide to the best VoIP systems available today.VoIP services provide a substantial cost savings over landline setups because the calls are transmitted as data and do not tax the copper network in any way. The fact that they are online also provides extra features such as visual voicemail, voice recording, mobile apps, and more.
- Virtual Phone
Another kind of internet-based phone system is known as a virtual phone system, like Grasshopper. These systems, which are usually hosted in the cloud, come at a lower cost than VoIP services, but rely on another phone number from which to forward calls. They also lack most of the advanced features found in leading VoIP solutions. However, they are a great choice for freelancers and very small teams that simply want a separate phone number reserved for work purposes.Virtual phone services are affordable, yet more basic alternatives to VoIP systems. To learn more, check out our guide to the best virtual phone systems on the market.
An internet-based phone service is the right option for most small businesses because it provides cost savings over landline systems and offers many features not possible with a traditional setup. With that in mind, they may not be the best choice for every organization.For example, an internet-based service relies on a strong network connection. This makes it less viable for people living in rural areas and other places where high-speed internet packages are unavailable. As such, the time-tested reliability of a landline network could be a better choice.While many businesses are doing away with their landline service, they still have their place in today’s workplace. For more information, check out our guide to business landline systems.
Business Phone System Costs
The cost of a business phone service will depend entirely on what service you choose. And while the vast majority of leading internet-based phone systems are cloud-hosted, an on-premise solution will also dictate how much you spend on a phone system. Alternatively, pricing for a landline system will depend entirely on what your local service provider charges.
You will need to consider the following when budgeting for a business phone system:
- Service costs: There are free business phone services available, and there are others like Nextiva that can cost as much as $45 per user, per month on an annual basis.
- Equipment: If you want VoIP handsets, those will come at an additional cost. VoIP phones can cost anywhere from $50 to $400, depending on the model.
- On-premises hardware: If you want an on-premises VoIP solution, you will need to buy equipment that can easily cost thousands of dollars between public branch exchange (PBX) boxes, gateways, and more. Professional installation can also cost thousands.
There is a wide range of business phone service options to meet virtually any budget. Virtual phone systems come at a reduced cost while getting a full-featured, independent VoIP system. Additionally, on-premises VoIP service is so costly that they are usually out of reach for most small companies.
If you go with a paid service, you are making a substantial business investment. In order to make sure you are getting the most out of your service, we suggest downloading our VoIP checklist. It will list all the things you need to set up and deploy a VoIP service.
Who a Business Phone System Is Right For
All told, companies of all sizes should have some sort of telephone presence. While video conferences, email, and social media have become more popular, there is still a place in the business world for the voice conversations made possible by a phone service. A dedicated phone system can also make your organization look more professional than just using a personal line.
- Startups and freelancers: Newer companies and solo workers can command a more respectable business presence by having a dedicated company line.
- Sales staff: VoIP services usually come with features like the ability to connect call data with customer relationship management (CRM) platforms and other systems. This functionality can help sales teams close more deals.
- Remote teams: A cloud-hosted phone system can be used by workers in any location via a desktop or mobile app. This effectively lets remote workers use your company’s phone system as if they were in the office with you.
It’s hard to imagine any scenario where some kind of business phone system wouldn’t be beneficial. The fact that you can get a free phone number via services like Google Voice means that even the most humble business ventures can enjoy having a dedicated work line. As a result, the VoIP industry as a whole has seen year-over-year growth as more and more businesses make the change.
Additionally, it is also worth noting that some business phone systems are tailor-made for call center environments. This means that they have features such as call queuing, interactive voice response (IVR), call monitoring, and more. If you think that these kinds of services would be useful to your business, we encourage you to check out our guide to call center phone systems.
Do you have a sales or customer service team in your office? Are you looking for a solution to handle a high volume of calls? Then a call center phone service might be best for your team. Check out our guide for more information.
Best Business Phone Service Providers
We’ve put together this roundup of the very best internet-based phone services on the market today. These VoIP and virtual phone services all provide reliable call management, are easy to use, and offer pricing that is within the reach of most small businesses. We reviewed a wide range of business phone services. These six solutions are just a small sample of what is available on the market today. To read about more solutions, check out our VoIP reviews page.
