Most of today’s modern business phone system transmits 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 several different kinds of services available to meet virtually any business need and budget.
What Type of Business Phone Service is Best for You?
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. These systems 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. For example, do you need a robust phone standalone phone service, or do you 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? We encourage you to take a look at our guide on voice-over-internet-protocol (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 and audio quality during calls should be clear and consistent. Additionally, 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 with an 800 prefix 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.
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.
VoIP, Virtual Phone & Landline Systems
If you are in the market for a new phone service, you have no shortage of options. 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: 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 a customer’s office. VoIP services do not depend on another number to forward calls from, unlike virtual phone services.
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.
Another kind of internet-based phone system is known as a virtual phone system. 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 an excellent choice for freelancers and very small teams that want a separate phone number reserved for work purposes.
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. However, 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.
Business Phone System Costs
The cost of a business phone service will depend entirely on what service you choose. 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. To make sure you are getting the most out of your service, we suggest downloading our VoIP checklist. It will go down 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: Workers can use a cloud-hosted phone system in any location via a desktop or mobile app. This 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 humblest business ventures can enjoy having a dedicated work line.
It is also worth noting that some business phone systems are tailor-made for call center environments. This means that they have features like 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.
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 are all capable, easy to use, and offer pricing that is within reach of most small businesses. However, We find that Nextiva is the best business phone service for most because it reaches the right balance of functionality and affordability.
We review a wide range of different 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.
Top 6 Small Business Phone Services 2020
(Best overall) Businesses that want an exceptional all-around VoIP system with a strong feature set
Organizations that want enterprise features like video conferencing and multisite support
Companies looking for best-in-class collaboration features and guided setup
Smaller teams and new startups looking for an affordable, capable virtual phone service
International businesses that want unlimited calling to up to 47 countries
New startups looking for a free, no-frill option
Nextiva is a business VoIP service that comes standard with unlimited domestic calling, an automated attendant that answers and routes callers, and voicemail-to-email transcriptions. Pricing can start for as low as $20 per user, per month, on an annual basis. We recommend it for small business owners who seek a wealth of features at a relatively affordable price.
The entry-level version of Nextiva has a respectable enough feature set; you get unlimited domestic calling, a free local or toll-free 800 number, and virtual faxing functionality. If you are looking for a basic phone service, you can do far worse than Nextiva’s Basic package. However, we do find it unfortunate that they lock short message service (SMS) behind an intermediate package as it is a free inclusion in even the most basic virtual phone systems like Google Voice.
No matter what version of the service you go with, you will find a user-friendly solution that all of your employees can use, even if they are not technically proficient. The service has nearly all the tools you need to handle all of your call traffic effectively. For more information, go to Nextiva’s website to set up your account and get started.
RingCentral is a VoIP system that comes standard with unlimited calling, an automated attendant, and SMS functionality. The service, which starts at $24.99 per user, per month, on an annual basis, also offers some advanced options missing in other competitors, such as a generous number of toll-free minutes and video conferencing. RingCentral is best for fast-growing businesses that want a scalable service with enterprise-level features.
RingCentral offers some novel features that go beyond simple telephone calls. All versions of the software come with video conferencing between you and your teammates so that you can work in a more personable matter. Advanced versions also come with automatic call recording and the ability to connect data with the leading CRM, Salesforce.
RingCentral offers features that go far beyond the average telephone system. Its software integrations, transcription capabilities, and video conferencing components make it not just a phone service, but a larger business communications service.
Vonage, which starts at $19.99 per user, per month, is a VoIP system bundled with unlimited calling, video meetings, and webchat. 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 terrific solution for those who want to add features a la carte to suit their unique needs.
Vonage is easy to use, powerful, and offers pricing that most small organizations can afford. All tiers of the solution provide unlimited calling, texting, and access to the company’s team messaging app. This allows you and your organization to keep in touch via webchat. This can be extraordinarily helpful in remote communications, especially for items that aren’t pressing enough to warrant a phone call.
The fact that Vonage allows customers to add features a la carte makes it one of the most customizable solutions on the market. If you want to configure your business phone service to meet your exact needs, The company offers a free 14-day trial so that you can try it for yourself. Get started today.
Grasshopper is a virtual phone system that 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 $26 per month and is incredibly easy to use. Grasshopper is our top recommendation for the best virtual phone system because of its affordability and capability.
Grasshopper is available in three different pricing tiers. The Polo version costs $26 per month, the Partner package is $44 per month, and the Small Business edition costs $80 per month. The fact that this pricing is per account and not per user makes this one of the more affordable options on the market.
Grasshopper provides many features that come with more expensive VoIP business phone systems. It has an automated attendant to greet and route callers, call management tools, and voicemail-to-email functionality. It also supports multiple extensions so that all of your employees can have their own lines.
As a virtual phone service, Grasshopper forwards all calls through an existing number. This can either be a landline or mobile number. It also comes at a lower monthly price than the likes of RingCentral, Nextiva, and other VoIP solutions.
8×8 is a VoIP system that 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.
In 8×8’s entry-level package, you get unlimited calling to 14 countries around the world, including France, Italy, and Ireland. As you upgrade to the intermediate and top-tier packages, you can also make calls to numbers in China, Poland, Singapore, and more. It offers some of the most generous unlimited international calling in a system of this kind.
Whether you do business overseas or domestically, 8×8 empowers you with the tools you need to manage your call traffic effectively. The fact it allows you to dial numbers all across the globe at no extra cost is a massive bonus.
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.
Google Voice is completely free to download and use. It includes unlimited calling and texting to most of the United States, with per-minute fees for international calls and to select territories within the US. It provides one of the best values in the business telephony space.
While Google Voice lacks the robust features found in paid solution, it serves as a great starter service for new startups and freelancers looking for a dedicated business line. A Google Voice account takes only a few minutes to set up. Get started today.
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 their own budget, size, and required equipment. However, there are some critical 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. For more information, check out our guide to setting up a VoIP service.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are internet-based phone systems secure?
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?
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 are high definition (HD) and voice-enabled, calls will have clearer audio quality than a normal call. It can sound so clear that it almost feels like you are talking to the other party in person.
Business phone systems call 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, Nextiva is one of the best offerings available today. It comes packed with features, it is exceptionally easy to use, and comes at a cost that is attainable to most smaller companies. Click the button below to start using Nextiva today.