This article is part of a larger series on Unified Communications.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platforms are becoming the go-to communication option for modern-day businesses. However, some UCaaS solutions can break the bank, especially for startups and small businesses. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-cost and even free unified communications services on the market that deliver all the essential functionality and channels your business needs.
Here are the best low cost and free unified communications services available:
- Microsoft Teams: Best for businesses looking for a free unified communications solution that scales with all the productivity features a business could want
- Skype: Best for teams on a budget that want a free UCaaS solution for handling small conferencing and team communication needs
- 8×8: Best low-cost unified communications platform for businesses with internationally distributed teammates and customers looking for a complete business phone system
- Bitrix24: Best for companies looking for an all-in-one customer relationship management (CRM) app combined with a unified communications platform
- 3CX: Best free-to-start unified communications platform for enterprise-size businesses that want the most affordable per-user rates on the market
- Fuze: Best for teams that want large meeting capacity with high-definition (HD) audio
Best Free Unified Communications Platform at a Glance
Free Unified Communications Platforms
$5 per user, per month
4.66 out of 5
4.08 out of 5
$12 per user, per month
4.01 out of 5
$39 for 5 users, per month
3.76 out of 5
97 cents per user, per month
3.61 out of 5
$15 per user, per month
3.40 out of 5
Microsoft Teams: Best Overall Free or Low-cost UCaaS Service
Microsoft Teams offers businesses online audio conferencing, video conferencing, team messaging, and file sharing at an affordable price. You get access to features like whiteboard, breakout rooms, call recording, and meeting encryption to get the most out of your communications.
Businesses can use Microsoft Teams for free with a few restrictions. You’re limited to 100 participant caps, 60-minute meeting durations, and 10GB cloud storage (across all teams). If you want larger capacity, extended meetings, and features like SharePoint Online, Yammer, and desktop versions of Microsoft Office, you’ll need to upgrade to a Microsoft 365 plan.
While at first glance it doesn’t look like Microsoft Teams offers a monthly plan, you can find it on the individual product pages for Microsoft 365 Business packages. There’s no monthly plan, so subscribing requires an annual subscription that will auto-renew. $5.00 per user, per month is a competitive entry-level price, but users who want even cheaper per-user rates will find 3CX to be the best option.
Microsoft Teams Features
- Microsoft Office apps: Access web and mobile (Basic plan) and desktop versions (Standard plan and above) of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and Publisher.
- Extensive integrations: Connect Microsoft Teams with more than 250 third-party apps and services.
- Webinar hosting: Microsoft 365 Business Standard users can host webinars that include landing pages, email confirmation, and reporting.
Skype: Best Free Unified Communications Platform Offering the Most Value at No Cost
Skype is the perfect solution for small businesses with less than 20 employees. It’s free to use, but you’ll need to purchase credit to make calls to mobile and landline numbers. Skype has the advantage of being one of the first video conferencing and team messaging platforms, so many business users around the world are already familiar with the tool and trust it.
One of Skype’s standout features is its easy-to-use user interface. The chat looks nearly identical to standard SMS (short message service) texting applications, making it quick and simple to onboard new users. Video conferencing calls are equally straightforward to launch, join, and navigate.
While Skype is a great go-to option for small businesses, it’s difficult to scale. You’ll need to upgrade to Microsoft Teams or 8×8 if you want to expand past 100 meeting participants. Plus, Skype doesn’t have its own standalone cloud storage—you’ll need to integrate with OneDrive or another cloud storage provider.
- Skype credit: Send text messages or make calls to landline or mobile numbers straight from Skype with Skype credit.
- Live subtitles: Real-time subtitles enable users to read words as soon as they are spoken.
- Background effects: Choose a custom image for your background or blur your surroundings for a more private conversation.
8×8: Best Low-cost UCaaS Service for International Communications
*Pricing based on an annual plan with one to 99 users.
8×8 is a complete voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) business phone system with UC features. It offers phone calling, SMS, team messaging, video conferencing, cloud storage, and a handful of advanced communication and business call management features. These include call monitoring, whispering, barging, supervisor analytics, auto-attendants, and voicemail transcriptions.
The most powerful feature 8×8 offers is the extensive international calling. X4 plan users can make unlimited calls to up to 48 countries. If you have an internationally distributed team or frequently do business overseas, 8×8 offers the most robust worldwide calling functionality. Find out whether 8×8 is a good choice for your business by reading our comprehensive 8×8 expert review.
Unfortunately, 8×8 is one of the most expensive UCaaS providers on this list. Businesses have to pay $12 per user, per month for the entry-level plan, which is steep compared to Microsoft Team’s or Skype’s free plan. However, for what it has to offer, 8×8 is a more cost-friendly service than Fuze, and can replace your business phone system, unlike Microsoft Teams or Skype.
- Auto-attendant: Route your inbound callers to the right extension using a voice menu.
- Voicemail transcription: Convert all your voicemails to text automatically to save valuable time.
- Advanced call handling: Empower your supervisors to listen in on real-time calls and provide guidance by whispering in the agent’s ear or jumping in the call when necessary.
Bitrix24: Best Free or Low-cost UCaaS Service for Combined CRM & Communications
*Pricing calculated based on 20% annual discount.