What it is: A VoIP system with a good all-around feature set, video conferencing, and software integrations.Why it’s a good choice: RingCentral comes standard with all of the core functions you’d expect from a modern VoIP system. What’s more, it wraps it up in a friendly user interface (UI) that even non-technical users can make sense of, with service starting at $19.99 per user, per month on an annual basis for two to 20 users. It also offers some advanced options missing in other competitors, such as a generous amount of toll-free minutes and video conferencing. RingCentral is best for fast-growing businesses that want a scalable service with enterprise-level features.
What it is: A VoIP system with unlimited calling, online faxing, and mobile apps.Why it’s a good choice: Nextiva is one of the market leaders in the space for a reason. Many customers like the service’s interface and find it to be a good value, especially with volume discounts. It also comes standard with unlimited domestic calling, an automated attendant that answers and routes callers, and voicemail-to-email transcriptions. Pricing can start as low as $20 per user, per month on an annual basis with volume discounts. We recommend it for small business owners who seek a wealth of features at a relatively affordable price.
What it is: A VoIP service with optional a la carte features.Why it’s a good choice: While most competitors force features in their pricing plans, Vonage lets teams add features on an as-needed basis. Service starts at $17.99 per user, per month, and comes bundled with unlimited calling, video meetings, and web chat. What helps set Vonage apart from its competitors is that it allows you to buy features like toll-free numbers, call recording, and visual voicemail. It is a great solution for those who want to add features a la carte to suit their unique needs.
What it is: A virtual phone system with affordable pricing and powerful features.Why it’s a good choice: Grasshopper provides the best of both worlds: pricing packages that meet any budget and a respectable set of calling, texting, and voicemail features. Its virtual phone system offers unlimited calling, texting, and the choice of either a local or toll-free number with each new account. Pricing for the system starts at just $26 per month and is exceptionally easy to use. Grasshopper is our top recommendation as the best virtual phone system because of its affordability and capability.
What it is: A VoIP system that offers unlimited international calling for up to 47 countries around the world.Why it’s a good choice: Per-minute international rates can quickly add up. 8×8 can provide a huge savings to teams that need to stay in touch with overseas contacts. The VoIP system offers all of the calling, texting, and voicemail features found in most other solutions on the market. However, it also comes with unlimited calling for up to 47 countries depending on what package you choose. As such, 8×8 is best for organizations with an overseas business presence that need to keep in contact with international contacts.
What it is: A free, no-frills virtual phone system with a respectable set of features.Why it’s a good choice: Google Voice provides a free local number, unlimited domestic calling, and SMS to anyone with a Google account. Google Voice is a free virtual phone system that provides solo workers and smaller teams with a free local phone number. On top of that, it includes text messaging and voicemail capabilities. Google Voice is a fantastic entry-level solution for any organization that is looking for a separate business line.
How to Set Up a Business Phone System
No two businesses will have the same setup experience when they adopt a business phone service. Every team has its own budget, size, and required equipment. However, there are some important steps that all organizations can follow.
You will need to assess your company’s unique needs, including how many users you need to accommodate and what telephony equipment you want. You will then need to download your service’s software and set up any applicable hardware. Virtual systems will take far less time to set up than VoIP services.
Setting up your first phone service? The process can be tricky sometimes. If you would like some help, check out our guide to setting up a VoIP service.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are internet-based phone systems secure?
Yes. The vast majority of leading phone services offer encryption of all call traffic and related data. Your calls should be just as secure as if you were making them on a landline.
Can I port an existing number to my new business phone system?
Yes. Most services have number porting capabilities. Depending on the service, you can either do this in the software setting menu or have a customer service representative perform the port.
Do VoIP calls sound different from standard landline calls?
That depends on the service. However, if both parties have HD voice enabled, calls will have clearer audio quality than a normal call. In fact, it can sound so clear that it almost feels like you are talking to the other party in person.
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VoIP Services Reviews & Pricing Guide for 2020
Business phone systems come in many forms and various price points. While the landline network has been the most popular kind of service for many years, it has been eclipsed by cheaper, more powerful systems that transmit calls as data over the internet. As internet technology has grown, so have the capabilities of today’s VoIP and virtual phone services.
If you are interested in a new phone system, RingCentral is one of the best offerings available today. It comes packed with features, is exceptionally easy to use, and comes at a cost that is attainable to most smaller companies. Click the button below to start using RingCentral today.