Bitrix24 is a full-service customer relationship management (CRM) software that also doubles as a competitive and free unified communications solution. Businesses that use Bitrix24 can consolidate communication tools, project management apps, cloud storage, and sales tools into a single application.
Don’t let the listed price deter you―Bitrix24 is one of the most inexpensive solutions on this list at scale. The monthly fee isn’t per-user as each of the plans comes with a set number of users. For example, if you sign up for the Standard plan, you’ll get 50 users for a flat fee of $79 per month.
Unfortunately, with everything that Bitrix24 has to offer, the platform can be overwhelming. The interfaces tend to feel cluttered and difficult to navigate—which makes sense given everything the provider has packed into a single tool. However, if you want a more user-friendly free UCaaS solution, we recommend Microsoft Teams or Skype.
- CRM: Collect and store all of your sales data—from lead generation to quote to invoice—within a single comprehensive CRM.
- Project management: Create projects, assign tasks, and automate processes to get more done in less time.
- HD video calls: Enjoy HD 1:1 video calls (with no length limits) across every available plan.
3CX: Best Free or Low-cost UCaaS Service for Large Teams
*Pricing based on estimated 15 users. Licensing and hosting cost an extra annual fee.
3CX’s pricing can be a little confusing to interpret, but you’ll find significant cost savings when you dig into the numbers. If you have a large sales team or contact center, 3CX provides one of the lowest per-user rates on the market.
Businesses love 3CX’s easy-to-use apps. However, it lacks advanced features like breakout rooms and international dial-in numbers. Video conferencing is basic, but it does offer screen sharing and a collaborative whiteboard.
On the downside, 3CX doesn’t offer a built-in team messaging platform. You’ll have to upgrade to the enterprise account to unlock the Microsoft Teams integration. Otherwise, you’ll need to use a separate internal messaging application, such as Skype or a non-integrated Microsoft Teams.
- Hotdesking: Empower your workforce to log into any device on your system, regardless of where they’re located.
- Contact center: Communicate with customers via built-in chat, Facebook Messaging (Messenger), and SMS texting.
- Real-time monitoring: Check agent performance and real-time queues to balance workloads and ensure every call gets answered.
Fuze: Best Free or Low-cost UCaaS Service for Large Meeting Capacity
Fuze is the best low-cost unified communications platform for businesses that need large meeting capacity and want crystal-clear audio quality. The $15 entry-level pricing is a bit expensive compared to the other solutions on this list, but there’s a lot of functionality bundled into the starter metered plan, such as video conferencing with up to 1,000 participants and a suite of third-party integrations.
Fuze’s International plan lets you make unlimited outbound calls to up to 34 countries, and the Unlimited Global plan expands that to 116. However, it’s a staggering $65 per user, per month. If you’re focused on international calling, we recommend 8×8 instead—it’s slightly cheaper and comes already packed with many of the add-on features you have to pay for with Fuze.
- Available add-ons: Pay for extra features like contact center, conference rooms, and SMS texting with a la carte pricing options.
- Large meetings: Host video conferencing meetings with up to 1,000 participants while enjoying HD audio functionality.
- Unlimited global calling: Make unlimited outbound calls to over 116 countries on Fuze’s Unlimited Global plan.
How We Evaluated the Best Free & Low-cost Unified Communications Providers
Unified communications (UC) solutions need to serve a range of business communication channels starting with team messaging, calling, and video conferencing. While the top UCaaS providers offer extensive third-party integrations, open application programming interface (API) options, and SMS text messaging, they often carry a hefty price tag. We set out to find the best low-cost and free unified communications platforms for the perfect compromise between pricing and functionality.
After evaluating our options, we found Microsoft Teams to be the best overall free unified communications provider. Microsoft Teams offers a free entry-level plan for those who want to get started with online meetings, chat, and cloud storage at no charge. No other service offers this much value for free, and even its most expensive plans—which add advanced communication and productivity tools, security and threat protection, and device management—top out at just $20.00 per user, per month.
Learn how we evaluated the best free and low-cost UCaaS platforms by clicking on the tabs below:
15% of Overall Score
Pricing was our top consideration when evaluating providers, because it’s often the deciding factor for a small business. We compared which services offer free plans, volume discounts, and annual subscription discounts. We also did side-by-side provider comparisons to determine which free plans provide the most value.
30% of Overall Score
Providers needed to offer team messaging, calling, and video conferencing to make this list, but we dug deeper to see what other general features each has to offer. These include features like mobile apps, meeting encryption, meeting passwords, and team presence.
30% of Overall Score
We analyzed which providers offer the most extensive list of advanced features, like software integrations, international dial-in numbers, call recording, whiteboard, and breakout rooms.
25% of Overall Score
We took our own experience and other user reviews into consideration when analyzing the providers. We considered standout features, value, popularity, and overall ease of use.
These low-cost and free unified communications platforms provide all the features and functionality a business needs to consolidate its communication apps and better engage employees and customers. If you’re looking to get started, we recommend Microsoft Teams. Its free, entry-level plan is packed with everything you need to experiment and determine if it’s the right solution for you to invest in and scale.